Put It In Your Mouth; What You're Eating May Be Exacerbating Your Low Back Pain

Jun 8, 2023

 by Liz Rodriguez

I wanted to write a blog that dives into the connection between chronic inflammation and food.  This was something that didn't really hit home for me until my mid-30s.  I wasn't recovering as well, I was in pain  more often than not, and I began to notice that what I put into my body affected my low back pain.  I even remember my MAT guy in New York told me I had fluid retention in my low back.  This was about 5 months before my actual back surgery, so it made sense.  But I was also working crazy hours, eating like shit, not working out regularly and drinking a good amount of alcohol.

So what is this connection?  First let's talk about the anatomy of the spine.  When we talk about the spine you have discs and you have vertebrae.  The vertebrae are the bones, the spiny processes.  The discs are what are in between the bones.  Discs are made from collagen; technically speaking, they are fibrocartilage, which means they consist of strong fibers with some elasticity.  The majority of the time when you speak to someone who suffers from back injuries or overall back pain there is usually an issue with the discs. 

There is gel-like structure that sits at the center of the intervertebral disc (it's called a nucleus pulposus) and accounts for much of the strength and flexibility of the spine. The disc itself is made of 66% to 86% water with the remainder consisting of primarily type II collagen and proteoglycans (which is basically compound in connective tissue). 

So just think about that for a second.  Your discs are made up mostly of water!  If you need an excuse to drink more water, well there you go (learn more in a recent Reel I spoke about the importance of hydrating and creative ways to make that happen).  But just as your body doesn't feel great when you aren't taking in enough water, your actual discs in your spine are less healthy. That means regardless of how much you work out and take care of your back, if you taking in foods that are inflammatory and/or you aren't drinking enough water, then your spine is not as healthy as it could be. Body discomfort, including joint stiffness, tendonitis and muscle pain are all results of your body being inflamed over days, weeks, months or years. 

Let's expand on the notion of inflammation.  If we know our discs are mostly water then they can be affected by overall inflammation as well.  When we speak about chronic inflammation it can be caused by many factors.  The focus in this blog is related to food.  Refined sugars, processed foods, and too much alcohol will lead to more inflammation in the body. And if you are consuming those foods over time on a regular basis that can lead to chronic inflammation. 

You can also be inflamed if your diet is void of foods that are high in antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables, high fiber foods such as beans and legumes and roots, fatty fish and nuts and seeds.  This is also when the idea of a balanced diet comes into play. None of us are going to be eating perfectly all of the time.  BUT ensuring that we are eating foods high in antioxidants most days can help to decrease overall inflammation in the body.  If you need help on adding more foods high in antioxidants check out one of my Reels HERE.

I hope you learned a little bit more from this blog on how ensuring you are decreasing inflammation can really help to keep your back and discs healthy overall.  It's not just about the fitness side.  Paying attention to what you consume can be a HUGE game changer!  If you are interested in learning more about healthy back programs and increasing your performance through eliminating back pain set up a FREE strategy call HERE.