This edition will focus on Back Pain. The #1 reason to visit a doctor is for pain and back pain occurs in 80% of the population at some time. While there can be many reasons for back pain you may be surprised to learn that I have seen poor circulation to be a major contributing factor. Your body has many miles of blood vessels and they all matter. There has been a focus for many years on circulation to your heart and your brain; but what about your spine?
You have heard the term Coronary Artery Disease or CAD but what about Lumbar Artery Disease? I know, not another disease!! The issue is that they are all the same issue. Let’s look a little closer at the anatomy (form) and physiology (function) of your blood vessels.
Your blood vessels are lined with cells called endothelial cells. These cells are very busy little bees working hard at keeping things running smoothly. They are responsible for dilating your blood vessels (the opposite of constricting or narrowing) and keeping your blood flow optimal for providing oxygen and nutrition to all your cells as well as removing toxins and all the yucky stuff you don’t want sticking around. So, if these cells are so important, don’t you think you need to keep them protected from damage?
I hear you saying “Yes, but how do I do that?!” The answer is simple. A whole food, plant-based diet will protect those little buggers from damage. Limiting (or eliminating) saturated fats will help to keep your endothelial cells producing lots of nitric oxide which keeps your blood vessels open and working without any problems. In case you aren’t sure what saturated fats are; from a chemical standpoint, they are simply fat molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. What?!! Simply put, saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature and eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. These foods are also high in calories which will negatively impact your ideal weight goals. Saturated fats come mainly from animal sources, including meat, fish, and dairy products.
Anything with a face or that comes from anything with a face has saturated fat and cholesterol and NO fiber. This includes cheese which is typically 70% fat, most of which is saturated! This also includes salmon which is high in fat. Just 3.5 ounces of raw Atlantic salmon has 13 grams of fat ~25% of which is saturated fat and who eats just 3.5 ounces?! If you think salmon is a health food because of the media blitz regarding salmon, or ‘low fat’ cheese is good for you, please do your research. The lack of valid, scientific facts behind most of what the media reports would surprise you. There is a whole population of people who know otherwise and they have reversed their chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and much more by focusing on a whole foods, plant-based diet. ALA is the ONLY essential omega 3 and rich sources are: edamame, flaxseeds, walnuts, black beans/kidney beans, and winter squash.
I just came home from the PCRM Conference on Cardiovascular Disease in Washington, DC yesterday. The audience was ~90% physicians with specialties in cardiology, endocrinology, etc. These physicians have seen firsthand how food radically affects the biomarkers of disease, both in their own bodies and in their patients. They have a passion to get their patients well and know that food is the #1 way to do that. If you want to know more, sign up for the Nourish Your Body & Change Your Life Series. Your life will be greatly enhanced by the knowledge you gain.
Ok, back to back pain. When your lumbar arteries are not providing the blood supply necessary for health to your spine pain is the result. You can see the 1st through 4th lumbar arteries in this picture. Medical imaging of impeded lumbar circulation directly relates to pain. These arteries can be almost completely blocked by calcifications/plaques, resulting in dysfunction, disc/bone disease, and pain.
The specifics are: paraspinal muscle ischemia (decreased blood supply to muscles around the spine) with resultant pain related to exercise and muscle atrophy, bone ischemia (decreased blood supply to vertebra) with resultant dull, constant pain and disc degeneration, nerve root ischemia (decreased blood supply to nerve roots) with resultant sciatica and radicular pain, and posterior peritoneum ischemia (decreased blood supply to the posterior membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and covers abdominal organs) with resultant lateral back pain and pain related to hip muscle activity.
As if chronic back pain isn’t enough to deal with it’s very important for you to know that there is a very high correlation between chronic back pain and aortic calcification and atherosclerosis. This means if you have impeded blood flow to your spine, you have impeded blood flow to your heart, your brain, and EVERYwhere. My purpose is not to scare you, it is to inform you. As a physical therapist who specializes in manual techniques I have seen many, many patients who respond well to treatment, recover from pain and restore function. I have also seen many, many patients who do not. Those, I believe, were due to decreased lumbar circulation. The biggest challenge with diagnosis is that the lumbar arteries are ‘hidden’ behind the mesenteric arteries and difficult to observe with medical imaging.
The take away here is that eating to nourish your body and protect your endothelial cells just may resolve your back pain. The good news is that it took years to create the problem, but improvement can be seen (and felt) in just weeks for some and months for others. No amount of medications, tests, or procedures will restore circulation – BUT EATING A WHOLE FOODS PLANT-BASED DIET CAN!
Discover how to eliminate pain, the need for medications and regain your health. Contact Eileen Kopsaftis or call 518-496-1265 for a comprehensive pain/health consultation.
You deserve a long, healthy, pain-free life!
HLW Recipe of the Month: Creamy Potato Salad
Potato salad is an American staple food at picnics and barbecues all summer long. This version is in line with what nourishes your body AND tastes delish!! Just wait until you try it! Don’t tell anyone it’s healthy. Let them enjoy it
16 (1/2 cup) servings
- 8 cups (about 8 medium red skinned potatoes) largely diced / cut into cubes
- 1 cup green onions finely chopped
- 1 cup red bell pepper finely diced
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1/4 tsp each sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup avocado dressing (or to taste) (below)
Boil potatoes about 10 minutes or until just done. Rinse with cold water and drain thoroughly. Transfer potatoes to mixing bowl and combine with chopped vegetables. Add avocado dressing and mix thoroughly. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Chill or serve at room temperature.
Avocado Salad Dressing
1 ripe avocado, pitted (about ¾-1 cup)
4-6 cloves roasted garlic (see below)
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
¼-¾ cup water, as needed Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
Blend the first 5 ingredients in a blender until completely incorporated together. Add water 1/4 cup at a time to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Roasted Garlic: I can only say WOW!!!
Remove any loose outside layers. Cut the tops off exposing each bulb. Lay face-down on an unbleached parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10-15 minutes. Begin peeling each clove slowly, starting with the outer layers and working your way inward. Or you can just squeeze out the garlic if using right away.
Will keep fresh in fridge for a week in a sealed glass jar.
Serve spread on bread, mixed in sauces or topped on your favorite meals.
HLW Tip of the Month: Conquering Cheese Addiction!
Yes, cheese is addicting for many people! Cheese cravings may overcome your health goals if you don’t take charge. I hear from so many people how much they LOVE cheese. Those who have taken the Nourish Your Body & Change Your Life series have learned the facts about cheese; yet some share that they still eat cheese because they love it so. For those of you who have not taken the classes here are the cliff notes on cheese.
• It is ~70% fat and mostly saturated which is related to atherosclerosis decreasing your circulation (heart attacks, strokes, back pain) and preventing optimal weight goals
• It creates opiates in your body as it digests which is why it can be so addicting
• It is very high in estrogen which is related to increased cancer risk including breast cancer
• It contains casein which is a known cancer promoter
• Can be constipating; has NO fiber
• Some cheeses are sprayed with mold to create a white rind. Mold anyone?
I have personally seen many of my patients and class attendees report pain being eliminated when they eliminated dairy products from their diets. Of course, this includes cheese. When they eat dairy foods, like cheese, they experience the return of pain. This is due to multiple factors. One of which is that animal products are loaded with Arachidonic Acid which stimulates inflammatory processes. Another factor is damage to your digestive lining allowing undigested particles into your bloodstream creating a red alert for your immune system as food particles do not belong in your bloodstream.
The only way to beat addiction is to stop cold turkey. Replace cheese with something you love that nourishes your body. After just 30 days or so you will notice you no longer crave cheese. Think of your endothelial cells and your entire body being protected when you don’t give in and eat that “little piece” of cheese.
Say no to cheese and yes to Have LifeLong WellBeing!