Food For Thought: Proper Nutrition to a Healthy Back


When we think about eating well, generally the first things that come to our mind are our heart and our waistlines. While these are both good reasons for trying to improve your diet, but it’s also important to realize that our food gives us fuel for all of our bodily functions and systems, including some of those that you may never even think about. Among these, one is your back. The role that good nutrition plays in a healthy back is twofold: indirect and direct. Indirectly, keeping at a healthy weight means less pressure put on your back on a daily basis. Directly, the bones, muscles, and structures of the spine require proper vitamins to support the body in performing its daily functions. These are going to be the main focus of this article—some suggestions might even surprise you.

Back-Friendly Nutrients

Out of all the nutrients that are known to have a role in back health, calcium is probably the most popular. After all, the old adage is that milk leads to strong bones via calcium, right? As true as this is, milk and other dairy foods aren’t the only good calcium sources out there. Consider eating more dark leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, or bok choy. Fish like salmon or sardines are also a good option.

Another important thing to know about calcium is that it cannot do its work alone. Magnesium is an essential component of activating calcium, so be sure to keep your consumption levels balanced. This is especially important for the elderly, as proper calcium levels are key for preventing osteoporosis. Magnesium is found in whole grains, whole-grain breads, as well as in beans and in those handy green leafy vegetables. Vitamin D and Vitamin K also help in calcium absorption, they assist the bones in proper utilization of calcium.  Vitamin D comes from sunlight, but it also occurs naturally in egg yolks and fish oils. Vitamin K is found in liver, the healthy fats present in many meats, dairy products and yes—in green leafy vegetables.

Another thing not to be ignored is protein. With all our focus on minerals we ignore it sometimes. Protein is an important component in building the various structures in the body, so it makes sense that it is an important part of back health. However, it’s important to note that too much protein in relation to calcium may actually result in calcium being lost in burning of the excess protein. More study is required to find the ideal ratio.

Managing Pain

back pain

Unfortunately, some people may be already dealing with back issues and the chronic pain associated with it. In fact, research has shown that 80% of the active population suffers from low back pain at some point in their lives. What you may not realize is that dietary changes have also been shown to have a role in pain management. Changing what you eat may not help you in getting rid you of your aches and pains overnight, but it might increase the efficiency of your other efforts.

In general, the best food items that help in dealing with pain have anti-inflammatory properties. The great thing about them is that these same properties have a variety of other health uses. Here are some of the most popular items to add to your grocery list:

  • Olive Oil
  • Turmeric (several spices have anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric among the most studied)
  • Salmon (or other deep-sea fish)
  • Grapes
  • Berries (raspberries and blueberries especially)

Where Do I Start?

Using nutrition to support your back is great, but for the best results, you’ll have to implement other lifestyle changes, such as exercise. In addition, let’s take a moment to talk about supplements. While many of the food sources we cover in this article can provide you with the nutrients you need, many people start from a position of deficiency. In this case, supplements can come in handy to fill the gap. While everyone’s needs are different, a good starting point is a complete multi-vitamin. The reason why multivitamins are so important is that many vitamins and minerals need each other to function. For example, calcium won’t properly activate without magnesium, as we mentioned before. Multivitamins keep you covered in this regard, as there are several other examples of these relationships.

When it comes to something as important as your back, always bring on a medical professional to make sure that you are getting the proper amount of nutrients, whether it’s from food or from supplements. This can include your doctor, specialist, or resources like Back Pain Centers. By doing your homework and seeking out the proper advice, you can start using nutrition to support your efforts.

Article Submitted By Community Writer

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