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44: Dr. Paul Ralston | Low-Carb Diets & Spinal Pain

AIR DATE: September 5, 2013 at 7PM ET
FEATURED EXPERT: Dr. Paul Ralston
FEATURED TOPIC: “Low-Carb Diets & Spinal Pain”

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Have you ever suffered from back pain in your life? If you’re like most people, the answer is an emphatic YES! Spinal pain is the #1 cause of disability worldwide and lower back pain is the #2 cause of missed days at work (behind sunny days!). What’s at the root cause of all of this chronic pain that people are dealing with? And what can a low-carb and/or Paleo nutrition and lifestyle plan do to help alleviate the aches associated with our backs? That’s what a Milwaukee, WI-based chiropractor named Dr. Paul Ralston will be exploring with us in this week’s show. Dr. Ralston presented a lecture entitled “The Effect of Diet on Chronic Spinal Pain Disorders” at the recent 2013 Ancestral Health Symposium in Atlanta, Georgia last month and he is a big fan of CrossFit, Paleo and low-carb diets. In other words, he knows just a thing or two on this subject we’ve got for you in Episode 44 of “Ask The Low-Carb Experts” addressing the issue “Low-Carb Diets & Spinal Pain.”

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Here are some of the questions we address in this episode:

MARGIEANNE FROM NEW ZEALAND ASKS:
I’m a 75-year old woman and have had Bells Palsy since February 2012. I am working hard to stay in a state of nutritional ketosis. Recently I twisted my back while re-learning to ride a bike again. My chiropractor is doing wonders so I have great hope of feeling better than I did before the accident. I think I’m doing okay with my diet except I seem to be stuck about 44 pounds heavier than I’d like. I have about 30g of coconut oil daily and 10-15 mL of cod liver fish oil. Since I’m not losing weight, I’ve been tweaking things until I find what works again, including setting for myself a goal of getting in 10,000 steps/day several times a week. Is there anything else I can do to optimize my health based on what you’ve heard from my story?

KIM ASKS:
I suffer from a lot of back pain mostly due to spinal fusion, scoliosis, degenerative discs, and fibromyalgia. The pain has gotten a lot better since I started eating low-carb. Why does low-carb help with back pain? I know I would have less back pain if I could lose some belly fat, but low-carb alone is not getting rid of it. I currently take oxycodone for the pain and wondered if taking pain medications interferes with weight loss. Do you have any natural remedies that can help me with my persistent back pain?

J.D. ASKS:
I used to get severe pain in my lower back whenever I ran. Over the years, it began showing up when I walked, too. Among my many pre-low-carb attempts to fix my health, I tried a calisthenics routine for a few months that involved back extensions and that improved things considerably extending the distance I could walk. When I started eating low-carb, it had progressed to the point that I couldn’t walk more than half-a-mile without pain. In fact, two weeks after starting low-carb, it was gone, entirely, and has never come back again! I spent the day at the State Fair, last weekend, walking for more than ten hours, carrying a backpack, and I had soreness in my joints, and in my shoulders and back, and was generally worn out–but I never experienced that back pain. And here’s the thing: it disappeared over the space of two weeks, during which I did no exercise and lost about five pounds. So what changed?

I have to think that the problem involved fuel partitioning. My hypothesis is that because I was severely insulin resistant, and thus hyperinsulinemic, when I walked the muscles in my back were mostly burning carbs, and that the pain I felt was just ordinary lactic acid build-up. After I went low-carb and got my insulin levels under control, I regained the ability to burn fat. Of course, I may be entirely off-base, but whatever happened, it couldn’t have been a response to weight loss or exercise, because it happened before any significant amount of either had occurred. Does Dr. Ralston have any thoughts about my situation?

  • jdege

    Dr. Ralston had a few questions about my situation – how metabolically deranged was I, and how much weight did I have to lose. Just in case anyone who is following might be interested:

    I never had my insulin levels tested, but I’ve done OGTTs periodically. I did the first three weeks after I started low-carb. My blood sugar peaked at 177, an hour after consuming 70g of carbs. Six months later, I peaked at 131 after 45 minutes. A year later I peaked at 114 after 30 minutes. I was clearly very insulin resistant, and that has improved dramatically, on a low-carb diet.

    As for weight, I lost 70 pounds in the first six months. I’m down another 10 since then.

    - J.D.

    • LLVLCBlog

      I’ve asked Dr. Ralston to chime in.