The Ketogenic Diet for Chronic Pain

keto diet for chronic pain

The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat, protein-rich diet was previously primarily used to treat epilepsy in children, but it has also been shown to have a positive impact on people who suffer with chronic pain, including chronic back pain.

This special diet puts the body into fat-burning mode as opposed to carbohydrate burning mode. It puts your body into what’s called ketosis.


How does this relate to chronic pain?

The low-fat craze is a possible culprit that causes a deficiency of good fats in the body, which contributes to back pain and other health issues. If you have ever read the labels of low-fat or no-fat products, you will find more sugars in them than in their fattier counterparts. Sugar is known to cause inflammation, which contributes to chronic back pain.

There is another, natural way to combat chronic back pain. That way is the ketogenic diet. How and why does it work?


What makes the ketogenic diet good for chronic pain management and relief?

  • Weight Loss – The fact that this diet aids in weight loss likely plays a role in reducing pain levels. When the body is at its optimal weight, the stress on your joints and back is lessened, which results in less joint and back pain. Getting your body into ketosis helps to reduce the amount of adipose tissue (loose connective tissue stored for energy and which acts as an insulator and a cushion for the joints and spine) that puts pressure on the joints and spine, which reduces painful joints and chronic back pain. Where the Standard American Diet is loaded with carbohydrates, the ketogenic diet is loaded with healthy fats, proteins, and low levels of healthy carbohydrates, which is conducive to fat-burning, higher levels of energy, and less pain.
  • Sugar Elimination – The ketogenic diet doesn’t allow any sugar. Sugar acts as an inflammatory. Therefore, in excess, sugar produces massive amounts of insulin and raises inflammation levels, which works only to manufacture fat in the body. Ketosis turns off excessive insulin surges known to raise blood sugar and causes inflammation. Less inflammation in the body means less pain in general, including back pain.
  • Natural Effects – The human body has a natural chemical called adenosine, a chemical that acts as a pain reliever, or analgesic. The ketogenic diet boosts that chemical, so the body produces more of it, which reduces overall pain.


What are the body’s reactions to ketosis?

  • Metabolic Shift – The body stops using glucose for its fuel and uses ketone bodies that shifts the human body’s metabolism.
  • Body Fuel – Ketones are known to fuel your muscles, heart, and brain.
  • Nutritional Ketosis – This is a benign metabolic state that provides the human body with the proper metabolism to handle shifts in dietary fuels.
  • Enhanced Cognition – Less brain fog, better memory, and being more alert are the brain side effects of being in ketosis.
  • Less Pain generally all over the body, but is very effective for reducing and eliminating back pain.
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What can you eat on the ketogenic diet?

  • Healthy Fats like whole eggs, coconut oil, avocados, butter from grass-fed cows
  • Raw Nuts such as Brazil nuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and macadamia nuts
  • Fatty Seafood like shellfish, sardines, mackerel, and salmon are full of healthy fats that combat inflammation and help you feel fuller longer
  • Raw Seeds like hemp, pumpkin, and chia seeds are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Dark Leafy Greens like spinach, collards, kale, chard, and broccoli and cauliflower (not green, but it has the same effects as dark leafy greens) are non-starch vegetables that are considered staples in the ketogenic diet
  • Berries of any kind, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc. are all low-glycemic and make awesome snacks along with coconut cream or nut butter for a tasty treat
  • Healthy Oils including, sesame oil, organic coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and walnut oil


What can’t you eat?

The basic thing to know about what not to consume on the ketogenic diet is to avoid all kinds of processed foods, high-glycemic fruits, artificial sweeteners, sugars, alcohol, soy products, refined oils and fats, milk, and pro-inflammatory oils like corn, soybean, and safflower.

Chronic back pain often occurs along with other health problems, and can be a sign of generally poor health. If you suffer from chronic back pain, the ketogenic diet could help lessen your pain, make you feel more energetic, and make you more alert.

Before making dietary or activity changes in your lifestyle, consult with your doctor in case you have a health condition or contradiction with drugs that would interact poorly with ketogenic diet.

Recommended Reading:
This High-Fat Diet Could Help End Chronic Pain
Ketogenic Diets and Pain
An Anti-inflammatory Diet For Pain Patients
Constipation and Ketogenic Diets
36 Keto Recipes That Are Actually Delicious

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5 Replies to “The Ketogenic Diet for Chronic Pain

  1. I can say first hand that the elimination of sugar from my diet has led to less inflammation. Inflammation can cause a herniated disc to swell even more, therefore, the less inflammation the less it irritates the nerves.

  2. I read this article because I have been using the Ketogenic diet for weight loss. It has been working great. Thankfully I do not suffer from back pain but I find it very interesting that this diet can help reduce back pain. I will read more about this.

  3. I’ve been on the keto diet for only 5 days now, and my chronic pain, pudendal neuralgia, and SIJ pain have lessened tremendously! AND I haven’t taken any pain meds which make me sleepy and a little out of it. I came to the internet looking for answers, but there aren’t many reports about this. I’ve had my pain for 11 years now and haven’t felt this good since before then, and my energy levels are better than they were in my early 20s.

  4. I have been on a low-carb diet for 7 weeks now and the difference in how I feeel now, was almost immediate. I have had chronic back pain for 20 years. I have tried osteopathy, cranio-sacral therapy, physio, exercise, diets galore, I even had an MRI at a specialised clinic and no-one mentioned a low-carb diet to reduce inflammation. I wish they had. I have 5 years of trouble with my digestive tract too, extreme fatigue and brain fog…. it has all improved beyond belief. Beyond belief. Simply amazing.

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