Now some reading for you. This article first appeared in December 2001 here http://www.badbacks.com.au/medical/nutritional-supplements/214/nutrition-back-care I found it to be a fantastic article and really helped a lot of people understand the importance of nutrition in back care. There are many foods that can help you and if needed supplements as well. Enjoy the read.
A healthy back needs good nutrition to maintain its structure and stability, and to help it heal during times of stress or injury, or degenerative disease such as arthritis.
The minerals calcium, magnesium and phosphorous are most important because they form the structural framework of the body, and they along with manganese, need each other for absorption.
These four minerals are essential for the proper co-ordination between the brain, skeletal, muscular, nervous and circulatory systems. They strengthen the back, improve bone density and cartilage structure, reduce muscle spasm and nerve irritation (as in sciatica), aid in blood clotting, and help to maintain the normal PH (acid/alkaline) balance in the body. Too much acid in the blood may contribute to back pain and arthritis.
As in the human body, these minerals are found together in nature in the following major foods: Dairy products (*Parmesan cheese), soya beans, nuts (*almonds, *Brazil, *cashews), seafood (*sardines) , all green and green leafy vegetables (*broccoli, *parsley, *cabbage), legumes, celery, oily seeds (*sesame, *sunflower ), sprouted seeds (* mung beans), brown rice, millet, rye, garlic and most dried fruits, especially apricots, peaches, bananas, raisins, prunes, dates, and pears. Herbal teas with an appropriate content of these minerals include alfalfa, chamomile and dandelion leaf.
Bad dietary habits responsible for interfering with the body’s absorption of them include excessive consumption of tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, meat and rhubarb- all of which are high in oxalic acid which binds with calcium and magnesium. Processed foods also cause poor absorption, and sugar leaches them out of the body and so should be avoided.
A deficiency of the above minerals as well as those below in the diet may cause symptoms such as muscle cramps and twitches, numbness and tingling, muscle weakness, bone deformations, osteoarthritis with diminished cartilage, osteoporosis, inflammations, retained muscle tension and slowed healing time.
Zinc, an essential trace element ,aids wound healing and reduces inflammation. Major food sources are oysters (highest), seafood, kelp, beef, wheatgerm, oatmeal, ginger, pumpkin seeds and brewers yeast.
Silica is a major constituent of collagen- the substance that joins cells together. It is important for the absorption of calcium and zinc and for proper elasticity and strength of connective tissue, and helps the healing of torn ligaments or tendons. It is also beneficial in breaking down calcification around the spine and also strengthens bone.
The outer dark green leaves of the lettuce are rich in silica. Horsetail tea is an excellent source. Also parsnip, asparagus, spinach, celery, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, oats, strawberries and fresh apricots.
Vitamin C is essential to the health of connective tissue because it assists in the repair and renewal of cells, thereby alleviating pain by shortening the healing period. A deficiency of vitamin c may contribute to bruises occurring readily, wounds healing more slowly and bones breaking more easily and knitting at a slower rate. Major sources are blackcurrants, tomatoes, peppers, citrus fruits, pineapple, parsley, cabbage, paw paw, strawberries and rosehip tea.
Bioflavoniods – rutin and hesperidin – are tissue strengthening and reduce inflammation, and are excellent for bruising and preventing blood clotting. Rutin is sourced from blackcurrants, rosehips, buckwheat, prunes, cabbage, apricots, cherries, strawberries, and the white pith just underneath the skin of citrus fruits. Hesperidin is also found in citrus fruits. So it is better to eat the whole fruit, rather than drinking just the juice, if you suffer from back problems. Eating capsicums everday will also be of benefit. Capsicum inhibits the production of inflammatory chemicals called leukotrienes and so interferes with the release of transmitters of pain impulses.
Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapple, which also inhibits soft tissue inflammation and swelling and reduces bruising following injury.
Paw Paws contain an enzyme called papain, which is also anti-inflammatory. Omega –3 essential fatty acids may also help to decrease the symptoms and severity of osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have indicated that they regulate the number of molecules in the body which cause inflammation. These fatty acids are not manufactured by the body and must be obtained from the diet. The best plant source is the oil from flaxseed, followed by canola, soy, safflower and wheatgerm oils.
Fish oil is also an excellent source of OMEGA –3 E.F.A’s and can be obtained by eating fresh cold water fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna, and salmon.
Just remember, if your diet is lacking in good nutrition, this could be contributing to the pain in your back.
Until next time.
Craig Hitchens – MST/Natural Health Specialist