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Struggling with Back Pain? Here Are Holiday Foods to Avoid.

Last Updated: February 12th, 2021 at 06:38 pm
Read Time: 5 Minutes

Did you know that the food you eat can help or hurt your back pain? The holidays seem to center around food. Large family meals, office parties, and treats galore. A lot of us know that we don't eat as well as we could this time of year. What you may not know is that some of the ingredients in your favorite dishes could be contributing to your back pain. If you're experiencing back pain during the holidays, take a look at what you're eating. Some foods can increase pain, and some can help ease the pain you're experiencing.

How Does Diet Affect Back Pain?

Your diet can affect back pain quite a bit. Back pain is often caused by inflammation in the body, and certain foods have inflammatory properties. Therefore, eating these foods causes a reaction in your body that leads to inflammation and swelling. When this inflammation and swelling occur in your spine or the muscles in your back, it leads to pain.

Many people turn to over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen to help ease the pain that comes with inflammation. However, before you do, there are steps you can take to be able to minimize the inflammation before it even occurs.

Holiday Foods to Avoid If You Have Back Pain

If you suffer from back pain and often find yourself turning to over-the-counter medications as a cure, you may want to consider adjusting your diet. Many holiday foods have inflammatory properties. While we can't avoid all of them altogether, it helps to be aware of what they are in order to minimize their intake.

Sugary Foods and Foods Containing High Fructose Corn Syrup

That's right, those Christmas cookies and holiday peanut brittle may be contributing to your back pain. Sugar is one of the lead culprits regarding inflammation in the body. Added sugars are much worse than natural sugar; meaning that fresh fruit is safer than chocolate or a big piece of pie. Even as much as one can of soda a day can increase inflammation in the body, so imagine what all those cookies can do.

Foods That Contain Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil is used in many familiar holiday dishes. There are many different derivatives of vegetable oil, including corn oil, canola oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, and many more. Vegetable oil can pop up where you least expect it. It's a common ingredient in salad dressings, so be mindful of that when going for the green option at the table. Many people use vegetable oil for sautéing vegetables such as green beans or when roasting potatoes, and almost all cakes are sure to include it as an ingredient.

Many vegetable oils have high amounts of Omega-6, which is believed to increase inflammation in the body. It can also aggravate symptoms of arthritis and result in hypertension. Consider swapping out your regular vegetable oil for extra virgin olive oil instead.

Red Meat and Processed Meats

Red meat, along with processed meat, can lead to increased inflammation and worsen back pain. Red meat is typically high in saturated fats, and processed meat has Advances Glycation End Products (AGEs). Both of these things can cause inflammation, so you may want to limit your intake of holiday brisket, sausage, and ham.

Foods That Contain Artificial Trans Fats

The FDA has been waging war against artificial trans fats for years, due to the wide variety of health problems that present when they are consumed in large amounts. One of these health problems is inflammation. This can lead to back pain. Artificial trans fats have even been deemed "the unhealthiest fats you can eat."

Unfortunately, artificial trans fats can be found in many foods on supermarket shelves, including margarine, fried foods, pastries, and processed foods. This is another reason to pass up that extra cookie at the office holiday party.


Dairy products tend to have high levels of saturated fats, which can increase inflammation and cause back pain. They can also cause more pain in patients who have arthritis, or have conditions that affect joint tissue. This means those meat and cheese platters that are put out at holiday parties are a double whammy and are bad for inflammation and back pain. Eggnog, another holiday favorite, should also be consumed in moderation due to the whole-fat dairy it often contains.

Holiday Foods That Fight Inflammation and Back Pain

Don't panic just yet; there are still plenty of holiday foods that you can eat to ward off back pain and fight inflammation.


Instead of going for that second glass of eggnog or hot chocolate, try a cup of flavor-filled tea instead. Many teas are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, green tea in particular. It's packed with antioxidants, and there are plenty of holiday variations, including peppermint-flavored so that you can stay in the holiday spirit. If you're looking for something a little sweeter, add a teaspoon of honey. Honey has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties; great for preventing back pain.


Those roasted holiday nuts that you can't seem to resist contain anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, some types have been shown to benefit individuals who have arthritis. Nuts are packed with healthy fats, antioxidants, and minerals, along with magnesium and vitamin E. So go ahead and grab a handful.

Dark Chocolate

Just because you're avoiding sugar doesn't mean you can't treat yourself once in a while. Dark chocolate has been shown to reduce inflammation. The higher the percentage of cocoa that it contains, the better, as it's filled with antioxidants.


If you're trying to stay away from red and processed meats to help your back pain, try substituting salmon as a healthy alternative. Salmon contains the omega-3 fatty acids that are known as EPA and DHA, which help reduce inflammation. Adding salmon to your main course menu this holiday season can help address back pain before it even begins.

When Back Pain Gets the Best of You

The holidays are full of food and fun, and it may seem impossible to avoid all of the foods that are known to cause inflammation and lead to back pain. If you find that back pain is getting the best of you this holiday season, contact us to schedule an appointment.

There are many chiropractic treatment methods that can reduce inflammation and help ease your back pain so that you can power through the holidays.

About the Author:
Dr. Steven Schwartz
Raised in Coral Springs, Florida, Dr. Steven Schwartz is a major advocate for the South Florida community. CEO of ChiroCare of Florida, Dr. Schwartz has grown the group from one facility to 11. Whether he’s treating patients or volunteering for community service, Dr. Schwartz’s long-term goal is to ensure that each and every patient can experience the ChiroCare of Florida difference.
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