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Nutrient - Focus on Back Pain

By Cathy Robinson BSc DipNutMed MBANT

It is estimated that up to four out of every five adults in the UK will experience back pain at some point in their lifetime. In fact, a staggering six million people in this country suffer from chronic back pain on a daily basis, with £400 million annually being spent on over-the-counter painkillers. 

According to the Health and Safety Executive, back pain is one of the most common reason for patients to seek medical advice, accounting for almost seven million GP visits annually and responsible for around five million days of absence from work per year. 

The lower back is responsible for supporting most of the body’s weight, making it vulnerable to damage and strain. Although pain is a warning sign and should always be investigated, pain management, particularly long term, causes many patients to reach for conventional painkillers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Unfortunately, over time, these can irritate the delicate lining of the stomach and the intestinal system, leading to inflammation of the digestive lining. 

However DLPA is a form of the essential amino acid phenylalanine, which appears to assist in the production of endorphin hormones, which have a positive effect on the brain’s pain sensors. 

Mother Nature provides us with a wealth of natural anti-inflammatories in the food we eat. Bromelain is a collection of enzymes extracted from the pineapple plant, with  a long history of use as a digestive aid, assisting in the breakdown of proteins. However, it also has powerful natural anti-inflammatory properties, seemingly able to inhibit pro-inflammatory compounds and block the production of kinins, compounds associated with swelling and pain. The Mayan Indian people traditionally ate fresh pineapples to manage various inflammatory conditions.  

Another natural anti-inflammatory found in some of the food we eat is the carotenoid Astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant that gives salmon and flamingos their characteristic pink colour. The dark red pigmented alga Haematococcus pluvialis, is a staple part of the diet of both salmon and flamingo and contributes to the health of these colourful creatures. Astaxanthin can also be extracted from the algal cells and is used in food supplements. Research has shown that Astaxanthin can inhibit the activity and formation of certain pro-inflammatory compounds such as prostaglandins. 

For more information visit: http://www.backcare.org.uk/5011/Back-Care-Awareness-Week.html

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