Every time I prepare to write an article such as this, I laugh inside, only because the information I discover seems so practical, and it is great advice for so many people, but when I look at my nearly 106-year-old grandmother, she has practically violated every so-called rule of healthy living over the last century and then some, yet she still continues to thrive. So, in an effort to make good on those genes I hope I inherited from her, I try to balance the advice I receive through my own research along with some of the wisdom she has instilled in me over the years. Now, that doesn’t mean I will be dining at McDonald’s four or five times a week or downing a bottle of salt regularly, but I won’t say “no” to an extra helping of cheesy fries if I feel like it!
When it comes to back pain, it seems to be a chief complaint among so many people, and rightfully so. As I have mentioned in other articles, a lot of the pain and discomfort we house in our necks and back can be seen as a direct result of the way we slouch in our chairs. Face it. It’s not a pretty picture. Even as I sit here at my computer, I am sliding half-way out of my chair while rolling the bottom of my foot over a golf ball to ease the discomfort in my arch from presumably logging too many miles in a poorly-constructed pair of running shoes, a popular brand name I will politely refrain from naming, at least in this article!
The phrase, “You are what you eat” has resonated throughout the years. If that is actually true, then without a photo of my grandma close at hand, you can probably close your eyes and envision a cup of steaming hot coffee, an Egg McMuffin, and a container of salt. Throw in a hearty smile and an eager “thumbs up” that proclaims, “Good eating,” and that’s her! She does, however, still tend to her hair and make-up routine.
Our bodies are incredible machines, and sometimes we can be quite rough with them. Think about all of the junk you have consumed over the years. Think about all of the sleep you may be lacking. Think about some of the wild parties you might have attended and the alcohol that was eagerly consumed. We do a number on these machines, but, fortunately, when we treat them well, they thank us in numerous ways.
Just as you need to put the right type of fuel into your car to keep it running and humming at optimum levels, your body needs the right type of fuel in terms of the nutrients you consume. (I know this, as I attempted a very challenging half-marathon last summer on minimal fuel of dry toast and less than one cup of water. I finished the race by my goal time, but not without pain, discomfort, and the feeling that I was road kill at the end.)
According to an article written by Dr. Todd Sinett on his web site www.drsinett.com, a group of researchers in Finland performed autopsies on people who had expired from non-back-related causes, but whose medical records indicated they had presented, at some point in their lives, with back pain. What the researchers discovered was that people who suffered back pain were more likely to have blocked arteries going to the spine than the group of people who did not complain of back pain. This shows how proper circulation brings nutrients directly to the spine, removing the cells’ waste products. When this is not happening efficiently, it can lead to inflammation, and that spells pain and discomfort.
If you look around, most of us are not putting into our mouths the types of foods that will keep us performing at peak condition. I am guilty of this myself. Show me a chocolate bar, and I will soon show you just an empty wrapper. Of course, I will then, fueled by excess guilt, go for a five-mile run to burn it off. That is how I at least keep the chocolate off of my hips, but, who knows? Maybe it does have something to do with that occasional “yikes!” in my lower back.
We are continually bombarded with fad diets and claims as to their success, but the best advice is to simply eat healthy foods throughout the day, and over-indulging on supplements just because you eat poorly throughout the day is the equivalent of having a diet soda with a hefty piece of chocolate cake. It just doesn’t make sense.
Extremes in diets are not advisable, either. Just because protein is good for you does not mean you need to gorge yourself on it. Otherwise, it could lead to ketoacidosis, which is a harmful process that breaks down tissues. Even if you consume too much fiber, which is what so many cereal brands claim you need, you can subject yourself to excess gas and painful bloating, as well as other issues of the digestive system, all of which can lead to arthritis and back pain.
So, for all practical purposes, just keep a keen eye on a steady, healthy diet. Of course, maintaining proper posture and engaging in regular exercise helps, as well. Just don’t volunteer to “Granny-sit” my grandma, as you may find yourself in McDonald’s more than Ronald himself! However, she will tell you to sit up straight when you are at the table, so at least she is on the right track! That’s my grandma…she always has your back!