Are you dealing with lower back pain? If so, you know how debilitating it can be. I struggled with lower back pain and joint pain for years and I know that finding relief can feel impossible at times. What would you say if I told you a healthy diet can probably reduce your chronic pain?

First, I want to start by saying that there are different types of pain. Whatever kind of pain you have, no matter where it is in your body, should be addressed by a healthcare professional. For back and joint pain specifically, I suggest physical therapy, from experience. With that said, chronic pain treatment can and should consist of several different approaches to its care.

There are a few reasons foods can affect the way your body feels and it’s actually really cool when you begin to understand how much control you might have. So let’s get into why food matters and what foods might help relieve some of your back pain or other pain you might be experiencing.

How Do Certain Foods Reduce Pain?

Certain foods can reduce and sometimes even eliminate pain in your body by reducing inflammation. Inflammation is the most common cause of chronic pain.  But inflammation doesn’t only contribute to pain, it’s also a huge factor in chronic disease! “More than 50% of all deaths worldwide are attributed to chronic inflammatory diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, and diabetes.” In other words, it’s something you want to get under control!

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to some kind of problem. It’s not a reaction we want to stop entirely, because it’s a good thing when it’s acute. It becomes a problem for your body when it becomes chronic. When you have any kind of inflammation in your body, it can and usually does produce pain, especially chronic inflammation. Taking steps to reduce overall inflammation can result in a significant reduction in pain anywhere in your body.

Let’s talk about what makes some foods anti-inflammatory and what makes some foods inflammatory.

Inflammatory Vs Anti-Inflammatory Properties

The standard American diet is highly inflammatory because it consists of mostly processed foods, processed meats and red meat, high salt, high fat, and high sugar foods, and very few fruits and vegetables. Chronic low-grade inflammation is most frequently associated with unbridled oxidative stress and uncontrolled glucose and lipid metabolism in your fat cells, liver, and muscle.

Inflammatory Foods:

  • Refined carbohydrates: Refined carbohydrates, like white bread, white rice, pastries, cakes, and other highly processed foods, can cause inflammation due to their high glycemic index. The body breaks these down faster, leading to a spike in blood sugar and an inflammatory response.
  • Trans and Saturated fats: Trans fats, like those found in fried and processed foods, can cause inflammation due to their pro-inflammatory properties. Trans fats are associated with increased levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation. Saturated fat also increases levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6. Saturated fats also increase levels of LDL cholesterol, which can lead to inflammation. Plus, saturated fats can cause oxidative stress, which is a major contributor to inflammation.
  • Red and processed meats: Red and processed meats, like bacon and deli meats, contain high levels of saturated fat and nitrates, both of which can lead to inflammation in the body.
  • Refined sugars: Refined sugars, like those found in soda, candy, and other sweets, can cause inflammation because of their high glycemic index and the body’s response to large amounts of sugar.
  • Dairy products: Diary products are high in saturated fat which we’ve already talked about increases the body’s inflammatory response. This is especially a problem for people who already have a dairy sensitivity or intolerance and those who have some sort of inflammatory disease like arthritis, or a disease like cancer that can be both caused and made worse by inflammation.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol can cause oxidative stress and promote the release of inflammatory molecules, like cytokines, which are signaling molecules that can initiate an inflammatory response.

Any food that contains the ingredients above or any ingredients on the label that you cannot pronounce can promote inflammation in your body. Check out this great, research and science-based look at Foods that Cause Inflammation!

Anti-Inflammatory Foods:

An anti-inflammatory diet is high in essential nutrients, antioxidants, fiber, certain vitamins, and fatty acids.

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients, which are highly effective at reducing inflammation (or not spiking it to begin with). Citrus fruits, berries, cruciferous vegetables, green leafy vegetables, root vegetables like white potatoes and sweet potatoes and more are all some of the best foods you can consume to reduce or avoid inflammation.

  • Healthy Fats: Healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and avocados provide essential fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation. Unsaturated fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, are not only essential to our overall health, but they also have very specific, amazing health benefits
  • Whole Grains: Whole grains like quinoa, oats, brown rice, and barley provide beneficial fiber, which can help reduce inflammation.

  • Herbs and Spices: Herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, and garlic are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which can help reduce inflammation. Green tea is also a great source of antioxidants with anti-inflammatory agents.

Other Major Factors That Contribute to Inflammation

Although diet plays a major role in inflammation in the body, there are a few other major factors that we need to complete the story. There is a strong association with the following factors and inflammation as well.

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Poor Sleep Habits
  • Low sex hormones


When it comes to general pain or back pain relief, healthy foods can play a major role in regulating that pain. Food is medicine the best way to heal your body is to be mindful of the types of foods you consume on a regular basis and make a healthy lifestyle a priority. That’s not to say that you have to eat perfectly and live perfectly. Just try for a well-balanced diet and an intentional habit of considering what you can do to make positive changes for your health.

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