I often hear people say to me, “well that’s easy for you because you are just so healthy, disciplined, and in shape.” What most don’t realize is that I absolutely know what it’s like to feel miserable daily, unhealthy, and sick. Here’s my story and how I started the FreeDiet™.
I was sick a lot when I was a child. You would think otherwise since my father was a medical doctor and my mother was a nurse. Of course, we had plenty of medication available for us, six kids. That’s right; my mom had 6 children within 8 years, so it was pretty crazy around our house.
I remember having a constant stuffy nose and sore throats. After multiple rounds of antibiotics and allergy medication, I had to have my adenoids surgically removed at age 7. And that was just the beginning.
I had rosacea, and the other kids in school would make fun of my red, blotchy face. I had bumps on the back of my arms, also known as chicken skin. I had frequent canker sores, nosebleeds, OCD, dandruff, athlete’s foot, acne, warts on my hands, feet, and even my face.
I went to so many different doctors, who all knew my father. I used to go to the podiatrist at age 13 on a weekly basis to have this huge plantar wart scraped, cut, and gouged out of my heel. In between visits, I would put this stinging acid on the wart, which was the size of a quarter.
This went on for months, and the wart still didn’t clear up. Usually each time in his office, I would wait well over an hour before he would even see me. Then I would have to limp home for 3 miles after I was done getting tortured.
I had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Every day before school, I would be on the toilet for what seemed like an eternity; having four or five bowel movements before 8 o’clock. I would then have to run that mile all the way to school just to make it on time. There were many days I would arrive late to class.
As a teenager, I was very small, and I was the shortest boy in eighth grade. I remember at age 13, entering high school at 4’11” and 98 pounds. And I didn’t start growing facial hair until my senior year.
I was too short to make the high school basketball team, my number one love, and too small to even try out for football. So, I joined the track team. I soon suffered from many sports-related injuries. At various times, I had neck pain, mid and lower back pain, sprained ankles, sprained wrists, chest/sternum/rib pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, knee pain, shin splints, and plantar fasciitis.
I would often be in the trainer’s room. The only treatments were whirlpools and tape; that thick, white, sticky tape. I had most every body part taped at one time or another, which did not help at all.
My mom thought she was feeding us a healthy diet, but we had our regular daily dose of Ring Dings, Devil Dogs, Suzy Q’s, Hostess Cup Cakes, Chips Ahoy cookies, Oreo’s, and so on. Drinking water was not very popular so I drank juice, Kool-Aid, juice drinks, and 1-2 quarts of milk daily.
Being Italian, we had plenty of pasta, bread, and cheese. And in following the popular convenience foods and health guidelines of the day, we used margarine instead of butter; soy, corn, and safflower oil instead of olive oil; and Egg Beaters instead of fresh eggs.
I also fondly remember the squirt cheese from a can, powdered milk, Carnation instant breakfast, Pop-Tarts, TV dinners, and chicken pot pies. Campbell’s and Lipton’s soup replaced any sign of fresh, homemade soup.
At 16, my father sent me to an orthopedist for my low back pain. After my mom and I waited over two hours with a sea of other patients, the doctor went over my x-rays. I remember crying as I saw that my spine was curved and that one of my legs was shorter than the other.
With each injury, I had to take more time off from track practice which kept me from reaching my lofty aspirations; like competing in the Olympics and setting 3 world records.
Just before my senior year, my coach was told by a university coach and two college standouts that I had the most potential of anyone on the team. As a result, I was proudly given my own personal gym locker at the start of the season. Well, due to all my injuries that followed, I was soon having to share my locker with an underclassman; yes, jockstrap and all. That was a sad day.
Later in my senior year, my dad sent me to another orthopedist for my knee injury. He was young, personable, and specialized in sports medicine. Now that’s what I was searching for. He said I had runner’s knee, and that he would be back in a minute. He returned to the exam room with a cortisone-filled syringe and needle that seemed 6 inches long.
After seeing the look of fright on my face, he must have had a change in heart. He said, “on second thought, maybe we’ll hold off on the shot for now.” I was so relieved. So he gave me a prescription for some custom orthotics (arch supports) and anti-inflammatory medications.
The medication didn’t help at all, so I went to be fitted for the orthotics. They ended up being this rock-hard cork material a half-inch thick. And the left one was even thicker due to my shorter leg.
The orthotics were so painful in my shoes. I just couldn’t bear it. I brought them to college to give it another go, but they seemed impossible to run or even walk with. Let’s just say they became very expensive doorstops in my dorm room.
Around this time, my father, who practiced internal medicine, ran a blood test due to all my joint pain. It came back that I had elevated uric acid. He said I had gout, which is an inflammatory arthritis caused by excess uric acid crystals that deposit in the joints. He then gave me a prescription for a medication called Allopurinol. I was shocked. How could I have gout when all my injuries were from sports? Well, my father had gout so that could have a lot to do with it, I thought.
There was no internet in those days, but fortunately, there was a package insert which I read thoroughly. Not willing to risk kidney disease or liver damage and a host of other side effects, I threw the bottle away. After doing more research in the library, I changed my diet and my uric acid levels soon went to normal. I was encouraged that I was able to heal my condition without medication.
That did not stop all the injuries though. In my freshman year at Rutgers University, I joined the track team and again was having pain in both my knees. So at the coach’s recommendation, I went to the team’s athletic trainer who had treated a lot of knee injuries. He put an ointment on my knees, wrapped them in ace bandages with that infamous thick white tape, and sent me on my way.
Halfway into the 3-mile run back to my dorm, my knees began heating up. They kept getting hotter and hotter until it felt like there were flames shooting from my knees. I abruptly stopped and tore off the bandages in the middle of the sidewalk, searching for a bucket of ice to put out the “fire”.
I thought, doesn’t anyone know what they’re doing? How hard is it to find someone to help me with a simple knee injury or any of my other prior injuries for that matter?
Over the following days, my knees continued to worsen and got so bad it prevented me from running at all. That’s the first time in years that I was not able to run for an extended period of time. I was forced to drop off the team as my future for being able to compete at all seemed bleak. I was in constant pain and became very depressed, as I had a lifelong dream of competing in the Olympics.
Something positive that evolved from all of this suffering was that I became deeply interested in what was causing all of these symptoms and injuries I kept having. Even as far back as 12 years old, I was reading everything I could find on nutrition and health after I went with my mom to this new thing called a health food store.
In high school, I also became deeply fascinated with sports injuries and how to prevent and treat them. I would read everything I could find on the subject and test things out on myself. What if I could help other kids prevent all the suffering and misery I was going through?
So I decided to study exercise physiology and nutrition in college. I wanted to go into sports medicine. I didn’t want to be a medical doctor though after seeing what my father went through.
He said going through medical school and residency was very dehumanizing. That’s where he began his overeating, smoking cigarettes, and drinking tons of coffee. He entered medical school as a fit and healthy competitive swimmer. He came out being overweight, a chain-smoker, and having to live on coffee to get through the endless days and nights.
As a kid, I would see him making rounds at the hospital at night, on weekends, and getting calls in the middle of the night. Over the years, he became morbidly obese, an alcoholic, and was taking over a dozen different medications on a daily basis just to get by. It was very painful seeing this great man being gradually destroyed by his own profession.
In later years I realized he was an MD, a Doctor of Medicine not a doctor of health. That’s what I would be, a Doctor of Health; a doctor that specializes in getting others (and myself) healthy.
In my freshman year, I decided that I could get into sports medicine by being an exercise physiologist. But, after spending two years working and doing research in the physiology lab, I decided I was best suited for helping people directly by being a physician.
During this time, I had researched a number of methods to help my knees get better and was able to start running again. I was very encouraged that I was able to help myself when none of the medical specialists could.
Then at the start of my senior year in college, I injured my neck lifting weights. I went to many doctors and all I got was anti-inflammatory meds and muscle relaxers. As a result, I was tired all the time, falling asleep in class, and had difficulty concentrating. My neck pain wasn’t going away and I was miserable.
When I went home at Thanksgiving, my mother, who was since divorced, brought me to her chiropractor. A chiropractor, I thought? What was that? I didn’t know anything about them other than the negative comments from one of my college professors.
Well, I thought I’d give it a try since I was in so much pain, and he helped my mother. After two treatments, I was dramatically improved. For the first time in two months, I could actually turn my head. This was amazing, I thought.
I told Dr. Brian (first name) that I was very interested in sports medicine and nutrition and wanted to help others in those areas. So I told him I was going to apply to medical schools.
He said to me, “if you want to treat patients with drugs and surgery then go to medical school. But if you want to help others get better with natural methods and without drugs and surgery, then you should go to chiropractic school. Now, you won’t have the prestige of being a medical doctor but you will be able to help a lot of patients.”
I didn’t know what to do at this point so after graduating college, I got a job at Rutgers medical school doing research in the department of physiology. There, I got to meet a lot of the medical students and see what they were going through. And I spoke with many of the professors. After much soul searching, I decided to apply to Chiropractic College instead, which I started the following fall.
When I was in chiropractic school, my physical problems continued as I was in two car accidents. I had neck pain with numbness and tingling into my arm and low back pain that would go into my left leg. Even with a lot of treatment, my pain persisted.
So I continued studying nutrition extensively, trying out different things, and taking numerous seminars on the latest treatment techniques. I finally came up with a combination that worked and started feeling better.
When I began my professional practice at age 26, I remember having daily stomach pain, gas, bloating, and loose stools. My abdomen would hurt each and every day.
Whole-grain bread was popular at the time and I remember buying a bread maker. I would bake my own bread and the ingredients called for adding a packet of yeast and 1 teaspoon of gluten in every recipe, on top of the gluten that was already in the wheat flour. Little did I know that I was slowly killing myself.
I kept studying, going to nutrition and functional medicine seminars, and using these methods on myself and my patients. I did numerous tests on myself and found out I had parasites and yeast overgrowth.
I tried dozens of remedies to clear it up and even went to a medical doctor who gave me a prescription for two different drugs. Still no better and each test showed the parasites were still there.
Besides the daily abdominal pain, gas, and bloating, I was tired all the time, had chronic back pain, brain fog, athlete’s foot, itchy ears, white spots all over my back and shoulders, chicken skin on my arms, and also came down with prostatitis.
I ran food allergy and sensitivity testing on myself and found out I had multiple food sensitivities, including wheat, oats, legumes, yeast, and milk. I went on an elimination diet and began feeling better. After trying dozens of products, I finally came across a natural parasite remedy that worked.
After years of suffering, my stomach pain cleared up and my energy improved. I continued to use the things I learned for my patients and was helping a lot of people get better.
Besides continuing my education with nutrition and functional medicine, I started learning about this new soft tissue technique called Active Release. I was using this extensively in my practice and got amazing results. Pretty soon I was attracting athletes from all over the state and even other countries.
One day there was a carload of college baseball players that drove over 4 hours to see me. I treated each one of them for their various injuries, and then they drove 4 hours back to college the same day. They were so thrilled with the results of their performance.
I remember a high school baseball player came to see me with a nerve condition called ulnar neuropathy in his throwing arm. After all the specialists he had seen, medications, and therapy, his only recourse was surgery to move the nerve to the other side of his elbow. They said this was his only option as it was confirmed by nerve testing, and he would have permanent nerve damage and muscle wasting if the surgery was not done soon.
He was devastated as this was the start of his senior year and he would have to miss the entire season. He and his parents had been looking forward to a great season with college scholarship offers at the end.
After I treated him for 4 weeks his condition cleared up and he was able to start his season on time. He was so happy and went on to play four years of college ball.
I was on top of the world being able to help so many people with their injuries and health conditions, especially young athletes. After all that I went through, it was so rewarding to be able to provide health solutions to so many where traditional medical care had failed.
Maybe I never made it to the Olympics or set world records due to all my injuries. But I realized a greater reward was being able to help others achieve their dreams.
Then one Friday afternoon in 2005 when I was working at my computer, I started getting numbness and tingling in my right hand. What was going on? This wasn’t supposed to happen to me.
I got treatment after treatment and it still persisted. Then I went to a neurologist where I got EMG and nerve conduction studies. The test consisted of sending an electric current through various points on my neck and arms. It was excruciating, and I felt like I was being tortured. The technician apparently used too much current.
The neurologist said the test confirmed I had mild carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand. However, after the test that had all that electric current surging through my nerves, I was left with daily numbness and tingling in both my arms and legs.
This is crazy I thought. How can this happen? I thought it would go away after a few days but it persisted.
I continued to get treatment including chiropractic care, muscle work, and physical therapy but was not getting better. MRI’s revealed herniated discs in my neck and low back. I was in constant pain and became depressed.
The numbness and tingling in my hands and feet were unrelenting. The muscles in my hands were atrophying and became very weak. It was even difficult holding my six-month-old daughter. I was unable to exercise much at all and lost 10 pounds of muscle.
I went to one doctor after another without any improvement. The neurologist recommended medications and surgery. Both of which I turned down. After 2 years I had to stop treating patients. I was devastated.
I could not let this stop me, however. I hired a chiropractor to treat my patients, but I was able to still do the evaluations and consult with patients. It allowed me to spend more time doing nutritional assessments and functional medicine.
I also poured into the research as to why this was happening to me. I read everything I could on peripheral neuropathy and nerve disorders. I did a lot more testing on myself and found some interesting things.
First I was very deficient in vitamin D. I was shocked! I lived in Florida, the Sunshine State. I went to the beach on average of once a week. How was this possible?
I ran other lab tests which revealed I had hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Both of these are considered an autoimmune disease.
I also found out I had:
-Low levels of B12
-Blastocystis hominis, which is a parasite
-High levels of Mercury
-High levels of Arsenic
-Low levels of digestive enzymes
-Multiple food sensitivities, including wheat, legumes, dairy, yeast, and gluten.
I discovered that each of the above could contribute to the symptoms I was having. Put them all together and no wonder I was feeling miserable.
I came up with a game plan. Since I found out that gluten sensitivity in and of itself can cause peripheral neuropathy, I would start there.
I had been eating mostly gluten-free but not 100 percent. I also still ate plenty of grains, mostly rice, millet, and corn. And the gluten-free products I was eating were loaded with these, not to mention yeast.
When I went completely gluten-free, things improved somewhat but not long-lasting. Then I cut out all grains, yeast, sugar, dairy, eggs, corn, legumes and continued to improve. This is what I now call the FreeDiet™, for one reason because it is free of the most common food allergens.
I had tried various combinations of many different nutritional supplements before, but I finally came up with a combination that worked along with the diet. Over the following weeks and months, I was feeling better and better. My thyroid and rheumatoid antibodies went down to normal and have stayed that way for over 5 years.
The following things cleared up:
-Neck and back pain gone
-Carpal tunnel syndrome better
-Peripheral neuropathy in my arms and legs resolved
-Focus and concentration improved, the “brain fog” lifted
-Hashimoto’s thyroiditis resolved, my antibodies went down to normal
-Rheumatoid antibodies decreased to normal
-I gained 10 pounds of muscle as I was able to resume my workouts
-Chicken skin on my arms that I had since childhood cleared up
-Athlete’s foot gone
-Prostatitis cleared up
-Abdominal pain was better
-Bloating, gas, and diarrhea cleared up
-Fatigue was gone, was no longer depressed, and I had way more energy.
The best part was that I finally started responding to the treatments I was receiving and the numbness and tingling went away. Finally, after five years of not being able to perform any manual therapy, I was thrilled when I was able to physically treat patients again.
I wanted to use the information I had learned to raise my practice to a whole new level. Instead of treating the droves of athletes, I started seeing more and more patients with complex health issues including disease.
Patients would come in with 20, 30, or 40 different symptoms, and they would be absolutely miserable. But I was able to help them get better. I applied the knowledge that I had learned from helping so many prior patients with the tools I had used to help myself get better against all odds.
I started seeing certain patterns over and over again which were very similar to the issues that I had. The individualized treatment programs I would recommend also started to have similar patterns, and I have evolved it over the years to get the best results.
As I became free of all my symptoms and have helped so many others, the program name I came up with was the FreeDiet™. Because with it, you can become free of pain, fatigue, fogginess, and fat. You can free yourself of misery and feel young again.
I realized that gluten-free diets don’t work. What does work is an initial diet free of the most common allergens including gluten, grains, corn, sugar, yeast, dairy, eggs, soy, legumes, and GMO’s. Of course, that is too long of a title so what sounded great was the FreeDiet™.
A diet Free of toxic foods so you can become Free of your pain and misery.
I realized over the past 30+ years, I have spent a total of more than $1 million for college, graduate school, continuing education courses, trying out over 1000 different supplements to see which works best, doing thousands of hours of research, and ordering hundreds of lab tests on myself.
I have applied this knowledge in seeing more than 100,000 patient visits over the last three decades and interpreted thousands of lab tests; tweaking and improving my treatment protocols as I went along to help the most number of people.
I am also constantly applying these health principles to my own life as I too would like to stay looking and feeling young, and enjoy vibrant health. I see myself as a good role model for others, to give them hope, to show them yes it can be done, you can get better.
I have included much of this information in the FreeDiet™ book and program for you. You can take advantage of all the knowledge I’ve used to help myself and thousands of patients and you can apply it to your life. If you do, I believe you will start to be Free of your pain and chronic health conditions and live a healthy, free and vibrant life.
Are you free of the parasite Blastocystis hominis?
Dr. Tom Rofrano
Yes, for many years.
Do you treat people for mental illnesses?
Dr. Tom Rofrano
Many of the new patients we see have anxiety, depression, brain fog, and fatigue.
I just ordered your book today. I just made a batch of homemade sauerkraut with Himalayan salt. Then I looked at your list and it said I can eat cooked cabbage but didn’t mention fermented cabbage. Is it allowed? Thanks! Looking forward to your book and becoming healthy!
Dr. Tom Rofrano
Hi Pam, I have fermented foods in the avoid section of the FreeDiet initially and reintroduce them in phase 3.
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Content on this website is based upon the opinions of Thomas Rofrano, D.C. and is not considered medical advice. It is designed to be a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Rofrano and his community. Dr. Rofrano encourages you to make your health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional. Dr. Rofrano is a chiropractic physician and offers physical and nutritional support and guidance to those seeking alternative or complementary care to traditional medicine. His care is not meant to replace that from your primary doctor and specialists but rather to help you on your path to achieving life-long vibrant health.
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