The Connection between Digestive Health and Chronic Pain

Acquiring digestive health is an important step toward achieving a pain-free life. According to Elizabeth Lipski in Digestive Wellness, faulty digestion is directly responsible for a large number of seemingly unrelated illnesses.

In 2013, the Lancet Journal published the Global Burden of Disease study. This study stated that low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. How is low back pain connected to digestive health? The major common denominator between chronic back pain and poor digestive health is inflammation. Some foods that people eat can contribute to inflammation in the body and therefore, would be contributing to increased levels of pain.

In order to improve symptoms of pain, it is now being recommended that the diet contain fewer inflammatory foods. Here is a list of some of those foods and some basic steps toward a pain-free life.

1. Eliminate Gluten: Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley. (Oats are gluten-free, but are often contaminated with gluten because they are produced in the same facility with gluten products.) Gluten creates more inflammation in the body. By avoiding gluten, we can make great strides in our health. There have been countless reports of reduced joint pain, headaches and other inflammatory symptoms such as arthritic pain following gluten elimination. For more information on how to go gluten-free, visit

2. Avoid Processed Foods and Preservatives: These contain chemicals that are difficult to digest and can cause inflammation. Maintaining a diet full of fresh foods creates an environment in the body that is more optimal for healing.

3. Ditch Refined/Processed Sugar and Sugar Substitutes: Refined (white or brown) sugars can be toxic to the body while sugar substitutes often contain chemicals that can be carcinogenic and toxic.

4. Drink Lots of Water: Water is a true panacea! In fact, many people are commonly dehydrated without even realizing it. Without proper hydration, the body is likely to have joint pain and swelling. Drinking lots of water helps to filter bodily fluid, which can be helpful in reducing joint pain.

5. Reduce Grain Consumption: Grains include those that contain gluten, as well as some non-gluten grains such as rice, oats and amaranth. There is growing research showing that many of the diseases that are affecting us in later life are contributed to by high intake of grain throughout life. A prominent voice in this community is David Perlmutter, MD, a board-certified neurologist. In his book, Grain Brain, he lays out research on how a lifetime of grain sets the stage for neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The key to avoiding the inflammatory aspects of grain is to remove it from the ‘center stage.’

6. Eat Low Glycemic Food: The glycemic index is a rating scale, which determines how quickly the blood sugar is spiked after eating certain foods. For example, white potato or white bread is very high on the glycemic index because after eating these types of foods, a person’s blood sugar spikes quickly. This spike is hard on the body. Sweet potatoes are lower on the glycemic index and don't create that spike. Some fruits are high on the index, others are low. Visit the following link for a complete list of foods:

When choosing to implement these types of changes, it is not recommended to do them all at once. Take steps leading to an optimal diet, instituting each of the steps over a period of time and keeping note of any reduction in pain.

Join Connell-Giammatteo for a free seminar at Integrative Wellness & Physical Therapy on Tuesday, February 24, 6:30-8:30pm. The topic is Healthy Gut, Healthy You!

Ayelet Connell-Giammatteo, PhD, PT, IMT,C is the President and Owner of Integrative Wellness and Physical Therapy in Bloomfield, CT, a wellness center specializing in holistic Physical Therapy, Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT) and nutritional wellness. For more information, call 860-519-1916 or visit

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