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Fermented Foods for Back Pain

By Sirah Dubois ; Updated April 18, 2017

Fermented foods may have unusual, pungent or sour tastes, but they are easily digested and promote gastrointestinal health in a variety of ways. Eating fermented foods won’t prevent the majority of causes of back pain, but it may play a role in reducing referral pain from the stomach and intestines. Consult your chiropractor about the cause of your back pain and ask if fermented foods or other dietary factors may be helpful.

Back Pain

Back pain has a variety of causes, including trauma, degenerative diseases, cancer, infections and referral from other regions such as the kidneys or gastrointestinal system. Referral pain is difficult to identify because it feels similar to the pain derived from strains and sprains of muscles and connective tissue of the spine. Pain derived from the spine typically involves inflammation and reduced range of motion. In contrast, referred back pain usually doesn’t cause inflammation or spinal dysfunction. Pain gets referred to the back from organs close to the spine or from more distant tissues that share nerve fibers.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are more commonly referred to as aged or cured foods. Fermentation is a process in which friendly bacteria and yeast safely break down food. In a sense, fermented foods are partially digested by microorganisms, which make them much easier to digest when you eat them. Common examples of fermented foods include yogurt, aged cheeses, sour cream, kefir, soy sauce, natto, tempeh, miso, pickles, apple cider vinegar and cured meats. Most fermented foods have strong tastes and aromas. Many also have a variety of health benefits, some of which may help relieve certain types of back pain.

The Connection

The connection between eating fermented foods and alleviating your back pain may seem obscure, but it exists in some cases. Fermented food is easily digested into nutrients without the expenditure of much energy or additional enzymes, which is important for people who have gastrointestinal conditions such as celiac disease. Many fermented foods, most notably yogurt and kefir, are rich in friendly bacteria known as probiotics, which can deter infections, soothe ulcerations, reduce malabsorption and eliminate bloating in the large intestine. Since various gastrointestinal conditions and symptoms are a common source of referred back pain, eating certain fermented foods may be helpful. Furthermore, most fermented foods are rich in ascorbic acid or vitamin C, which boosts the immune system and promotes tissue healing.


Eating fermented foods may help with referred pain, but the vast majority of back pain is caused by injury or disease processes of the spine and related nerves, muscles, ligaments, tendons and intervertebral discs. As such, eating fermented foods is unlikely to have an effect on serious or debilitating causes of spinal pain, so it is important to see your primary health-care physician and get properly diagnosed and treated.

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