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Chronic back pain due to diet - Alison’s story


Every day, Howard and I receive emails from people who have experienced dramatic improvements by changing their diet. Alison’s story  - about 5 years of excruciating, non-stop back pain – grabbed my attention because most people don’t think about diet for back pain (or joint pain/arthritis for that matter …)

“In June 2010, I injured my lower back ... After two years on-and-off, the pain stayed for five years.  Every second, day and night …”

Alison also had ongoing knee and wrist pain from years earlier. Painkillers either didn’t work, or turned her into a zombie.  She also tried a tens machine, inversion therapy, saw an osteopath, doctor, two pain clinics and acupuncture … but nothing helped for more than an hour or two.

“I was suicidal for the last 5 years … I’m only 40, can I stand to live with this pain for another 40 years, and how bad will this pain be when I’m 80?”

In September 2016, Alison changed her diet to avoid processed foods that she thought might be contributing to her anger outbursts. But to her surprise, it wasn’t only the anger that improved.  As well as negativity, depression and “recently developed OCD of locking my car multiple times”, her back and joint pain improved:

“the less numbers and preservatives I consumed,  the less back, knee and wrist pain I suffered”.

What the specialists said

For years, specialists had been telling Alison to lower her stress levels, or lose weight, or pace activities. But as she says “I do all these things for months and there is no change”.

“Then I stop consuming preservatives and after a couple of months I cannot feel the pain …But no one cares, no one believes me … Both pain clinics I’ve been a patient at over the last few year just ignored me..”

The effect of food additives on joint pain was recognised over 40 years ago

In 1975, food additives and processed food were just starting to become common.  Dr Ben Feingold, Chief of Allergy at Kaiser-Permanente Medical Centre in San Francisco, was the first to realise that these new additives could cause adverse reactions including arthralgia with edema (joint pain with swelling). He also found that anyone who reacted to those additives may be affected by salicylates in diet and medication, see more below. His Feingold Diet avoided artificial additives and some natural salicylates and formed the basis for the RPAH Elimination Diet that we support today.

More reader reports about back pain & diet 

Alison is not the only one to find improvements in back pain, joint pain or arthritis due to diet:

By week 5 on the diet I have had a whole 8 days 97% headache and fatigue free, and pain free in my lower back and joints,  all just with changes to my food, no pain reliever medication needed.  - Jess (from story [1401])

I have rheumatoid arthritis, back damage and nerve issues. Since eating primarily Failsafe I have less nerve problems , my joints and back pain is less and I have less flareups! - from the facebook group (story [1305])

After having chiro for many years to help my bad back, I was relieved to find that by simply eliminating problematic foods for me, I became pain free like I had never done before. – Kellie (from story [1110])

I am 60 and for 4 years have been avoiding salicylates and wholemeal bread to help with arthritis and back pain. I have noticed a really big improvement in the long term.  I no longer have pain or jangly nerves and no trouble with stairs. The pleasure is back into walking. When my back gets sore it doesn't seem to go into that spiral that it used to, laying me up for days. –  (from story [807])

I have suffered with the pain and swelling of arthritis (including severe lower back pain…) for almost half of my adult life.   (30 years later, after doing the RPAH elimination diet with a dietitian) …  I am now virtually free of the symptoms of the arthritis. The acute & chronic pain and inflammation are gone. See the full, remarkable “Bernard’s arthritis story” here https://www.fedup.com.au/images/stories/Bernard's%20arthritis%20story.pdf

Wondering why doctors are not interested in diet and prescribe drugs instead?

This question can be answered by books such as Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: how Big Pharma has Corrupted Healthcare.  A reviewer on Amazon explains it well: “As a clinician in the healthcare system for 35+ years, I have to validate the author's sense that healthcare, and indeed virtually every aspect of medicine, has been subjected to and distorted by the commercial agendas and almost unlimited greed of big Pharma”. There is no profit in putting patients on diets.


Factsheet: arthritis, joint pain and diet

Our arthritis and joint pain story collection

Feingold BF, Hyperkinesis and learning disabilities linked to artificial food flavors and colors, Am J Nurs. 1975;75(5):797-803. full text http://www.feingold.org/Research/PDFstudies/Feingold75.pdf

Peter C Gotzsche, Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare, 2013.

Richard Smith (former editor of the British Medical Journal) http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2013/09/10/richard-smith-is-the-pharmaceutical-industry-like-the-mafia/

Ray Moynihan & Alan Cassels, Selling Sickness, 2006.

Alison's full story [1446]

Factsheet: Introduction to food intolerance

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This has been the most life changing thing we have ever done

- Janette

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Food intolerance

Some of the many symptoms of food intolerance that can be helped by diet:

Airways: Asthma, Stuffy blocked or runny nose/ nasal polyps, Frequent nose bleeds, Catarrh, chronic throat-clearing, Sinusitis, Frequent ear infections, Frequent tonsillitis, Frequent colds and flu, symptoms of Samter's Triad, hayfever, allergic rhinitis Skin: Eczema, Urticaria (hives), Cradlecap, Other skin rashes, Angioedema (swollen lips, eyes, tongue), Geographic tongue, Pruritis (itching), Rosaceae, Allergic shiners (dark circles under eyes), Pallor (pale skin), Flushing, Excessive sweating, Body odour, Sore vagina in children, Alopecia (patchy baldness) Digestive system: Irritable bowel symptoms (IBS), Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), Recurrent mouth ulcers, Indigestion, Nausea, Bad breath, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Stomach ache, Bloating, Reflux in babies, adults, Constipation, Colic in babies, adults, Sluggish bowel syndrome (feeling of "more to come"), Encopresis, Soiling (sneaky poos), Dairy intolerance, Gluten and wheat intolerance, Eating disorders (ed), anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder (BED)  Bladder: Bedwetting, Daytime incontinence, Urinary urgency, Recurrent inflammation (cystitis) Skeletal: Growing pains, Gout, Arthritis, joint pain, arthralgia Eyes: Nystagmus (involuntary movement), Blurred vision Muscles: Low muscle tone, Myalgia (muscle pain), Tics (involuntary movement), Tremor, Leg 'jiggling', Heart: Rapid heart beat, Heart palpitations, Cardiac arrhythmias, Pseudo heart attack (feeling of impending doom, chest pressure, pain down arm), Tachycardia (fast heart beat), Angina-type pain, HHT Central nervous system: Headaches or migraines, unexplained tiredness, Chronic fatigue, Feeling 'hung-over', Confusion, Dizziness, Agitation, Tinnitus (noises in ear), HyperacusisAuditory sensory processing disorder (ASPD), Paraesthesia (pins and needles), Dysaesthesia (numbness), Hypoglycemia, Salicylate-induced hypoglycemia, Epileptic seizures, Fits, Sensory symptoms of multiple sclerosis, Scents and perfume sensitivity, Symptoms of lupus Anxiety: Panic attacks, Depression, Obsessive ruminations (repetitively focusing on bad feelings and experiences from the past), Self harm, Suicidal thoughts, actions, teeth grinding (bruxism) Impaired memory: Vague or forgetful, Unable to concentrate, Won't persevere, Unmotivated, Disorganised, Easily distracted, Difficulty reading and writing Speech: Loud voice (no volume control), Speech hard to understand, Speech delay, Selective mutism, Stuttering, Repetitive noises, Talks too much (empty chatter) Coordination: Poor handwriting, Poor coordination, Frequent accidents, Vertigo Sleep: Difficulty falling asleep, Restless legs syndrome (RLS), Persistent night waking, Insomnia, Nightmares/night terrors/sleepwalking, Sleepless babies, Sleep apnoea Mood: Brain snaps, Mood swings, Premenstrual tension, Grizzly or unhappy, Cries easily or often, Irritable, Uncooperative Oppositional defiance: ODD, Loses temper, Argumentative, Refuses requests, Defies rules, Deliberately annoys others, Blames others for own mistakes, Touchy, easily annoyed, Angry, resentful Other behaviour: ADHD, ADD, Autism, Aspergers, Inattentive, easily bored, unmotivated, 'Unable to entertain himself', Restless, fidgety or overactive, Head banging, Hyperactivity, Fights with siblings, Difficulty making friends, Destructive, aggressive, Unreasonable, Tantrums, Demanding, never satisfied, Disruptive, Discipline is ineffective, Pervasive Development Disorder

Some causes of food intolerance:

Food additives: Artificial colours: (food dyes, artificial colors) tartrazine 102 (E102, FD&C Yellow No.5), quinoline yellow 104 (E104), sunset yellow 110 (E110, FD&C Yellow No.6), azorubine, carmoisine 122 (E122), amaranth 123 (E123), ponceau, brilliant scarlet 124 (E124), erythrosine 127 (E127, FD&C Red No.3), allura red 129 (E129, FD&C Red No.40), indigotine, indigo carmine 132 (E132, FD&C Blue No.2), brilliant blue 133 (E133, FD&C Blue No.1), green S, food green, acid brilliant green 142 (E142), fast green FCF 143 (E143, FD&C Green No.3), brilliant black 151 (E151), brown, chocolate brown 155 (E155)  Natural colours: (colors) Annatto (annatto extracts, bixin, norbixin, 160b, E160b) Preservatives: Sorbates: (sorbic acid 200, E200, sodium sorbate 201, E201, potassium sorbate 202, E202, calcium sorbate 203, E203) Benzoates, hydroxybenzoates, parabens: (including benzoic acid 210, E210, sodium benzoate 211, E211, potassium benzoate 212, E212, calcium benzoate 213, E213, ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate 214, E214, sodium ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate 215, E215, propylparaben 216, E216, propyl 4 hydroxybenzoate 217, E217, methylparaben 218, E218) Sulfites, bisulfites, metabisulfites: (200-228, sulphites, sulphur dioxide, sulfur dioxide 220, E220, sodium sulphite 221, E221, sodium bisulphite 222, E222, sodium metabisulphite 223, E223, potassium metabisulphite 224, E224, potassium sulphite 225, E225, calcium sulphite 226, E226, calcium bisulfite 227, E227, potassium bisulphite 228, E228) Nitrates & nitrites: (249-252, potassium nitrite 249, E249, sodium nitrite 250, E250, sodium nitrate 251, E251, potassium nitrate 252, E252 Propionates: (bread preservative, mould inhibitor 280-283: propionic acid 280, E280, sodium propionate 281, E281, calcium propionate 282, E282, potassium propionate 283, E283, 'natural' preservatives in bread, cultured or fermented wheat, dextrose, sugar, flour, whey or anything) Synthetic antioxidants: Gallates 310, 311, 312 (E310, E311, E312), tBHQ 319, E319, BHA 320, E320, BHT 321, E321 Flavour enhancers: (flavor enhancers) glutamic acid and all glutamates, MSG monosodium glutamate 620-625, yeast extract, hydrolysed vegetable protein HVP, disodium guanylate 627 (E627, DSG, GMP), disodium inosinate 631 (E631, DSI, IMP), ribonucleotides 635 (E635, I&G, nucleotides)  Flavours: (flavors)  Natural food chemicals: Salicylates: salicylic acid, sodium salicylate, acetylsalicylic acid Biogenic amines: vasoactive amines (tyramine, phenylethylamine, histamine and others) Glutamates:  Natural foods: Dairy: milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter, lactose-free milks Wheat or Gluten: (wheat, rye, barley, oats) Soy: Sugar free sweeteners:Sugar free sweeteners: polyols, sorbitol, mannitol

On this website, failsafe refers to foods that are Free of Additives and Low in Salicylates, Amines and Flavour Enhancers. Note that copyright applies to the commercial use of the term "failsafe" in the food and health context so as to control inappropriate use by the food and health industries.