My name is Dr. Joe Tsai. (Pronounced “chai”, like the tea.) I like to think of myself as a regular guy. I love the outdoors. I like to work out. I enjoy trying new foods and meeting new people. I cherish time spent with my wife and daughter and our little menagerie of pets. I like to dive into household projects, even though most of the time I come bobbing back to the surface like I just tangled with a great white. I guess you could say I’m just your ordinary Joe. Except that I’m not. Not anymore.

Stumbling Out of the Starting Blocks

pittsburgh weight loss

My parents did their absolute best to feed us not only good food, but food that tasted good as well. My mom was a whiz in the kitchen and could conjure up a great tasting meal out of whatever ingredients we had on hand. If Ted Allen could have witnessed my mom at work in the kitchen, he would have declared her Chopped Champion on the spot. My dad could hold his own in the kitchen as well. His simple Asian family dishes (peasant food, he called them) may have had humble roots, but they tasted like royalty. When I think back on my childhood meals, these are the staples that fill my mind’s eye. And then I pan back.

primal health coachYou see, as well as my parents did, the fact remained that I had a few things working against me.  First, I was the youngest of 6 kids raised on a middle class income. So although the day was punctuated by a nice meal around the dinner table, it was also sprinkled with plenty of processed foods, cereals, grains, sweeteners, sugary beverages, and the like. You know, tasty stuff that by necessity could be gotten on the cheap and stretched to its limits. Not that I was complaining.  As a kid I loved this stuff. I couldn’t get enough of it. Actual meals were just pesky rituals that interrupted my snacking.

Which brings me to the second issue. Food to me was just good tasting stuff that I ate. I, like most kids growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, had no concept of food as fuel or as raw materials that could be used to my advantage. I think most families thought that if they were eating in tune to the government guidelines they were doing just about as well as they could. Me? I never gave it a second thought until later in life. And that was the problem. As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Then middle school happened and the effects of my eating habits emerged in full bloom.

The Skin It Is a Changin’

Middle school brought about a lot of change. There were new activities and sports to explore. New students to get acquainted with. A whole new world of responsibility. And a skin complexion that seemed to have it in for me. Acne hit me and it hit me hard. It rained blow after blow on me and wouldn’t let me off the ropes. Not that I didn’t try to fight back. I armed myself with as much epidermal ammo as I could get my hands on.  Soaps, face washes, scrubs, peels, masks, cleaning cloths, loofas, and enough facial clay to build an adobe hut. You would have been forgiven if you mistook my teenage bathroom for a day spa supply house.  And yet the acne persisted.

A Hard Pill to Swallow

I’ll never forget the day I discovered antibiotics. There I was, waiting my turn for the water fountain behind my friend Eric. He popped a capsule into his mouth and took a swig.

“What was that?” I asked him, not really thinking much of it.

“A pill.”

Oh-kay. That much I got.

“For what?”

“For my skin,” he said.

But wait…his skin was great.  And then my tortured teenage mind made the connection. But wait…His skin was great!  That’s it! If this pill could give you clear skin, then I had to have it.  And thus began my initiation to the smoke and mirror club that we call the US health care system.

Primal Health Coach

My dermatologist visits went something like this: Doctor sees kid with acne. Doctor writes prescription for antibiotic. Doctor sends kid on his way. Again and again this scene played out. Same scenario, different drug. Amoxicillin, Tetracycline, Erythromycin, and other –cyclines and –ycins that escape my memory. If the dermatologist’s office were a casino, I would have been comped the penthouse suite and all the prime rib I could eat. And still the acne persisted.

I remember asking the doctor if my diet had anything to do with the condition of my skin. Not that I prescribed to the Eating Chocolate Gives You Acne theory, but I knew the drugs weren’t working, so I thought it only made sense to go another direction. The question was met with the slightest of pauses as he looked up from his prescription pad. “No.” Scribble, scribble, rip. “Remember not to take those with dairy.”  And on the cycle went.

A Gut Feeling

You know what finally cured my teenage acne?  My twenties. Don’t get me wrong.  The pimples were still there. I was just no longer a teenager.

But my twenties also marked a turning point in my life that would eventually set me on a path of renewal and reward. For most of my high school career, I thought I was going to be an engineer. I excelled at math and science and thought that engineering would be a natural fit for me.  A year into Penn State’s engineering program taught me otherwise. I still enjoy math to this day, but on my own terms. I like habanero peppers as well. Just don’t ask me to eat them all day every day. It was time to change directions.

Except that it was really more of an realignment with my values than it was a change of course. You see, besides geeking out on the sciences, my other passion was fitness and physical activity. I have always enjoyed being active and I liked the way movement and exercise made me feel, so I guess it was inevitable that I end up working in the realm of holistic health in some capacity. Chiropractic was a natural fit. As I worked through my studies, I began to appreciate more than ever the true impact of nutrition and lifestyle habits on one’s overall health and well-being.

And all this time I was trying to solve what I discovered to be a lifestyle induced problem by taking a drug. Not only were the antibiotics ineffective in treating my acne, but they also exacted a tremendous toll on my gut, which of course further aggravated my skin. You might say I was a bit slow on the uptake, but bear in mind that gut health had not yet gained the prominence that it enjoys today. When your gut is as abused as mine was, it is no small task to get it back to a healthy balance. But when I finally did, guess what happened? You got it – no more acne. Who would have thought…all the research, the money, the fancy drugs, the prestige…all trumped by simple food. And you know what? The benefits didn’t stop with my skin. My energy, my physical performance, my mood, my outlook…you name it, it improved.

This was a big turning point for me. This is why you’re reading this today. You know that feeling you get when something happens to you that is so great you just have to share it with everyone? My process of self discovery ultimately resulted in that feeling, and it remains with me to this day. That’s what compels me to share this information with you. That’s what drives me to help you be your best.

Who Wants to Be Average?

It’s no fun being average. Average is bland. Average is boring. And in America, average can be downright deadly. If you’re the average American you have a 1 in 4 chance of dying of heart disease. You have a 38% chance of getting cancer. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese and suffer with the complications (physical or otherwise) that come part and parcel with it.

Primal Health CoachBy definition, the average accounts for the entire scale. The lows, the highs, and everything in between. When it comes to your health and well-being, and ultimately your sense of happiness and fulfillment, wouldn’t you rather be living at the high end of the spectrum?

My passion is helping the average Joe and Jane reach their greatest potential. If you’re ready for some positive change, get in touch and we’ll discuss our coaching options. If you’re not yet ready to commit, follow along with my blog or like us on Facebook.

Whether you choose to coach with me or not, I’m honored that you’ve chosen to connect. Let’s work together to raise the average!


Be Your Best!

Primal Health Coach

Joe Tsai, D.C, PHC
Joe Tsai, D.C, PHC

Dr. Joe Tsai is a chiropractor and health coach dedicated to helping you live up to your maximum potential. You can contact him directly at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.