This is Part 3: Poor nutrition in a 10 part series about common causes of back pain and what you can do about them. If you haven’t read them, part 1 was about how too much sitting causes low back pain and part 2 was about how poor posture causes back pain.
For part 3 we are going to discuss your:
Poor nutrition (bad eating habits)
While most people know that eating certain things is “bad” for them, they usually don’t realize all of the reasons that this is true. For example, weight gain is the most obvious and readily available reason that people give to explain why eating something like ice cream or candy is bad for you. While this is true, there is no doubt that eating half a carton of ice cream or a whole party-size bag of m&ms will contribute to you gaining weight, there are many other factors at play here.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to focus on the sugar in these particular items for now. Sugar is sweet, it makes even the most bitter of things taste better. Coffee is a good example of this. Unfortunately many things that taste good are generally not that good for us. First of all, we’ll cover what you already know: sugar will make you gain weight and this new weight will put extra stress on the ligaments, tendons, muscles and joints of your body. This stress leads to instability and pain. (I don’t want to dwell on what I’m sure you’ve heard millions of times over so I’m going to move on from this but if you would like to know more, please feel free to ask.)
Second, sugar propagates inflammation. Now inflammation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Properly regulated inflammation is actually a good thing. It is our own immune system’s response to foreign invaders that cause infection and injuries that need healing. The problem lies in when inflammation is not kept in check. You see, after the infection has been fought or the injury is healing, the inflammatory chemicals are suppose to leave. If they don’t, they start to cause damage to the area. The same chemicals that protected you from infection by doing them harm can start to do you harm. Chronic inflammation is associated with pain and leads to permanent damage that has been linked to cancer, arthritis and hearth disease. Your body prevents this by releasing chemicals that shutdown this process but sugar actually stops this from happening. Sugar irritates the body, causing a protective increase in pro-inflammatory chemicals and a decrease in the chemicals that decrease inflammation. This irritation will both cause inflammation and perpetuate any inflammation that is present.
Now if you think sugar is bad, you should know that refined starches, trans fats and saturated fats are doing the same thing. In fact, if you really want to bust any food sources that are guilty of causing you pain you might want to look into the most common food allergens (wheat, dairy, soy, nuts and eggs) or food preservatives as well.
So what can you do about it?
Obviously, I was going to say that but let’s be a little more specific. First, cut out the stuff causing you pain! Decrease how much sugar, refined starches, trans and saturated fats you eat. (Of course not eating things that are causing you pain would be better but I’m a realist and I know this is a lot to ask of some.) If you are interested in finding out if you have a food allergy (in this case I mean the less dangerous, delayed type allergy that causes chronic inflammation and not the peanut allergy that closes your throat while you search for your epi pen) that you aren’t aware of there are a few different methods: 1) There are a few blood tests for this, they test IgG response which is considered controversial by some but really works if you get a high quality test (I like the 96 food panel by US Biotek and no I’m not getting anything out of saying that). 2) For those of you who have patience and a light pocket book, you can try the rotation diet method or the elimination diet method but even these are best when done with the supervision of a physician/expert.
So what can you eat? Vegetables, fruits, whole grains (like quinoa), good fats (omega-3 fatty acids like you will find in olive oil and medium chain fatty acids like you will find in coconut oil to name a few), grass fed meats (because if you’re not eating this stuff why would you want your food eating this stuff, also, I apologize to the vegetarians, you may skip that part), wild caught fish…. so many wonderful and delicious things. Diets that follow many of these principals are considered anti-inflammatory diets and include the Paleolithic diet (Mark’s Daily Apple is a good resource for this) and the Mediterranean diet. You can also check out (get ready for the shameless plug) our blog for some tips: Eat this not that and Drink this not that are a good place to start (Dr. Neha Shah wrote those articles but full disclosure: she is the other physician at the chiropractic office in St. Charles, Il).
Some want to kick start their new diet by cleaning up after their old one. For that, I recommend starting to eat a Paleo-like diet to “do no harm” as it were and find a physician who does detox programs. I don’t mean those 3 week, calorie restricting, 37 supplement a day starve fests where you could swear that your stomach is actually telling you to eat something (and by the way, I don’t debate that those types of detox programs work, just that they don’t fix the problem long term). I recommend a place that teaches you to eat cleanly while supporting the natural phase 1 and 2 detoxification processes of your body (and yes this will mean taking a few supplements). (Get ready for shameless plug 2) At White Oak Family Wellness we will be running such a program starting on March 20, 2014. To get an idea what this entails or if you’re in the area and interested, you can get more information on our detox page or this flyer. As always, I’m available for all questions, comments and concerns.
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White Oak Family Wellness
405 Illinois Ave #2b
St Charles, IL 60174