Eating Your Way to a Better Back: Part One

I can’t even express how excited I am! The topic today is FOOD! Specifically, how food can improve your back. The reason I am so excited is because I love to eat. I love food; All different kinds of food! Eating has always been something near and dear to my heart.

Back in the day, when I used to be a competitive power lifter, I was known for my ability to eat. You can ask any of the guys I used to lift with and they will tell you. That was evident with my expanding waistline. I ate myself through any plateau. I’ve been able to take that weight off now. Back in those days I had just gotten out of the army, in college going to school in Lincoln, and getting into competitive powerlifting. I really discovered the heavier I got the stronger I got.

Powerlifting was all about how much weight I could put up.

This was back in the early nineties. Like 92, 93 on through there. I didn’t pay any attention to the quality of food I was fueling my body with. All I cared about was getting calories and it was nothing to sit down and eat an entire package of Johnsonville brats. I would sit there and watch a Husker game (sorry you a Hawkeye fans, this was back when the Huskers were good, yes, I’ve been a fan for a long time) and I would eat an entire package of Johnsonville brats or an entire large Godfather’s pizza. All on my own in one sitting!

I would eat a lot of food and I didn’t realize what I was doing to my body at that time. Because I was getting stronger I didn’t care that I was getting bigger or heavier. My waistline gradually increased up to a 42-inch pants. I was pushing 295 pounds almost. It really took a toll on my body. But I got stronger, so I kept fueling myself with the calories.

I started having issues.

Over time as I got injured in powerlifting, I started having different issues, back pain, shoulder problems, knee related problems. The back pain was a real problem. I had multiple back strains, some disc problems, things from the stress of lifting. This really caused issues for me with being able to sleep through the night. I’d get up in the morning with pain and discomfort. When I couldn’t lift anymore, I kept eating the same stuff.

After a while I decided to shrink my body weight down and fix my diet. I became dedicated to cleaning it up and focusing on my health. I cleaned up my diet and I stopped eating so many brats, pizza, ice cream, dairy products, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and milk with protein powder and peanut butter. You name it. As I cleaned up my diet I started to get healthier. One of the side effects that happened to me was my back pain started getting better. I noticed it was a direct correlation to the improvement in my diet.

The question I had was “Why did my back pain get better?”

I was doing other things with my back pain too. I was directly treating it by fixing some of the imbalances I had in my body and the scar tissue issues. The things that had happened from the injuries. I really wondered, what was the direct link? So, I started looking into that a lot more in depth in the last couple of years.

The weight loss certainly helped by reducing the stress on my back, I went from being in the 290’s all the way down to 200 pounds. But it was more than that because I also suffered from some tendonitis issues. I had tennis elbow in my left arm. I had some tendonitis in the rotator cuff. When I really cleaned up my diet, started eating more clean whole foods, staying away from a lot of processed junk, and sugar the inflammation issues, like tendonitis, got better.

There was no question in my mind that there is a direct link between what you’re fueling your body with and what’s going on internally.

Chronic inflammation really was the problem. I was fueling that chronic inflammation with the types of foods I was eating. I don’t want to bore you guys here on a talk on inflammation, but you do need to know. When you hear the term inflammation you might think about an irritation or redness, maybe on your foot or when you get your arms scratched. Those are outward signs of inflammation, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

Your body’s immune response usually results in inflammation.

When you introduce something into your body or you have an injury, your body is going to send inflammatory cells to the area battling the infection or injury. This leads to those classic symptoms, swelling, redness, and the occasional pain. This is normal and natural; the inflammation itself is not bad. It is a part of the normal healing process. It’s how your skin heals. It’s how the internal injuries heal and how your body fights off an infection. The body is in control of that inflammation, it is okay. But if that inflammation becomes out of control or persists longer than it should, we now have a problem.

If the inflammation continues, never disappears, and you get constant inflammation, meaning that your body is in a high state of alertness, it leads to a variety of different and significant health issues. This includes diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, cancer, back pain, joint pain, early degeneration of the joints, and early arthritic wear. There are all kinds of things that happen.

Inflammation can lead to all kinds of health issues.

I want you to understand that there are basically two kinds of inflammation, acute and chronic. The good kind of inflammation is the acute inflammation, that’s happening immediately from an injury or an infection. It generally resolves in about two to six weeks. It’s a normal part of healing. Then it settles down the way and everything’s back to the status quo. However, chronic inflammation can last for months or even years. And this occurs when there are other factors that allow inflammation to persist. So you may have a, an engine, or you may have like a chronic illness, um, and there’s things that you, that you’re doing that allow that chronic inflammation to persist.

These things include such as poor diet, uh, your body’s changes in your hormone levels, uh, obesity, sleep problems, smoking stress, um, and there’s a lot more, but you know, those are kind of some of the big ones. Now, the, what I’m going to focus on today is the, the diet part. All right? Because the foods that you eat have a significant impact on your ability to control inflammation and heal. In fact, that is so important. That’s such an important concept that I, I want, I’m going to repeat that, okay. The foods that you eat have a significant impact on your ability to control inflammation and heal.

Food Has a Direct Impact on Your Ability to Heal

This is really important. If there’s nothing else that you remember from this talk, I want you to remember that, all right, those foods have a direct impact on your healing ability. So in fact, when you’re not eating properly, your blood pH is going to drop. When your blood pH level drops below a 7.4, your blood starts to become more acidic. Chronic states of acidity are a major cause of almost every major disease and health issue on the planet, including heart attack, stroke and cancer. Okay. So, if nothing else, I really want to stress if you want to get rid of your back pain, eating a healthy diet is key. Heart attack, stroke and cancer, these are all preventable health concerns and diseases that could be prevented by a lifestyle change in what you eat.

Symptoms of Acidity

Some of the common symptoms of acidity include chronic pain, skin issues, hair thinning, sensitive, gums and teeth, low body temperature, bloated feeling in the stomach, ulcers, acid reflux, and even depression. There are several things that cause acidity. We just mentioned them earlier but other items are things like stress, medications, and too much alcohol.

Acid Forming Foods

So let’s talk about which foods are the worst acid forming foods? I’m going to break it down for you into three groups. Okay. The worst acid forming foods are sugar, dairy products and meat, mainly beef, chicken, and pork. You are going to have to be very mindful of the amount of those three types of foods you intake if you are suffering from back pain.

Now, there’s also foods that contain saturated fats, sweeteners, additives, hydrogenated oils, refined foods, refined meals, all of those also induce inflammation and lower your blood pH. If you think about the setup of a grocery store all of the healthy food is on the perimeter. Okay. Think about it. Where is your produce? It’s it’s on the side and what’s in the middle, it’s all the boxed food. The frozen and boxed foods, which are all your processed, refined foods that have all of these things that are added to them are typically group together in the middle as well.

Remove Acidic Foods From Your Diet

The removal of these foods, or even the adjusting of your intake amounts, is extremely effective. In fact, it has been shown that people who clean up their diet and add more alkaline food have a lower blood pH level. So reducing or removing these acidic foods from their diets allows their body to become more alkaline and lowers their blood pH levels. They have reported feeling much healthier in as little as one week. Controlling inflammation is a key to reducing chronic pain.

Now, where do YOU start?

If you’re like me when I first started researching this it felt confusing and overwhelming. I started applying this to my life over a course of time and slowly reduced my intake of acidic foods and gradually increased healthier foods. I like to keep things simple and that’s mainly because I believe that simplicity, he is the key to success. If something is too complicated it will lead to failure. This is the approach I use with my clients who have back pain. If I make the program too complicated, guess what, yhey’re not going to do it. I want to keep this as simple as possible.

I want to help you speed up your recovery and be healthier. Following these recommendations is going to help you with arthritic issues, degenerative issues, back and hip pain, as well as reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and make you more energetic. So if you want to speed up that recovery, you want to heal faster. Here’s what I recommend.

Number one: Drink Only Water, Tea, or Coffee

Drink only water, tea, or coffee. Okay. Now, if you drink coffee, black, don’t add anything to it. Okay. Don’t make it a fufu coffee drink. Don’t the more you add to it. Now you’re just adding sugar. Minimal sugar drinks, only water tea, your coffee, stay away from juices. Stay away from any of those drinks that contain sugar because you’re adding not just calories, but you’re making your body more acidic. You’re adding that sugar to your body. Okay, so that’s number one.

Number two: Avoid High Concentrated Sugar Foods

This really goes without saying, but avoid high concentrated sugar foods, things like candy cookies, cake, processed foods. Stay away from those things. Now, if you’ve got a little bit of a sweet tooth, kind of like I do dark chocolate is okay. If you’re gonna eat a little sweet, eat some dark chocolate.

Number three: Avoid Diary Products

Avoid dairy products things like milk, yogurt, sour cream. Now cheese in low amounts is okay because it’s fermented. It’s not going to have that same effect on the body. Now here’s something very interesting because I’ve had clients ask me this. I said, well, Mike, you know, I’ve got osteoporosis or there’s another condition called osteopenia. Which is where your bones are getting soft because of low calcium. They always ask me, well don’t I have to have calcium? How am I going to get my calcium if I cut out milk products?

Here’s the interesting thing, Americans drink more milk than anywhere in the world. Anywhere in the world. Yet, we have the highest rate of osteoporosis. If we’re taking in all this milk and all these dairy products, shouldn’t that mean that our rate of bone disease is much lower? What is happening is that our milk intake is actually causing us to become more acidic and making us more susceptible to the diseases. There’s a problem. The milk is not doing anything for building of your bones. Most of us think we get our calcium from our diary intake, but this is not true. You can take a good quality calcium supplement and your body will absorb more of the calcium, with no additional fat or hormones.

What About Probiotics?

Another question I get is regarding probiotics. If you’re eating yogurt because of the probiotics, you can take a probiotic without getting the high dose of sugar and fat that comes with yogurt. You can buy a good probiotic. I would highly recommend taking a probiotic because they are very good for you. It is going to help you prevent the leaky gut syndrome and some of those other digestive issues. A probiotic will help maintain good balance in your microbiome. Just get yourself a good probiotic supplement and stay away from that sugar filled yogurt.

The 80/20 Rule

If you want to heal faster and recover, you’ve got to get your blood pH more alkaline, and to do that you’ve got to avoid those dairy products. That’s really just key. There is one other thing I would like to provide you with, this is number four, when you sit down to eat, 20% of your plate should be a meat portion and 80% should be vegetables. 20% meat, 80% veggies.

If you think about it when you go eat somewhere like Longhorn or Outback and you get yourself a nice ribeye, how much of that plate is covered by the ribeye? You might have a 12 or 16 ounce steak, right? So it is safe to say it’s covering probably 80% of that plate. Then you get a little bit of vegetables and some mashed potatoes. That’s really opposite of what it should be.

First of all, the potatoes mashed potatoes should be off the plate. 80% of that plate should be your vegetables and you only need a small amount of meat. The size of the palm of your hand, less than eight ounces of meat, is all you really need. To add to this, you’re better off staying with leaner meats, things like fish such as salmon, mahi, mahi, and walleye.

I would recommend you try this for three weeks and see how you feel. Trust me, you can do anything for three weeks. All right. Give it a try, see how you feel and I am willing to bet you’re going to start to notice some improvements. You’re probably going to lose a little bit of weight, which is just an additional positive effect, but more importantly is what you’re going to be doing in the inside of your body to help yourself become more alkaline and be able to heal a lot faster at this point.

I want to leave you with a thought provoking quote from Max Lucado —

“As long as you hate your enemy, a jail door is closed and a prisoner is taken. But when you try to understand and release your foe from your hatred, then the prisoner is released and that prisoner is you.”

By the way if you would like a FREE copy of my new ebook, The Five Best Kept Secrets to Fast Back Pain Relief, all you have to do is email me at or shoot us a Facebook message. There’s a lot of really great information in there that I think will really, really help you.

So until next time, power your life and keep moving forward.

I am a Physical Therapist and CEO/Owner of Flex Physical Therapy.