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Can Eating Gluten Cause Back Pain?

The Link Between Gluten & Back Pain (Research Review)

Can eating gluten cause back pain?  Seems like an outrageous question on the surface, but the answer might surprise the skeptic mind.  Back pain is one of the most common medical conditions that people seek medical attention for.  In the US, low back pain will affect 8 out of 10 people in their lifetime.  Most associate this issue with direct injuries.  Trauma, lifting, accidents, and falls that lead to injury to muscles, joints, discs, and nerves are all common causes of acute back pain.  Gluten has little to do with causing these types of situations.

Chronic backpain however; is very different.  According to research published in the journal, Medical Hypothesis, patients suffering with chronic low back pain found tremendous benefit when switching to a gluten free diet.  The study included 110 patients.  in total, 87 (that’s almost 80%) of these patients experienced improvement in their pain.  Below is a summary of the results from the study:

Average duration of gluten-free diet in patients with demanding improvement was 60 months. 56 out of 69 patients with demanding improvement ingested gluten. Of these 56 patients, 54 experienced clinical worsening and were considered as having non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Oral aphthae and having a relative with celiac disease were associated with demanding improvement. Out of 28 patients retrospectively classified as having axial spondyloarthritis, 23 had demanding improvement. Out of 16 patients with uveitis, 13 had demanding improvement. Out of 83 patients with fibromyalgia, 48 had demanding improvement.

Key Points From the study:

  • More than half of the study participants experienced what the researchers considered to be demanding improvementsDemanding improvements were defined as “achieving at least one of the following objectives: asymptomatic status, remission of chronic low-back pain, returning to normal life, returning to work, changing from confinement to bed/wheelchair to being able to walk, returning to self-sufficiency for hygiene and personal care, discontinuation of opioids.”
  • When gluten was introduced back into their diets, the patients experienced a return of symptoms.
  • None of the patients in this study had celiac disease.
  • The patients in the study were comprised of individuals with different types of autoimmune pain to include, spondyloarthritis, fibromyalgia, and uveitis.

Can Eating Gluten Cause Back Pain?

The simple answer is yes.  Researchers in Spain found similar outcomes between gluten, spondyloarthritis and fibromyalgia.  Gluten consumption has been linked to multiple forms of autoimmune disease that manifest as chronic back pain.  The connection has garnered the interest of researchers, and future studies on the connection are forthcoming.

In my Sugar Land clinic, I have seen a number of chronic pain issues resolve with a gluten free diet.  These diseases include but are not limited to the following:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Polymyalgia
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Psoriatic Arthritis

As a matter of fact, one of my first patients in clinical practice was given 6 months to live by her rheumatologist.  This young girl of 9 had a diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.  Going gluten free not only stopped her pain, it saved her life.  It was her outcome that led me to write the international best selling book, No Grain No Pain.  The book was later converted into a PBS Special and aired nationwide to millions of homes across the US.

If you are struggling with chronic back pain, and not finding answers in the plethora of medical treatments, pills, supplements, and home remedies, a gluten free diet might be the answer.

Always looking out for you,

Dr. Osborne – The Gluten Free Warrior



7 Responses

  1. This information didn’t really help that much cause I was hoping that u would speak about upper back ache but u only spoke of the lower one which I don’t have

  2. I have been plagued by back and hip pain. Due to gastro issues, dr suggested going gluten free and while gastro issues improved, my back and hip pain are nearly completely gone. The doctors never even mentioned this and act like I’m crazy for thinking cutting out gluten helped my back and hip. 5 yrs of pain that they couldn’t fix . Thank you for letting me know I’m not the only one that thinks this.

  3. Thank you for the explanation. I have suffered back pain fir years. I have tried several hospitals. Fortunately I got into diet for unrelated reasons. The pain went away. After the period of diet, I ate wheat products for two day. I guessed the pain returned due to the wheat, so I googled. I now confirm it’s wheat.
    Bye bye wheat and chapatis.

  4. I stopped eating gluten some years ago.
    Got rid of depression, severe bloating, bad moods.
    Being human I would regress and have that slice of bread maybe once every 3-4 months.
    And with it came paralizing lower back pain.
    After a few days, being of gluten again, it would completely disappear.
    This had to happen a number of times, though, before I put two and two together.

  5. I just realized that after years of routinely not eating gluten I had a birthday cake following a delicious dinner of regular pasta. I work up today with a backache. I attributed it to too much sitting yesterday. Now I see it may have been the ton of gluten I had yesterday. I won’t sit as much today but I will also stay away from those cake and pasta leftovers.

  6. I have been staying completely gluten-free for almost 12 years. Not only are my lower back discomfort and pain almost gone, but migraine attacks that have been with me since the age of 14 disappeared in a couple of months after quitting gluten. In my practice, I see a straight connection of intervertebral disk hernias, idegeneration of the intervertebral joints, ligaments and fasciae problems with NCGS. What helps my patients besides the cessation of gluten are, of course, nutrients that improve the condition of connective tissue but this is a separate story. So, good that now a recent publication supporting this connection is available, although at the Medical Hypotheses journal level.

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