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Back Pain and Gluten: Are the Two Related?

In this article we’ll explore the relationship, if any, between back pain and gluten.

back pain and gluten intolerance, are the two related?

Back Pain And Gluten Intolerance

Are back pain and gluten related? In recent years there have been an increase in the number of individuals diagnosed with an allergy or intolerance to gluten. These conditions are referred to as Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, respectively.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body reacts to foods that contain gluten, the protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. When an individual with Celiac disease eats a food containing gluten, their body will see the food as a dangerous substance and their immune system will generate antibodies to fight it. This usually results in damage to the individual’s intestinal tract. The individual may then experience symptoms similar to that of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), migraines and/or arthritis.

Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity is the term used to describe individuals who, like those with Celiac disease, experience irritable bowel, migraine or arthritis-type symptoms. However, unlike individuals with Celiac disease, individuals with gluten sensitivity do not show an allergy to gluten in a blood test. There is currently no test to diagnose gluten sensitivity and there is a debate amongst the medical community about the diagnosis. However, those who support the diagnosis report an improvement in patients’ symptoms when they transition to a gluten-free diet.

Could Gluten Have An Effect On The Spine And Back Pain?

Gluten has been shown to have pro-inflammatory effects on the body (ie: it can increase inflammation). In fact, some individuals with celiac disease have found their arthritis symptoms improve when they transition to a gluten-free diet. Could gluten have an effect on back pain?

A common source of back pain is when a spinal disc (or other part of the spinal anatomy) puts pressure on the nerves inside the spinal column. This pain can also radiate out to the extremities of the body causing leg pain and arm pain in certain individuals. Inflammation can worsen the likelihood that the spinal nerve is affected and that the individual experiences back pain. (This is why anti-inflammatory drugs are often prescribed to those suffering from back pain.)

Since gluten can have an pro-inflammatory effect on the body, eating gluten may worsen back pain symptoms for individuals with an existing back disorder such as Myelopathy, Radiculopathy, Stenosis, or arthritis.

References

  1. https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/anti-inflammatory/gluten-free-diet.php
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coeliac_disease
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