Worst Foods for Back Pain

Your back is part of your core and therefore plays a part in basically every movement you make. So when your back hurts, it compromises your daily activity in a significant way. Chronic pain can have all kinds of mental effects and well as physical ones, leading to depression or anxiety on top of the agony. When the pain is present all the time, you might feel that anything that will reduce the suffering is worth it, no matter the side effects.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to ease your pain and improve your mental wellbeing that has only positive side effects. These involve avoiding certain food triggers that can spark inflammation. Though inflammation is a natural element of your immune system, when the inciting issue is chronic, inflammation outstays its welcome and causes more harm than good.

Avoiding foods that support inflammation keep you in the driver’s seat of your own body and can go a long way toward reducing your pain levels. Following are the 7 worst foods (and types of food) for back pain. Some of these could be difficult to avoid, especially #3, but remember that your reward is less suffering!

1. Added Sugars
You have probably heard a fair amount about sugar in recent years. After the 1980s, when sugar producers funded a host of studies attempting to pin the blame for chronic ill health on fat, the real story about sugar began to emerge. It is the white stuff that is more directly linked to poor health outcomes, including obesity, diabetes, cancer, and yes – chronic inflammation.

Sugar causes inflammation because when it interacts with proteins and fats in the body, advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are produced in high numbers. AGEs are known to cause inflammation and accelerate aging, the effects of which can be both seen and felt. It is best to rely on whole fruit for a hint of sweetness when you need it and cut out as much added sugar (found in sodas, energy drinks, baked goods, processed food, and candy) as you possibly can.

2. Aspartame

Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners are no better than concentrated natural sugar when it comes to health. The problem is that these sugar substitutes are manufactured entirely in a laboratory and your body may not even recognize them as food. When the immune system identifies a foreign invader, inflammation is the result. That’s the exact opposite of what you want to achieve!

Aspartame is a notorious offender when it comes to this issue. Some studies have indicated that aspartame can cause flare-ups of arthritis pain and even cause arthritis in people who didn’t have it already. If arthritis is the cause of your back pain, or if it runs in your family, be especially aware of the risks of artificial sweeteners.

3. Coffee

We are sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings if you’re one of those people who can’t imagine mornings without coffee. Sadly, despite overall health benefits, coffee has been found to increase your risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Even decaffeinated, coffee seems to trigger the rheumatoid factor.

But if your suffering is not related to arthritis, there is a glimmer of hope. Many chiropractic experts point to the caffeine in coffee as the primary trigger for back pain. That’s because caffeine worsens conditions like stress, chronic inflammation, anxiety, and sleep problems, all of which can exacerbate back pain. Try switching to decaf to see if your symptoms resolve.

4. Dairy Products

Dairy contains a protein called casein that is a very common allergen among adults. If your body struggles to digest casein, inflammation is the result. It will irritate the tissue around your joints, including the spine. Milk is generally the worst offender, but you should also avoid products made with milk, including butter, cheese, baked goods, and cream-based sauces and soups.

Interestingly, raw milk tends to be less problematic than pasteurized milk. But if you struggle with chronic back pain, it’s smart to experiment with eliminating all dairy products. The protein can be replaced by upping your intake of foods including lentils, nut butter, tofu, beans, quinoa, and spinach. Once you determine how your body responds, you can gradually add back in safer dairy choices like raw milk and unsweetened yogurt.

5. Saturated Fats

We’ve indicated that sugar and sugar supplements are uniformly problematic, but there is a distinction to be made when it comes to fat. Saturated fat can have negative effects all over the body, from your cardiovascular system to your joints. Unsaturated fats, however, are healthy and can reduce the inflammation that causes back pain. Great sources of unsaturated fat include avocados, nuts, and fish.

However, it is best to abstain from processed junk foods, especially fast food meals, which are extremely high in saturated fat. Red meat and full-fat dairy products are also huge culprits. Too much-saturated fat can add pounds to your frame and put more stress on your back, as well as spark painful inflammation.

6. Refined Carbs

Refined carbs come from grains that have been heavily processed to create white flour. Unfortunately, refined grains are everywhere – in white bread and bread products, almost all packaged foods, commercial baked goods, and even soups and sauces. To avoid or even just cut back on refined carbs, it is best to prepare most of your meals at home with whole grain products.

The reason it is important to avoid refined carbs if you have chronic back pain is that these flours increase the level of cytokines in your blood, which then sends inflammation spiraling out of control. Plus, there is no health value left in white flours; all the nutrition has been processed out.

7. Corn oil/Omega-6s

Here is an ingredient that is not entirely bad, but must be consumed in moderation. Corn oil contains a lot of omega 6 fatty acids, which are compounds that our bodies actually need. However, omega-6s work in conjunction with omega-3s and a delicate balance must be achieved for this process to work. We need way more omega-3s than omega-6s, but most of us have got the equation backward.

When this critical balance is flipped, an inflammatory process occurs. Reduce your omega-6 intake by avoiding oils including grapeseed, safflower, vegetable, peanut, and soy. Remember to look at the labels on salad dressings and sauces as well to make sure they don’t contain these oils.


Back pain can seriously affect the quality of life and is difficult to manage. Work closely with your doctor to mitigate your pain and treat the underlying condition that causes it. Medication and even surgery may ultimately be required, but don’t forget that lifestyle choice can make a huge difference in your pain from day today.

By avoiding these 7 inflammatory foods, you will lower pain levels naturally as well as improve overall health. Even if you have to give up your morning coffee, it’s worth it to feel so much better!

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