The nerve innervations of the lower back are shared with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. As such, stimulation or irritation in your gut can result in the brain sending signals via nerve pathways to corresponding parts of your lower back and core. The result of GI stimulation or irritation may present as referred pain, muscle inhibition, and/or increased muscle tension.
It is important to note that these nerve pathways work both ways. In the same way an irritated gut can influence the lower back, an acute injury to the lower back can impact digestion, causing symptoms like constipation, diarrhoea, etc.
So, if are experiencing chronic lower back pain and have had no previous injury to the area, your digestive health should be considered.
To be clear, in this instance, we are not referring to severe cases of inflammation such as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.
Moderate irritation can be caused by stress, food allergens, and toxins ingested through foods, such as pesticides. Common food irritants include soy, gluten, conventionally processed dairy, refined sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
Of course, this varies from person to person, so it is important to listen to the signals your body is giving you when ingesting certain foods. For example, if you notice that every time you eat bread you experience bloating, distension, or constipation, gluten or wheat may be an irritant for your gut.
There are four steps to assist in the healing process of an inflamed GI tract:
Remove – any causes or potential causes of irritation (e.g. gluten, soy, dairy, sugar, caffeine, alcohol)
Replace – any deficient nutrients that are needed to repair and maintain a healthy digestive tract (e.g. vitamins and minerals that help decrease inflammation and increase tissue repair, essential fatty acids (EFAs), the proper amount of protein for a person’s body type, etc).
Repair – Often removing causes of irritation and replacing deficient nutrients for a certain amount of time will promote the repair process. Reducing stress or improving one’s tolerance to stress will also aid in the repair process.
Reinoculate – This is where adding more of the “good bacteria” in the gut is crucial. Intestinal dysbiosis simply means that “bad” bacteria outweighs the “good” in your stomach, preventing the gut to function properly. Increasing the quantity of good bacteria in the gut can crowd out the bad bacteria to return it to normal. To do this, add pre and probiotic foods such as kimchi, saurkraut, and kefir (among others) or a probiotic supplement.
*Note: be sure to speak to your health care professional before adding any new supplements to your daily routine
As mentioned above, the state of your gut health can contribute to low back pain. If you are experiencing low back pain with no acute injury or previous underlying condition, it is worth taking your GI health into consideration.
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