Inflammatory Diet and Back Pain

Studies have linked diet to back pain. They conclude that eating a large amount of pro-inflammatory foods can cause muscles to contract without relaxing. If this continues for an extended period of time, it can lead to spasms and irritation in the back. Those who suffer from chronic back pain should review their diet to determine how much of an impact it can have. 

If you suffering from acute or chronic back pain, book an appointment at The Back Clinic. Our multidisciplinary team take a holistic approach to managing back pain, including advice and guidance about lifestyle changes (including dietary changes that assist with pain relief).

What foods may increase inflammation? 

Pro-inflammatory foods include products that cause chronic, low-grade inflammation. Sugar, vegetable oil, fried foods, refined flour, dairy products, artificial sweeteners, artificial additives, saturated fats, meat from conventional grain feeding, processed meats, gluten from shop-bought bread, excessive alcohol, foods with trans fats, and fast foods can trigger your body’s immune system. Unlike other allergens, your body does not shut down the inflammatory response once the danger has passed. Instead, your immune system remains active after eating inflammatory foods.

What foods may decrease inflammation? 

Studies suggests that foods high in antioxidants may have an anti-inflammatory effect that relieves and reduces back pain flare-ups. There are certain characteristics that make up an anti-inflammatory diet, such as avoiding low refined carbohydrates (white bread/rice/flour/pasta, pastries, desserts), adequate amounts of protein and fats (such as omega-3 fatty acids), and foods rich in phytonutrients (also called antioxidants), micronutrients, and fiber. 

Anti-inflammatory foods include:  

  • Seafood (tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, shellfish)
  • Fruits (focusing on blueberries, strawberries and raspberries)
  • Dark leafy vegetables
  • Legumes/pulses
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Herbs & Spices (ginger, turmeric, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, rosemary, cloves)

Diet, weight, and back pain 

Many foods have been shown to reduce inflammation, while others increase it. A diet high in sugar and fat also increases the risk of being over-weight and obesity, which in turn contributes to back pain. The muscles of the lower back and abdomen support the spine and keep the body upright. The muscles of the lower back and abdomen must work together to support the upper body and spinal alignment. If these muscles do not receive the nutrients they need, their ability to repair can deteriorate. At the same time, the time it takes these muscles to recover from an injury may increase.

Other dietary habits that contribute to back pain 

Major dietary causes of back pain include excessive caffeine, alcohol, and sugar consumption, which increase cortisol levels. Other stress-causing habits include skipping meals, eating large portions, or eating a restrictive diet for long periods of time.

Reduce back pain by improving your diet and habits 

Consider varying the types of foods you eat from day to day. Also, abstain from some or all of these pro-inflammatory foods for at least three weeks to “clear” the effects from your system. However, the best thing you can do for yourself and your health is to eat mindfully. Try to eat anti-inflammatory foods whenever you can. 


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