Your Food Is Causing Your Pain


FOCUS ON HEALTH | By Dr. Peter Osborne –

Back pain is the fifth most common reason for doctor visits in the United States. Direct costs of back pain on the health care system are estimated to be greater than 50 billion dollars per year.  It is estimated that 80 percent of the population will have back pain at some point in their lives.

There are a number of contributing factors. Injury, obesity, lack of exercise, weak muscles, arthritis, ruptured discs, sedentary jobs, chronic sitting or driving are commonly cited. Equally, there are a number of treatment options. The first trip to the doctor usually leads to a prescription for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and muscle relaxers.  Other treatment options include  chiropractic, physical therapy, acupuncture, yoga, Pilates, traction, spinal decompression, manipulation under anesthesia, steroid injections and surgery.

Food and Chronic Muscle and Back Pain: One of the most overlooked factors contributing to chronic back and muscle pain is diet. Many doctors ignore this because nutrition is not a topic of discussion in most medical schools. The truth is that food can alter internal body chemistry in both good and bad ways. Food quality is affected by its source, additives, processing, genetic modification and packaging. Many highly processed products are referred to or marketed as healthy foods. This causes mass confusion for the average consumer. Below is a list of the most common foods that contribute to back and muscle pain.

Trans or Hydrogenated Fats: Even if the label says zero grams of trans fat on the front of the package, it may still contain a half gram of trans fat per serving size. Many food manufacturers changed their serving sizes so they can put “Zero Trans Fat” on their packaging.  If a food contains any amount of trans or hydrogenated fat, it should be avoided. This type of fat disrupts the way your body uses essential omega three fats. This fat also disrupts the way your body handles tissue inflammation. If you have chronic or acute back pain, it should be avoided at all costs.

Cereals, Breads, Pasta and Baked Goods: Despite the popularity of whole grains being marketed as a health food, grain-based foods contain very high ratios of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. This ratio of fat leads to the promotion of inflammatory chemicals within the body. Additionally, heavy grain-based diets can contribute to blood sugar and insulin problems making healing more difficult. Recent research findings suggest that one in three Americans have either intolerance or an allergy to grain.

Fried Foods: This includes items such as chips, French fries, fried meats and even fried vegetables. Commercially fried foods are typically cooked in Trans fat at high temperatures. This process creates a cancer causing chemical called acrylamide. Even frying in canola, soybean, corn or other oils can be problematic. These oils tend to become rancid when exposed to high temperatures. Again, these oils are rich in omega 6 fatty acids that tend to elevate tissue inflammation. Cooking in these oils contribute to cancer, heart disease, weight gain, diabetes and more. They thicken the blood making it more difficult for the body to deliver nutrients to tissues thus decreasing the body’s ability to heal.

Sodas and Energy Drinks: Soft drinks contain 10 teaspoons of sugar, high levels of caffeine, artificial colors and flavors, sulphites and carbonated water.  If the soda is sugar free, it typically contains chemical sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin and sucralose. Processed sugar is an anti-nutrient. It is a known contributor to diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, bone loss and immune system suppression. Caffeine is a diuretic that causes nutrient loss.  Doses as low as one cup of coffee per day have been linked to infertility, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, headache, gastric pain, constipation and muscle spasm. The artificial sweeteners can cause blood sugar abnormalities. Some of them are linked to cancer, kidney and liver disease, thyroid disease and diabetes.

Food Allergies: One man’s food is another man’s poison. Many people have food allergies that go undiagnosed. They are a common cause of inflammation and tissue damage. Food allergies are not always obvious and sometimes require specialized testing to diagnose. Skin prick testing is not an accurate way to assess food allergies.

If ever in doubt on what to eat, follow these simple rules:

Avoid Packaged Food: Ninety-five percent of packaged foods are not healthy no matter what the labels claim.

Read Labels: If the label has any terms that you cannot pronounce without practice (or obtaining a chemistry degree), it should be avoided.