How Wild Salmon Healed My Back Pain

524048_10100150450333455_783582677_nA few years back, Tracy and I were living in El Salvador, working on a research project to measure the impact of the TOMS shoe donations. An amazing opportunity on all fronts: we were working with poor communities, helping the mission of a good company, managing a large-scale cross-country research project, and still had time for surfing three days a week!

Surfing became my religion. I nearly died several times at El Tunco, only to be reborn with a greater appreciation for life, and a passion to go bigger every time. Half way through the year my core strength was unreal. I felt like I was 16 again and my body was strong, balanced, and light. Then it happened.


Tracy and I were on a long distance trip from El Salvador, to 521419_520236178708_889513886_nGuatemala, to Belize, then back to Guatemala and El Salvador. We called them forced vacations because we were living in El Salvador on 90-day tourist visas, and had to leave the country to renew our visas every 90 days. After 4 days of busses and taxis, we were riding through the Guatemala country-side in a “chicken van” crammed with people. My knees were up near my chest as we bumped along, cramming more people into the van.

Then out of nowhere, someone slid a knife into my lower back. Wait, sorry, stereotypical fears of traveling abroad. It felt like someone stabbed me in the lower back. I couldn’t breath. Every time I tried to take a breath, a sharp pain crept from my lower back, up my spine, and resonated around my lungs. I’d never felt a pain like that before.

Fast forward a week, I’m in the doctor’s office – one of the top back specialists in El Salvador for what it was worth. The pain had eventually reduced to a dullness, the Dr. specialist tells me he can ‘cure’ with a shot of cortisone. I politely refuse, knowing that was not a cure but just a temporary band-aid – at best.

Fast forward a year, we’re back in California and my back pain has turned into chronic inflammation. MRI results showed a slight herniation in the disc of my spine. I was shocked. How could I have been surfing at my peak one day, to feeling paralyzed and helpless the next. Well there turned out to be some structural alignment issues that I later learned how to correct (perhaps a topic for another blog post). The inflammation in my back was enemy number one. I couldn’t sit, bend over, exercise, or even sleep for long periods of time. That’s when we started to research foods that help reduce inflammation. And there’s no better way than Omega-3 fatty acids.DSCN8308

All fats contain omega-3, 6, and 9 in different ratios. As it turns out, omega-6’s contribute to inflammation in the body and can lead to many different diseases, and to no surprise, the standard American diet is extremely high in omega-6’s.


Omega-3 Foods: Wild salmon, sardines, flax seeds, walnuts, grass-fed beef

Omega-6 Foods: All vegetable oils (and foods cooked in them)


558540_523134749948_1365892979_nThere’s a great article written by Chris Kresser, that dives into the importance of a healthy balanced omega-3:6 diet. Another good read by Robb Wolf explores supplementing with fish oil. Diving deeper and deeper into the world of food health I realized I had the power to cure myself almost entirely with the food
I was eating.

I immediately started eating wild salmon several times a week, cans of sardines with my lunch, and cooking my meals with coconut oil and grass-fed butter. Within a month of changing my diet, my inflammation was gone and I was back. For the first time in my life, I witnessed the power of food. Without taking a pill or following any conventional medical wisdom, I had healed my body on my own with food.



4 Responses

  1. Tim

    What a great, powerful story of the effectiveness of food in improving our health. I’ve been experiencing some similar pain in my lower back and will give the omega-3-heavy diet a try!

  2. Dan

    Remarkable story! I wish you much success in your wild merman salmon jerky. I love it on my long endurance bike rides and mountain hikes. I’m always sharing.

  3. BHW

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