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With the book The Back Pain Relief Diet, Dr. Todd Sinett shows us how to stop back pain by changing the foods we eat.
Allan (1:00): Dr. Sinett, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Sinett (1:04): Thank you so very much for having us.
Allan (1:06): The book, The Back Pain Relief Diet, I think this might be one of the more important books that are out there, because quite frankly, just about everybody at some point in their lives, particularly as we get over 40, is going to be dealing with some form of back pain. I injured myself, so my issue was more of an acute “Allan did something stupid thing”, but there are a lot of people that are suffering from back pain and they really can’t find answers to what’s going on in their lives. So, they keep doing what they’re doing and the doctor is like, “I’m doing these MRIs, or I’m doing this. Let’s try that.” Then they start getting into the pain relievers and the warming things, and just trying to get past this moment of pain, because pain is one of those things, you can’t ignore it. It’s there. But you’re approaching this from a very different perspective, in that we might be doing something that isn’t even related to our backs, but more related to our stomachs, that can actually be causing the problem.
Dr. Sinett (2:11): Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. Just to give your listeners a little bit of background on back pain or stats on back pain – 85% of the world is going to suffer from back pain. It’s the leading cause of job disability, it’s the second leading cause of missed workdays, and it’s a healthcare epidemic. The reason is that when I look at these statistics, it’s not that back pain is inevitable; it’s just that our paradigm is so wrong. Essentially the doctors are missing it. We’re completely screwing it up, and that’s the conclusion that I’ve reached.
I have a very pivotal story, which happened to my father. He was a chiropractor and he actually bent down to pick up a tennis ball one day and his back went out. And for nine months he was flat on his back as a chiropractor. He earned his living helping people with their back pain, and he was completely bedridden for nine months with back pain. And no one could help him. He went to chiropractors, physical therapists, orthopedists. They wanted to do exploratory surgery on him. He could barely get out of bed, he could barely walk, he certainly couldn’t work. He wound up seeing this doctor who examined him very differently and asked the question, “Why are you having these back spasms?” And he told my father, “Other than your back spasms, you seem very healthy, you didn’t have an injury. Back pain doesn’t come from nowhere, so we have to figure out where it’s coming from.” Back then, as long as you were thin, you could eat whatever you wanted. So my father’s diet was filled with sugar and caffeine. The doctor surmised that his diet was upsetting his digestive system, and then subsequently his digestive system was affecting his muscular system. So his back pain was coming from his diet and his digestive system. That’s not something that you ever learned in school or ever heard of. But between the choice of having exploratory back surgery or changing your diet, it’s not a very difficult decision to make. So we changed his diet; within two weeks he was 100% cured. This was way back in 1974, mind you. And it put us on a crusade to change the approach in both diagnosing and treating back pain. I’m very excited to be able to share this book called The Back Pain Relief Diet to tell people that their back pain could be caused by their diet, and subsequently could be solved by their diet. So it’s very, very exciting.
Allan (4:32): It’s always interesting to me that someone will sit there and say, “I can take this little bitty pill that’s going to effectively cover my problem.” And they don’t imagine all the food and liquids and things that they’re taking into their mouth throughout the day, and they’re completely discounting that that could have any effect on our health and wellbeing, but recognizing that that pill is going to do something substantial to our bodies.
Dr. Sinett (5:00): When I tell patients their back pain’s coming from their diet, a lot of times they’re very disbelieving because it’s not something that anyone’s really ever told you. And quite frankly, most doctors don’t even look for it or even know about it. But I say, “Have you heard of, if you have back pain, people will give you an anti-inflammatory?” And they’ll be like, “Yes.” What happens if we gave you a diet that was anti-inflammatory? Couldn’t that work the same? And the answer is, yes, of course it can work the same.
Allan (5:24): And costs a lot less.
Dr. Sinett (5:26): Exactly. And a lot less side effects.
Allan (5:28): Yes. So in the book you have the 10 basic principles of back-diet connection. I thought this was really, really cool. A lot of people say, “I eat healthy. I eat really good foods – salads and the grass-fed meats and the kale. I eat really well.” And they’re still suffering. You go through these principles that kind of explain why that’s so.
Dr. Sinett (5:56): Yeah. I’m just going to take you through the principles, if that’s alright with you.
Allan (5:59): Yeah.
Dr. Sinett (6:00): Number one – I said regardless of your diet, your diet can be the cause of your back pain. So whether you’re having coffee, a donut, soda, pasta, pizza, cake, or even if you’re having a green drink, smoothie, kale salad and quinoa – regardless of your diet, you can create a back pain. Anything that can upset your digestive system can upset your muscular system. So we have to essentially figure out what’s the diet that’s right for you, because we need to cut down on the inflammation from your gut. The next thing I’ll say is regardless of the severity of your back pain – so, whether you’re having severe back pain and can’t get out of bed, or whether you’re dealing with a nagging back pain where you’re kind of living around it or have to lift carefully or bend carefully – regardless of the symptoms, the diet could be the cause of your back pain. The third thing, which I think is vital is, before undergoing any invasive procedure, rule out diet first as the cause. As a doctor and a patient, you always want to do the least invasive thing first, and then go more and more invasive. Unfortunately I see a lot of patients in my office who have had surgeries or injections and stuff that actually hasn’t helped, before they ruled out something so simple as to change your diet. Another principle is, you’re going to know your answer within a month, and very likely you’ll know within two weeks. So, we change your diet; within two to three weeks, you’re going to know your answer of whether your back pain is caused by your diet or not.
Another principal is, causes of back pain most likely isn’t just one cause; it’s multi-factored. It can be some structural imbalance, it can be some postural imbalance, could be you worked out too heavy, but it can also be your emotions, your stress and your diet. A lot of times it’s multi-factored. Another principle is, just because a food is deemed healthy, it may not be healthy for you. So for some, let’s say kale could be this undigestible type of food that gives someone a lot of gas and bloating, whereas someone may feel better if they have a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, as opposed to a big bulky salad. We need to not necessarily look at foods as what’s deemed healthy and what’s not healthy. You have to deem it on what’s healthy for you, which gets us to our next principle – the quality of your bowel movement evaluates the quality of your digestive system. And the health of your back can very much be evaluated based off the quality of your bowel movement. In the book we have a picture of what’s known as the “Bristol Stool Chart” that will show you how your bowel movements are because that’s an indication of how your body’s ridding itself of its waste. A lot of times if your body’s not ridding itself of its waste properly, your body’s building up toxicity, with bloating and gas in the digestive system. That will affect the muscular system. Number eight on the principles is you want to cut down on the crap, but too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. You want to have balance in your life. Eating too many large salads, having too many green drinks, can be just as bad as having too much soda or caffeine. So, everything in variation and variety. Again, principle number nine is, anything that can cause digestive upset can create your back pain. And the last thing, which is a very important principle – variety is vital. You must mix it up. You have to have three different types of breakfast, three different types of lunches, and three different types of dinners. Every food comes with a different nutrient makeup, digestive process, digestive time. And if you keep eating the same foods over and over again, you can really upset the digestive process. Those are my 10 general principles when it comes to the back pain relief diet.
Allan (9:41): I agree with you on the front end of this. Your father had the option to go for exploratory surgery, which actually scares the crap out of me. It’s like, you can’t take a picture or an X-ray or MRI or something; you’ve got to cut me open and try to figure it out. So I do understand why he was willing to try something that even if it didn’t work, it only cost him another three or four weeks. But like you said, he was back on his feet within two weeks. What we’re doing here though is we’re actually trying to figure out what kind of foods our body needs, versus the kind of foods that cause us problems.
Dr. Sinett (10:19): Exactly.
Allan (10:21): What you have in the book is a nutrition test, where we could do a diagnostic.
Dr. Sinett (10:25): Yes. There are actually two tests. The first test is the digestive inflammation test, and that will tell a reader or a patient whether we think that your back pain could be diet-related. I don’t want to sit there and tell everyone to start changing all their diets, because what they may be doing maybe right, and their back pain cause could come from stress or a structural issue. So the first thing is the digestive inflammation test. It’s going to ask about if you’re constipated or having diarrhea, changing medication, stomach viruses, bloating, gassy, repeat meals, etcetera. Based off your scoring, we’re going to know if we think that your back pain is coming from your digestive system and your diet or not. Then once we do that, and let’s say we found that we think your back pain is coming from your diet, then there’s a diagnostic nutrition tests that can point you in the right direction of essentially four different types of diets that we think are going to be right for you, because again, no diet is right for everybody. There’s a diet for someone who’s having the pizza, the pasta, the wine, the cookies, the cakes, and the coffees. So we want to cut down on their inflammation. There’s another diet, where someone’s having too many healthy foods, so it’s called the “digestive rest”, where we’re cutting down on the raw vegetables, cutting down on the raw fish, and we’re going to more cooked vegetables and foods that don’t create so much upset. There’s also a diet called the “FODMAP diet”, and that’s someone who’s having some specific irritable bowel syndrome or symptoms that they need specific diets and specific foods that calm down the digestive system. If you calm down the digestive system, you calm down the back pain.
Allan (12:08): Okay. Now, I want to go through those, because I think anyone can relate and say, “If I’m eating crap food – the pizzas and the beer and everything else, and I’m hurting, then there’s the potential that that’s a cause.” And I can even say this myself, because I do what I call “seasonal ketosis“. So, for part of the year, I eat really, really clean, I’d be in ketosis, and I tend to be very pain-free. Then I’ll go through my season – it tends to be football season when we’re tailgating and hanging out. I want to have a few beers. If someone brings dish, I’m going to eat it. Thank you, Carol. Please bring the deviled eggs; I love those. But there’ll be other foods there that aren’t the deviled eggs and aren’t nearly as healthy for me. And I’ll notice little things like tendinitis in my elbow will start to flare up, maybe some headaches, and like you said, my bowel movements aren’t quite as comfortable or as regular as they would be otherwise. So, I think most people understand that if they’re eating garbage, then that’s a pretty simple fix. But I think it really can confuse people when they’re saying, “I’m eating everything that I’ve always been told was healthy.”
Dr. Sinett (13:22): Yeah. That’s the interesting thing. I think the real question is really, what’s healthy for you? I have really great patient stories in the book, where a patient of mine decided to go gluten-free and went gluten-free and wasn’t having any breads, was having a lot of green drinks, smoothies, salads and lean fish. And she was as gassy and bloated as can be. And when you’re gassy and bloated, that’s going to create a lot of back pain. So for her, we had to dial it back a little bit and we said, “No more raw vegetables. Let’s cook your vegetables. Have a turkey sandwich instead of that large salad. Let’s have some eggs or let’s have some whole grain bread with some whole peanut butter and jam, as opposed to a green drink in the morning.” And that was the missing link for her. That was the answer for her. Again, you want to listen to your body because there are a lot of foods that are deemed very healthy that can create a lot of gas and bloating. You want to have the variety. You want to listen to your body. And the diagnostic nutrition test is going to point you in the right direction of what diet we think is right for you.
Allan (14:30): Okay. Let’s take a minute and talk about the FODMAP diet and why that would be beneficial for some people.
Dr. Sinett (14:37): The FODMAP diet is really ideal for someone who has something called “irritable bowel syndrome”. Essentially that particular diet is targeted for someone who’s having trouble digesting specific carbohydrates. FODMAP stands for Fermanable, Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides and Polyols. And it’s for people who are sensitive. What the diet does is it pulls the dairy, some of the fructose or fruits such as apples and pears, it eliminates wheat and garlic. It eliminates beans and lentils and a lot of sugar alcohols, such as honey, agave, corn syrup and alcohol. It’s a very unique diet, because it targets a specific person who does eat healthy, but again is suffering from an irritable bowel. When you find that right patient, it could be absolutely life changing of eliminating those foods.
Allan (15:28): Okay. So basically, I go through and I take the two diagnostic tests and I realize it might be my diet that’s at least a factor in this. It might not be the only factor, but I’ve got enough of the positive read on this diagnostic to know changing my diet might be a good answer for me. And then I go do the other diagnostic test that’s going to give me the eating plan that’s most recommended for me to deal with this issue. What can I expect over the course of the next two to four weeks?
Dr. Sinett (15:59): We want to see some changes. Ideally we want to actually see some positive changes. So, we want to see your body feel less gassy and bloated. And then what’s the goal? The goal is to get rid of your back pain, or your neck pain, or your shoulder pain, or your muscle aches. The goal is for you to feel better in your back. This is a back pain relief diet. And I truly believe that if you follow these diets and it resonates with you, your back pain is going to be much better.
Allan (16:24): So these are not really so much elimination diets as they are trying to find an eating way that’s going to give your body the nutrition it needs, like you said, having the variety; and then also making sure that we’re not doing anything to inflame our gut or to upset our bowl, so that we basically are as clean as we can be for what our body needs.
Dr. Sinett (16:46): You said it perfectly.
Allan (16:48): Good. Okay. The other thing in the book that I think was really cool is you actually put some meal plans in here. You didn’t just tell me to go eat Paleo and I’ll go figure it out somewhere else. You gave me a one week or two weeks, I forget. There are some of them that had two weeks and some had one week.
Dr. Sinett (17:03): The great thing is I have nutritionists at my office. We’re able to put together all the meals, menus and suggestions. So, each one has somewhere between 10 days and two weeks’ worth of food. If you’re somebody who wants to follow a regimented menu and recipe, we have that. If you’re somebody who wants to be a little less regimented and you want to follow lists of do’s and don’ts – we have that as well. The nutritionists do a great job of writing out how to go shopping, what to buy. If you’re buying chicken breasts, they’re using chicken in three different days. It’s really nice, easy and simple, because we’ve got to make it simple; otherwise people won’t use it. It’s got to be not complicated.
Allan (17:46): That’s what I liked about it. This is the whole deal where you go through, you understand why this is potentially the case by going through the principles and thinking through it, because it actually makes sense. And then you say, “What about me?” And the quizzes are there, so it’s all right here in the book. The meal plans are there for you to go ahead and give this a shot, and then you know, “I need to be more of a FODMAP-style eater, because that’s what hurt my back.” I might find myself at a picnic and there’s some beans and I go ahead and eat them, and I notice I start feeling a little achy the next day. Ding, ding, ding, ding! I know my answer – I shouldn’t have had those beans.
Dr. Sinett (18:26): Exactly. That’s what we want. This is a self-discovery journey and it’s really important. So in the back part of the book, we have a complete symptom journal. We want to have the person track their pain levels, track their meals, track their hunger levels, and really be able to help use that information so that they can get the feedback and figure out what they can get away with and what they can’t, what they should be eating, what they shouldn’t, and what the price they pay is if they go wildly off the diet and what’s going to happen to them. That all works for us.
Allan (18:58): Yeah. And that’s what I liked about it – it’s very simple. Whenever we start thinking about surgery or we’re going into the doctor over and over again and they’re really not giving us any answers, the pain pills are not going to be the answer for the long term. I think we all know that intrinsically. So we’ve got to try to find an answer that works. And it might be stress, it might be a strain. When I hurt my back, I knew exactly the moment I hurt it, so for me I knew what it was. Same thing, I know when I’m going to go tailgating, I’m probably going to get some tendinitis, because that’s just what ends up happening. I think we can know that there’s an opportunity here for us to make some, in many cases, subtle changes to our food and feel a lot better for it.
Dr. Sinett (19:41): I can’t emphasize enough my frustration of seeing day in and day out with my patients how they’re suffering and suffering. I had a patient this past week who’d been to eight different doctors, he could barely sit down. He was losing his entire quality of life, and it was because of his diet. We took an X-ray and we saw immediately on the X-ray there was gas all over his digestive system. We pointed to the gas and said, “There’s your problem.” In the book we have pictures of X-rays of what a normal X-ray should look like, and one that has a lot of digestive upset. Again, within 10 days to two weeks, he changed his diet and he got his life back. And it’s the simplest thing. I can’t urge your listeners enough to try it. I know it sounds crazy. No one is discussing the link between back pain and your diet. But why can’t you change it? Why can’t you just try it for two weeks and see what happens?
Allan (20:37): I completely agree with you there. It’s a lot cheaper than the medication, it’s a lot safer and easier on you than surgery. And it’s frustrating to go to doctor, doctor, doctor, and not get an answer for something that might just be self-inflicted, which is some of our food choices. Dr. Sinett, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness. If someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about what you’re doing at your practice or learn more about this book, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Sinett (21:07): My website is DrSinett.com. All of my books are on Amazon, and my back pain relieving product Backbridge is at Backbridge.com or it’s all available on my website as well.
Allan (21:21): Cool. This is episode 341, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/341. I’ll have a link to Dr. Sinett’s site and a link where you can preorder the book on Amazon. Again, Dr. Sinett, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Sinett (21:37): I truly appreciate it, really. Thanks so much.
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