With the continuing opioid crisis as manifested in the data from the CDC, the records of opioid abuse and deaths are still high. According to the data, 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose with the death from prescription opioids quadrupling since 1999.  With this in mind, many health experts are trying to find ways to mitigate the problems that come with the heavy use of opioid medications. One innovative approach to the country’s pain problem is through the use of diets as an adjunct to traditional therapies for pain.

An example of a dietary intervention that can help with pain is by observing the principles of a ketogenic diet. To put it simply, some medical practitioners believe that by restricting carbohydrates in the diet, the body is forced to burn fats rather than carbohydrates in order to help with body with its pain. The mechanism behind this diet is rooted in studies that claim that reducing the intake of simple carbohydrates can reduce the levels of molecules in our body that increases our likelihood of feeling pain.  One of these chemicals is called Advanced Glycation End Products or AGEs. AGEs have been determined to contribute to inflammatory conditions involving tendons, nerves and spinal discs. Avoiding high blood sugar levels by going under a ketogenic diet decreases the levels of AGE in our body thereby reducing inflammation.  In addition to this, traditionally the ketogenic diet was used as treatment for the hyperexcitable neurons seen in patients suffering from epilepsy. The excitability of neurons could be a common factor in epilepsy and in pain symptoms. This is the reason why anticonvulsants are also prescribed for neuropathic pain.

Another benefit of using the ketogenic diet is the fact that it can lead to weight loss. Obesity has been strongly associated with spine-related pain due to the extra weight the skeletal system is carrying and the inflammatory chemicals that are elevated in such conditions. By religiously adhering to a ketogenic diet, patients can experience weight loss as well as pain relief. A possible reason for why this works is the fact that the ketones produced by burning fat include a chemical called Betahydroxybutryate. Betahydroxybutryate is a potent anti-inflammatory chemical. Even more amazing is that Betahydroxybutryate has demonstrated to inhibit pain enzymes in a similar way the pain reliever ibuprofen does without the added side effects.

By changing your diet you can improve your overall health by normalizing your blood sugar, reducing your weight as well as reduce the need for strong medications like NSAIDs and opioids. However, like any dietary changes, it is best to consult with a physician to determine which intervention is a fit best for your body’s need.

Ketogenic diet

Opioids

Obesity

Drug overdose deaths in the United States continue to increase in 2015

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html

Glycation increases human annulus fibrosus stiffness in both experimental measurements and theoretical predictions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15878594

Ketogenic Diets and Pain

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4124736/

The serum concentrations of leptin and MCP-1 independently predict low back pain duration.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28076310

β-Hydroxybutyrate suppresses inflammasome formation by ameliorating endoplasmic reticulum stress via AMPK activation

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5341812/

Anti-inflammatory effects of BHBA in both in vivo and in vitro Parkinson’s disease models are mediated by GPR109A-dependent mechanisms https://jneuroinflammation.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12974-014-023

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