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How to Pick a Healthy Midnight Snack for Back Pain

Published May 3, 2019
| Written By SpineNation Editorial Staff   | Medically Reviewed by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD
Tags:  Nutrition

When you have chronic back pain, comfort sometimes takes the form of food—the midnight snack. Late at night when the pain is at its worst and sleep is hard to come by, we’ve all been guilty of reaching for unhealthy or not so appropriate snacks. If you have acute or chronic back pain, then you need to be extra cautious. In this post, we’re going to teach you how to pick the healthiest midnight snacks for back pain. Doing so will help you avoid back pain and sleep peacefully at night.

Inflammation: A Key Reason Foods Cause Back Pain

Most people reach for foods high in processed fat and sugar at midnight, which is the wrong choice. According to a study conducted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, this type of diet might lead to inflammation which triggers the degeneration of the disc in the spine. According to the Arthritis Foundation, some of the ingredients found in your favorite foods that can lead to inflammation and trigger back pain are sugar, saturated fats, trans fats, Omega 6 fatty acids (in excess) refined carbohydrates, mono-sodium glutamate (MSG), gluten and casein, aspartame, and alcohol.

Why Do Certain Foods Cause Inflammation?

Your body responds to anything that enters it. Certain foods trigger your body’s immune system to initiate a process called inflammation to fight off the offending ingredients or foods to protect your body. Many foods that trigger excess inflammation also lead to chronic diseases, like heart disease or diabetes, or weight gain which also affects chronic back pain.

Popular Foods That Cause Back Pain

In addition to the list of foods to avoid mentioned earlier, here are others to keep an eye on. They include:

  • Dairy Products. Dairy products can trigger inflammation, particularly in those with mild to severe lactose intolerance. While the science is still being examined (dairy does have benefits to a healthy diet), monitoring your intake is a good idea.

  • Refined Grains. Refined grains like cereal, pizza, and white bread can cause inflammation. Whole grains are always a better option than refined ones.

  • Red Meat. Red meat is not recommended for back pain sufferers. Foods like cold cuts, sausages, and bacon are high in saturated fats making them poor food choices for chronic back pain.

The Anti-Inflammation Diet: Healing Foods for Back Pain

The anti-inflammatory diet consists of foods known to prevent inflammation. This diet involves replacing processed and refined foods with whole, nutrient-rich foods. Many people familiar with the Mediterranean diet will have some comprehension of the anti-inflammatory diet and thus understand its health benefits. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet will help you to live a happier, healthier life while managing back pain. Good foods to incorporate into your diet are:

  • Colorful vegetables, especially leafy green ones
  • Fruits, like berries
  • Whole or sprouted grains
  • Soaked lentils, legumes, and beans
  • Herbal teas, like green tea
  • Seeds, nut butter, and raw nuts
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Fermented foods, like kimchi and kombucha
  • Spices and herbs
  • Green juices
  • Seaweed, like kelp, dulse or spirulina
  • Plant-based protein powders
  • Olives and olive oil

Drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, exercising enough and practicing intermittent fasting can also help.

Other Good Foods for Back Pain

Here are a few more foods to try on your journey to eliminating inflammation.

  • Ginger. While ginger is great for digestion, it’s also excellent for pain relief working as a key ingredient in the anti-inflammatory process. Use it by the teaspoon, eat it raw, juice it, drink ginger tea, or add it to soup or stews.

  • Turmeric. Commonly found in Indian foods, turmeric is a proven pain relief ally, says AARP. It inhibits NF-kB, a protein that activates the inflammatory response of the body. As eating or drinking turmeric can be too much for some people, you can use it as a spice in your foods and stay safe as well as pain-free.

  • Red Grapes. Red grapes have resveratrol, a compound which can block enzymes which lead to tissue degeneration. It might also protect against cartilage damage which often leads to back pain. Apart from red grapes, other reliable sources of resveratrol are cranberries, blueberries, and even red wine.

  • Soy. If you don’t want to depend on pain medications, switching to soy, edamame, and tofu is a smart decision. Soy’s isoflavones are plant hormones that have anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Fish. Fish are loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids that can control the pain and inflammation in many cases. Having fish as food or consuming fish oil usually has the same benefits. Worthy fish options for back pain relief could be salmon, trout, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, etc. Try to have fish in four to five meals a week to see the results. 

The Perfect Late-Night Snacks for a Healthy Back

Here are five great snacks to enjoy that will keep your back healthy while you're up late.

Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Bars

Used for thousands of years, turmeric is a healthy spice that won’t make our joints suffer. Try these delicious bars when you want a tasty treat without the pain.

Recipe: Unbound Wellness

10-Minute Spicy Tuna Rolls

Enjoy this low-carb, nutrient-rich snack when you’re up late watching your favorite shows.

Recipe: Real Balanced

Supercharged Scrambled Eggs

Eggs are protein-rich power bullets that are easy to make and easy to mix with your favorite add-ons. Try this recipe which includes inflammation fighting turmeric.

Recipe: Healthy Chef

Spicy Kale Chips

Leafy green veggies not only keep your iron levels strong, but make sure inflammation in your back is in check. Try this recipe instead of standard pretzels and potato chips for a crunchy snack that’s guilt (and pain!) free.

Recipe: Peas and Crayons

Coconut Flour Banana Ginger Bars

This great treat uses non-processed flour and anti-inflammatory ingredient ginger to satisfy your sweet tooth and preserve your spine from delayed pain associated with similar sounding sugary snacks.

Recipe: Empowered Sustenance


Picking the perfect midnight snack rises and falls on the ingredients found within your foods. Once you memorize the names and learn the benefits of all the non-inflammatory and back-friendly foods, you’ll automatically reach for them and stock them rather than continue with your former inflammation-triggering foods. Cheers to a healthy back with less inflammation.

Updated: February 20, 2020

Information provided within this article is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. Those seeking specific medical advice should consult his or her doctor or surgeon. If you need to consult with a specialist, you may be able find a health care provider in our Specialist Finder. SpineNation does not endorse treatments, procedures, products or physicians.

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Contributors and Experts

Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, health editor, and founder of