Food for back pain
Dr Irene Brunhuber on nutrition and back health
Back pain is one of the banes of modern life. Most of us lead sedentary existences and will, at some point, be given advice to move and exercise more. Less well-known is the effect of nutrition on musculoskeletal pain. Did you know, for instance, that abdominal fat promotes chronic inflammation which in turn can lead to joint and back pain? Cutting calories helps, as does adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet. Making sure we get the right nutrients to reduce the risk of osteoporosis can also lessen the chance of chronic back pain. As a GP and Mayr physician at Park Igls, Dr Brunhuber has first-hand experience of the link between a healthy gut and a healthy back.
Here are her 11 top food-for-back-pain tips:
I’m a great fan of probiotics. Intestinal biodiversity is crucial for gut health and nutrient absorption. Plus: they boost the production of happiness hormones! Find probiotics in fermented foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut and kombucha or buy probiotic supplements if you prefer.
2. Acid-base balance:
Another gut-health star! Eat leafy vegetables, potatoes, fruit and herbs, and avoid acidifying and alkaline-depleting foods like sugar, alcohol, coffee and ready-meals to reduce your risk of inflammation.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids:
These are so important! Brain and body benefit as they help lower inflammation and are thought to improve bone and joint health. Sources include fatty fish such as salmon, flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
Keep bones strong and resilient with a diet rich in hard cheeses, leafy vegetables and pulses. And avoid fast and convenience foods: these can contain high levels of phosphorus which dissolves calcium in bones.
5. Vitamin D:
There are so many reasons for taking this! As well as being great for the immune system, this wonder vitamin promotes the absorption of calcium from the food you eat. A lack of Vitamin D leads to a decline in muscle strength and tone, and thus to a heightened risk of falling.
6. Vitamin K:
This vitamin is found in green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils and cereal grains, and works with calcium to build strong bones.
7. Vitamin C:
The world’s favourite vitamin forms collagen and nourishes connective tissue, so is essential for back health. Source yours from fruit, vegetables and herbs, but be careful: vitamin C is water-soluble and sensitive to heat, so gentle steaming is best.
Found in a wide range of delectable foods such as dark chocolate, blueberries, leafy greens and pulses, antioxidants reduce oxidative stress, which is associated with chronic inflammation in the body. Reducing inflammation has positive effects on back pain.
Magic mineral magnesium is an allrounder and, unsurprisingly, it’s great for bone health too as it helps assimilate calcium into the bone and activates vitamin D. It also helps to lower the risk of osteoporosis in women after menopause.
10. Water and herbal teas:
I cannot overemphasise the importance of fluid intake on all aspects of health, including our backs. Drink plenty of water and herbal teas to keep your spinal disks hydrated and your back supple.
11. Mood elevators:
There is a link between mood and the perception of pain, so boost your mood with nuts, seeds, and bananas. These contain high levels of tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, the happy chemical.
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