When was the last time you thought about food? If you’re honest, it’s probably been a matter of minutes. Not only do we love food, much of our day revolves around it. What little family time we have involves working in meals as we rush from one activity to another. It’s hard to imagine even having a social life or celebrating a special occasion without food being the starting point. It’s also rare that we turn on the television, check social media or open a magazine and not be confronted with new health alerts about another of our favorite foods. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear the opposite once in a while?
Fortunately, there is some very encouraging news about food these days, and it has to do with how certain foods can help fight back pain. Whether related to overly sedentary lifestyles or, just the opposite, from work or leisure-related types of movement and overexertion, back pain is increasingly more prevalent. It is fifth on the list of all doctor visits in the U.S., and most adults, roughly 80%, will suffer from some level of back pain during their lifetime.
Inflammation is being recognized as a significant cause of back pain. According to the Laser Spine Institute’s chief medical director, Michael Perry, MD, “Left unchecked, inflammation will run rampant through your body, causing all kinds of problems, including low-back pain.” This is where the good news comes in: rather than turning to drugs, which rarely come without negative side effects of one sort or another, there are many foods that fall under the “anti-inflammatory” designation and can help with reducing and managing back pain. Instead of always being worried about foods that we are told to avoid, you can now start a new list that includes delicious foods that will actually help prevent pain in your back, as well as other places throughout your body.
So, what are these inflammation-fighting foods? Despite what you may be thinking, most of the recommended foods are familiar and easily obtainable. In the fish and meat department we have:
- chicken, lean
- turkey, lean
- black cod
Nutritionists have been telling us to look for richly-colored fruits and vegetables in order to counteract the effects of free radicals, which can lead to cell damage. These same foods also play a role in reducing inflammation. This is not an all-inclusive list, but some of the more common ones are:
- sweet potatoes
- berries – strawberries, black berries, raspberries, blue berries, etc
Herbs, spices, teas and other foods also have a role in the fight against inflammation and the resulting pain loss of mobility. Turmeric has been getting a lot of press due to studies showing its success with people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Ginger is believed to be just as effective relieving pain as anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. Other spices, such as, cinnamon, garlic, basil, curcumin, onions, and oregano should also be included on your list. As should herbal teas and the more traditional green, oolong and white teas. When you add extra-virgin olive oil, beans, avocados, pecans, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, and cocoa, you have such a range of appealing options that maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet should be easy. And delicious!