Triathlete Overcomes Debilitating Inflammatory Disease with Primal Endurance

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

real_life_stories_stories-1-2I’d really like to share my story of success with readers because I feel that there are many who could benefit from hearing about alternatives to traditional Western medicine for things like: AS, OA, Reiters syndrome, Gout, RA, Psoriatic Arthritis and many more related conditions.

Lets begin my story a few years back in February 2013. I was a fairly accomplished 22 year old age group triathlete, paramedic student, hockey player, free-skier and all around decent athlete, in preparation for my second of many 70.3 (half Ironman) and full IM (Ironman) races. I had just finished a long bike/treadmill brick session (bike to run with no rest for those not familiar with the vernacular), that was consistent with the “black hole” training that the boys reference so often in Primal Endurance and on the Primal Endurance Podcast. I was eagerly anticipating the oven pizza, pasta bowl and chocolate milk that had become the ritual of post training “refueling,” and to be honest… real staples of my diet at the time, when I began to feel excruciating pain in my hips, back and knees.

2013 Before PicThis pain was unlike any post training soreness that I had ever experienced and I immediately rushed to the ER (being a paramedic in training at the time I knew the burden people place on the hospital system in Canada, so for me a trip to the ER was not to be taken lightly). The ER Doctor prescribed me a high dose NSAID and you guessed it…mitt-fulls of Percocet, which I happily gulped down to mitigate some of the pain. Fast track to two months from the incident: the pain did not subside. As a matter of fact, it worsened in my back to the point that I needed help ambulating and even using the washroom. Dozens of trips to my family doctor had resulted in many consultations, all of which pointed to an athletic injury, which I insisted was not possible.

My family doc finally came to her senses and ran a panel of blood work, primarily testing inflammatory markers, and sure enough discovered I had the HLA-B27 marker that signified a high probability I had a condition called Ankylosing Spondylitis. She immediately referred me to a Rheumatologist who prescribed me an even higher dose NSAID and told me to refrain from all contact sports, activities that place a significant load on the body, or heavy lifting of any sort (basically everything I lived for, including my future career as a paramedic).

Now skip ahead to early 2016. I am a 25 year old working paramedic with no athletic goals, a Michelin tire around my midsection from the “McDiet” that so many shift workers follow, and the medicine cabinet of a brittle 85 year old. I stumble upon a JRE Podcast featuring none other than Mark Sisson, who begins preaching these theories about how switching to a Primal lifestyle can significantly reduce symptoms of diseases and conditions, otherwise only treated using medication that produce a ton of adverse side effects. At first, I will be truly honest, I was a bit skeptical, but given the point I was at in life I would try just about anything to get back to the lifestyle I had prior to my diagnosis.

Within a month of beginning to adhere to The Primal Blueprint/Primal Endurance lifestyle (scrapping all bread, rice, pasta, refined carbs and sugars, and sticking to a diet rich in nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, meats/fish/foul nuts and seeds) the pain in my back disappeared, my knee went from the size of an orange back to normal, and the pain in my hips completely went away. I began to use the “180-age = target heart rate” for swimming, biking and running again, and found I was able to play hockey and ski again. I finally felt like I had the energy that a normal 25 year old should have.

A visit back to my Rheumatologist and chemistry panel confirmed that I had put my body into full remission of my Ankylosing Spondylitis. I was able to come off my medication and enjoy the lifestyle I was meant to live. I signed up for my first 70.3 since my diagnosis and hit a personal best in my local sprint triathlon, using all of the concepts taught in Primal Endurance (including Dr. Phil Maffetone’s theories, rest/recovery strategies, weight training, HIIT training, fat burning engine, etc.). I have more energy than ever and have been able to far surpass the physique that I once had as a “black hole” style athlete.

Thanks for taking the time to read my story and I really hope that those who are struggling with similar issues can find some inspiration from this.

Chris F.

triathlete ss


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35 thoughts on “Triathlete Overcomes Debilitating Inflammatory Disease with Primal Endurance”

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  1. Wow amazing story and what a quick recovery! Full remission is incredible. Congrats Chris!! Nice after pics!

    1. Isn’t it just amazing how rheumatologist a are just oblivious to leaky gut syndrome? The more I study, the more I truly believe almost all noninjury health problems come from the intestines

  2. This is such a great story Chris. Congratulations on your success.. It is so simple. Eat real food. So many other diseases including cancer can be cured just by changing our diets.

  3. Chris, awesome results!

    You are 25 years old and there is a long life path in front of you.

    The path you have chosen is a good one. So be smart and don’t venture off it!

    Grok on!

  4. Nice job on the recovery, keep it up! Sounds like you fell victim to what almost every SAD dieter is experiencing, inflammation.

  5. I’m going to say it again, like many other of these stories, this should be on every front page of every newspaper in the country.

  6. What a great story and come-back. Very similar to my story of being a tri athlete and being Dx with AS.

    When it happened to me there was no functional medicine or paleo or nutrient dense diet etc. I was tuned into the ‘no starch diet’ of Allan Ebringer. It was of little help since it didn’t recommend nutrient density, only lower carb like SCD.

    Only much more recently did I discover Paleo and its helped reverse my AS after 31 yrs of suffering via NSAIDs, DMARD drugs and bilateral hip replacement.

    I am happy for this young man stricken in his prime but able to fully recover and get his mojo back!

    His story should be shouted from the roof tops!

    Thanks for much for posting his life and recovery!!

  7. Congratulations, Chris, and thanks for sharing your story. My daughter has AS and I am concerned about the pain relievers she takes on a daily basis. I am sending her this article.

  8. Incredible recovery wow … and I’m jealous of those abs! Of course, you’re a little younger than my son and a couple of years older than my daughter, but still. 🙂

  9. Way to go! You took a chance with changing your diet and look at the amazing results!

  10. Love your story! I love to exercise and out of the blue my knees started killing me for the first time in my life. The doctor said I was too old to push myself (mid-40’s) and said stop doing squats. I went primal and nothing hurts anymore unless I fall of the wagon and eat junk. I am pretty much grain-free, gluten-free, sugar-free and love it!

    So sad so many people are living with pain!

  11. I’ve had ankylosing spondylitis for 12 years. It started when I was 19. I’m going to give this a try.

  12. I was diagnosed with AS in the 1970s, long before the link with diet was suspected. My spine has now fused into a solid mass of bone. It was like living strapped to a broomstick for forty years.

    Thank your lucky stars you escaped that fate. Stick with the program!

    For myself, since going LCHF I’m off the NSAIDs and living a normal, healthy and active life, but I’ll never be a triathlete :o)

  13. That is a fantastic turnaround, well done to you. I’m now an ex paramedic as I also have ankylosing spondylitis.

    I have been tinkering with paleo but always seem a little lost (maybe because I’m not a huge veg lover) but you have boosted my determination to get things in order.

    Well done again and good luck going forward.

  14. Hey Chris-
    I was also diagnosed with AS about 10 years ago and am in total remission due to diet alone. I was about your age when my symptoms first started (am 47 now) but it took 10 years to get a diagnosis. I stumbled upon the forum after my doc prescribed the same NSAID regimen you describe and started doing no-starch diet shortly thereafter as a way to avoid taking those meds. That diet has evolved over the years into a something pretty darn close to textbook primal. I’m thrilled for you and happy that Mark published your story and know that many other folks with ankylosing spondylitis will see this post and go down that amazing rabbit hole of self-experimentation and possible cure.

    One piece of unsolicited advice for you: if you happen to get a bad flare (sudden onset of symptoms) one of these days I’ve found fasting is the best way to get over them.

    The Primal Diet is probably the best possible diet for AS in my opinion. Best of luck to you!

    1. How long did it take to work for you ? You follow a no starch diet or a low carb diet ? Have a nice day

  15. Great story Chris. I am amazed about how many folks actually have AS. This posting today can help a lot of other people out there that are suffering.

    I have always thought that some of the best success stories have nothing to do with weight. The nasty SAD diet has damaged almost everyone in some form or another.

    1. Thanks for the post Chris.
      Not many people are aware of AS, and this type of dialogue will help tremendously. As has been said before, the role of diet is essentially ignored by mainstream rheumatologists.

      To reply to Nocona, incidence of AS is estimated to be quite common, actually almost 1 in 100 last I checked. CW docs will tell you its “under diagnosed” due to the vague nature of the symptoms (who doesn’t have back pain?). Now that drug companies are taking an interest thanks to blockbuster anti-TNF drugs like Humira (world’s best selling drug at $13 billion last year!) and Enbrel, there’s been a little more light shed on it in order to attract customers.
      I’ve been diagnosed with AS since I was 19 (now 24), while pursuing my degree in nursing, and had a very similar story to Chris (other than the endurance athlete thing). Since following an ~80/20 primal diet for almost a year, i haven’t taken the medication my rheumatologist prescribed since January! I got into primal accidentally as a way to help improve my strength training regimen, but discovered its anti-inflammatory effects by accident and I’m loving it!

  16. Fantastic story, Chris!

    I’ll be passing it along to a handful of clients recovering from exactly the sort of “black hole” training you describe…and the debilitating toll it took on their bodies and minds.

    Thanks for offering a success story and inspiration!

  17. Congrats Chris. I was also diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis back in 2000 (40 years old) and was also prescribed drugs from my Rheumatologist. I did not like taking the medication but they allowed me to function in life. I worked really hard to find a way to get off the medication by playing with my diet. First I tried eliminating wheat and dairy, then switching to a vegan diet, the went raw. All of these methods helped but I was losing muscle size and strength not eating meat. I added meat and my strength and muscle size increased. After 10 years of N+1 testing various diets I was able to stop taking my medication. My Rheumatologist did not believe I had reversed my condition using diet and even said I would be back on the meds in two years but it has been six years and no symptoms. I follow a primal/whole food lifestyle which is the key to keeping the inflammation under control. For the last two years I was ate a low carb diet even to the point of reaching ketogenic but recently started adding in more grain free carbs (sweet potatoes and berries) to bring my daily carbs between 100 and 150 grams. Still feeling great and have more energy with the added carbs and no increase in inflammation. Keep up the great work!

  18. Great Story! Why is it so hard for so many doctors to believe that if you give the body what it needs and refrain from poisoning it with the SAD it can fix itself? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

  19. To add to the picture forming, I’m another (female) ex-triathlete diagnosed with AS 5 years ago. A low starch version of primal (minus most nuts seeds dairy) works for me along with low dose naltrexone. Well done Chris!

  20. Great story Chris! It’s crazy that more research on the medical benefits of diet isn’t being done when time and time again we’re hearing such positive stories of how diet is helping where drugs aren’t.

  21. Right on Chris! I put AS into full remission about a year and a half ago. At times I couldn’t walk, now I am climbing mountains and thriving!

  22. Awesome, Chris! Love reading endurance athlete success stories on MDA. In addition to eating like a Grokette, I, too, follow the Maffetone method now as a way to incorporate primal recommendations in endurance training. You hit the jackpot finding this site to help you get better and carry on primaly enjoying your sport.

  23. I was diagnosed with AS eight years ago. I first started having symptoms in my 20’s (now 50) but was mis-diagnosed for years. I have followed a no-starch/primal diet off and on for 8 years. I like to fool myself into thinking I really don’t have AS. I start eating SAD and the symptoms come back with a vengeance. I water fast for at least 4 days to put myself back in remission(vicious cycle). One of these days I’ll smarten up.

  24. Interestingly, I tested positive to HLA-B27 a few years ago after being frustrated with inflammation and excessive DOMS. Similar to this guy, my inflammation has been significantly reduced since following the Primal diet (2 years in January!) and I’ve done PB’s in two half marathons. Furthermore, I’ve maintained the weight loss that occurred in the first couple of months. I can’t recommend the Primal lifestyle highly enough.