You have right sided or left sided low back pain that just won’t go away. You have tried chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage and physiotherapy with little to no results. Is it possible the food you’re eating is creating inflammation (swelling) throughout your body and causing your chronic low back pain?
Inflammation in your body happens when your immune system is triggered by but not limited to injury, mental or emotional stress, poor sleep, thermal stress or if their is a substance (i.e. chemical in a food) you ingest or breathe in. (1,2,3) The focus of this article is going to be on food substances typical to the North American diet that promote inflammation.
More than 50% of the daily calories consumed by the average person living in the industrialized world today are white flours, sugars, and industrial seed and vegetable oils. (4) If you add dairy and alcohol into the mix the percentage rises to 70%. (4) Consuming these food and drinks can promote inflammation throughout the body. (5) And chronic low grade inflammation is directly responsible for creating the chronic illnesses that are increasing in the industrial world. (6) This includes but not limited to: heart disease and strokes, arthritis, hypothyroidism, obesity, brain degenerative diseases, and depression.
If you noticed in the list above, arthritis was in the mix. Arthritis means painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints. There are many kinds of arthritis ranging from osteoarthritis to rheumatoid arthritis. Many of my patients just refer to their chronic low back or joint pain as “arthritis”. The following is a typical picture I see in my clinical practice everyday:
Male or female, ranging in age from 25 – 80 years and has recurring or constant right or left sided low back pain. He or she has tried numerous types of therapies to work on the low back joints and muscles. Maybe they have had some relief, maybe it’s gets a lot better but keeps coming back, and maybe there is no relief and nothing has helped. Their health challenge has consumed them. They can’t enjoy the physical activity they once enjoyed, they are gaining weight, they are uncomfortable when they turn over in bed, they can’t sit at work for prolonged periods of time, they are grumpy, their work production is slipping, and their relationships are strained.
Does this sound like you or someone you know?
Typically, when seeing this type of patient I do a thorough chiropractic examination (including neurological testing, muscle testing, posture evaluation, gait analysis, and palpation of the spine) I’m going to find some sort of problem in the spine, muscle and/or nerve that I can work with. So the patient and I agree to start chiropractic care. Most of the time the patient responds very well, they get their life back and everybody is happy. But what about the patients who don’t respond very well or they do respond and the low back pain just keeps coming back? In these cases, we have to dig deeper for solutions like changing the way they eat.
As mentioned the typical North American diet consists of refined flours, sugars, and industrial seed and vegetable oils. But how do these foods create inflammation causing your chronic low back pain?
Chronic inflammation is like a small campfire turning into a raging forest fire that won’t stop.
When you injure your low back, your nervous system triggers your immune system to make more immune cells and chemicals to start the healing and repair process. This is inflammation. Under normal circumstances the inflammation is turned off and the body is restored to its normal healthy state. You no longer have low back pain. When you ingest refined flours (cereals, breads, pastas, crackers, etc.), industrial seed and vegetable oils (canola, peanut, safflower, etc.), sugars (pop, candy, etc.), they have the potential to trigger your immune system and create inflammation in your joints, muscles and ligaments that doesn’t turn off. The chronic inflammation will damage your joints and surrounding soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) eventually. (7) So your low back pain keeps coming back or doesn’t go away. And worse, your joints get permanently damaged and stiff. Chronic inflammation is like a small campfire turning into a raging forest fire that won’t stop.
If these are the foods that tend to “fuel the fire”, doesn’t it make sense to stop eating them? Wouldn’t it make sense to eat foods that control the inflammation in your body?
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Elimination Diet to the Rescue
Eating a whole food nutrient dense diet that eliminates the above foods for a set period of time can help determine what foods may be causing your persistent inflammation and your low back pain. The period of time is typically anywhere from 14 to 30 days. Once you have identified the food(s) that are causing your low back pain to flare up, you can either decrease the consumption of the food(s) or eliminate them from your diet all together.
I have had numerous patients experience a complete resolution of their low back or other joint related pains because they were eating poorly. For some people it was the refined flours (gluten specifically), for others it was excess sugar consumption, and for others it has been red wine (what a bummer).
Here is what an anti-inflammatory diet and elimination diet looks like. Do it for 14 to 30 days and you will likely feel better:
- Grass-fed meats
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh vegetables
- Healthy oils (olive,walnut, flax seed, macadamia, avocado, coconut, palm)
- Healthy fats (pork lard, duck fat, beef tallow, chicken fat, butter)
- Cereal grains (bread, pastas, cereal, crackers)
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Industrial seed and vegetable oils (canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean, corn, peanut, cottonseed)
*consume if you can tolerate
Seek out a health practitioner who has a lot of knowledge in this area so they can guide you through this process properly. You can also register for a digital program called the 14 Four Program developed by functional medicine practitioner Chris Kresser.
Now I’d like to hear from you: Do you or someone you know have low back pain that just won’t go away? Have you tried eating a whole food nutrient dense diet to solve it? What were the food culprits that caused it?