My family is full of Southernisms and superstitions carried with them from the antebellum South to the cacophonous cities of the North: Itchy palms? It means some money is coming your way. Is it raining while the sun is shining? It means the devil is beating his wife. Lower back pain? “Well, that just means a storm’s brewin” my grandmother would coo out the side of her mouth the way some southern people do. As heartfelt, and well-intentioned, as this familial advice was I found myself turning to Western Medicine when my chronic back pain reared its ugly head again.

Like many Americans, chasing the impetus of phantom back pain, I had tried everything: X-rays, Chiropractics, massage therapy and physical therapy. None of the objective measurements like X-rays or chiropractics revealed anything to be wrong beyond to much stress and tension.

A friend of mine took a more holistic approach and gave me a book titled “Healing Back Pain” that suggested the root of my back pain, and that of others like me, stemmed from Type-A personality traits. As much I relish the idea of attributing yet another ailment to my high-strung nature I still searched for other alternatives that could be causing my back pain. I was inspired by a conversation I overheard between our head coach and a member about thinking of food as fuel, and it go me thinking– Could what you eat be contributing to your back pain?

According to Nutrionfacts.org, the answer is yes!
Researchers showed that patients with long-term lower back pain had constricted blood flow, and those with high cholesterol appeared to suffer from more severe symptoms. Those with narrowed arteries appear about eight-and-a-half times more likely to have suffered from chronic back pain.

In translation, the narrowing of the arteries, which can be caused by any number of nutrition-related things like high saturated fat and high sodium diets, can lead to lower back pain. And this makes sense because “The discs in our lower back are the largest “avascular” tissue in the body.” (Nutritionfacts.org)

I also took the time to sit down with friend and Nurse Practitioner Sarah Archenbronn to talk about the subject.

“Do you think that what you eat can cause you back pain?” I began.

“Yes, in the way of inflammation you should avoid sugar, as elevated glucose levels lead to system-wide inflammation. Try to stick to whole, unprocessed foods, focusing on good fats. Fish oil, turmeric, and garlic are all natural anti-inflammatories that you can work into your diet to try and help reduce inflammation.”

What Sarah points out is yet another way that nutrition affects how we live our lives. Whether we have enough energy to make it to the gym or focus longer at work is determined by what we put into our bodies. Food is fuel, and that is how we should continue to think about our nutrition. So, the next time my chronic back pain returns I’ll be sure to open the fridge instead of closing the shutters.

To Your Continued Success,

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