Last night I indulged in one of my favorite foods: Pasta!
I absolutely love pasta dishes of many kinds, but this one is a seasonal favorite about to fade from the menu as winter approaches.
Oh, you want to know what it is? OK.
Fresh diced tomatoes, a generous portion of freshly torn basil leaves, lots of chopped garlic, along with a bit of tomato paste and delicious olive oil mixed with a pasta of your choice. Spicy, Italian sausage on the side. *
I don’t eat pasta often anymore, but since this favorite dish was so lovingly prepared by a friend and I hadn’t had pasta in a long time, I decided to go for it!
Today and for probably about 5 additional days, I will pay the cost. Specifically, my gut, low-back, and hips will pay the cost.
I woke up early this morning with my hips and low back aching; the pain radiating down the sides of my thighs to my knees. It was a familiar pain. I used to have it a lot before I cleared some things out of my diet.
Back in the day, I used to eat whole grain bread, pasta, & risotto on a regular basis. I mixed them with fabulous ingredients: fresh vegetables, fine cheese, grass-fed meats. I considered them healthy and I enjoyed eating them tremendously!
However, I had miserable fibromyalgia, meaning it felt like my muscles were being ripped off my bones a lot of the time. I also had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Additionally, I struggled with insomnia and hypoglycemia (energetic ups and downs).
In my 40’s I experienced some weight gain. It came on so slow, I hardly noticed until I put on my swimming suit one summer and looked in a mirror. Uh, oh!
When I finally decided to eliminate grains, fruit, and pasteurized milk from my diet for a while to see how it would affect my health, I was amazed. I stopped hurting, I lost weight, and my energy stabilized.
Please keep in mind that I was never a “junk-food junkie”. I never liked super sweets like candy, sodas, cupcakes, and mochas. I was drawn to the relatively un-sweet carbs; pasta, bread, cereal, potatoes, and fruit. It didn’t matter. They still played havoc with my blood sugar, gut, inflammatory levels, and energy apparatus (mitochondria). My Mama was a Mennonite baker and I enjoyed her baking on a daily basis my entire child-hood. Little did she or I know that her baking was making me an allergic, asthmatic kid.
Many people are surprised to hear that grain products, even whole grain products, contain unhealthy amounts of sugar, but they do. In the case of wheat, oats, barley and rye, they also contain significant amounts of gluten, an irritating, allergenic protein, that is present in much higher amounts in recent times since many of our grains have become genetically modified.
As a Doctor of Chiropractic and Nutritionist working in the trenches of American health care for 35 years, I have come to the conclusion that a top cause of low-back pain and hip disease is food related inflammation emanating from the gut, liver, and kidneys.
Inflammation is a bio-chemical response in the body to challenge. That challenge could be a trauma like a cut or bruise. It could also be exposure to a noxious substance such as battery acid, sugar, or gluten.
Inflammation not only causes pain and stiffness, over time, inflammation causes tissues such as spinal discs, joints, and hip cartilage to swell, soften, and degenerate.
Chronically inflamed tissue ALWAYS becomes infected with microbes.
Inflammation and infection lead to degeneration of tissues (bone, disc, cartilage, gut,..) which ultimately leads to disease (arthritis, disc herniation, cartilage disintegration, diverticulitis, heart disease, bowel disease, cellular derangement…)
Drug therapy, surgery, and joint replacement are big business these days. Stem cell is coming on strong, too!
I think these are pretty extreme measures to resolve issues that can be managed or prevented by good Chiropractic care, common sense eating, and the support of challenged organs with whole food and herbal medicinals that are effective, affordable, and without side effects.
I am not saying I have all the answers or that eating a certain way is going to solve every problem that you have or make you live forever.
I am saying that being “food wise” and restricting (even eliminating) processed foods, primarily sugars and grains, generally makes a huge and very positive difference in a person’s health.
Here is a classic case study from my office:
A 57-year-old woman comes in for chiropractic care complaining of chronic neck, low-back, and hip pain. Her right knee has been an intermittent problem, too, tending to be tender and unstable with occasional flare-ups, although she can’t remember ever injuring it.
She has slowly gained weight in recent years and now feels she is at least 35 pounds overweight, especially around her mid-line. She often feels bloated after she eats and frequently has heart-burn, especially after eating greasy or spicy food, but a lot of other times, too. She tends to be constipated but occasionally has diarrhea.
She doesn’t sleep well; either because her mind is too busy to go to sleep, or because she wakes up between 2-4am and can’t get back to sleep. Consequently, she is tired a lot, especially in the afternoon when she usually has a coffee to pick herself up. She notes that she is irritable and realizes this is affecting her relationships with family and friends.
She walks her dog daily and tries to do aerobics or yoga at least once or twice a week, although lately, her pain has been keeping her from exercising and stretching. The dog has been getting shorter walks.
She had her annual blood work done by her PCP 6 months ago and has been told that things look pretty good, although her blood sugar is a tad high (not diabetic, yet, so we’ll watch it). and her thyroid is a tad low, for which a thyroid hormone has been prescribed. Her PCP also suggested hormone replacement therapy as an option.
I review this patient’s intake forms (which are quite extensive in my office). I interview her and encourage her to give me as much detail about her past health history and current concerns as possible. Then I perform a complete chiropractic examination; height, weight, blood pressure, postural evaluation, range of motion, and palpation of all joints, muscle groups, acupressure points, and abdomen.
I note that she has full, relatively pain-free range of motion and pretty good posture, although she tends to carry her head/neck in a forward position. I note her arches of her feet are dropping a bit (pronation).
When I palpate (feel) her neck, back, and hips, they are tender to pressure in multiple places and I note that there are joints in the neck, mid-back, and low-back that are locked up and not moving as they should.
After performing my examination, I sit down with this lovely woman and explain that while chiropractic will certainly be helpful; bodywork alone will not solve her problems since there is a big metabolic component driving inflammation of her gut, joints, thyroid, and brain.
I recommend a month-long detox and anti-inflammatory food plan, along with some chiropractic care to relieve nerve pressure, encourage muscle relaxation, and mobilize lymphatic flow.
She agrees, schedules a nutritional visit and we get started.
I recommend a 21-day detox for her liver and kidneys, combined with a food plan to reduce inflammation & stabilize her blood sugar, along with whole food and herbal supplements for digestive and hormonal support.
I also recommend weekly chiropractic treatments once a week for 4 weeks which includ hot-packs, physiotherapies, deep tissue work, and chiropractic adjustments to reduce pain and improve nerve & blood flow.
Fast forward 30 days:
She has been a very good patient and has stuck to the prescribed plan at least 80-90%.
She has lost 8# and no longer has bloating or heartburn. She notes she is fitting into clothes she hasn’t worn in several years since her belly is much smaller now.
She is having regular, healthy bowel movements 1-2 times per day.
Her sleep has improved (not perfect) but she notes she has much better energy and that her afternoon “slump” is not an issue anymore.
She also reports that her neck, low-back and hip pain, as well as her knee pain, are so much better that she is back to extended walks with her dog and doing yoga once or twice a week that is feeling really good.
She also tells me with a smile on her face and a little tear in her eye that she isn’t feeling like a snapping turtle so much anymore and her family has commented that she is much more pleasant to be around!
This good woman got her health and her life back in the past 30 days!… and she just made my day!
Honestly, 30 days is just the beginning of the process to reduce inflammation, stabilize the energy grid, regenerate healthy tissues, and control microbial imbalance,…but, you have to start somewhere, sometime!
I call my program “Metabolic Rescue”.
I usually tell people that they most likely will feel significantly better within a month or two, but that the big gains will be noticed when they look back over their shoulders about 2 years down the road.
I am not promoting a “quick fix” here. Nor am I promoting a miserably restrictive way of life. As a Nutritionist, I am committed to teaching people how their physiology works and how to feed their bodies in a way that is healthy, sustainable, and enjoyable.
Life is short and we will all pass along eventually. My goal as a Nutritionist is to learn to be as healthy and pain free as I can, for as long as I can, and to share what I learn with as many other people as I can.
You could be one of them!
*BTW: Regular pasta can be substituted with a variety of options:
Spiralized zucchini, spaghetti squash, & quinoa pasta.