Energy-Restoration Diet

In order to successfully manage any pain, the amount of silent inflammation* in the body must be reduced. In addition the body’s ability to produce ATP must be improved. One of the most powerful tools to both reduce silent inflammation and boost ATP (energy) production is a proper diet.

To learn more about silent inflammation, refer to the Chronic Stress chapter in our book "Say Goodbye to Back Pain".

The sole purpose of this diet is to promote cellular energy and reduce silent inflammation, not to lose weight.

Why worry about cellular energy? A lack of ATP (the body’s source of energy) is a major limiting factor for healing damaged tissues. By increasing cellular energy, you better equip the body to heal itself. And as strange as it may sound, your diet can be (and often is) a source of inflammation throughout your body.

In fact, years of diet-related, low-level inflammation can contribute to the chronic stress cycle and to the development of chronic diseases such as spinal decay, peripheral neuropathy, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and even certain types of cancer.

Inflammation contributes to these diseases by eliciting an immune-system response and damaging tissues directly, which in turn adds to chronic stress and prevents the natural healing process. What makes diet-related inflammation so damaging is its unique role as both a massive drain on the body’s resources (taking energy away from healing and other healthy functions) and its ability to prevent adequate absorption of nutrients from food. In other words, this inflammation decreases the body’s ability to make energy while also demanding increased amounts of energy. In such a case, “money in is not equating to money out.”

The energy restoration diet supports recovery in two ways. First, it lowers silent inflammation thus reducing chronic stress and naturally increasing your body’s ability to heal. Second, it supports ATP production on a cellular level, so you have more energy to heal damaged nerves and soft tissue (skin, muscle, and the disc aka the cushion between your spinal bones).

How the Energy-Restoration Diet Works

There are three phases of the energy-restoration diet. Before going any further, we want to reemphasize the fact that this is not a weight-loss diet or a calorie-restrictive diet. You never need to allow yourself to get hungry on this diet.

Phase one is the most restrictive. During this time you’ll be whipping your digestive tract back into shape. This phase reduces your level of silent inflammation, enables your body to produce more ATP, and initiates the healing.

Phase two slowly reintroduces several of the foods you avoided during the first phase. However, this phase still eliminates several of the most commonly inflammatory foods to allow your body to continue healing.

Phase three is when more of the foods you had previously cut out of your diet can be added back in. Reintroducing them slowly gives you a chance to see how your body reacts.

The final phase is the maintenance phase. The goal here is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. It is more of a lifestyle than a diet. We recommend staying on the maintenance phase of the energy-restoration diet for the rest of your life. It helps you maintain high levels of energy and low levels of inflammation without permanently depriving you of your comfort foods.

Forever seems like a long time when you are talking about diets. We understand. We have all have been on the maintenance phase of the energy diet since 2011, and we’re also gluten- and dairy-free. The good news is that you will feel so much better at the end of phase three that you probably won’t want to go back.

We simply tell our patients to complete the first three phases to see how much better they feel, then make the decision on whether to make the maintenance phase a permanent lifestyle.

Believe it not, 90 percent of our patients stay on the maintenance phase without us saying much of anything. These people feel so much better that you couldn’t talk them into going back.

Enough of all the background information, let’s dig into the details of the energy-restoration diet.

Phase One

This phase of the diet only lasts thirty days. For sufferers with severe digestive problems, we typically suggest sixty days. During this time you will only be eating fruits, vegetables, and meats. The following foods will be off limits:

Don’t worry. There are a lot of foods you can still eat. It is much easier to focus on what you can eat rather than what you cannot. When you are on this diet, you can eat nearly any meat product, fruit, or vegetable you want. When you think of it as a meat, vegetable, and fruit diet, it doesn’t seem all that hard.

Just to make it easier on you, we’ve compiled a list of items you can and can’t eat for this phase of the diet. You can find the list at the end of this page.

While on this diet, you will need to buy more minimally processed foods and fresh foods to avoid things like wheat and dairy products. To make this easier, shop the perimeter of the grocery store, and avoid straying into the center aisles too often. Fresh veggies, fruits, meats, and eggs are almost always along the outside walls of the store. Staying out of the center aisles makes it much easier to avoid temptation.

In addition to using the list at the bottom of this page, you will need to get into the habit of thoroughly checking labels for ingredients. You will be shocked at how many food items use wheat, dairy, and soy as cheap fillers.

Once the thirty days are up, you move right into phase two.

Phase Two

This phase lasts thirty days as well. During phase two, you will be able to reintroduce several items that you cut out during phase one. You will need to reintroduce these items one at a time. We recommend adding one or two new items per week. This gives you a chance to see how you feel when you eat each food and notice if you have any reactions. Because of this process of gradually adding back in foods, this kind of diet is often called an elimination and challenge diet. This reintroduction process is critical if you want to find out what foods, if any, you are reactive to. (It might not be the item you suspect.)

Here are some common reactions to look for

If you notice any of those symptoms, stop eating that food item immediately. Then try to eat it again in a week. If, after a week’s interval, you experience the same reaction again, you are likely reactive to that food. You should avoid that food for the entire duration of the first three phases of the energy-restoration diet. You may test that food again (once you are in the maintenance phase) just to be sure.

During phase two you can reintroduce the following foods.

Remember to reintroduce these items to your diet one item at a time. It may take longer than thirty days before you have reintroduced all the foods. That’s fine. Start by reintroducing the ones you most enjoy; you can reintroduce the others later.

The following foods are still off limits for phase two of the energy-restoration diet.

Once you have completed thirty days of phase two, you can move into phase three.

Phase Three

During the third phase of the diet, you will continue to reintroduce all nightshades (including tomatoes), legumes (except soy), gluten-free grains, and sugar (in limited amounts).

Once again, eat only one or two new food items per week. You still need to challenge your body with a couple new food items per week to see if you have any reactions. This is a common, no-cost way to test for food allergies and reactivities.

The only restrictions for phase three are the following.

This phase of the diet also lasts for thirty days.

Phase Four

Phase four is the maintenance phase of the energy diet. There are fewer restrictions for this phase. It is designed to promote a flexible dietary plan that you can stick with for the long haul. The goal here is to provide you with the maximum amount of health benefits with a minimum amount of dietary restriction

If you have been tested for gluten or dairy reactivity, and the tests came back negative (no gluten or dairy sensitivity), you can start to reintroduce these foods into your diet.

However, you should not start eating gluten and dairy foods on a regular basis. Make them an occasional treat. You may not be reactive to them, but they still limit overall energy, play games with your blood glucose, and increase silent inflammation throughout your body.

Structure your daily diet so that you limit these indulgences to the weekends or special occasions. By limiting them you can still enjoy these foods guilt free, while keeping your energy levels up and silent inflammation low. As with any diet plan, it must be livable, or you won’t stay on it.

Regardless of any food sensitivity, you will want to continue to limit your intake of the following items.

Those who are gluten or diary reactive need to permanently remove these items from their diet. Nearly everyone who is gluten or dairy reactive will occasionally splurge and eat the food they are reactive to. This is not a sin; don’t beat yourself up over it or feel guilty. That will only increase your stress response.

If you are going to eat something you are reactive to, enjoy it, and get back on the wagon ASAP. You will most likely suffer some digestive discomfort or other symptoms later on. Because of these negative consequences, your desire to splurge will most likely diminish as you get used to your new lifestyle and realize how great you feel when you avoid those foods.

A special note about oats…

While oats do not naturally contain gluten, almost all oats are harvested, transported, and processed with equipment used for wheat. Due to this cross contamination, they will usually cause problems for those who are gluten reactive. There are certain brands of oats that are certified gluten free and are processed in dedicated wheat-free facilities. These brands are usually trustworthy, but you must be careful. Test these products in small amounts, and make your own decision.

Building a Balanced, High Energy Meal

Thus far you’ve learned a lot about diet, but we haven’t mentioned any guidelines for how much of each kind of food you should be eating. As promised early on, there are no points and no weighing out portions. We like to keep it simple. The easiest way to build a balanced meal is to divide your plate into thirds and then fill one-third with lean proteins (lean meats) and the other two-thirds with vegetables. If you are going to eat fruit with a meal, it should be in a small quantity along with a larger quantity of low glycemic load (nonstarchy) vegetables. If you plan on having a meal with fruit and protein only, the portion of fruit should be small.

The previous diagram shows you how these three general meal types should look. As you can see, this system is very flexible, but you must keep in mind that the vegetable-and-protein-only option is the best for low inflammation and high energy. An additional consideration is the glycemic load of the vegetable or fruit you are planning on eating. For example, if you are in phase four of the diet—where potatoes are allowed—and you decide to eat a potato dish, you should consider them as a fruit not a vegetable. Their glycemic load is more similar to fruit than most other vegetables. For that reason your portion of potatoes should be quite small and accompanied with other low-glycemic vegetables. Also, soluble fiber slows the absorption of glucose from fruits and vegetables, so you should choose foods high in soluble fiber to keep you blood glucose levels in line (Sears 2005, 51).

This basic guide should ensure that your meals are well balanced, make you feel full quickly, keep your energy levels high, and keep silent inflammation at bay.

Cheating

There is always a temptation to cheat on a diet. Removing foods that you may love is never easy. However, unlike most diets where the goal is losing weight, this diet completely relies on you not cheating in order for it to work.

If you cheat during the first ninety days of the diet, you will lose many of the benefits. For the first ninety days, it’s an all-or-nothing affair. You have to be totally committed in order to see most of the life-changing results. Don’t torture yourself by committing half way. You will be depriving yourself with very little benefit.

Super Foods and Spices

There are hundreds of foods out there that are packed full of protective nutrients and have anti-inflammatory or energy-boosting properties. These “super foods” should be incorporated into your new lifestyle as much as possible.

The following list will get you familiar with some of the most common super foods and spices. Make eating a few of them each day a priority.

The foods mentioned above are some of the best super foods, but there are dozens more. In general most spices are very healthy. The energy-restoration diet will encourage you to cook differently, so it is a great time to learn to incorporate new spices into your cooking.

Learning to cook with new spices is also a great way to avoid dwelling on what you can’t have. There are so many flavors and combinations of spices to be explored. If you focus on these new flavors and foods, this diet will be much more enjoyable. Who knows? You may find foods you love even more than the ones you had to give up.

A Word on Artificial Sweetners and Other Food Additives

Artificial sweeteners can be very confusing. Some studies say they are fine while others say they contribute to your risk of cancer and other diseases. Instead of offering bulletproof evidence for or against artificial sweeteners, we can offer you this test in common sense.

The studies that show artificial sweeteners to be a healthy sugar alternative are funded by the same companies that produce them. These companies stand to lose a lot of money if these sweeteners are found to be dangerous. In contrast the studies that suggest that these sweeteners could pose long-term health risks were largely funded by independent groups with very little to gain other than knowledge.

It’s pretty clear to us that there was some bias going on in the studies funded by sweetener producers. We highly discourage people from using artificial sweeteners. In fact we would rather see our patients use real sugar than artificial sweeteners.

Many of our patients have had very obvious negative reactions to artificial sweeteners once they were reintroduced (after avoiding them for several months).

Recommended Alternative Sweetner

One sweetener that works well, and that we highly recommend, is Stevia. It is a natural, plant-based sweetener. Stevia has been used in Japan as the main sugar substitute since the 1970s and has been available in the United States since the mid 1990s. There are no known health risks of using Stevia, and it does not raise blood glucose levels (great for diabetics).

We also find that honey or agave nectar is a great alternative to table sugar or syrup and works great for baking.

MSG

Another common food additive to watch out for is MSG (monosodium glutamate). MSG is a flavor enhancer that, like salt, brings out the flavor in food. It was developed as a way to enhance the flavor of food without adding more salt (so food can be advertised as low sodium).

Studies on MSG are similar to those on artificial sweeteners. The studies funded by the food industry show it is not dangerous, and those performed by outside, independent groups show many potentially dangerous consequences. In several laboratory studies by major universities, rats fed MSG suffered from serious neurological damage (Gonzalex-Burgos and Perez-Vega and Beas-Zarate 2001, 69–72; Seress et al. 1984, 453–7). This makes some sense because glutamate, a component of MSG, is a well-known excitoxin (Manev et al. 1989, 106–12).

When neurons become overexcited, they can cause damage and even cell death. There is no question; glutamate in the wrong amount is a neurotoxin. If you are suffering from any chronic condition, there’s no good reason why you should be ingesting any amount of a known neurotoxin if it can be avoided. That being said, we highly recommend permanently removing artificial sweeteners and MSG from your diet. And it is absolutely crucial that you completely remove these items for at least the first ninety days of the energy-restoration diet.

The Energy Restoration Diet, Blood Glucose Regulation, and Fat Metabolism

The energy-restoration diet was not specifically designed for diabetics, but in our experience it is the best diet for blood-glucose regulation. Here’s why.

The highest glycemic (blood-glucose raising) foods are eliminated, and most importantly, grains (especially wheat) and refined sugars are mostly, if not totally, eliminated. Believe it or not, an ounce of white bread raises your blood glucose just as much as an ounce of table sugar. That’s why bread, pasta, and breaded food are just as bad for diabetics as foods with lots of added sugar.

Oftentimes, simply eliminating grains and sugar is enough to give you much more control over your blood glucose. If you follow the above guidelines for eating a well-rounded meal of protein, fat, and good carbohydrates, you will be doing even better. Eating a well-balanced meal limits the spike in your blood glucose after eating.

If you are really serious about getting control over your blood glucose, you should become familiar with the glycemic load of foods you eat.

It just so happens that weight loss is another great side benefit of lowering the amount of insulin your body releases after each meal. Many people don’t realize it, but insulin is the primary hormone responsible for fat storage. When you eat too much sugar, or eat foods like wheat and other grains that are easily converted into glucose and absorbed into the blood stream, your body responds by releasing large amounts of insulin. This large amount of insulin tells the cells of your body to absorb glucose (sugar) from the blood for storage. Much of that excess glucose is stored as fat.

In contrast a meal rich in protein and good fats, along with moderate amounts of carbohydrates, stimulates the release of just the right amount of insulin, along with the release of glucagon (insulin’s counterpart), which causes a steady release of glucose into the blood stream to feed your body’s glucose needs.

By following this particular diet, you will avoid the energy rush and crash that typically follows a carb-heavy meal and, instead, have a steady amount of energy until your next snack or meal.

To sum it up, you need to eat meals with the right balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Limiting high-glycemic foods (like grains and processed sugar) will give you better control over your blood glucose. This diet will also dramatically boost your energy levels and aid in any weight loss you may be looking for. Many of our patients find that this diet has helped them regain the energy of their younger years, which serves as yet another side benefit of the energy-restoration diet.

Breakfast, the Most Important Meal of the Day

This old saying has much truth to it—especially for those who want to feel great, have high energy all day, and avoid midmorning or afternoon energy crashes. Breakfast can set your daily hormones and energy level off on the right track.

Breakfast is literally the meal that breaks your fast. It’s the first meal you eat after fasting for eight to ten hours. Remember, every time you go to sleep at night, your body is entering a fasting state.

For most of us, fasting throughout the night is not a problem. If you have eaten appropriately throughout the day, and especially in the evening, you should have no problem fasting until morning.

How you break the nighttime fast will affect your energy, hormones, and hunger patterns for the rest of the day.

The secret is to have a breakfast that is high in protein along with some fat and carbohydrates. If you remember from earlier, fat and protein stimulate the release of glucose into the blood stream.

This is exactly what you need to get your motor running in the morning. You want just enough glucose in the blood stream for all your daily activities but not so much that your body releases too much insulin (which pulls the glucose out of the blood stream). Striking this balance is best done with a high-protein breakfast accompanied with good fats and slow-release carbohydrates.

If a low-carb breakfast is good, is a no-carb breakfast better? No. If you eat nothing but protein and fat, you will be releasing stored glucose without replacing what you are using. Having a small amount of carbohydrates is important. For example, a breakfast of two eggs alone is OK. Throw in some mixed vegetables or a small wedge of cantaloupe and it becomes a whole lot better.

If you do the opposite, eat a lot of carbs and less protein, you will get a quick burst of energy from all the glucose followed by an evening crash. A good example of this would be having a bagel and coffee for breakfast. Again, it’s all about striking a balance.

How does your breakfast affect your whole day? When your blood glucose crashes from eating a carb-heavy meal, you will naturally crave sugar. Fulfilling those sugar cravings sets up another energy spike and crash. If you eat a good breakfast, you won’t crave the foods that cause an energy crash later in the day. As a result your next snack or meal is more likely to be well balanced.

In fact a study conducted by the University of Texas in El Paso demonstrated that increasing the amount of calories eaten at breakfast reduces the total number of calories eaten in a day!

If you are like most people, you’ve spent years on this blood-glucose roller coaster fueled by high glycemic foods and unbalanced meals. Your energy levels feel like a yo-yo, and you don’t know what’s wrong. Most people live this way, but you don’t have to. By incorporating a good breakfast into the energy-restoration diet, you can smooth out your energy levels so you rarely feel crashes and maintain a constant, steady level of high energy throughout the day.

Examples of High-Energy Breakfast Options:

Traditional Breakfast One

Traditional Breakfast Two

Nontraditional Option

These are just three quick examples of how to build a complete high-energy breakfast. Be creative, and include foods you love even if they aren’t traditionally considered breakfast foods.

Snacking

Snacking is not only allowed on the energy-restoration diet, it’s highly recommended. The trick is to snack right. A good snack requires the same balance as any good meal. It needs to contain protein, fat, and carbs.

A snack of just carbs, even if it sounds healthy (like dried fruit or an apple), can cause you to crash or to get hungry again an hour later. To feel full you must eat some protein or fat.

Snacks usually need to be quick, easy, and portable. Nuts are a great source of protein and fat for snacks. They can be mixed with raisins or other dried fruits and taken just about anywhere. (Just make sure there are more nuts than fruit.) You can also get a quick protein snack from beef jerky. (Make sure it doesn’t contain soy sauce, caramel color, malt flavoring, or other sources of gluten.)

Another snack option is to simply eat a few bites of leftover meat along with half an avocado, some olives, or a small piece of fruit.

Dining Out

In the early phases of the program, it will be very difficult to eat at a restaurant due to so many common foods being restricted. However, in phases three and in the maintenance phase you will want to eat out with friends and family. This can be risky if you are gluten or dairy sensitive, but there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting contaminated (receiving an accidental amount of the allergen in a food that you didn’t suspect would contain it.)

Stick to the basics when you eat out. You should choose simple dishes that contain only a few ingredients. For example, a steak and baked potato with steamed veggies or a side salad has very little risk of containing wheat or dairy.

Just be sure to tell the waiter or waitress ahead of time that you do not want butter on the potato and that you need veggies grilled in oil instead of butter (if you are not getting them steamed). In addition make sure there isn’t cheese or croutons on the salad.

Avoid dishes that have creamy sauces, since they usually contain wheat flour, dairy, or both.

Salads entrées are another great option because they usually list all of their ingredients (and things can easily be left out). Be sure to ask what’s in the dressing. If they don’t know the ingredients, ask for olive oil and vinegar.

Luckily, many restaurants are starting to offer gluten-free options. This makes eating out very easy and stress free.

Use This Diet as a Secret Weapon

Once you have completed the first ninety days of the diet, you will officially be on the maintenance phase.

The maintenance phase is your new lifestyle. It should allow you to occasionally indulge in treats. However, many people go back to the stricter phase one part of the diet for a few days when they have overindulged or feel their energy levels dropping. This strategy quickly gets them feeling great again.

Remember, you can always revisit any phase of the diet. Simply follow the instructions for that section for as long as you want. Some people use phase one for just a few days (especially if they accidentally eat some wheat or dairy), others revisit phase one for several weeks each year.

Think of phases one and two as tools you can use to feel better. Once you have completed all three phases (ninety days) feel free to use them how you see fit. You will get a feel for what works for you.

Energy-Restoration Diet Friendly Foods

It can often be difficult to avoid dwelling on the foods you can’t have when you’re on a diet. For that reason we’ve included this list of ordinary foods that you can have. Hopefully this list will help in meal planning and will encourage you to follow the diet.

Starches

  • Butternut squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams

Vegetables

  • All cooking greens, including collard greens, mustard greens, kale, chard, etc.
  • All salad greens, including all types of lettuce, spinach, arugula, etc.
  • All squashes, including zucchini, yellow squash, acorn, butternut, pumpkin, etc.
  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage (bok choy, red, napa, regular, etc.)
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Radishes
  • Turnips

Fruits

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Coconut
  • Cranberries
  • Dates
  • Grapefruits
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Nectarines
  • Olives
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapples
  • Plums
  • Pomegranates
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Nuts —Peanuts are not allowed during phase one.

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Macadamias
  • Walnuts

All Meats — Preferably buy unprocessed meats; however, if you choose to eat processed meats, like sausages or canned meats, be sure to check labels for gluten, MSG, or sugar. This does not include breaded meats.

  • All poultry—chicken, turkey, duck, etc.
  • All seafood
  • Beef
  • Bison
  • Pork
  • Venison

Fermented Foods

  • Kimchi
  • Olives
  • Pickle relish, pickled asparagus, onions, peppers, etc.
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut

Condiments

  • Canola oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Mustards that don’t have sugar added
  • Olive oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Vinegars—white and red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, etc.

Seasonings—Most individual seasonings are fine, except chili powder, paprika, and true peppers like crushed red pepper (not the pepper in your pepper shaker). Those particular spices are not allowed because they include vegetables from the nightshade family and can be slightly inflammatory in nature. Beware of seasoning packets or premade seasonings, which include many spices but don’t list all ingredients. These packets often contain MSG (to falsely lower their sodium content) or wheat (to thicken sauces).

  • Allspice
  • Basil
  • Caraway
  • Cilantro
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Garlic powder
  • Marjoram
  • Nutmeg
  • Onion powder
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Pepper
  • Rosemary
  • Salt
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric
  • And any other spice you want