Nutrition is a topic I am very passionate about. It’s one of the biggest factors when it comes to seeing results in the gym. Whether its weight loss, weight gain or somewhere in the middle. Eating the right foods is vital! But what about back pain? Is there something special you can eat to help relieve back pain? Is there such a magical food that will allow me to never have to do another plank ever again!? Well no, but if used properly, a solid nutrition plan can dramatically reduce inflammation in your lower back.
I have created 3 key pillars when it comes to designing a nutrition plan to beat back pain. 3 key characteristics anyone with back pain has to make a staple focus in their diet. Those 3 pillars are:
1) Perimeter Shopping
2) Avoid the Middle
3) Test and Tune
I know, I know, you’re probably like what the heck is he talking about? I’ll explain what I mean by these 3 things in a minute. Let me throw out a little disclaimer: The most obvious cause of back pain is being overweight. I don’t want to touch on this too much because if you follow the steps with these 3 pillars the weight loss will come. It’s a no brainer though, year after year you keep getting heavier and heavier. Things get harder and your body begins to hurt more and more. This isn’t from old age. It’s your body reacting to the load your putting on it. For a male constantly having a heavier load over their mid section reeks havoc on the lower back. The body tries so hard to stabilize the spine but the weight and lack of endurance always prevails. The main goal I want you to walk away with in this article is knowing the importance of being picky with what you eat. The weight loss will come but the choices you make as far as quality can change NOW.
Lets rip open these 3 Pillars now!
Don’t lie, if you have ever talked with a personal trainer or received any kind of nutrition advice, don’t act like you weren’t making a bunch of excuses for why you can’t eat them haha..
1) Perimeter Shopping: Envision yourself in your local Kroger, Blooms or Food Lion. Normally when you first walk in and to the right you will see the produce section. From here you can usually follow it around into the fruit department followed by the meat section. The perimeter of most grocery stores is where you will find the majority of your anti-inflammatory foods. The basis of pillar 1 is to consume the majority of your foods from fruits and veggies. The majority of us don’t eat enough fruits and veggies to meet our mineral and vitamin need for the day. Veggies are always just an after thought. But what if it was the first thing on your mind? You can find most of the heavy anti-inflammatory foods such as carrots, beets, berries and sweet potatoes along that first perimeter section of the grocery store. These exact foods are what you want to base your daily diet around. Cold water, high fat fish such as Salmon and Tuna are excellent sources of Omega 3’s which help tremendously with lowering inflammation.
Shopping list for foods:
-Salmon, Tuna and Mackerel
-Spinach, kale, romaine, bok choy
-Carrots, beats, sweet potatoes
– Cherries, Berries
2) Avoid the Middle: The middle of the grocery store is full of the “good stuff” all that yummy processed junk is killing you. It’s one thing to be a relatively healthy person and have back pain but someone who literally eats junk every day and doesn’t really have a filter on what enters their body who complains about back pain drives me crazy. I understand the healing and damaging effect certain foods have on the body. I am constantly being reminded that there are some people who just don’t get it. Some of the worst foods you can put into your body not only from a weight loss standpoint but from back pain are foods that your body can do nothing with. That’s the thing about food. Your body either needs whatever it is you are eating or it doesn’t. Unfortunately, some of these “extra foods” begin to effect the physiology of our bodies ability to fend off pain. High sugar, saturated fats, processed foods, fast foods and anything with partially hydrogenated oil can dramatically change alter our healing process. My biggest weakness is ice coffee. Not just any ice coffee though, Dunkin Donuts Ice Coffee. If I ever have an extra $2.33 you better believe I will be hitting up DD for some of that sugary goodness. I can attest to the consequences though. I know if I have been allowing myself to slip into too many DD Ice Coffee comas. My body just doesn’t feel right. There are days where I feel like everything is inline and strong and normally after a long weekend of late nights and a lot of coffee drinking I’m usually fending on back pain well into the middle of the week. Believe me this stuff is the Bee’s Knees. Im not just spitting out theories!
3) Test and Tune: Not all things work for everybody. There are a lot of intolerances you can develop that end up raising the levels of inflammation in the body. The only way to really find out whether or not these (sometimes considered) healthy foods are actually doing more damage than good is to cut them out completely. It takes about 2-3 weeks to really be able to make a good judgment call. Some foods such as dairy, potatoes along with some veggies can actually be hurting you. This isn’t the case for everyone though. For example, a friend of mine suffered from back pain for most of her life and ended up deciding to take all dairy out of her diet. Since then (a few years by now) her pain has been minimal if at all and she gives full credit to cutting out dairy. This may have worked for her but doesn’t necesarrily mean it will work for you. After each such foods look for signs like runny nose, sweating, dry or thick mucus on your mouth, noticeable increase in body temp. These signs are no guarantee but can lead you to further testing with some of these more specific foods.
These are the three main points I try to cover with myself along with anyone else I am coaching. Your back pain story is unique to you. Your recovery will be just the same. Don’t pack in over the counter medication to cover the pain. Venture out into the produce and fruit departments and start filling your carts. Don’t worry about how much to eat or how to cook it, just eat it and eat lots of it. If you can’t stomach the mount of veggies you can always get into juicing.
Sample Juicing Recipe:
Handful of Blue Berries
Handful of Strawberries
1/2 of a thumbs size of ginger
Lots of Kale
1 tsp of cinnamon (mix after ingredients are juiced)
Chill and enjoy!
Hope you enjoyed this!