Dear Mark: Fenugreek and HGH, Marathons and Strength Training, Gluten and Eczema, and Insect Nutrition

Today’s Monday Dear Mark question and answer post is a fun one. I look into whether a claim about fenugreek and human growth hormone by the great Dr. Mehmet Oz pans out (hint: he’s off, but not by much). Then, I discuss how to strength train as a marathon runner (hint: short and intense), after which I explore the nutritional content of edible insects. And finally, in light of my recent posts on inflammation, I cover the connection between eczema and gluten.

I watched the famous Dr. Oz. He recommended fenugreek tea as a way to naturally boost HGH levels. What say you?


Once in a while the Great and Powerful Oz does get it right…or at least close. On PubMed, I came up with a single corroborating (and I’m really stretching the normal, accepted definition of the word here) study. Researchers isolated and extracted several rat growth-hormone stimulating saponins from fenugreek seeds; later in vitro experiments confirmed that these saponins stimulated the release of various steroidal hormones from rat pituitary cells. So, there are a couple marks against this study: they were done on rats and they were in vitro (in a lab dish), rather than in vivo (real life situation).

But wait. All is not lost. An actual in vivo study conducted using real life, college-age human males found that a “purported aromatase and 5-? reductase inhibitor” supplement based on fenugreek extract increased testosterone and bioavailable testosterone levels while reducing body fat when compared to a placebo. Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that the “physiological aspects” of the male libido (drive, urge, and/or desire) were enhanced by a fenugreek extract. In particular, sexual desire and orgasm were improved by the supplement. Testosterone remained within reference range.

Fenugreek may or may not work for you, but I’d say it’s worth a shot. And if you’ve got a breastfeeding partner, it’ll help her with that, too.


Thank you for the two great posts on training and nutrition for marathons. Was wondering if you could do a part 3 or a brief response on a Monday Q&A post regarding strength training in a marathon training plan. i.e optimal exercises; low weight, high rep vs. high weight, low rep; etc.



If you’re training for marathons, road work will obviously comprise the bulk of your training. You’re going to have to put in the miles, as I mentioned in my posts (here and here), and that leaves you less time to devote to other, seemingly non-essential pursuits – like strength training.

But I’d argue that lower-rep, higher-intensity strength work is absolutely essential for everyone interested in wringing out every last drop of performance, especially endurance athletes:

1. An endurance athlete, by virtue of his or her endurance work, will already have bulging type 1 slow-twitch muscle fibers. That’s well-established. He or she doesn’t need to worry about maxing out slow twitch potential, because it’s most likely been realized. Putting in the strength work, on the other hand, will develop the fast-twitch fibers that can make the difference between finishing strong and finishing behind the other guy, or killing that scary steep hill halfway through the race or holding off a final surge by a competitor.

2. Most runners aren’t utilizing strength training. I still keep in touch with plenty of endurance athletes, and by and large they’re still doing the high-rep, super low weight isolation stuff on machines (leg extensions, tricep pulldowns, bicep curls) – if they even strength train at all. If you incorporate it, and incorporate it well (squats, deadlifts, pullups, full body compound lifts), you’ll likely have a big advantage over everyone else.

Because you have less time, intensity is key. You’re not going to accumulate significant amounts of volume alongside a hefty volume of road work without going crazy or burning out, so lift heavy, lift hard, and lift infrequently. Two sessions of heavy strength training per week is a perfect amount. Give yourself two or three days in between lifting days, and focus on one big lift each day – a lower body push (squat, lunge, leg press) one day and a lower body pull another (deadlift, Romanian deadlift, etc) another. Rotate in a few upper body exercises if you like – overhead presses and pullups on lower body pull day, rows and pushups/bench press on lower body push day – and you’ll be good to go. Keep the reps low and the weight heavy and focus on the lower body stuff. Those deadlifts and squats will get you strong where it counts. You can even do heavy singles, doubles, or triples – heavy alactic training a la Art De Vany. That’s three lifts each workout, which is very manageable. Another option entirely is to try the Body By Science routine, either using bodyweight, weights, or quality machines.

Whatever weight training regimen you choose, intensity is the tie that binds. Get in and get out of the gym quick, and make your time count. Does that help? Maybe at some point I’ll do a longer post on this, but that should suffice for now.

Oh, and be sure to check out That Paleo Guy’s series on endurance work and strength training. His focus is on cyclists, but he covers a few studies and explains in greater detail the importance of heavy strength training for endurance athletes in general.


Your book and work are great. I am hoping that you products are of the same standard as I am ordering some now. With that product in mind, the following question came to my mind …

It seems that we all agree that Grok and his family ate quite a few grubs, worms, and other insects “back in the day”. Not that we are going to start eating much of those, but I am curious whether anyone has done any work to determine WHAT NUTRITION those insects gave Grok and his family?

I am thinking that to be truly Primal, we need to consider adding some of those insect sourced nutrients back into our diets today from other more palatable sources?



Oh yes, people have done the work, and I was able to dig up a few sources. First is “Feeding Captive Insectivorous Animals: Nutritional Aspects of Insects as Food” (PDF) by a zoology group. Their purpose was to compile nutritional data for dozens of different bug species to make feeding complete, whole diets to insectivorous zoo animals easier and more science-based. Want to know the magnesium content of fruit fly larvae, blood worms, and pinhead crickets? This paper will tell you the protein, fat, carb, and mineral contents of over a dozen different insects.

Next, I found a “Concise summary of the general nutritional value of insects.” Contrary to the name, the paper doesn’t really give a concise summary, but it does give some good general info, and the list of references at the end contains the names of dozens of articles on the nutritional content of specific insects. There was some interesting information on chitin, the mineral-rich “fiber” of insect exoskeletons.

I also found a paper describing in lurid detail the nutritional value of fourteen species of edible insects in southwestern Nigeria (PDF), complete with handy tables. Another paper (PDF) describes the lipid values of some of those same insects, finding that the fat is generally more unsaturated than that of coconut, palm, and beef fats, but more saturated than fish fats. Most insects had more monounsaturated fats than polyunsaturated fats.

Overall, bugs are extremely high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. As is the case with things like eggs and shellfish, the advantage to eating insects is that you’re eating the whole animal, with all its interesting, nutrient-dense parts and bits that support an entire, living organism. You don’t have to eat bugs, but our ancestors certainly did, and plenty of modern and traditional cultures still do. If you’re interested, a good dish to start with are chapulines, which are crispy, spicy, limey crickets. Look for a Oaxacan restaurant in your area. They always seem to make ’em.

I have a question after reading your recent post on inflammation. My 6 year old son has chronic eczema. We’ve tried the full spectrum of sensitive skin products and allergy medicines, but nothing seems to kick the eczema. His legs are like sandpaper and he’s always asking for us to “tickle” his legs to relieve the itching. I’m beginning to think that it may be diet related. Although I’ve been following the paleo-primal lifestyle for about a year now  with great success, my wife has been reluctant. She’s of the mindset that “anything in moderation” is fine. Is there any correlation between eczema and gluten sensitivity?


There is absolutely a connection between eczema and gluten sensitivity. Celiacs are about three times more likely than the general population to have it, and even the CNN blog ran a piece on how often eczema occurs among celiacs and others sensitive to gluten! Removing gluten may help, but it’s not the whole story, because eczema, the most common type of which is atopic dermatitis, is essentially an autoimmune condition. And since we know that autoimmunity is usually preceded by intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, eczema as severe as your son’s could require more “drastic” measures to improve. You might have to eliminate all potential causes of leaky gut. Stress can worsen or even cause eczema, but I doubt a six year old is stressing over bills or the morning commute, so I’d focus on diet.

Luckily, we have a decent grasp on how to do such a thing: remove the wheat, dairy, legumes, grains, and vegetable oils from your son’s diet. In other words, try a strict Primal Blueprint plan for at least a month and I bet you’ll see some of your son’s eczema resolve, or at least improve. It’s worth a try, and it’ll be a direct test of the “anything in moderation” hypothesis. Let me know if things improve. Good luck!

That’s it for this week, folks. Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave a comment!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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100 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Fenugreek and HGH, Marathons and Strength Training, Gluten and Eczema, and Insect Nutrition”

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  1. I’ve seen fenugreek being marketed here in the UK at Holland & Barrett as a male fertility booster; I think that special properties aside, in general, spices – including fenugreek – are a good thing to include as they have plenty of antioxidants.

    I never had chronic eczema, but my skin used to go nuts before I went primal. I used to get irritation from sea water, various cosmetic products, in the winter my hands would get really cracked (the nasty fairy detergent that gets on my hands while you do the dishes didn’t help the situation either)I must say that since I went primal, my skin-hydration issues dissappeared. I still use hand cream, but because I like it and it makes a hand massage much more pleasurable, rather than needing it for cracked hands. My skin glows especially when I drink bone broth, and eat oysters! I haven’t had much irritation since I went Primal.

      1. I had the same experience. I thought my skin had a mind of it’s own, but since I’ve gone primal everything seems to have smoothed out. Even my hair and nails have strengthened! I still use some Clinique products, as it seems to help with my acne, but I’m OK with that!

        1. Milla and Caleigh,

          This is good to hear. Were you going strict (no dairy?) …no butter? Wondering how far I need to go!

      1. I would never ever give a boy with an autoimmune condition a cacao, chocolate, oranges, strawberries, any spicy food, smoked meat or fish, ketchup or tomato-based souse. Eggs and strong broths could be a problem.I have an eczema all my life, as my son and husband. I know what I am talking about. LC diet made all things better, eczema 75% better, asthma 100%. What the hell is being an antioxidant do with a diet that suppose to dial with an autoimmune condition? Cocoa is one is worst things to have, it is better to avoid a chocolate as well. For adults with an eczema alcohol is very problematic.

    1. I’ve noticed in the 2 years I’ve been mostly primal that (1) my skin doesn’t dry out in the Winter, and it gets cold in these here parts, with lots of dry inside heat, (2) my rosacea has gone from moderate to mild, and, (3) my adult acne has gone away completely. I also stopped using any kind of soap or cosmetics on my face, which may also have contributed, along with using milder shampoos and conditioner.

      20 years of going to dermatologists off and on, and not once did any of them suggest that either a change in diet or cutting out harsh cosmetics to treat acne and rosacea – instead, they prescribed me chemicals and antibiotics.

  2. Hi Stuart,

    You might want to check out the GAPS Diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet). It has some overlap with a primal diet, and focuses on HEALING the gut, which can resolve auto-immune issues. There are quite a few testimonials regarding its ability to heal conditions such as eczema.


    1. My daughter’s eczema is gone due to GAPS, in addition to most of my food allergies.

    2. GAPS, tons of fermented food, and VSL#3 probiotics, actually.

    3. My son has been on Gaps since May of last year. One of the first things to improve was his skin–he had eczema and a bad dermatitis behind his ear, which I had been treating with steroid creams off and on for years (ouch!). Cut all the creams, started Gaps, and now his skin is PERFECT.
      He also went through a major detox phase when he had the worse DOG breath and cradle cap. All that gone now too.

  3. LA primalite here, and i just ate a bag of chapulines for lunch on saturday! downtown, on 9th between stanford and central, there’s like a little street fair every saturday. totally nuts & unplanned, with tons of mexican food vendors. quality chapulines being sold by more than one friendly oaxacan!

    1. ahh thats amazing! I want to try them so bad but I don’t think there are any Oaxacan restaurants around here

  4. I developed eczema from gluten allergies. The only thing that’s kept it at bay is avoiding gluten and limiting or avoiding other inflammatory foods.

    I have found that a light iodine tincture at night and coconut oil in the morning really helps my skin heal when I have a break-out.

  5. Increased testosterone?! Lord, after a year and a half of living fairly ancestrally (currently more Archevore than Primal), at 69 I have more of that than I know what to do with!

  6. I’ve been wanting to try insects for so long, but the only ones I’ve found are so heavily seasoned and covered in preservatives I doubt they would taste like insect at all. Does anyone know where I can find or order some? If it helps, I live in NC.

    1. I’m curious to know where I would be able to try some insects too. I’m in Grand Rapids, MI. I’ve seen insects covered in candy before and would of course pass on that.

      Has anyone else here tried eating insects? What did you eat? How was it prepared? What was the experience like? Where did you eat it?

      1. Grasshoppers quickly fried in olive oil taste kind of like potato chips. One day there were two of them around my parents’ old house sitting so I crept up and snatched them and cooked them after cutting off their heads in an attempt to be humane (one still jumped out of the frying pan, that was freaky). I think if you want to catch a bunch you could find a field and run around with a net just “trolling” with it.
        I’ve had canned escargot a number of times and enjoyed it, though there was lots of spices and salt already added in the brand I had so that may have been a factor.

        1. If you ever catch Gordon Ramsay’s F Word, he raises garden snails to make escargot. It didn’t seem too hard at all, if you want to try it.

        2. That’s crazy dude. I don’t think I would do something like this TODAY but down the road.

          Jumped out of the frying pan? Awesome.

          Primal for life.

        3. I’ve heard that people eat roasted grasshoppers; but since me and others hate the sight of insects, often linked with germs and disease, etc. many won’t consider eating insects and if they had to because of food shortages, would not eat any insects except grasshoppers including me.

        1. Looks yum. I clicked the ‘look inside’ feature and found a page that lists places to buy edible insects.

      2. When I was in Korea, street vendors all over and some restaurants sold ready-to-eat silk worms… you could see them boiling there in the cart. If I remember correctly, it was only the abdomen of the insect. I didn’t particularly like the taste myself… Anyway, try a korean/asian grocery store, you may find them.

        1. I had these in Korea – we didn’t know what they were but figured they were insectoid(we went to a restaurant where there was no english anywhere and the waitress brought us a selection of local dishes to try). They call them beondegi.
          Ours were seasoned with some sort of umami sauce – probably soy – and tasted good enough that we polished off a bowl of them.

      3. I’ve eaten ants, but all I did was pluck them off the ground and eat them. They were pretty good. Kind of tangy.

        1. In northern Australia there are ants with bulbuous, yellow-green bums. You can carefully pick them up and lick them (tastes like a cross between lemon juice and licking a battery) and set them free, or find a whole leafy nest of them, crush it and steep in boiling water as a cold rememdy. I’m told they’re very high in vitamin C 🙂
          In southern Australia, there was an annual tradition of gorging on bogong moths at a certain point in their life cycle (pupating?) when they congregate in a particular area, but I’m not sure to what extent that continues these days.

        2. Good? Really? I used to be afraid of snatching ants with a napin. No joke. We used to have HUGE problems with them at my parents. Even in my teens I just was not a fan. I can easily snatch them up with a napkin to day and smush them but just eat them? Crazy. But, hey! They are most definitely nutritious!

      4. I’ve had wichetty grubs in Australia. We gathered them fresh and ate them both raw and toasted on a shovel over a fire. Tasted kind of like a peanut buttery, mayonnaisey omelette.

        I’ve had several kinds of deep-fried bugs as a beer snack in Thailand too: crispy, shaken in a bag with a splash of nam pla (fish sauce) and chili powder. Also quite nice, but I didn’t like the sharpness of the exoskeletons.

    2. If you’re close to Raleigh, the NC Museum of Natural Sciences holds an annual “BugFest” that includes edible insects. — — Last year it was held in September.

  7. When I eliminated gluten my eczema went away no problem! If I fall back to eating it I have it again, I am glad to know there is research to back this now so my family just might believe me.

  8. I used fenugreek early on while nursing both my kids. Took it in pill form but still didn’t like the smell. It did work in terms of boosting milk production.

    1. I too used fenugreek to boost milk production & it worked a treat. I was threatened with having to formula boost-feed my twins & just one week on the fenugreek improved it enough that we didn’t touch the formula.

  9. I have noticed my eczema flares up when I eat too much wheat or corn. While “everything in moderation” may be true, the moderation level for everything is different.

    1. Perhaps we need to relegate ‘everything in moderation’ to old CW…

  10. I had pretty bad eczema when it was diagnosed as a metal allergy. I’m not sure what metal is on that person’s son, but I’m just putting it out there. Even today, after being primal/paleo for 3 years, I can still get an eczema outbreak if I do something like front squats without a towel inbetween the bar and my neck.

  11. I’ve only been doing this for a week or so, but the eczema on the back of my arms is really clearing up. I’ve had an outbreak of acne along my jaw though- generally outbreaks in that area are caused by hormone swings, and I would guess that they’re from the change in the diet.

    I’m training for a half marathon and have been doing 2 days of total-body CrossFit workouts each week. Yeah, I know you’re not supposed to pick and choose workouts, and I intend to cut that out once the half is done in a few months. 🙂

  12. On fenugreek and breastfeeding… it may not be a “help” at all. More milk is not necessarily better. I found that out the hard way when I got recurrent mastitis every time I’d eat Indian food. I’m apparently a hyper responder to fenugreek, and more milk than my son needed meant a nasty infection for me. And mastitis is most definitely the kind of thing that could have killed Grokette back in the old days. Lesson learned: Don’t mess with herbs and supplements unless you know how have an actual problem. Otherwise you could end up creating problems.

    (Other lesson learned: Fenugreek can be powerful stuff, so I have no doubt it really could affect hormone production in college age males.)

  13. My daughter had extreme psoriasis– a kind called pustular psoriasis, that would not go away. Since members of our family are gluten intollerant, I decided to eliminate gluten from her diet (much to my husband’s disgust) and she improved. She was not totally cleared up, though, so I also eliminated dairy and corn and her skin cleared up entirely. The diet is not easy though, since gluten and corn are in EVERYTHING ( for example, 90% of vitamin c is made from corn) so sometimes she has a flareup when she consumes some by accident. But, she feels so much better that even though she is only 11, it is worth it to her to try and avoid the typical childhood eats. Like Mark said, too, her gut was leaky and we had to fix that with 1st, letting it heal, and 2nd adding in lots of good probiotics.

    1. Laura, I don’t know if you’ve tried various lotions for your daughter, but I was also diagnosed with pustular psoriasis and found that the best lotion for me comes from Tropical Traditions, has only 5 ingredients, with the primary one being coconut oil. Also, Dr. John Pagano, who has worked with psoriasis patients for 35-40 years, says to get rid of nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, & eggplant). I’ve tried hard to eat Primal, cut out nightshades, and use lotion frequently – I’ve gone from feeling hopeless to hopeful in 6 months. I can use my hands again!!

      1. Thanks for the tip! We’ve cut out potatoes, eggplant and peppers, but not tomatoes. At least not raw tomatoes. Cooked tomatoes give her a problem, but she seems to do ok on raw. It is something to think about, though. Thanks, too, for the lotion tip. I’ll give it a try!

  14. I’m glad I never got into endurance training before I discovered primal living. I know it’s not one or the other, but most people I’ve interacted with who are endurance athletes are so passionate that changing mindsets is an uphill task
    But then again it’s the same with us primal folk too.

  15. In the Indian sub-continent – Fenugreek is widely and extensively used in its plant (leaves) and seed form in soups, curries, pickles, as a flavoring agent and as an Ayurvedic medicine etc. etc.

    it must be doing something to their libido – their population went up 300% to 1.1 billion in less than a century 😉

  16. Using coconut oil as ointment was the one thing that cleared up my facial eczema. A heavy layer 5 times a day cleared it up in a week after having dealed with it for 15 years. Could have used that knowledge during puberty….

  17. And it has worked wonders for everyone I have recommended it to. Both eczema and psoriasis. All who are reading this owe it to themselves to try it out!

    1. It is not enough for many, wouldn’t compensate for a wrong diet, for sure.

  18. I hope Stuart does try this and let’s you know how it worked. I see kids at my job everyday with severe eczema who do not have celiac. It would be nice to see how this works for him so I can pass this on!

  19. Milk is what gives me eczema. It just took 29 years to figure that out. Remember that the skin needs time to heal, the eczema won’t disappear overnight. Depending on how bad it is it may take a few weeks to clear up. I like to use coconut oil, it is the only thing that doesn’t sting/burn. I keep it in a condiment bottle in the shower. Let it melt under the water while I’m showering, then put it on wet. It is pretty greasy if you just do it as a solid. Although I put it on that way, too, if I have a bad spot.

    1. I agree. Swapping out milk for coconut milk made an incredible difference for my husband and son. If my son visits family who give him a glass of milk, which he can’t bring himself to refuse, he will pay for it with an outbreak. I make an ointment with organic butters and oils (shea butter, coconut, olive, avocado, seabuckthorn and argon) that helps to clear it up as quickly as possible.

  20. One day my (then) 7 year old daughter came home angrily complaining that her best friend tricked her into eating a snail.
    I asked her how he did that and she replied “He told me it was a worm!”

    😉 A primal woman in the making!

  21. To the mother whose child has eczema- I was born with it and really suffered for 23 years, every day. I was even hospitalized for my eczema. nothing worked, not even being gluten free. Till I went primal last year. Lots of meat, bone broth, and no rice or potatoes. I have to be pretty low carb for my eczema to stay away. But it works and it is the only thing that has ever worked for me. Good luck.

    1. Strong broth could be a problem. You have to be an investigator with allergies.

  22. High-dose fenugreek and congenital malformations:

    “Consumption of fenugreek seeds during pregnancy has been associated with a range of congenital malformations, including hydrocephalus, anencephaly and spina bifida….prenatal exposure of mice to high dose of fenugreek seeds causes growth retardation and altered neurobehavioral performance in the post-weaning period in both male and female”

    J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Jan 31;

  23. I am one that believes many children are experiencing stress and anxiety due to the environment they are exposed to. So to say a the at six likely does not experience chronic stress is simply inaccurate. People in general avoid talking about his because we hit dont like facing the truth about ourselves and the complexity behind what is going on within us and around us, and how are children, especially the more sensitive ones, ars being affected. So, I is very possible, and often likely, that a child has leaky gut issues at least in part as a result of chronic anxiety/stress.

    1. Agreed! (from a teacher’s point of view) chn DO suffer stress. As adults with adult problems we can fail to recognize this.

  24. My 19 month old son had excema and simply going gluten free did not help- he actually had a corn allergy as well. Now that that he is essentially primal he has no issues whatsoever, and it literally happened within a matter of days.

  25. As a life long acute and severe eczema sufferer since infancy, I can tell you that going Paleo helped immensely, I am currently attempting dairy free,(again) although I stay away from milk, I am pretty loosey-goosey with full fat dairy.
    It took til I was in my 30’s to start figuring this stuff out. My seasonal (severe) allergies are gone, as are the 4 sinus infections a year…I also kept my gallbladder, after being scheduled for surgery. High fat, no grains.
    I have been Paleo (ish)/ Primal for a few years now, with great results! Now that I have quit smoking, and have packed on a few lbs, (all in my middle…arrrgghh)going strict again will almost be a relief! lol..inflammation/Celiac connection probable but never tested for anything! I am my own experiment!

  26. meant to add, no grains, some full fat dairy, no crappy oils. Am allergic to fin fish but not shellfish so I try to eat a lot of scallops, mussels, lobster, shrimp, etc…I live in a coastal area so that is easy/economical.
    I was also told as a child to stay away from “acidic” food…tomato, mustard, citrus, etc….and eggs…lol all of which I enjoy today. Can you imagine being sent to school with a bologna and margarine sandwich on white bread? *shudders* That was real life for me..

    1. Staying away from tomato, citrus, eggs was necessary when I was a child. Now I eat eggs every day, tomatoes often, but citruses are still of-limit for me, even on my LC-paleo diet. My son gets worsening of his eczema when he eats too much eggs, like 4 a day every day.

    2. Bologna, margarine AND mayonnaise AND American cheese–on white bread! Mmmmmm

  27. I can use my eczema to help identify foods I’m sensitive to, especially now that Primal has lowered my general inflammation so much. For example, we cheated with some frozen sweet potato fries over the weekend. I enjoy sweet potatos in general, and they seem to really agree with me, but the fries had some seasonings and canola oil. “well, it’s just a LITTLE, right?” Wrong (for me)! My usual patch of eczema on my hand got worse all weekend and is starting to get better about a day after the last if the fries.

  28. I started a life-long battle with eczema when I was 2. No matter the cream, steroid, ointment, or pill helped me for over thirty years. I struggled and suffered through swollen, stinging, painful, itching hands, arms, legs, face, and chest throughout my life. My eczema wounds would weep through my clothing, making the removal more painful than I can describe. Something as simple as a shower would often leave me in tears.
    I experienced 95% relief of my eczema through acupuncture. It completely changed my life. It’s been 2 years since I had an acupuncture treatment and I haven’t had one flare up. I recently started eating a primal-paleo diet, and the use of my albuterol inhaler for chronic asthma has greatly decreased, too. I absolutely encourage you to please try the gluten-free diet AND acupuncture for your child. The needles are scary at first, but your child will find them to be very tolerable and even relaxing after a bit. The benefits FAR outweigh the challenges of sticking w/ the diet & the needles. I hope that helps!

  29. The skin condition caused by gluten is called dermatitis herpetiformis. I recommend that anyone with “eczema” do a web search on this disease. It can take YEARS to recover, so don’t think, “Oh, I tried gluten-free already” if you didn’t try it for at least a year. Also, one must abstain COMPLETELY from gluten. After 8 months my condition is about 50% recovered, and I ate _very_ little gluten (equivalent to a couple slices of bread/week) before I self-diagnosed celiac. I’ve followed a low-carb, wapf lifestyle for many years, but it wasn’t enough. To not have skin peeling off my hands is well worth the sacrifice of gluten!

  30. Any idea if fenugreek will help the female libido? How do I add it to my diet? Is it a pill? A spice?

    1. I’ve heard of adoptive mothers using fenugreek pills, spice, or teas to stimulate lactation in order to breastfeed adopted babies. Don’t mess around with it until you’ve researched it, or you might find yourself in a lactating, hormonal mess!

      1. I’m just wondering if this is a sign (of impending doom -))for me. I married into an Indian family and just today was looking over a large package of Fenugreek and thinking of searching out some recipes. At 52, perhaps this gal will pass!

    2. I just started using Fenugreek for the purpose of boosting my menopausal libido. I spent several hours researching online and decided to give it a try. I bought it in pill form – but it is available in seed that can be soaked and used as a tea. It has a very distinct taste, but I like it. Its 2 pills, 3 times a day, so might get a little spendy – but if it works, its worth it. Good luck.

  31. Timely post on Marathon training!

    I completed my very first marathon yesterday, the Houston Marathon, and I did all my training following primal/paleo/low-carb ways. I followed crossfit endurance, and never ran more than 10 miles in week, except for three weekends when I ran 13, 15 and 18 miles.

    I heeded Mark’s advise on fueling for the marathon a couple of days before with fruit, potatos and rice, protein and low fat.

    I completed the marathon in 4:09, 9:31 min/mile pace. All in all, I’m satisfied with the result, especially because I didn’t have to sacrifice much health-wise, and didn’t have to lose any muscle or strength =)

    Thanks for all the work you do, Mark!

    1. Awesome! Congratulations on your first marathon! I hope to complete a half marathon this year. I like to hear the success stories of people who followed primal diet and exercise while training.

  32. My son has suffered from eczema too, but lately it has been much, much better. I’ve been on the “Whole 30” for 11 days, but had been mostly primal for 3 months. But since doing the whole 30, I have stopped all gluten products for my son, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that his skin has cleared.

    I suffered for years with dermatitis on my hands – so itchy- and irritable bowel syndrome – the IBS is cured thanks to a gluten and grain free diet, but I still have a little dermatitis on my hands – but I’m sure that’s a left over from the christmas festivities – alcohol and sugar make it flare up (hence the “Whole 30”).

    I think recovery takes time, but it is so worth it.

    It all started for me with reading “The Primal Blueprint”, so thank you Mark!

  33. Mark, you and the website are awesome. Always good information and primal wisdom to keep us moving forward.

  34. i added fenugreek to some pumpkin dishes to add a maple flavor…the things people are saying here explain some odd symptoms i’ve had during my cycle(and i’m 48!).

  35. When I stopped eating grains, my four different bizarre, undiagnosable rashes cleared right up. And, yep, they come back when I “indulge”.

  36. Super interesting read about the fenugreek! I’m also so amazed at how we can improve health conditions through diet…it really is the key to living a better life!

  37. I just started training for a long distance race myself. A 20k Tough Mudder! Great to get some info on some training. I have been doing a mixture of strength training while running and that has been working well so far. It is so hard to duplicate the mud part though : )

  38. Interesting commentary there Mark. The Fenugreek thing looks like another one of those “supplements to take if you’ve fixed 100% of the rest of your diet”. Rather than something I’d rush out and buy straightaway.

  39. Spincycle, Fenugreek is a plant and can be used both as a herb (the leaves) and as a spice (the seeds)

  40. In Cambodia they send warms in the street too, they taste a bit like prawns I think…
    About eczema… Yes, damm gluten…
    Hey, by the way, Idon’t know if you remember me, I’m Nacho from Spain, the “Tuna Tataki with Gazpacho” guy, I’ve made another video! Yes, I know, there is no contest, but it’s fun to make it! Maybe you want to check it out:
    Hope you enjoy it!

  41. Way before learning about the Primal lifestyle, the only thing that ever worked on my eczema was, interestingly, gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 (though giving up dairy had helped a little). While not all omega-6 acids are inflammatory, I have wrestled with an alternative solution. I have upped my omega-3 intake to compensate (love my sardines and eggs for breakfast), and I use Life Extension brand, which adds sesame lignans to (supposedly) make sure the GLA is not converted in the body to AA (a “bad” omega 6?).
    It takes 4-6 weeks to start working, but as long as I take it regularly (I recently spent a week on vacation without it, and it came back pretty fast), the eczema NEVER comes back.

  42. My life-long eczema COMPLETELY cleared up after 3 months of supplementing Vitamin D.

    I took 12,000 IUs for 3 months, then dropped down to 8,000. I tested at 91 ng/ml–on the high end, but appropriate for auto-immune diseases, according to the Vitamin D Council.

    All my asthma symptoms disappeared as well.

    I wasn’t even gluten-free at that point!

  43. OHHH Mark, a six-year-old can get plenty stressed about a LOT of things, maybe not bills and mortgage payments and such, but I can imagine plenty of scenarios where a kid could be under all kinds of extreme stress… Not to say this one in particular, but kids can be under a lot of pressure with school, fitting in, bullying, etc. Just sayin’.

  44. Yes! Have the boy try it!

    I used to have awful eczema, especially on my legs also.

    Oddly enough, when I went to a doctor for it when I was in college he actually told me “Our ‘cave man’ ancestors did not live like us, our skin is supposed to receive sunlight…”

    Anyway, when I went Primal last year, the ezcema on my legs went away! Hooray!
    I hope it works for him as well!

  45. I’ve been dealing with perorial dermatitis for nearly a year. I slathered everything I could think of, including antibiotic cream for months. Nothing helped…until I went back to eating Primal 100%.

    It’s made such a massive difference. I think I may still be sensitive to something. It itches in-between meals when I’m hungry. Very odd.

    I’m going to cut out alcohol completely, stop eating ANY dairy (although I eat very, very little), and start taking probiotics again. Been eating sauerkraut lately for good buggers. I’m Polish – it’s in my blood! LOL!

    Kefir isn’t really considered dairy, is it? B/C of the fermentation process? Going to be making kombucha at home soon…waiting for a nice lady in my area to have a SCOBY all ready to go!

    1. Pat, I’d be VERY careful growing your own Kombucha. Unless you are very meticulous about your Kombucha growing procedures. Goggle the dangers of growing your own Kombucha. And Kefir is definitely dairy ie milk but I think I saw where you can make it with coconut milk instead of cow or goat milk. I used to make my own Kefir years ago w/ local goat milk, but I have no allergies at all. When I do consume Kombucha, it’s store-bought & therefore most certain to be clean/safe. Probiotics & kraut & other natural pickled foods will help.

    2. Pat, I’d be VERY careful growing your own Kombucha. Unless you are very meticulous about your Kombucha growing procedures. Google the dangers of growing your own Kombucha. And Kefir is definitely dairy if it’s made with milk but I think I saw online once where you can make it with coconut milk instead of cow or goat milk. I used to make my own Kefir years ago w/ local goat milk, but I have no allergies at all. When I do consume Kombucha, it’s store-bought & therefore most certain to be clean/safe. Probiotics & kraut & other natural pickled foods will help.

  46. Oops, sorry for my double posting. 2nd post was my revised more accurate edit…

  47. Woah!! Careful. Children DO experience stress- it may not be about ‘adult’ problems… But adults need to get their heads out of adult problems and come down to their level to see what might be going on.

  48. If you suspect food allergies, it’s best to see an allergist and get tested. Our daughter had severe eczema that only partly cleared up when I went on an elimination diet (she was exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months). Blood allergy testing through our regular doc came back negative, but skin testing showed that she was allergic to eggs, dairy, and dogs. After getting rid of our dogs and changing my diet, her eczema went away. Until she developed a citrus allergy. So now we are following a strict paleo diet, free of the common allergens to help prevent her from developing any more.

  49. I find when I sprinkle some ground-up fenugreek on my salads (or whatever) I don’t have any body odour issues (even unprotected!). I’m not sure if this is the slightly-sweet scent of the fenugreek covering things up or if something else is at work. Any how, it works!

  50. Mark,
    Thanks for addressing my question regarding eczema and gluten. My wife and I agreed (some indecision and reluctance on her part) to try my son on a gluten free diet for a trial run. He is responding very well. He is a resilent kid and has taken to the change with a great attitude. As I have been eating paleo/primal for quite some time now, I think it gives him some piece of mind knowing he’s not alone. I’ll keep you posted on his progress. Maybe someday I will write a post about our success story! Thanks for all you do.

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  52. Growth hormones can promote breast cancer and other cancers as well. Arginine which boosts HGH is carcinogenic for those prone to cancer. Look on pubmed and you’ll find lots of studies about arginine and tumor growth. Thus I worry that Fenugreek may also promote cancer if it increases HGH. Any thoughts about this??

  53. This is amazing! this has helped me a lot! I have eczema since a few years ago and for me it has been really difficult to accept it. Finding a treatment that actually worked for my type of skin and eczema was a whole journey! Finally, I discovered foderma and the results have been amazing!

  54. Wow! I’m curious to try this out! thanks for the tip! Right now my eczema is getting much better thanks to fodermaaa treatment.