Can a high-protein diet reduce back pain?

Risk factors_Weight-scale_IS-000015301864S_RF-SHigh-protein diets have become very popular for weight loss and body building. New diets are popping up all the time, promising a slim waist and reduced appetite. Another allure of these diets is the idea that one can eat butter, bacon and steak as opposed to salads, and still lose weight. The list of approved foods in this type of diet sounds like a dieter’s dream to be sure.

How do these diets work? High-protein, low-carb diets cause the body to burn fat for energy and, if the diet is adhered to long enough, it causes the body to go into a state of ketosis. Ketosis occurs when a body burns fat, including its own, for fuel. This often results in weight loss.

While burning fat, the body produces a substance called ketones – acids that can change the pH of a person’s blood. Due to the upped pH, calcium is excreted in an attempt to balance the body. This means high-protein diets can cause strain on the kidneys and possibly cause kidney stones. Pain caused by kidney problems is felt in the back, causing or worsening symptoms.

Calcium depletion can cause more than the possibility of kidney stones. The calcium consumed is excreted and doesn’t go toward keeping bones healthy. The lack of calcium could spur on osteoporosis, weakening vertebrae and taking support away from the spine. Weakened vertebrae cause more pressure on discs in the neck and back, which can cause pain.

Low-fiber diets can worsen lower back pain by lack of proper waste evacuation. The pressure of digested food accumulating in the lower intestine can cause pain in the abdomen and lower back. For proper elimination it’s important to eat enough vegetables, fruits and whole grains; foods that are often avoided in a high-protein low-carb diet.

Many foods containing anti-inflammatory properties are also left out of high-protein, low-carb diets. Berries, papaya and pineapple all have carbohydrates and anti-inflammatory benefits that help keep neck and back pain away.

High-protein diets may not be the best option for those suffering from neck and back pain, as many side effects of the diet can worsen those pains. A diet including healthy meats, whole grains, fruits and many vegetables can help lessen inflammation and back pain. Before making any changes in diet, please consult your health care professional.

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