Remember the last time you cut your finger? The area swelled and became red, but eventually the cut healed and the pain went away. This is inflammation, your body's response to stimulus and its crucial for your survival. But sometimes, inflammation can be chronic and cause constant pain, swelling and loss of function. This can occur in the spine due to conditions such as arthritis, a herniated disc or a fracture.
While there are many safe remedies to decrease inflammation, one of the easiest ways is to watch what you eat. Certain foods can trigger inflammation in the body, while others can help reduce it. Knowing what foods to stick to and what to stay away from can help reduce your pain and keep you on your feet.
Here are four simple ways to reduce back pain caused by inflammation:
Switch to plant-based foods and cut back on animal products
Avoid trans fat and saturated fat. These are found in fried or processed foods and can boost inflammation
Limit your sugar. Sugars are found in many carbohydrate-rich foods, so keep your daily serving of carbs to the suggested amount
Replace white breads with healthy carbs such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, beans, peas and corn
Be Smart at the Supermarket
Remember, not all food is what it seems. Be cautious of foods that claim to have 0% trans fat. If you look at the ingredients and see the words partially hydrogenated, then the product contains hidden trans fat that can contribute to a painful flare up.
Walk toward the fruit and vegetables, which are rich in anti-inflammatory agents such as omega-3 fatty acids. Some good choices include soybeans, Brussels sprouts, kale and spinach. Other foods that are rich in omega-3s include fish, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds. Curcumin, which is found in the spice turmeric, also helps with inflammation and can be added to almost any dish you're preparing.
Don't Overdo It
Eating nutrient-rich food is great for your health, but too much of a good thing can cause more harm than good. Keep track of your portion sizes and eat the recommended daily amount.
Here are a few helpful ways to gauge your serving size:
- One serving of meat or poultry = the size of your palm or a deck of cards
- One 3-ounce serving of fish = the size of a checkbook
- One serving of cheese = about the size of six dice
- One-half cup of cooked rice, pasta or snacks such as nuts and dried berries = a rounded handful, roughly the size of a tennis ball
- Two tablespoons of peanut butter = the size of a ping-pong ball
- One cup of lettuce = approximately four leaves
- One medium baked potato = about the size of a computer mouse
Keep in mind that the daily recommended amount does NOT equate with the serving size on nutrition labels. Do some research before planning your meals and consider meal-prepping at the beginning of each week to avoid temptations at work or at home.
The Bottom Line
Spine health begins with YOU, and your dietary choices will make a world of difference in the way that your back feels and performs for years to come.
If you have questions about nutrition or back pain, contact Dr. Chetan Patel and his team at the Spine Health Institute at Call866-986-7497.
"Portion Size. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 12 Nov. 2012. Web.
Sears, Barry, and Camillo Ricordi. "Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition as a Pharmacological Approach to Treat Obesity." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 30 Sept. 2010. Web.
Nutrition Basics: Carbohydrates. Womenshealth.gov. 17 June 2008. Web.
What is an inflammation? PubMed Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 8 Apr. 2011. Web.