Grain Pain

Bowl of Oats and GranolaI’ve been grain-free for nearly three years now. Oh, every once in a while, I’ll have a bite or two of bread at a restaurant (it had better be really good bread though and even then I’ll still douse it with olive oil or real butter) or a couple of chips with guacamole – mostly just as a vehicle for delivering the precious emerald mixture to my mouth. I might even have a few sushi rolls with sticky white rice from time to time. But for the most part I stay far away from grains. No cereal ever, no pasta ever, no wheat, barley, rye, corn or anything of that sort. My exodus from grains was gradual, starting about five years ago, but it increased in fervor and resolve as I discovered more and more through my research how inappropriate grains were as a component of the human diet.

All throughout my youth and just up until a few years ago, I had also suffered from occasional intense, sometimes debilitating, gastrointestinal cramping that I had always chalked up to stress. The classic Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. You know how some people claim to carry stress in their necks, their groin or their shoulders? I simply believed I carried stress in my gut and that that was the main cause of my IBS. I missed school some days as a kid. I’d take a day off work once in a while years later. I even missed races occasionally as a result of it. As recently as three years ago, I spent several sleepless nights doubled over in excruciating pain during a stressful period when I was producing 50 episodes of my TV show within a very compressed time frame. As I look back now, I was still eating bread (sandwiches) and whole wheat rolls (at dinner) during that time. Hmmm.

I had basically lived on grains for 50 years, during 20 of which I had to cram down all the bread, pasta, rolls and cereal I could to obtain the 1,000 grams of carbs a day I needed to fuel my athletic pursuits. On a day-to-day basis, I felt fine. In all that time it had never occurred to me that my gut-wrenching stress episodes might have also had something to do with grains in my diet. I didn’t make the connection because I could go for many months at a time without an IBS episode, and yet I always had the grains in my diet. It wasn’t until I completely eliminated grains that any form of IBS fully disappeared – even during very recent times of significant stress. So it wasn’t just the grains and it wasn’t just the stress; it was the two combined that set off the alarm bells.

I had a real experience of that again just last week, though, and the connection became even more apparent. I was off on an organized weekend “self-discovery” retreat. I had signed up on the advice of a good friend and really had no idea what I was in for, except that it would be somewhere up in the mountains and we would be challenged on multiple levels. A few hours into the first night I realized that for the next few days one of the challenges would be the Spartan diet of nothing but granola, water and a few slices of fruit. My first inclination was to forgo these meager victuals and use this as a fasting (IF) weekend, but not knowing whether we were in for “Survivor”-type challenges, long nights shivering in the cold or forced 15-mile marches, I decided I might need the calories in whatever form I could take them. So I started downing the granola with the rest of the participants. I knew what I was doing, but I thought “how bad could three servings of rolled oats each day possibly be?” Oh, Lordy.

Everything was copacetic for the first 24 hours, but by Sunday morning, I was noticing a sensation I had thankfully not experienced for three years – the doubling over in pain and the urge to purge. By the end of the course Sunday afternoon, I was completely preoccupied with the pain and unable to participate in any of the post-event discussions as I tried to meditate my way to a “happy place”. Several trips to the bathroom provided only marginal relief, and it wasn’t until I got in my car to drive home Sunday night that I could see light at the end of the tunnel. The cramping continued sporadically well into Monday and only subsided as I resumed my regular diet.

I tell you all this to reiterate that the problems that arise from eating grains aren’t always obvious. As I have said here, the fact that you can eat grains for years and manifest no symptoms doesn’t mean they are not having some small insidious effect. In my case, it has always been the combination of stress and grains that has caused the red flags to go up, but I think there was always something going on even when it didn’t manifest itself in IBS. In the three years since I have been grain-free, the arthritis in my fingers – that I had already had for five years and had always assumed to be a natural result of getting older – has disappeared. I never get sick anymore, even when I’m stressed. I maintain my body fat level so easily it’s almost criminal. Yes, these could be due to other factors as well, but this past weekend really opened my eyes once again.

Further Reading:

The Definitive Guide to Grains

2 Minute Salad Video

My Knee is Killing Me… No Really.

TAGS:  gluten

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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95 thoughts on “Grain Pain”

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  1. Thank you for relating the personal experience Mark! That always helps make it more human. Its amazing how we forget how something we gave up long ago makes us feel until we lapse and it returns with a vengence.
    I have my own theory about why people think they are addicted to grains or can’t do without grains from a culinary standpoint (remember I am not a scientist!) and I will be posting on it very soon. Hint… its not actually the grains you like.

    The SoG

    1. I too had horrible IBS and was having to up my meds which was not exceptable to me. I soughtbalternative healthier alternatives. First I found Kefir, then Kombucha tea, then I remembered being introduced to Paleo and rad Mark’s book next.

      I am now symptom free of IBS and rarely have arthritis symptoms. Grain free is great!

  2. interesting post. I must say I enjoy reading about “anecdotal evidence”. sometimes I almost wish I were older than 22, because whenever I try telling someone of the benefits of a low carb or no-grain diet, I’m being told to wait until I’m at the same age as whoever I’m talking to… too bad these people usually can’t be bothered to read up on folks like Mark, Art or Jack (or visit the blogs of many other successfull low-carbers/paleo/primal dieters who might not be as famous)

  3. I’ve also heard/read about grains making people bloated and swollen (not getting fat, although it makes them look like they weigh more). It almost comes off as if it were an allergic reaction of sorts.

  4. Just out of curiosity, was this an NWTA event? I did a similar weekend retreat with them. The insight I gained was awesome, though the nutrition did leave something to be desired. At least at the end of mine there was a “feast” of roasted chicken and a spicy lamb and root vegetable curry which I prepared. Oh, and also pizza, pasta, and potato salad… You can’t escape that stuff even in the mountains.

  5. Mark,
    Thanks for sharing your experience. That definitely shows proof how bad grains are to one’s health. I don’t know why so many people think that granola is healthy, it’s “NOT.” I understand your situation, you had to eat to survive, you were between a rock and a hard place. Sorry that happened to you, but, your story is a certainly a big eye opener, thanks again Mark for sharing this. I think that’s happened to us all one time or another, being out in the middle of where ever that you can’t eat the way you want. YES, not eating grains definitely keeps the body very healthy and not get sick, I am never sick, i have to say that’s the case with me.

  6. I’ve had exactly the same experience with my IBS. I was diagnosed at 14 (I’m now 33) and I’d become resigned to it turning up regularly, usually when I was stressed by something. I went on a low carb diet a few years ago which, of course, meant cutting out grains. I not only lost nearly 4 stone over the course of a year but I didn’t suffer once during that time with IBS symptoms. Normally I would expect a good 4-6 attacks of varying strengths in that time. As soon as I loosened up my diet to include bread and rice again I found myself doubled up in agony. I now restrict my grain intake generally and avoid refined grains like the very devil. It’s like finally being free of curse.

    1. Erykah, do you realize that you likely have Celiac disease? In fact, most people who are ‘diagnosed’ with IBS (there is a REASON that the bowel is irritated) are gluten intolerant/Celiac.

      Some people with gluten intolerance can eat oats, but a lot (including myself) cannot. In fact, I am pretty much carb intolerant (other than carbs form vegetables.

      1. I had IBS and was finally diagnosed with celiac disease. Got better but not all the way. I think after reading this I should go grain free. Maybe there is hope.

    2. How come rice is that bad? It is naturally gluten-free. Isnt the whole story against grains behing gluten as the main source of all evil ????

      1. Rice and oats (and basically all grains) can be bad for people because “gluten” is not simply only found in wheat and those other grains that they mention, in relation to celiac/gluten intolerance. “gluten” is found in every single grain because what gluten actually is is the protein of the grain… however, the deceptiveness lies in the fact that all these different proteins found in various grains have different scientific names for their protein… so, for example, the protein found in wheat has a different scientific name as compared to the protein found in oats… and its interesting to note that wheat contains about 60-70 percent of its protein whereas oats or rice (cant remember specifically which is which) contains only like 5-10 percent and 30 percent of their proteins…. which could explain why some people dont have as much of a perceived reaction to rice or oats, compared to other grains. There is a video out there of a doctor/scientist explaining all of this… i will try to post the link, it was very detailed and informative.

        1. Thanks for the information. I’ve been gluten free for 9 years now because I was sick everyday for 2 years and finally found out that it was my gallbladder and then the gluten. Now I am reacting to grains bad. Whenever I eat gluten free bread or cereal it directly affects my breathing (I’ve asthma my entire life, now 37). I take digestive enzymes to help and fiber capsules for constipation. So, does this mean my body is grain intolerant now?

  7. not to gross anyone out but: I suffer from intense chronic constipation, i often only have a bowel movement once a week. ive tried laxatives, high fiber diets (usually very high in grains), special exercises and nothing ever helped for long. Last month I decided to “go primal” by cutting out grains.

    It’s unbelievable. My condition has almost completely gone away. The only time it comes back is when I slip up and eat a roll of bread at dinner or something. Thanks for all the advice mark!

    1. b, I have chronic constipation too. I go for 2 weeks at a time before I finally resort to laxatives. I have been a couple days free of grains and dairy. How long until I see stomach results? I still am constipated and feeling discouraged.. 🙁

      1. For me, it helped to increase both the veggies and the fats.

  8. Thanks for this illuminating post! So many are shy to talk of their experiences with IBS. I think you’re right about grains aggravating that medical condition. Since I’ve cut the majority of grains out, I’ve been alot better and more happy. Thanks.

  9. I’ve given up grains for about 3 weeks now. My IBS went away instantly. I used to think that my IBS was caused by the tomatoes in spaghetti. Turns out, it was the pasta.

    I also dropped 10 lbs easily. I feel like a poison as been removed from me.

    Thanks Mark.

    1. I was diagnosed with IBS about four years ago after having a number of severe attacks and multiple trips to multiple doctors. But when I was diagnosed I was told that IBS is the diagnosis they give when they don’t have an answer for what is causing so many digestive issues. And that I would just have to learn what I can and can’t eat. My question is, if you’re not eating any grains what are you eating? Because fruits and vegetables also give me attacks. Red meat also gives me attacks. Dairy also gives me attacks. What is left, fish and chicken??

  10. Been strugling with grains for many years, but health has dramatically improved since it has been cut out of my food.

  11. Interesting, and definitely something to think about. I think this “still doing something — even if you’re not aware” phenomenon is what happens to most people with unhealthy eating habits, no? People don’t realize until they eat healthier (though we all have our own interpretation of this haha) how much better they feel doing it.

    Which always leaves me wondering if I’ll discover raw eating to be a Godsend one day… 😉

  12. Yikes – I was considering a month of grains for reasons I won’t go into here (but which I will be posting about in due course) but your story is definately making me think twice. In fact I was already thinking twice and this is adding a third…I wonder whether being primal for a while makes our bodies foget how to deal with the garbage we used to eat?

  13. Jane wrote:
    I’ve also heard/read about grains making people bloated and swollen (not getting fat, although it makes them look like they weigh more). It almost comes off as if it were an allergic reaction of sorts.

    It is essentially fermentation of the undigestable material in your gut. Lactose can do the same thing. Loose stool is another sign.

  14. This happened to me too for years! I am 27, and the last 4-5 years I used to be woken up every morning around 6 am with an excruciating stomach ache that lasted for about 30-45 minutes before I could fall back asleep. The last year I have given up wheat 95% (still have the smallest piece of bread occasionally), and the difference has been night and day. I hardly ever get those stomach aches anymore, until this morning. I racked my brain trying to figure out what I had eaten with wheat in it when I remembered the beer I had before going to bed! I’ve given up beer as well in favor of red wine, so last night’s beer was a rare event. I haven’t gone off other grains yet – I am going to do that gradually. Wheat was definitely the biggest allergen for me, though. I eat quinoa about once a week and it doesn’t give me stomach pains. In any event, so glad that I discovered this site and a couple others that taught me how bad grains are for you. My little reminder last night made me so happy to have been able to eliminate the source of my excruciating early-morning stomach aches.

  15. Hey Mark,

    When I first started reading today’s post, I thought that it was a guest post, then as I read along further, I knew it was yours. I wonder if your abdominal stress and accompanying mental anguish were due to the grain/s (I’m curious: just oats, or oats & wheat?) or insulin rush, or too much fructose (e.g., many sports drinks containing fructose, versus just glucose, can cause abdominal cramping as I remember too well with my X’s bouts on some epic mountain bike rides, and hikes.)

    Personally, I avoid most grains (especially wheat which I think is the worst); however, I do eat oat groats and quinoa [both gluten free]on occasion, but soak first for 2-3 days [with daily water changes] before cooking & eating. Also, I eat rice w/o soaking, but as when I eat any grain, always doused with healthy fat and accompanied with protein to slow the insulin response. I agree with Stephan over at Whole Health Source about rice being the primary grain that is OK for most people to eat in moderation.

    Anyway, thanks as always for sharing your experiences and knowledge–much appreciated.


  16. Since others paved the way for this poo post….

    I’ve heard from many friends that actually they seem to have a “loose stool” when following a paleo diet. Compared to when they are eating some bread and pasta. Anybody have any insights to that?


  17. Hi Mark,
    I had almost the exact experience as you regarding IBS. Doctors were not much help and I basically found this out by myself. I used to double over over the throne and cursing god once every two weeks, sometimes even once a week. However, as I weaned myself off the grain, these episodes have vanished. Now whenever I eat any significant amount of grain, especially wheat, the dreaded feeling would come back. So as you can bet, my wheat intake is pretty much nil now.

  18. that’s right 🙂
    prior to my ‘life without bread’, on a grainy diet I was sure the flatulence is something given with age, like grey hair or something. This is why they coined a phrase ‘old f*rt’, ain’t it?
    And one of the benefits I noticed while low-carbing was … silence ;-D

  19. Marc, I have the same problem on paleo. Loose stools, but strangely my stomach still feels full (probably from all the meat sitting in it). Maybe it’s all the fat?

    For me, what’s worse than grains is dairy: it makes my stomach “churn,” seems to mess up my skin, and affects my breathing.

    When I have the occasional sandwich or other grain, I definitely notice the need to sleep an extra couple of hours per night, but that’s about it. On paleo, I’m good with 5-6 hours of sleep; add grains and I’m tired even after 8. This happens even if I have small amounts and much earlier in the day (i.e., the increased need for sleep is more than an insulin-induced food coma – which I also get if I eat too much)

    For me, the general feeling of wakefulness is the number one reason to stay on paleo. My workouts suck, I’m always hungry (I feel unsatisfied even if my stomach is full), and I have loose stools, but I’m still scared to eat grains as I love this steady energy.

  20. Ummm… if you have loose stool on a high-fat diet, it’s possible you aren’t digesting lactose properly either. Lactose intolerance is a known side-effect of Coeliac disease. If you have greasy stool, then you aren’t digesting the fat properly which suggests the villi are still damaged. Since we’re talking about turds here, you can’t really tell the difference if they are floating or not, but greasy will leave an oil film in the bowl if you don’t flush right away.

    If the villi are damaged you are probably iron deficient too. Biopsy is the best way to diagnose the health of the small intestine.


    Coelics have to go 100 % wheat/rye/barley gluten free for 4-6 months to stop their immune system trying to reject their intestines and re-grow the villi.

  21. I have had the same experience as what you described, Mark. For 30-some years I’ve assumed that my body just needed an occassional ‘purge’ and so it went into cramping and purging. Thankfully this all resolved when I took on a primal diet. I eat very little grains now, compared to what I used to, and make sure that they are not overly refined. My first clue that I have eaten too much grain is that my very regular bowel becomes ‘irregular’….enough said. Also, I find that I can not tolerate pasteurized dairy anymore. I’ve had raw dairy for about 7 months.

    I do think that the healthier our digestive system is, the less it tolerates unhealthy feeding.

  22. Hi Mark. I have been reading a lot of your writing on grains and think you make a lot of good points. Over the last year I made the switch from white pasta, bread, cereal etc to the wholemeal varieties.

    After reading your blog I have made further cutbacks in the last month or so. I no longer eat grains on non-training days. However, I still don’t think they should be completely cut out of a diet because there’s not many other meals better than a wholemeal sandwich when you need an on the go pre-gym snack. Meat and vegetables are good for when you have the time to sit down and eat but I think a wholemeal sandwich is a good compromise when you have to walk and eat.

  23. Thanks to all so far who have shared their grain experiences here. It’s amazing, isn’t it? How many of us (and our docs) never made the connection because we felt grains were a normal and healthy part of the diet?

    As for loose stools on paleo/primal, there could be many reasons. As mentioned here it could be after effects of unrepaired intestinal villi, lactose, dysbiosis (too few healthy gut bacteria or too many of the bad guys) and on. If you haven’t read Konstantin Monastyrsky’s book I highly recommend it. Among other things, you’ll learn that a large amount of a healthy stool is bacteria and water and that fiber needn’t be present in large amounts to keep you regular and comfortable.

    Calvin, I’m certain the abdominal issues were grain-related and not fructose or insulin.
    zbiggy, pull my finger….new me, interested in your experiences with raw dairy when you couldn’t tolerate pasteurized.

  24. In response to your query, Mark:
    I used to tolerate pasteurized dairy just fine, until I switched to raw. Now that I make my own yogurt and kefir and use only raw milk, I find it very hard to ‘stomach’ the pasteurized stuff. (On rare occassions, we have run out of raw and have purchased pasteurized.) I wouldn’t say that I have an intolerance, officially, but it just doesn’t ‘sit well’ within me. My father and one daughter find it the same for them. We don’t consume large amounts of dairy–1 cup, rarely more, per day. I love to put my home made yogurt, butter and raw cream in so many things and I can definitely feel all those wonderful bacteria working in my gut. I miss them if I go without.

    I think that my body has gotten very accustomed to being fed well and it protests when I slip up or get into situations with little option for eating primally.

  25. an addition….

    I do personally know of three cases where individuals have been able to tolerate raw cow’s milk when they had been diagnosed as lactose intolerant and could not consume pasteurized milk.

  26. I agree. The problems that arise from most things in our daily routine aren’t always obvious. There are so many variables, most of the time, that it’s hard to pinpoint the culprit in any given situation.

    Thanks for the post!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

  27. Robert M: people with celiac disease have to go 100% gluten free for the rest of their lives.

    Personally, I think that MANY people fall somewhere within the spectrum of gluten intolerance, with celiac disease at one end, and mild digestive discomfort on the other.

  28. Well, it’s good you discovered the source of your problems.

    Most of us have no problems with grains, however. For Europeans you see how this must be true, since for a couple thousand years most people (peasants) lived on litle more than grains, beans, a few vegetables, some dairy products, and the occasional sour fruit.

    The paleo-type diets are probably a good thing for a minority of the population that can’t handle grains, but most of us definitely can. And grain eaters live a long, healthy time, too.

    1. I wonder if this grain-gut epidemic has anything to do with the mass production of grains? The reason we are getting sick could be that the grains are rancid. We also have added a ton of different chemicals to preserve/prevent mold, and an interesting article to look at would be:
      There is also the WAPF explanation that ancient societies soaked and fermented their grains to make them more digestible. Using these methods reduces the phytic acid content and makes nutrients from the grains more bioavailable. Modern man does not do this anymore because it’s too much of a hassle.

  29. Retreats are a real problem for me because they are so carb and wheat heavy.

    I’d like to go on an extended camping/canoe trip, but the food one must eat is always that de-hydrated high-carb stuff.

    Do you have any suggestions for eating the primal way while backpacking/camping (meaning you carry all the supplies on your back)? There’s beef jerky, but I’m not sure of what else. A frozen piece of meat will last an afternoon, but days two and three would be difficult.

  30. David,
    For backpacking, jerky and nuts are awesome. Canned fish is also great to bring i.e. sardines or kipper snacks. Powdered eggs…
    There are a lot of good primal options!

    The SoG

  31. David,

    check on hunting/fishing regulations where you will be going. Some places/seasons don’t allow it, and some that do have safety issues meaning you can’t. Still a squrrel or fish here and there will do a lot when you can work out all the details.

  32. Mark, thank you for writing this. I do eat one grain–brown rice. But for many many years I had terrible migraine daily. Eventually diarrhea started. Had a blood test. Found I have celiac disease. Stopped eating wheat, barley, rye, and oats (because of possible cross-contamination). Migraine ceased instantly. Who would have made the connection–besides another celiac that is?

    1. Same here. In school I’d get migraines a bit less than once a week. After ending school and getting enough sleep it went down to once a month. Since going primal (7 months ago) I haven’t had a single migraine.

  33. I know I’m a bit late to the party.. I have been following your site for about 8 months now. I find it to be very helpful and informative.
    I was struck by this post… I had the SAME problems as a teenager.. Horrible tummy pain, very upset digestive system, sometimes vomiting-It landed me in the ER more than a few times. The Dr’s I saw tried about 9 different pills to “cure me”. None worked. I had Upper GI scans done, blood work you name it.
    My sister started on the then popular “Atkins”, I joined her in 1999…. within 2 days I was a different person. Amazing transformation. I do not have Celiac’s but my body does have some opposition to gluten.. Minus the occasional Sam Adams, I do my very best to keep gluten out of my body!

  34. Amazing. I have also noticed that a lot of my ailments have simply disappeared since been on Paleo!

  35. Mark:

    Interesting personal account of your experience with grains.

    Since you are getting personal here, I wonder if you have every shared your blood chemistry profile (stuff like triglycerides, HDL, LDL (puffy and not puff), CRP, etc.).

    Would be interesting to see.


  36. hi, i just wanted to say how impressed i am with all of you for finding out what things to take out of your diet,as its not at all easy. and i think its disguisting that doctors dont do more. its such a horrible thing to go through (ibs) until you gain some control) the times i have cried around shopping,and felt like my life wasnt worth living!! though maybe im a big baby i dont know. i have been mentally messed up from my experience,scared to leave the house early and not confident to get a job where i start early,i feel robbed. maybe im yet to discover what will really help me. can i ask if anyone else has omeprazole? or simelar tablets, i find my stomach makes too much acid which also really sets my insides on fir without these tablets :0( thanks all x

  37. I’m going to take this advice to my wife, who has been suffering from IBS for two years, now. Thanks.

  38. I would totally second this post, Mark (I know I’m a bit late in responding!). I cut out all grains and all dairy from my diet 17 days ago and I feel wonderful. I always had ‘something going on’ intestinally and the first time I experienced IBS cramps, once i had picked myself up off the floor, I truly expected to find a huge pool of blood there, the pain was so intense.

    For several years I’ve had to carry around ibuprofen and mebeverine with me ‘just in case’ – now I am free of it all.

    On top of that, I am just having my first ‘monthly visitor’ with absolutely no pain, cramps, PMS, bloating – this will be the first time in my whole adult life that this is the case. Again, free of it all…

    Thank you.

  39. I’m free of Crohn’s Disease after stopping the consumption of grains, most importantly, the gluten…..

  40. I had to look twice to make sure this post was written by Mark. I’m heartened to hear the primal guru confess that he occasionally noshes on a little bread or a few chips.

  41. Hi Mark,

    My IBS started in my mid teens; It left me doubled over in pain, screaming into a pillow. The pain, as you know, was absolutely awful.

    It got worse in my early 20’s. The pain radiated to my lower back; I would have ‘spasms’ of pain that would last for HOURS: radiating from my bowels to my back. I was in so much pain I wanted to die. I actually thought there was something wrong with my back, and spent two years visiting four different chiropractors. Big waste of time and money there.

    I started eating on the Zone a few years ago, and that made all the difference. I wasn’t a perfect Zoner, but it still helped. As of yesterday, I officially started on the PB.

    I’ve been a little concerned about the BIG ASS SALAD causing intestinal discomfort. It has caused a little discomfort. But perhaps it’s my gut not being used to so much RAW food in one sitting?

    I’m very curious to see how my IBS pans out. Thanks so much for this post! I’m so glad to see there are so many others dealing with the same crap (pun INTENDED).

    Loving the blog, Mark. I’m hooked!

  42. Great Advice. I can feel the pounds dropping with no grains in my system. I was just wondering what are some good alternatives for breakfast, since I have only ever eaten cereal or toast in the morning.

    1. Dave,
      I just started eating Primal so I am still trying new things. For breakfast I have found I really like mixing a few berries, anything you like, with greek yogurt and a few walnuts. The yogurt is a little bitter at first so you might drizzle just a little organic honey on it until you get used to the flavor. KC

  43. I too suffer from the agonizing pains that Mark described, as well as a long history of heartburn due to reflex. Since going primal 3 months ago, not only has my body fat percentage been going down, but I have been able to stop taking my medication. However, in the last couple of weeks stress at work has gotten to me and here are the pains again. Mark, do you ever get them just due to stress or am I missing something from the blueprint? I do like squash, but my carbs are averageing 100g a day and NO bread, pasta or rice/potatoes etc. Maybe I just need a vacation!!

  44. Great post Mark! I just had a recent experience of indulging in non primal food and I paid the price of it. I am sort of happy I did this though because I felt like crap that night and even for the next day or 2. I learned my lesson as I will never ever do this again in my lifetime.

    I was at my cousins graduation party and the main dish was pasta along with grilled pizza. There was fruit too, along with salad and some veggies but not much of it.

    Again, I learned my lesson!

  45. I don’t know if anyone is still reading this post…but I have had terrible intestinal discomfort with being primal. I had as well been diagnosed with IBS in my teens (in my thirties now) and was hoping Primal would clear it all up. But as I say- I was more sick then ever. I had terrible, terrible cramps and pain. I gave up after three weeks and ate some brown rice for a few days and felt 80% better. Now I am really stuggling. I believe in the health benefits of being Primal but I don’t know about my gut.

    1. Jen,

      I have found that it depends on what food I’m eating. Some fibrous raw veggies kill my gut and give me the terrible cramps (stress brings it on too). What does your primal plan look like? Are you heavy on the veggie? Fatty meat? For me, I can’t eat much in the way of raw vegetables or I’m keeled over and feel like I’m about to give birth! Veggies that do it to me are: raw spinach (and man do i love spinach salad), cabbage, broccoli, and uncooked or underdone asparagus. Does any one thing set you off?

  46. Stef thanks so much for replying!! Yes – it feels like you are giving birth!! I was doing a lot of big salads as raw spinach as the base. So- good to know I should maybe cut that out. I am really in to baking with almond, coconut, etc meal so I start my day with a muffin with some various “meal” and blueberries. Otherwise I was doing a lot of variations of soup- chicken thighs with all sorts of veggies. So yes- heavy on veggies but I guess I need to keep them cooked. Not too heavy on fatty meats but I eat a TON of nuts. Besides my baking with the nut meal I eat handfuls throughout the day. I was eating a good amount of strawberries but I think I am finding slowly that my gut doesn’t like strawberries.
    Maybe I need to start over and make sure I cook everything. Any other hints or suggestions are welcome. I did try Greek yogurt and while it is extremely delicious it is a no no. Right now I am doing two primal meals a day and one brown rice meal and I am feeling ok but I would love to go back to all primal.

    1. Hey Jen,

      A friend of mine mentioned that the seeds in strawberries and raspberries aggravate her IBS…I don’t experience that but though I’d pass it along. I am sure that with a bit of tweaking and experimenting you can find the primal fit. 🙂

    2. Hi Jen,

      You mention eating lots of nuts. Ground and handfuls as snacks. I have a bad intestinal reaction to nuts, you may be having it too. I started low-carb by doing nuts as snacks, it was bad! I’m doing 80-90% paleo, but no nuts, and I’m feeling great.

  47. I was diagnosed with IBS a year ago (I’m 21). Since then I tried everything and I mean almost everything (vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, insoluble fiber free diet) in an addition to some stress management in an attempt to get rid of the symptoms. I went primal three weeks ago after researching the diet. I must say that I’ve noticed significant increases in my energy levels, especially compared to my vegetarian days. However, even though I’ve seen significant improvement in some of my IBS symptoms (gas and bloating), I have not been able to completely get rid of my IBS symptoms (constipation). I have noticed that steamed broccoli and cauliflower certainly aggravate my symptoms and I will avoid them. I’m not sure what else to do though.

    Does anyone have any advice?

    1. I thought I’d tried everything too! you may want to look into fructose malabsorbtion or FODMAP intollerance. Certain fruit and veg contain types of carbohydrates that some ppl can’t absorb and cause IBS symptoms. Cauliflower is one of these veg. Sticking to a primal diet and avoiding foods high in FODMAPS I’m now symptom free for the first time in years

  48. Hi Rebecca,
    I was going to suggest following the SIBO (SCD) diet. After a quick google search it appears that low FODMAP diet is the same or very similiar. at one point i followed this cookbook “Eat well, Feel well” for the SCD diet for about a month. it might have been the only month in my life where i felt like a normal person (I am 32). It was a lot of cooking and carrying around prepared food so i fell off the wagon. i am still playing around with my diet but being 100% gluten free and as primal as possible helps. But don’t get discouraged. I am still finding things that hurt my stomach as well so it takes some time. I think you are on the right path though…

  49. I’ve read extensively about grains and inflammatory bowel and the connection to aches pains joints and related cascading body issues.

    Here’s my question – many cultures around the world rely on grains for the basis of their diet. Have to. Cheap carbs and no access to good proteins.

    China, India, most of the Far East, most of the Eurasia, virtually all of Africa … grain based diets.

    But there isn’t a corresponding health crisis in these cultures suffused with grains.

    This observable fact is at odds with the above data. And causes me to wonder why grains, here and in England but not Europe, per se, are a source of IBD, but not elsewhere.

    Please don’t throw out a snap-answer. This has been a 20+ year investigation, casual yes, but still the amount of reading I’ve done is extensive and the problem is Here … not so much elsewhere. Virtually non-existent in heavily grain based cultures.

    1. Soaking, sprouting, fermentation, less harmful grains. White rice is pretty much harmless (just empty calories), while modern wheat is much higher in gluten & such than its ancestors.

  50. Agree w/ the last poster, I think there are always advantages and disadvantages in all diets – though I like (the taste) of the paleo diet very much 😉 The only thing that consistently seemed to help me so far is simply eating small amounts (no matter of what) frequently, going close to a liquid diet when it’s bad (juiced pineapple, ginger etc.) and frequent light exercise (do not sit longer than 1-2 hours at a time) to give the intestines time to heal and the acid to balance out.

  51. What’s that idiom? One man’s meat is another man’s poison?

    I’m pushing 60, been 160 lbs since high school, feel pretty good and race Mt. Bikes quite successfully against all ages, and love grains. Millet’s a favorite because of it’s higher alkalinity. I believe in what Dr. Henry Bieler (Food is Your Best Medicine) advised that dis-ease can’t live in a higher alkaline body. In fact, research suggests that cancer can not live in high alkalinity.

    My point here is that there are many bodies out there and just as many have been abused with prescribed/non-prescribed drugs, texting (yeah, that’s right), alcohol, GMO foods, obesity, non organic foods, fluoride, junk food, stress, and the list goes on and on and on. Let’s face it, we are all in need of physical, emotional, mental healing on some level, especially in America. I for one, highly recommend grains in moderation, along with organic non-GMO: vegies, fruits, some meat proteins, i.e. 80 alkaline foods. Also, enemas, colonics, massage, chiropractic work, acupuncture, Rife machine, and similar alternative methods. Oh, and stay away from 95% of AMA type doctors unless it’s to fix that broken finger. That’s my medicine, and my hair is still brown and I look much younger than my age.

    Thanks for the article, though.

  52. I read this article last week and thinking that this made sense I decided to run an experiment on myself. I haven’t had any IBS symptoms for at least three or four months and I attributed this to an improved diet generally and cutting out beer entirely, which has been a trigger in the past.

    I had a half of a can of steel cut oats in the pantry, the twenty minutes to cook kind, so I figured that if anything would bear out Mark’s theory it would be those. I decided I would eat a 1/3 cup serving every day until they were gone. Thankfully I finished them yesterday.

    The experiment ran for five days and each day the situation with my bowels deteriorated noticeably. By the fifth day I managed to achieve a full blown, albeit mild, IBS episode. Fun times.

    I realize this isn’t exactly a scientific study and that correlation isn’t causation, but the correlation is strong enough to convince me that I should probably be avoiding grains at lot more consciously.

    Thanks for the site and the good info!

  53. I can say that in one day of not eating grains I feel instantly lighter, full of energy and no bloating. The thought of them makes me feel uneasy now. I see them as dirty now. I’m not exaggerating but if I eat grains the next morning I look and feel flabbier. My bro has IBS and I think there may be a disposition in the family towards some sort of gluten intolerance as my Dad also has IBS and both of them love their bread. We all put weight on around the belly too and I know that this is due to grains. So far though, they won’t listen to me.

  54. Hi everyone, ive been reading the comments here, I was diagnosed with IBS 2 years ago, I get mild stomach pains every day and the occasional serve one, I’ve recently started getting into the primal blue print, and it’s encouraging too see many people who have removed their IBS symptoms by cutting out grains, I was hoping for some advice I’ve read in a few places cutting out grains and sugar is the best way to get rid of IBS
    Does this include the natural sugar in fruit?
    This may sound crazy starting to the primal diet but Ive never been a big fan of meat I was hoping to eat mainly veg with little bits of meat occasional I’m just hoping I’ll gain the same benefits any advice is really appreciated good luck to you all


  55. I’ve been on a low carb diet for about a year now and have lost about 65 lbs. About 4 months ago I read how grains may effect your skin and I’ve had skin problems for many years. So I decided to go grain free an it has made an amazing difference and cleared up my skin problems. However, since I’ve been grain free I now have chronic constipation. I eat fruits and vegetables and increased my water intake and even started taking fiber supplements but nothing helps. It looks like my only option is to start eating grains again. I can’t take this any longer.

  56. Mark,

    I didn’t mean to act unprofessional a month ago regarding your lack of credentials. I said some inappropiate things attacking your credentials.
    I am just someone who is “fact and science-oriented” and try to stick to organizations like the AHA, JAMA, Mayo Clinic, etc. I am teacher and I try to promote healthy eating to kids.

    I experimented with your primitive diet and have seen improvements in my IBS symptoms and even lowered stress. I am less hyper and more relaxed on your diet. I definitely have a reduction in stomach issues like gas, bloating, cramps, etc.

    Further research is needed to see if this primitive diet is a healthy long-term approach. I know the AHA doesn’t approve of high protein diets — but who knows maybe some day.

    I know you work very hard at creating a website, business, and to promote your ideas with a passion and zeal.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas with everyone.

  57. Good God. This is so true! I had some sausages at a friend’s house, who was aware of my diet and said she’d notify her mum, who was doing the cooking. So I ate the stuff that promised to be grain-free. Little did I know that she forgot to tell her mum, who bought ordinary, breadcrumb-filled sausage. I spent most of the next day on the toilet and doubled up in pain with what sounded like the entire symphony orchestra in my gut. Sorry for the sordid details, but it was bad. And I wasn’t even one of the ‘gluten-intolerant’ people before I went primal. Urgh, never again.

  58. I’ve been reading about IBS, as I was just recently diagnosed (previously wrong diagnosed with celiac! no celiac, but I am very gluten intolerant). So, while I’ve been primal (90% probably) for a long time, I’m now reading that low fat is better for IBS symptoms! Not cool!
    I’m curious if that’s really the route I need to go or if I can keep on eating my bacon. Any experiences/resources on this? Thanks!

  59. my quest to stop the terrible terrible stomach pain, and incessant heaving/puking in the morning started about a year and a half ago, where i made the major switch of just being generally more “healthy”. By that, i mean by mostly conventional wisdom standards, cut all the obviously terribly unhealthy stuff (which wasn’t much), the sodas with meals when i went out (didn’t really drink soda outside of that) and eating fruits/veggies/nuts for snacks. My stomach started feeling much much better, but still would get painful in the morning during super-stress times (but not as often). One thing i didn’t realize with all of this “healthier” eating… was that, in general, i was consuming ALOT less grains, they were still there, sometimes in great excess, but usually very little.
    since about the beginning of the month(jul2012), i’ve made the move to a “paleo” style diet, mostly influenced by PB, etc.
    It only took a few days, maybe a week, and all of the pain went away, making me think that it really might be the grains setting me off. I was proved right last week when i was on vacation, i went and got two slices of pizza with a friend (not even a gluten-free offering or anything there) they were delicious. of course. But then, the next day, not even that morning, took longer than that, later in the evening, and the following few days, back to the same terrible pain, heaving, etc.
    After that, i was about convinced, that it was FOR SURE the grains, and after reading this, i am convinced. Thank you for this article mark, you have no idea how much it helps to hear this.

  60. Thank you for sharing this experience Mark. I have had intermittent IBS for the past few years, although I’ve been eating grains my entire life (I’m 31 years old). I was previously unsure what the problem was and just realized it was IBS. I have been wheat free, and mostly grain free for a while now, and decided to eat some pasta that I had in the cupboard last night. HUGE mistake. I’ve been in excruciating pain for the past 5 hours. I made the connection with grains and IBS. So I decided to do some searching when I found your blog. I’m glad I found this, you have confirmed my connection of IBS with wheat/grains. I will not be eating grains again!

    I’d also like to note that in my searching, I found many many MANY people with this problem! (Pain under the left rib and back pain) There are so many people suffering with this, not knowing that the problem is simply grain! And those people will most likely not get properly diagnosed and treated from a doctor. The same goes for obesity and other diseases.

    Thanks again! I’ll bookmark your blog.

  61. I was diagnosed with ibs a few years ago. Did research and found ibs diets, doctors also gave me different diets, I never knew what to eat. I’ve also been diagnosed with GERD, asthma, allergies, arthritis and was diagnosed as a pre-diabetic. NONE of the diets given to me for these match up. I gave up. Ate whatever I wanted to, living in pain with the stomach issues and missing work and gaining weight and getting out of shape. I can date back to when all of this started, it was a medical issue I had that started all of it (but the asthma and arthritis, though both became worse after). Before this incident, I had been doing Atkins with a lot success, afterwards, it didn’t work. I was still eating low carb grains. A friend turned me on to this a few weeks ago and I’m having a rough start, but I am excited to see what the results will be! Thank you for sharing this, Mark, as it gives me hope!

  62. Thanks for the informative, helpful post, Mark! I’m researching nutrition-related info to help my 12 year old that has just been diagnosed with IBS. Great info 🙂

  63. Mmm I agree grain free/ starch free helps my IBS and stops sugar crashes & craving ( I’m sooo pleased) but I couldn’t go totally paleo and I felt awesome but was constipated & full feeling for weeks that didn’t resolve ( I passed a tiny bit but incomplete. I added quinoa back in & I was good then bad again & carb craving . I now have a pea protein shake for breakfast so maybe a little unpaleo but feel great. Ibs plays up if I do a little rice or rice protein shake. I’m have fructose malabsorption . The Q : I’d love to go totally paleo but the meat is too much for my digestion. What can I do ?

  64. Interesting article. I find that for me at least an excessive amount of grains is the problem. I eat a whole foods, plant based diet (vegan) and have found that this is settling my stomach better than when I obliterate grains/legumes from my diet and eat lots of meat and other animal products. I typically avoid eating more than two servings of grains a day and this works well for me and I dramatically up my intake of green veggies. I just wanted to put in my two cents because so many people think that avoiding grains means you can’t ever have them (although you definitely could avoid eating grains completely on a vegan diet) and that you must replace the grains with more meat. I used to eat more of a paleo-esque diet and although it works wonders for some people, I ended up gaining weight and weight just falls off of me when I eat vegan. (I don’t try to restrict fats though, I just avoid using oil when I can). But congrats to those who have found success w primal/paleo.

  65. I recenty noticed bad intestine pain the morning aftef eating white rice, Its the only grain I allow because I have to stay low oxalate and get very depressed anxious shaky on primal with no high carb meal, i cant have potatoes or sweet potatoes and nuts and many of the squashes. Anyway the rice keeps my hormones going well but now I see the connection with my gut pain. I am not sure what to do, I also cant have dairy, my food choices are very slim its emotionally distressing in itself.

  66. I’ve been diagnosed with IBS in the past. I only suffer from mild symptoms such as bloating, chronic diarrhoea etc. I have once or twice in the past suffered bad abdominal cramps too. I have visited the doctors on many occasions about this issue and have been blood tested for coeliac disease etc, but basically it always comes down to that they don’t really care as my condition is far from life threatening.

    I have tried lactose-free, gluten-free (separately), most things, but they didn’t seem to solve the problem. I’m currently eating only rice and oats as my ‘grains’ as well as cutting out dairy, caffeine, and basically any kind of junk food – and I must say that I am a LOT better than I used to be – although I most definitely still have very noticeable symptoms. I also eat a lot. A hell of a lot, a lot more than some people twice my weight, although I am 23 years old and lift weights heavy weights very often – of course most doctors won’t take you too seriously if you tell them that you eat too much when you’re of a healthy appearance and aren’t losing weight.

    Currently, I eat a big bowl of porridge every morning with almond milk, and huge amounts of rice and rice noodle or sweet potato meals throughout the day. Knowing about the bloating effects of carbs I have considered going carb-free totally, although experimentation in the past has left me worrying about the fatigue that this has left me in the very short term, as well as the difficulty that it may pose in gaining/keeping muscle mass – I’ve never really tried it for more than a few days. Despite having many doubts, reading about Mark and his previous conditions and large food intake due to a very active lifestyle, I can’t help but feel that we may be very alike. I wonder if perhaps it is the amount of grains that we’ve eaten in the past that has caused us noticeable symptoms, which has exemplified their ills as explained on this site.

    Again, I cannot say that I am yet totally sold yet but given Mark’s experience and those of the commenters on this post, I am definitely going to give the Primal Blueprint diet a try. Although I am not sure quite how I am going to afford it based on my lowly PhD student income! But hey, I hope everything said turns out to come true for me, I will be sure to let you know how it goes.

    One last thing, I am a little concerned that I may be intolerant/allergic to eggs as large consumption in the past has seemed to result in my symptoms, as has an allergic response to the flu jab (which is build using egg proteins). So any (high protein) breakfast ideas to replace my current oats that isn’t eggs would be highly appreciated.

    One more last thing! I wish I could write this much for my thesis… but I have definitely found that conventional ‘healthy eating’ of wholegrain carbs has been bad for me. My symptoms improved drastically, especially bloating, when switching to white carbs, not sure if anybody else has found this…?

  67. Interesting and I can relate. Except I struggle with willpower. I have cleaned up my diet majorly in the last 2 years and do not experience the same stomach pains I used to. 2 months ago I did a 2 week “diet” of dairy/grain free and I felt fantastic. However I travelled for work and due to limited options fell back into eating grains again. I’ve managed to stay off dairy. I started eating gluten free grains again, but the stomach pains are back with a vengeance. Day 1 of no grains again! Work in progress. Hopefully I can build up my willpower to say no to grains! Dairy is easy for me.

  68. I can’t believe I’m just now reading this. I had the exact same thing happen to me almost 3 years ago. I’m an avid distance runner and had always eaten grains. I’d never really noticed much until I started a stressful job. My stomach/intestine pain became so severe that I could only eat plain chicken and spinach for every meal. Incredibly boring, but it worked to keep my stomach at bay. After going through a food sensitivity test and doing the elimination diet, I was able to pinpoint wheat and corn as an issue. I had oatmeal (raw, organic, rolled, blah blah blah) a few days ago and I had a terrible day. I couldn’t figure it out. Since I removed it, my stomach’s been super happy with me. I can sometimes get away with the occasional corn tortilla and some rice, but that’s about it. Thank you for sharing your experience, now I know I’m not crazy! 🙂

  69. But where the grains you were consuming sprouted and raw? Or where they in the form of products man-ufactured and man-ipulated by people. If they were not properly prepared and then were denatured by heating which chemically changes their properties then this post is only half a story. I think before we can broadly discredit foods we should look to our own behaviors or lack thereof towards them.

  70. Wow this is an old post, but I was happy to find it. I had been having terrible stomach cramps and spent much time in the bathroom. It got worse and worse. After multiple doctor visits and inconclusive tests, I finally gave up bread and pasta. No more morning toast meant no more pain. I also lost a bunch of weight. I started eating oatmeal in the morning and the pain came back with a vengeance. My only issue now is finding things to eat, especially breakfast. I’m also a vegetarian so lately it’s been just salad for the most part.

    1. My body can tolerate white carbs, but not whole grains. Oats, Brown Bread are the worst, corn seems less of an irritant but not great.
      White rice, white bread cause no issues. Not nutritionally great but a good source of quick energy. If whole grains are not in my diet I can tolerate everything else from dairy to fructose with no issues. Shame it took me years to work this out.

  71. Very true as I was having some pain whenever I tried drinking some healthy multigrain drink. Never thought a “healthy” drink could cause such pain and discomfort. Then I tried again after a while on anoither brand of multigrain drink (usually in powdered form and must be mixed with water ) and the same occured. It is really causing my stomach a lot of discomfort and pain and finally, I stopped taking anything that has grains.

    Soy base drinks are my favourite. Consuming it for some time now and clearly, plant based proteins are the future foods. I am free from any pain in the stomach.

  72. Very true as I was having some pain whenever I tried drinking some healthy multigrain drink. Never thought a “healthy” drink could cause such pain and discomfort for my stomach. Then I tried again after a while on another brand of multigrain drink (usually in powdered form and must be mixed with water ) and the same occured. It is really causing my stomach a lot of discomfort and pain and finally, I stopped taking anything that has grains.

    Soy base drinks are my favourite. Consuming it for some time now and clearly, plant based proteins are the future foods. I am free from any pain in the stomach.

  73. Thank you for this reminder. I definitely feel better on a grain-free diet. I lapsed and then wondered why I have had so many flareups since I moved to another country. I came across your article and it gave me grace and reminded me that IBS suffers all relapse and that in the end we always have to eat whats best for ourselves. Thank you for this article!!