Inflammation: Carbohydrates and Chiropractic Care

Inflammation contributes to many common chronic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and various cancers [1, 2, 3]. Along with being implicated in the development of various diseases, inflammation also leads to an augmented risk of all-cause mortality during old age [2]. Consequently, the management of inflammation is of utmost concern to healthcare providers. This article will discuss two treatments that can reduce chronic inflammation: altered carbohydrate consumption and chiropractic care.

Carbohydrate consumption can be measured by two markers. Glycemic index (GI) quantifies the propensity for an individual’s carbohydrate intake to increase one’s blood glucose level [1] Glycemic load (GL) is the product of an individual’s total carbohydrate intake and dietary GI [1]. Consistent consumption of high-GI foods often leads to acute and chronic inflammation [2]. Additionally, several studies document the positive correlation between dietary measures of GI/GL and levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), a marker of inflammation [2]. Therefore, one way to reduce inflammation is by avoiding high-GI/GL foods, such as breakfast cereals, potatoes, and sweet treats [4].

Another way to lower inflammation is by consuming fewer refined carbohydrates [2, 3]. Refined carbohydrates not only promote postprandial inflammation, but also activate neural addiction pathways, reduce energy expenditure, and contribute to weight gain [3]. Individuals should replace refined carbohydrates with whole-grain foods. Whole-grain foods are rich in bioactive compounds that combat inflammation through antioxidant enzyme activation and free radical scavenging [2]. While low-GI/GL diets are associated with anti-inflammatory benefits much more consistently, whole-grain diets are still strongly tied to reduced inflammation [2].

Chiropractic care can also reduce inflammation. Chiropractors may advise their clients to make dietary changes in line with the recommendations above, but they can also reduce inflammation by engaging in specific spinal manipulations [5]. When some experiments began reporting how chiropractic treatments reduced the painful effects of inflammation, the connection between the two became clear. One such study, conducted by Song et al. in 2006, measured the impact of activator-assisted spinal manipulative therapy (ASMT) on rats suffering from acute intervertebral foramen inflammation. When ASMT was applied on L5 and/or L6 spinous processes, the rats experienced shorter and less severe thermal and mechanical hyperalgesia [6].

Various experiments indicate that chiropractic treatments can directly reduce inflammation. A blinded study consisting of 21 patients sought to compare the effect of chiropractic spinal manipulations on two inflammation markers: CRP and interleukin-6 (IL-6) [5]. Two weeks after receiving nine spinal manipulations, patients exhibited significantly reversed inflammatory processes compared to the control group [5]. A larger experiment documented how a single session of spinal manipulation therapy reduced subjects’ levels of two inflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor α and interleukin 1β [7]. In both cases, chiropractic spinal manipulations proved to be a promising treatment against inflammation.

Despite the complex and confounding molecular interactions associated with inflammation, researchers have identified certain dietary and chiropractic adjustments that can successfully reduce low-grade inflammation.


[1] L. Galland, “Diet and Inflammation,” Nutrition in Clinical Practice, vol. 25, no. 6, p. 634-640, Dec 2010. [Online]. Available:  

[2] A. E. Buyken et al., “Association between carbohydrate quality and inflammatory markers: systematic review of observational and interventional studies,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 99, no. 4, p. 813-833, Apr 2014. [Online]. Available:  

[3] D. Seaman, “Weight gain as a consequence of living a modern lifestyle: a discussion of barriers to effective weight control and how to overcome them,” Journal of Chiropractic Humanities, vol. 20, no. 1, p. 27-35, December 2013. [Online]. Available:  

[4] L. Richards, “What are high and low glycemic index foods?,” Medical News Today, Updated February 7, 2021. [Online]. Available:  

[5] R. A. Roy, J. P. Boucher, and A. S. Comtois, “Inflammatory response following a short-term course of chiropractic treatment in subjects with and without chronic back pain,” Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, vol. 9, no. 3, p. 107-114, September 2010. [Online]. Available:  

[6] X. J. Song et al., “Spinal Manipulation Reduces Pain and Hyperalgesia After Lumbar Intervertebral Foramen Inflammation in the Rat,” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, vol. 29, no. 1, p. 5-13, January 2006. [Online]. Available:  

[7] J. A. Teodorczyk-Injeyan, J. S. Injeyan, and R. Ruegg, “Spinal Manipulative Therapy Reduces Inflammatory Cytokines but Not Substance P Production in Normal Subjects,” International Conference on Chiropractic Research, vol. 29, no. 1, p. 14-21, January 2006. [Online]. Available: