Diet May Also Help Low Back Pain

Each year, health experts rate the top diets that are most beneficial for reducing the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and certain cancers.  Once again U.S. News and World Report gives the Mediterranean Diet top marks for nutrition, disease prevention, wellness and longevity.  Researchers have also discovered that the foods regularly consumed in this diet may help improve low back pain by reducing inflammation.

With many people spending countless hours sitting in front of screens while working, socializing and learning from home during the pandemic, more adults are suffering from low back pain.  Although exercise, a good mattress and an ergonomic office chair may help relieve discomfort, a recent study has also found that diet plays a significant role in disease and pain prevention. 

The body’s inflammatory response can be beneficial – it helps to heal injuries and fight illness.  But when inflammation becomes chronic, it can damage healthy tissue and contribute to a host of health problems, including arthritis and back pain.  Researchers have found, based on data from the Dietary Inflammatory Index, that people who consumed a pro-inflammatory diet had a 42 percent increased risk for having low back pain compared with people who ate an anti-inflammatory diet. 

Foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, beans and cold water fish are staples in the Mediterranean diet.  Although this whole foods-based eating plan may contribute to weight loss, the benefits were still significant when researchers controlled for physical activity, education and body mass index. 

Inflammatory foods are frequently found in the standard American diet; soda, trans fats, fruit juices and grain-fed animal meat all contribute to chronic inflammation.  Processed foods and refined vegetable oils should be consumed only in small amounts to avoid triggering inflammation that can lead to back pain from inflammatory arthritis. 

In addition to eating the right foods, it’s also important to prepare meals at lower temperatures; frying, roasting, microwaving, searing and grilling meats, fish and eggs can produce compounds that can trigger inflammation in the body.  Try to prepare meats by simmering, braising or steaming, avoid processed food and add anti-inflammatory spices like ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and cayenne to boost health and wellness benefits. 

To learn more about how an anti-inflammatory diet can relieve pain as you age, follow this link to Cleveland Clinic’s Health Essentials.