New Options for Relieving Chronic Pain and Muscle Weakness
”All diseases begin in the gut.” Hippocrates (460-370 BC)
Imagine: You are a successful professional musician, having spent your entire life mastering your instrument. You however, are fighting a difficult struggle—you have chronic tendonitis, embouchure weakness, or other debilitating problems that make performance a constant struggle. You have researched thoroughly and tried every physical therapy treatment—chiropractic, massage, yoga, Alexander Technique, muscle balancing, Rolfing, etc., etc., etc. You are even eating a very healthy diet—but you continue to have recurring problems that are manageable only with a strict regimen of physical therapy treatments. Is this you? When chronic pain is ongoing, a digestive disorder may be to blame.
This was my story. Although I had been playing professionally and teaching for more than 25 years, I had spent much of that time in pain. Beginning in my late teens and 20s, I experienced musculoskeletal inflammation and early symptoms of digestive troubles such as flatulence—a sign of poor digestion. I relieved my pain through physical therapy-type approaches common to the field of music—you name it; I did it! In my late twenties and throughout my thirties, I was constantly “chasing” pain from practicing and performing. When I would solve the discomfort in one area, another area would become irritated. At 40, I developed acid reflux and in the fall of 2001, at 45, I became chronically ill with an inflammatory condition in my spine that left me with debilitating pain in my shoulders, fingers, arms, and hands. As my illness worsened, my embouchure shook uncontrollably and I suffered from chronic diarrhea and malabsorption. I thought would not survive.
Ultimately, I was diagnosed with a long-term digestive problem, intestinal damage, and malabsorption—all the result of Celiac disease (an intolerance for gluten grains), and surprisingly, following the common low-fat, high-fiber nutritional dictates. I found the answers to healing through a dramatic change in my diet, adopting the principles of Dr. Weston Price, whose research on healthy cultures worldwide during the 1930s led to the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and the Weston A. Price Foundation (www.westonaprice.org), a foundation that helps people understand accurate dietary principles of human health and is helping to improve the food supply in our country.
I knew the problems I suffered were common not only to musicians, but to people in all walks of life as our country’s food supply has drastically changed since the 1950s. I decided to help others have access to this life-saving information by writing a book with Dr. John Turner, the chiropractor who helped me recover who is a former national qualifying gymnast, and Sally Fallon, the founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Our book is called Performance Without Pain: Healing Pain, Inflammation, and Chronic Ailments in Musicians, Athletes, Dancers—and Everyone Else (New Trends, 2006).
In my book, we discuss what foods cause digestion problems and chronic ailments. We also discuss the vital necessity of eating traditionally raised foods, adequate amounts of vitamin A and D and traditional fats—fats that people ate for 1000s of years. Without these foods, digestion and nutrient absorption can eventually be severely compromised.
We also cover the importance of traditionally cultured foods that promote healthy intestinal flora, without which our foods are not broken down properly and unhealthy bacteria can thrive in the intestinal tract causing bacterial fermentation and intestinal damage. When the intestinal tract becomes damaged, undigested proteins can “leak” through the intestinal wall, causing an immune system response and inflammatory chemicals to continually circulate throughout the body. For musicians, dancers, or athletes, this can lead to a predisposition to injury and inflammation.
From his research, Dr. Price established a set of dietary requirements necessary for optimal human health that involve nutrient-dense, easy-to-digest foods with adequate traditional fats from pastured animals and wild-caught fish. These include:
• High-vitamin A and D foods—for instance cod-liver oil, egg yolks, liver
• High quality traditional fats—butter, coconut oil, lard
• Bone-broth soups made from chicken, beef, or fish.
• Traditionally cultured foods such as kefir, yogurt and homemade sauerkraut and pickled beets.
• High quality proteins—meats, raw dairy, poultry, eggs, and fish—from animals eating their natural diets.
Through this approach, I reversed my acid reflux and intestinal damage, and provided my body with the nutritional elements necessary for building health. I am now recovered and vibrantly healthy! For the first time in 25 years I have had no pain or inflammation in my body for over four years. My embouchure is completely strong and I have excellent stamina.
Although finding high-quality foods and changing your diet may at first be complicated, your health is your most important asset. The dietary principles that Dr. Price found that supported optimal human health were the permanent answer to healing my digestive tract, and therefore, my long-term pain. The exciting news is there is a growing movement of people across the country that is turning to these same foods to improve chronic illness of all kinds.