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The Ultimate Back Pain Relief Tips Blog

How to Prevent a Herniated Disc Through Your Diet

Posted by Dr. Jeff Winternheimer D.C. on Thu, Sep 05, 2013 @ 09:03 AM

mediterranean diet herniated discMost people realize that the things you do or don’t do can help prevent herniated disc back pain. Habits like exercising to strengthen your back (good) or lifting heavy weight without correct technique (bad) have a big effect on avoiding back pain and recovering quickly if a problem does occur. But many people don’t realize that what you eat (or don’t eat) can help keep your back healthy, making you less likely to develop a herniated disc. That’s right, a healthy, non-inflammatory diet can have a direct effect on your back pain--and help prevent it. Here’s a look at what you should—and shouldn’t—eat to keep back pain out of your life.

Your spine must support your body, so your bones and musculature must have proper nutrition and avoid inflammation. Inflammation (swelling) is a common cause and contributing factor to back pain. Inflammation, which may not be localized or easily visible, limits free movement of muscles and spinal joints (vertebrae).


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Poor diet can promote chronic inflammation within the body. Besides back pain, chronic inflammation can bring on life-threatening conditions like heart disease, diabetes and more. The good news is, you can eat to reduce and prevent inflammation. Remember to discuss proper diet with your physician to ensure your eating plan matches your nutritional needs and works toward improvement of any health conditions you may have.

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Think Mediterranean

Following a natural diet like the one associated with the Mediterranean region can help you avoid inflammation-causing foods and increase your consumption of anti-inflammatory foods. No matter what you call it, eating habits focusing on antioxidant-containing food, whole grains and lean protein along with healthy fats can help reduce the risk of a herniated disc by keeping your body strong. Back-healthy diet tips:

  • Focus your diet on vegetables, whole grain foods, legumes, beans, fruit, nuts, herbs, spices and olive oil.
  • Eat 3-ounce servings of fish rich in omega-3 (like tuna and salmon), 2 or 3 times weekly.
  • Include poultry (skinless, 3-4 ounce portions) and eggs about 3 times a week/every other day. Skip the egg yolks about half of the time.
  • Limit red meat dishes and sweet foods to once per week or less.
  • Drink a glass (4 ounces) of red wine daily or every other day), provided your doctor approves.
  • Get enough calcium: Good food sources include calcium-fortified (fat-free) milk and dairy products, soy milk, calcium-fortified orange juice and whole-grain bread. Supplement calcium as needed, but no more than 600 mg at once--the maximum your body can absorb at one time. Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, so include a supplement, since most of us don’t get enough in our daily lives.
  • Drink lots of water throughout the day. You must be properly hydrated to help maintain all body functions, including the cushioning within your spine’s discs. Drinking water can’t prevent all disc problems because factors like aging can deplete some of the cushioning within discs. However, proper hydration of the body is extremely important.

Foods to avoid

  • Red meat
  • Fried food
  • Sugary, processed foods, drinks or snacks and avoid adding sugar to food/drinks
  • Partially hydrogenated oil—check food ingredient lists on packaging
  • White bread, white rice, white pasta
  • Whole-fat milk, whole-fat dairy products  

What if you have back pain anyway?

As mentioned above, hydration is key to a healthy spine and spinal discs. If you have back pain from a herniated disc or other causes, find out more about a revolutionary, non-invasive treatment called Functional Disc Rehydration™, developed by back specialist, Dr. Jeff Winternheimer, D.C. at the Illinois Back Institute. Contact us today for a free consultation to help end your back pain. 


Topics: Diet, nutrition, natural diet, herniated disc, Functional Disc Rehydration, Back Pain