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Posted on 01-16-2011

Growing up I remember hearing my parents tell me 'you are what you eat' as I shoved the delicious candy bar in my mouth.  Of course, as a child we do not always listen to adults, or believe everything they tell us.  Now as a doctor trained in nutritional therapies, I see on a daily basis that those words are truer than once believed.  The items we choose to place in our mouths on a daily basis can help make us feel better or worse. 

I regularly see patients with neck and back pain that do not realize that their meals may be making them feel worse.  There are many causes to neck and back pain, so you should see your doctor to find out the true cause.  Yet, along with your prescribed treatment plan a few changes in the way you eat may also assist in your recovery or help lower your risk of recurrence.

The following foods can help decrease the recurrence of back pain:

1. More vegetables and fruit of all colors.  The more colors and variety the better.  Frozen and fresh are both acceptable.  To find out the recommended amount of fruit and veggies take a look at this website http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/.  If you have a difficult time meeting your minimum daily requirement, or you are having health issues and need to have an increased intake there are two good options.  The first is JuicePlus and the other is a whole food supplement from Standard Process.  Call our office to discuss the options that are right for you.

2. Nuts of all kinds.  Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to help combat inflammation.

3. Cherries. One study showed that drinking 12 ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day for eight days reduced exercise-induced muscle damage including pain.

4. Canned or fresh/frozen wild Alaskan salmon, sardines packed in water or olive oil, mackerel, albacore tuna and flaxseed -all good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

5. Green Tea

The following foods should be avoided:
1. The following vegetable oils: corn, safflower, sunflower, cotton seed or "mixed" vegetable oils
2. Margarine and vegetable shortening.
3.  Processed foods - shop the outer perimeter of the supermarket
4. Products containing high-fructose corn syrup
5. Foods high in saturated fat, including meat, tropical oils and full-fat dairy products
6. Foods made with trans fats

Along with these, a lack of vitamin D, known as the "sunshine" vitamin, may contribute to back pain.  A simple blood test can check your vitamin D levels to determine if a supplement is right for you. 

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