Dear Mark: Grains and Joints, Cardamom, and The Cause of Aging Muscle

Joint PainFor today’s Dear Mark, we’ve got a three-parter. First: a question about grains and joint health from a reader who gets achy and creaky every time she veers off schedule and eats grains. Is this common? Is it supported by any real evidence? Yes and yes. Next is a short overview of cardamom, that other Indian spice that you never hear much about. Turns out it’s got some potential. And finally, I (try to) assuage the existential fears of a young guy who will eventually be an old guy freaking out about the impending and inevitable loss and dearth of his muscle mass.

Let’s go:

Dear Mark,

I have been going paleo off and on since the new year. (I’m working on getting to 100%.) I have noticed that when I go off track, I start to feel aching in my joints within hours, and they even seem to pop more. Is this just in my head, or can the grains really be responsible for this?

Thanks for your thoughts,


That’s actually a common experience throughout the ancestral community. You’ve got folks reporting rheumatoid arthritis remission upon adopting a strict paleo approach. You’ve got people overcoming osteoarthritis following the Perfect Health Diet. And you’ve got people in the MDA forums overcoming or improving their psoriatic arthritis symptoms.

I’ve noticed the same thing. I used to assume that my joint pains and various types of “-itis” were caused primarily by my heavy chronic cardio habit back in the day, but I’m not so sure anymore. Anytime a significant portion of grains enter my diet, which is a rare occurrence (think a piece of crusty bread at a restaurant, a slice of cake politely accepted at a birthday party, that kind of thing), the first negative effect I notice is joint pain, crepitus (popping), and general creakiness. My old finger arthritis comes back consistently after grain indulgence, and that wasn’t caused by wear and tear. I mean, who gets finger arthritis just from running marathons?

And know, we’re not just “making it up” nor are we suffering one of those collective delusions that are supposedly so common these days. While there’s no smoking gun, there’s a decent amount of evidence suggesting a connection between grains and arthritis.

As you probably already know, going Primal eliminates several potent sources of lectins – grains and legumes. Well, Cordain has an entire paper (PDF) reviewing the potential mechanisms of dietary lectin-induced rheumatoid arthritis. It’s an old story. Grain-heavy diet leads to poor gut health and a permeable intestinal lining. Intestinal permeability allows passage of dietary lectins into circulation, where they have peripheral effects on tissues, including our connective tissue. Obviously, this doesn’t affect everyone who eats grains, nor does it explain every case of rheumatoid arthritis, but in the genetically susceptible grain intake can be an environmental input with epigenetic effects.

And gluten-containing grains, especially wheat, may be especially bad. Rheumatoid arthritis patients are more likely to display anti-gliadin (a protein fragment that makes up gluten) antibodies than people without it. Some researchers even consider arthritis to be a “celiac of the joints,” with antibodies generated by the initial inflammatory insult (gluten exposure) targeting connective tissues.

One dietary intervention for rheumatoid arthritis that seems to be effective in the literature is the vegan/vegetarian diet. Only it’s not your garden variety pastatarian diet. It’s almost always a gluten-free vegan/vegetarian diet. And sure enough:

It’s likely that a gluten-free Primal or paleo intervention (with meat and vegetables, of course) would also help arthritis patients. Hopefully some studies are in the pipeline.

The important part of this entire story is that grains affect your joints and you should probably heed the lesson. You didn’t need me for that. But at least now you have some evidence that you’re not imagining it all.

Forgive me, Mark, as I may have missed it – when searching this website for info FROM YOU about cardamom, there seems to be very little. But, if I’m wrong, please ignore this question:

Is cardamom something special in the “Primal” sense?

I just bought some and am about to combine it with Turmeric (which I use 3-5 times a week), and was just curious.

Hope you’re enjoying the warm weather in So Cal thus far.


If you go by its capacity to scavenge free radicals, cardamom ranks low in the pantheon of spices commonly used on the Indian subcontinent. Cumin, ginger, coriander, garlic, and both types of cinnamon all rank more highly than cardamom. So no, cardamom’s probably not as “beneficial” as turmeric, but few spices can compete with the orange rhizome’s pharmacological prowess. We shouldn’t hold it against cardamom. Besides, several studies show that cardamom is helpful in its own right.

For instance:

If standalone cardamom doesn’t impress you, it appears to have synergistic effects when combined with other spices (which is the traditional mode of cardamom consumption, of course – as a spice rub or curry mixture). A black tea fortified with cardamom, ginger, holy basil, licorice, and ashwagandha enhanced natural killer cell activity (a marker of immune function and an important part of the initial immune response to infections) compared to control black tea without spices.

Cardamom alone isn’t likely to extend your life, prevent and/or cure cancer, or otherwise make a massive, noticeable difference to your health. But that’s true for almost anything, let alone a “superfood” spice. The real power lies in its everyday usage and its consumption with complementary spices. How to use it other than powering through a teaspoon of powder?

  • It’s great in Indian cooking.
  • When you make ghee, try adding a few cardamom pods for flavor and protection (of the lipids and cholesterol).
  • I’ll sometimes add a dash or two of cardamom right at the end when making this chili. Totally changes the dish in a good way.
  • Or if you make creamy turmeric tea, try some cardamom, either pod or powder.

And yes, I’m enjoying the warm weather. It’s why I live here!

Hi Mark,

As a fit younger guy who’s scared to death of getting old and weak, I always wonder if it’s inevitable? Obviously we all turn old, but I don’t want to be weak and decrepit. It seems like muscles just age and there’s not a lot we can do. Please tell me I’m wrong.



I’ve got good news for you, Spencer.

A new study suggests that “muscle aging” isn’t due to the passage of time itself but rather inactivity. Researchers looked at the telomere length (a marker of cellular aging, with shorter lengths indicating greater cellular age) in the skeletal muscle on the arms and legs of young adults, elderly immobile adults, and elderly mobile adults. In all three groups, arm muscle telomere length was unchanged. Everyone uses their arms to grab stuff and hold things and eat dinner and use the phone. That’s just everyday usage. The legs told a different story. In the young adults who used their legs all the time, telomere length was normal. In the older adults who still walked but not as much as the youngsters, telomere length was a little shorter. But in the immobile older adults, their leg muscle telomere length was the shortest of all. Decreases in telomere length seemed to be linked to free radical levels in the muscles, with higher free radicals leading to shorter telomeres.

Use it or lose it applies here. But don’t use it too much. While regular strength training maintains telomere length, exercising to the point of exercise-associated chronic fatigue causes shorter telomeres in the skeletal muscle of endurance athletes. Exercise-associated chronic fatigue isn’t your garden variety “flop down on the floor after a tough workout” type of fatigue, but a serious, established clinical entity.

It boils down to a simple prescription: don’t give your body the impression that you’ve given up. If you stay active and vibrant, walk a lot, lift some heavy things occasionally, remain engaged with life, exercise your mind, stay in touch with friends, take your lady (or fellow) out to dinner and dancing regularly, play as much as possible, you’re letting the cells of your body know that they’ve still got work to do and they can’t throw in the towel. You need this skeletal muscle. You need this libido. You need this lower body mobilityWorks for me.

Your cells will respond. Chronological age ain’t nothing but a number.

Thanks for reading, everyone.

TAGS:  Aging, 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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84 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Grains and Joints, Cardamom, and The Cause of Aging Muscle”

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  1. To the first point – 99% of my patients with soft tissue/joint symptoms improve when switching to a grain free (note, not just gluten free) diet.

    1. I’m apparently in the 1%. Do patients ever come back to you and tell you that your recommendations didn’t work or do they just find another provider? I suspect your sample is a little skewed.

      1. Maybe you’re thinking that I meant their musculoskeletal pain is eradicated with removal of grains, however I said symptoms decrease. May this be going hand in hand with the therapy I provide, and many other things? Of course. And yes, there has been a handful of people that I’ve worked with nutritionally that have had no change (where they’ve reported back to me), but their problems are typically very complex in nature. I very rarely spend time working nutritionally with patients that just end up “finding someone else” due to the time commitment as well as me following up with them, so I doubt my results are skewed in that direction. Maybe it is 98%, maybe it is 99.4%. The point is that nearly every single person that switches to a grain free diet that I work with feels better, physically. I wouldn’t get too hung up on internet semantics here.

        1. Or 3% rather than 99.4%. The point is that you have no idea. You don’t see the ”non-responders” because of the “time commitment” or more likely because they fail to return. You are selling nonsense.

        2. What I’m “selling” is the same idea as this whole website is based around. Don’t read it if you don’t like it and don’t respond negatively and pick minor things apart it leads nowhere

        3. Then presumably you aren’t charging any money for your advice. Or you are certain that none of the “patient” you treat have arthritis? Or perhaps “arthritis” and “money” are merely “internet semantics”?

      2. Stella: The same goes for me, and most of the people in my arthritis support group. Only 1% non-responders? I am not buying it.

        1. See: “May this be going hand in hand with the therapy I provide, and many other things? Of course.” – If you’re not moving well you’re going to have constant functional overuse problems and your nutrition isn’t going to be able to help you as much. Conversely to the statement that results with my patients may be skewed you claim an arthritis support group. As proven non responders due to whatever reason I feel like that is much more of a skewed representation than what I’m working with. Buy it or not, it is what I see with who I work with. Or how about I change it to 97.4% or maybe 96.2234%. Would that make everything okay?

        2. Sorry, I should have read your response to Stella more carefully.
          Symptoms decreasing in the overwhelming majority of your patients as a result of “movement pattern training,” and thus less “functional overuse” – that certainly seems possible.
          I was referring to “objective” disease regression (as documented by imaging/lab markers) as a result of grain-free eating, which, going by my experiences/interactions with many fellow arthritis sufferers over the years and the scant available data,appears to happen far less frequently, and mostly to a moderate degree (See the gluten-free vegan diet intervention study cited by Mark, for example: Less than half of the patients were responders symptom/lab-marker-wise, and no “retardation of radiological destruction was apparent” even in that group.).
          As for my sample being “much more of a skewed representation” than yours: It`s not like having unsuccessfully tried grain-free eating is a prerequisite for participating in our get-togethers, and most of the newcomers we periodically welcome have never heard of/tried out dietary interventions for arthritis before (“complementary/alternative medicine” is not as popular as in the US around these parts), so I don`t see why everyone who takes part in an arthritis support group should automatically be categorized as a “proven non responder”.

      3. Stella, Primal/Paleo diets include things like honey and maple syrup, which are still basically sugar, and hence very inflammatory. Have you tried cuting out all sugar, including “Paleo-friendly” sugars? Also, even 85% cacao chocolate is still 14-15% sugar.

        1. Paleo friendly sugars are still sugar and I rarely eat any of them except for fresh fruit. I’ve tried about a dozen nutritional approaches for arthritis with no improvement. I’ve also spent most of my life barefoot and guess where I have the worst arthritis?

        2. Stella, it sounds like the diet/primal approach simply is not the answer for you. That doesn’t mean that it is not for other people. You probably fall in the category of people that need to try something else. You should probably see a doctor and go with the more traditional way of dealing with this issue. Or, you may just have to live with it.

      4. In my experience some people with joint inflammation are highly sensitive to nightshades, even the tiniest bit of potato can be very inflammatory. I’ve spoken to 3 women for whom this was the case – one had polyarthritis, one Rheumatoid and one inflammatory osteoarthritis.
        So if grain free does not work well – strictly cut out nightshades – potatoes, tomatoes, all types of peppers and chilli, goji berries and eggplant (there are a few others too – just google them)

      5. The other issue for some with the HLAb27 gene is starch. Look up Carol Sinclairs IBS book written for people with HLAB27 gene. Starch feeds Klebsiella in the gut – this bacteria triggers auto-immune response to joint tissue.

    2. I often wonder if rice has been unfairly lumped into the category of “offensive grains.” It’s gluten-free and is grown differently than other grains. I occasionally eat both white and brown rice and have none of the problems with it that I get with wheat. If not exactly primal, it seems to me that rice is pretty innocuous if eaten in moderation.

      1. I personally get some of my symptoms back when I eat SOME kinds of rice. For example, sushi rice and Greek rice (a type for risotto-like rice dishes) are ok, but most other Asian rices give me problems. Research papers last year showed that some cultivars of oats and quinoa create gluten-related symptoms (half the cultivars tested for oats, 3/15 for quinoa), even if themselves have no gluten. So it might be the same with rice, it could depend on the cultivar.

        As for gluten, I truly believe that these massive problems with “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” we all have around here is non-gluten related. I believe it to be another compound that is found in most grains and pseudograins, but particularly in wheat. It would also explain why 10% of celiacs only see remission after going completely grain-free/Paleo and not on a plain GF diet.

    3. Apparently i am one of the 99% or 96.224% or whatever the stats may be. When i started eating primal and grain free, my joint relief was such that i not only felt well enough to start moving i am excelling at activities i once could only have dreamed of doing.

    4. Holy cow! Am I the only one who understood that Anthony wasn’t stating a verifiable fact that was calculated to be exactly 99% based on extensive patient surveys? He was just using a common phrase we all use to say that yes, the vast majority of the time this is true to some extent from his experience.

      Lighten up people. And seriously, tossing out grains for a couple weeks has zero risk factors. Why not try it? He’s not pushing expensive surgery or drugs. If I had chronic inflammation or arthritis, I’d certainly “risk” going grain free to see what happens.

      That’s all he was saying.

      1. I went primal 19 months ago and it’s been life changing. When I eat gluten – usually by chance ’cause it’s in something and I hadn’t realized it – I know almost right away. I get congested and my knees hurt.

        My naturopath, when I told her, said simply “Yes. Gluten is an inflammatory.”

        Great point that going grain free has no risk to it whatsoever. I was mildly skeptical but there’s nothing like highly positive direct experience to convince! 🙂

  2. I was a professional musician who lost the ability to play the guitar because of joint pain in my left thumb. Three doctors, two hand surgeons, two physical therapists, one chiropractor and one Rolfer later, the hand was no better. However, two days after I stopped eating wheat, not only were my energy levels unbelievably higher (I am not exaggerating here) but the joint pain started to lessen, and a few weeks later I could actually play again.

    So I have to agree completely with Mark here – we may not have studies that show that gluten (or in my case, gliadin, as I tested at the absolute top of the scale for antibodies on that one later) can cause joint pain, but I have all the anecdotal evidence I need. But if I needed more, all I would have to do is look at the two or three times I’ve been accidentally re-exposed. Immediate itching on my left hand, fatigue starts in, and brain fog. I am absolutely convinced that if I kept ingesting the stuff my left hand would regress to its earlier, non-functional condition because these symptoms were the precursors to the loss of my guitar playing.

    In other words, Janet – stay away from the stuff. Actually, discovering that I am physically intolerant of this protein (I am not celiac, BTW) has made it a lot easier for me than some that I see who constantly backslide; I cannot afford even the slightest relapse or I will get immediate negative reinforcement. This is the kind of operant conditioning that really works. So maybe you should look on the bright side and consider yourself lucky.

    1. I noticed last winter, that whenever I ate any wheat, my hands and elbows would ache when I was out in the cold. It only took one meal, and I would pay for it for 3 days. Didn’t take too many reminders for me to take the hint. It wasn’t until after the first incident, that noticed that the cold hadn’t really been much of a problem, as far as achiness went, that winter. Occasional rice consumption did not have the same effect. Not sure about other grains and not interested in finding out.

  3. The finger arthritis thing and some other joint aches and pains I assumed were from too much hiking, all of which went away when I went paleo, was the first thing I noticed.

    For the longest time I thought cardamom was a Swedish spice as my grandmother used it a lot.

    1. Yes It is used in mostly baking in the Scandinavian countries…so I don’t think they or me when I used it go any benefit.

  4. Spencer, I am old – 71 yo – but after 4 years of doing Primal, I’m less old. Seriously. Other stuff, like hearing, is not so good. But my muscles are fine. And I don’t do heavy workouts, actually I mostly do classes for seniors. After a lifetime of Primal, you should be really strong when you reach my age!

  5. This is so interesting…I’ve been experiencing achey joints and thought it was from running. I’ve since stopped but I still have the pain..I’m interested to see if grains are effecting me more than I realized.

  6. I think Mark’s gonna be the only guy to request to be completely naked at his funeral viewing, so EVERYONE can walk by and see the 6-pack abs he’s taking to his grave. Then, we can join the crowd of mourners crying because we don’t look like that…and we’re still alive!

    Don’t forget the glass coffin, Mark. Show it off right up til the last minute! 🙂

  7. Concerning grain-free eating and arthritis improvement: There are most definitely non-responders. I know, because I am one of them. Years of Primal eating (and, so far, six months on the strict autoimmune protocol) have resulted in me losing some weight and feeling more energetic than I did before, but haven`t had any impact on subjective arthritis symptoms or objective disease progression (as determined by imaging/lab markers). The experiences reported by other people in my arthritis support group who have tried out Paleo are all over the place: While the majority hasn`t noticed a difference, some say their symptoms got slighty worse (I have no idea why that might happen), some say their symptoms got slightly better, and a couple of lucky dogs enjoy substantial improvements.

    1. Stopping grains–and especially the ill-advised daily tablespoon of wheat germ on my yogurt–completely cured my advanced basal thumb arthritis.

      Wheat germ may be the most harmful “health food” out there. Poor, unwitting souls who continue to eat it. Just Google “wheat germ agglutinin” and you’ll see what I mean.

    2. I advise you to do analysis on Vitamin D and PTH. Sorry for my english 🙂

  8. Don’t forget about nightshades for arthritis. I had some salsa three weeks ago and my knee inflammation (psoriatic arthritis) and pain was pretty intense from it. I still consume some gluten free grains (1/4 cup basmati rice here and there and some potato starch or tapioca starch) combined with intermittent fasting and do well with it but if I have tomatoes, peppers or fresh potatoes my body doesn’t do well. Nonetheless diet change got me off all my medications (three years now) and I have no inflammation markers in my blood work. I do find nightshades the most difficult to give up. I have been gluten free for a couple of years now so it’s not just a matter of time with healing I don’t think my body likes nightshades at all.

    1. I don’t seem to have any issues with nightshades (thank goodness!). The thought of giving up salsa would bring about the rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth.

      1. While eating a bunch can cause the running of nose and much weeping.

  9. There are some things I’ve noticed consuming makes my joints crack more. I’m not sure of the specific ingredient(s) but I think excess caffeine might do it because I’ve gotten real snap crackle pop after coffee, particularly instant coffee. I think sugar will do it too and maybe the chemical dextromethorphan to a small extent, or else the tenseness it causes in my body affects my joints temporarily because if I eat a bunch of cough candies I get more prone to cracking, especially in my neck and spine and when I crack them it’s like an elephant stepping on a bag of chips. It turns heads.

    1. Animanarchy, I attended the online Gluten Summit earlier this year and remember it being mentioned that instant coffee was cross-reactive with gluten! So that makes sense that your body would respond that way.

      1. Normally I’m grain-free except for some beer but I did notice that with the coffee a lot more when I was incarcerated and had no choice but to eat a grain based diet so that could have been it.

  10. What’s interesting to me is that once you go grain free you are more susceptible to grains when you do have that occasional grain snack. Like yesterday I had a raspberry wheat beer brewed locally. Within half an hour I felt heavy and bloated. Just one beer. Made me a tad sad.

    On the aging front I do wonder about how my body will respond. I am 38 now, and I have a few friends who are starting to see the signs of aging. For me, other than a cranky left knee, I feel great. How long will that last? That’s my worry.

    1. I’ve wondered (but have no proof) if this is due to our innate anti-inflammatory pathways down-regulating when we stop eating inflammatory foods.

      It’s seems to be very common on the AIP diet, to notice reactions to foods one didn’t suspect as an inflammatory trigger before the elimination period.

    2. CL Deards I have noticed being more sensitive now that I don’t really eat bread, whereas it used to be the cornerstone of every meal. A few bites of wheat and my hand swells the next day. Why am I more sensitive now?

      1. Maybe the composition of your gut flora has changed, the bacteria that are well-suited to eating grains (they can help break down phytic acid and gluten) have died off or are no longer as numerous.

        1. That’s true, Animanarchy, something tiny and unknown is having an effect that I don’t expect on my hand.

  11. It would be interesting to know how many of the non-respondents to grain free have had root canals and/or mercury fillings. I personally had to go grain free, have my cracked ancient amalgam filling out, and then do a series of cleanses (all while grain free) before I felt better. I’m pretty convinced that root canals and infected/mercury fillings are root cause for a lot of people and removing grains is not going to fix those.

    I have also noticed that if I have a flare (Hashimotos) I will still be achey anyway – am trying to figure out what is causing the flares as I am strict AIP – which works most of the time and flares are becoming fewer and farther between.

      1. I put a generous dash of cardamom in with the coffee grounds before I make my drip coffee. It eliminates the coffee’s icky aftertaste!

  12. For some people, wheat allergy/sensitivity is so high that they have to make sure not to expose themselves to wheat/certain grains AT ALL. My niece has Celiac disease and the literature states that even one exposure to wheat can result in symptoms lasting 6 months!
    It can take 6 months for the results of an exposure to wheat to clear out of the system of someone who is very sensitive to wheat/grains. So if you have been off grains for a few months and feel like you still have some issues, try a longer period of time before giving up or saying it doesn’t work for you.

  13. Joint aches when I cheated and ate grain was one of the first thing I noticed when I went primal. It would start a couple hours after eating it and last for several hours and hurt enough to keep me from sleeping. I had chalked it up to a weird allergy to wheat. I am allergic to all the local grasses and grains are grasses so I had just figured it was an extension of my grass allergy. It seems that I am not the only one this happens to.

  14. I have something going on in the lower left side of my back. It’s like a pinching type pain. It is nonexistent when I’m on a paleo diet. As soon as I eat grains or anything else that causes inflammation, it roars with disgust and punishes me with pain for my bad choices. It’s wrath shows no mercy until I pop an Ibuprofen. This tells me one thing… Inflammation will wreck you. Don’t do it.

  15. Thanks to Mark and to those who commented for the information and reassurance! That is very helpful and gives me more confidence that I am doing the right thing for my body in going primal.

  16. Sorry, Spencer, but I have bad news for you. I’ve been lifting my whole life (54 now) and keeping a log of my weights, reps, 1RM, and the time component to some extent. I can tell you that it’s real, aging is real, and unless you actually die young(er), the older you get the weaker you will become. Will you be decrepit? Maybe not. But if you manage to get into advanced old age you most surely will. There is no Ponce de Leon lifestyle or diet. Yet. However, if you’re not at your maximal fitness now, you can always improve and believe it will go on forever!

    Enjoy every moment, now, and don’t waste time chasing a long life, because if you fail to achieve it, so what? You won’t be around to regret it. As for your healthspan, sure, do what you can, but don’t make it a religion and spoil the present.

    1. You have been lifting weights your whole life, or at least since your teens. But how long, if at all, have you been on an ancestral diet?

      There is no fountain of youth, but if a young guy like Spencer follows the whole Primal Blueprint, he will probably be in fantastic shape when he is “old.”

    2. Rick, for someone who’s lifted all your life I would agree. Jack LaLane was always as fit as he could be but got old and died. But for us average Joe’s and Jill’s out there I believe there’s so much room for growth and improvement. I’m 56 and do 25 real chin-ups(not half ones that only cheat yourself I see people do at my gym). I see definite increases in my strength because I probably have more wiggle room than you and the paleo lifestyle doesn’t hurt either.

  17. Thanks, Mark! I’m now adding the cardamom to my turmeric tea, for sure (as well as some other recipes). I knew you’d give ample info on it, and I so appreciate your thoughts.


    1. Cardamom powder is also nice to sprinkle over a Primal egg coffe. (As variation to cinnamon and cacao powder)

      1. Oh, thank you for that suggestion! I love the Primal egg coffee, so this will snazz it up even more.

  18. This might be rare, but I got Rheumatoid Arthritis AFTER being Primal for a year and a half.

    I went Primal two years ago and things were going great up until about six months ago when I suddenly started having RA symptoms. So much pain! It took a while to get the correct diagnosis and start on medications and for those meds to make a difference. I don’t have pain everyday now but I am taking meds that I wish I didn’t need.

    Gluten is not the cause of my RA. Since going Primal I have been 100% gluten free as I realized I at least have a severe sensitivity to it, if not Celiac Disease. But I did allow myself some dairy, occasional white rice, and various nightshades.

    I gave up nightshades for a month but haven’t noticed any change. It’s difficult to judge if there’s any improvement while taking medication but next I’m going to try eliminating ALL grains – even the most tempting gluten free breads and cookies I have been eating once in a while. If that doesn’t do it I don’t know what else to try, so wish me luck.

    No matter what, I’m going to continue with my primal diet. The other benefits are so amazing and wonderful that I’ll never go back to SAD, even if I can’t ever get off the RA meds.

    1. Have you tried a Whole30? They also have an auto-immune version of it. My cousin has had really significant improvement with her RA with it.

    2. Dairy can also be a problem. I used to suffer from stiff, achy knees at night (not during the day, go figure). 2-3 weeks after eliminating dairy, the stiffness and achiness disappeared, completely. That was 15 years ago. I now eat small amounts of ghee and occasional very small amounts of butter/cream/cheese/ice cream, with no return of knee or any other joint problems. So far, anyway!

  19. In my own experience there is definitely a grain/joint link from an athletic standpoint. I have no idea what types of grains or what the actual culprit is but after eliminating grains I don’t have joint achiness that used to accompany long runs, and my tendons don’t bother me like they used to. I haven’t really cut down my actual mileage much (40-45 versus 50ish) so I don’t think that could be it. But if a lot of people are having a similar experience I definitely think there’s something to it!

  20. My bicep tendonitis tends to flair up when I’m less primal, and becomes virtually non-existent when I’m 100% (something I discovered while I did a Whole30). Anecdotal, sure, but just another reason to continue eating this way. I’m not ready to give up competitive volleyball just yet!

  21. Spencer – my husband’s parents are 79. Both can bike for 15-20 a day, most days of the week and can do 4 miles of singletrack. My father-in-law has been doing push-ups and pull-ups since being drafted as a young man and doesn’t suffer from weakness just because he’s nearing 80. They both work weekly on doing exercises for stability and balance, using a bosu ball among other things. They’ve probably slowed down a little compared to a decade ago, but are in great physical condition compared to someone years younger. What ever you’re doing for exercise, don’t stop.

  22. Before my Celiac diagnosis, I was experiencing intense knee pain, as well as intermittent wrist pain, & I was worried that in a couple of years I’d be completely unable to garden, one of my most loved activities. (I’d already stopped running– the pain lessened a bit but didn’t go away.) I was so depressed by my body’s seeming premature deterioration that it was affecting my overall attitude toward life.

    At around the same time, I was diagnosed with CD, so I changed my diet to eliminate all gluten.
    To my amazement, going gluten free made an almost immediate difference in my joint pain, something I wasn’t even expecting! My nearly-lifelong migraines also all but vanished. Those two changes alone made for a huge improvement in my quality of life, & there were many others. I’m never ever tempted by gluten– who needs all that pain!?

  23. The Paleo Autoimmune protocol + no starch (important!) would be the way to go for those who struggle to see a decrease in inflammatory arthritis symptoms. No starch and very very little sugar has helped my Ankylosing Spondylitis immensely. A life-time commitment… But so well worth it. Starch and sugar (including fructose), not just gluten, are major players in producing inflammatory symptoms in my experience.

    1. I have been on the AIP + no starch for about six months now; hasn`t made a difference so far…

      1. I realize diet isn’t the answer to everything, but just curious how much and what exercises you do, quality of sleep, are your Vit D levels in check, what about other fat-soluble vitamin blood levels? Are you consuming bone stock/broth and organ meats? Consider taking some fermented cod liver oil. Are you taking probiotics? Consider supplementing with quercetin, which has anti-allergy properties and restores intestinal barrier function. Eat more selenium-rich foods, a known anti-inflammatory. Look into a low-dose naltrexone. It’s difficulty to find a doc who will prescribe it, unfortunately, because most haven’t heard of using it for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Are you taking NSAIDS? Those can cause leaky gut. Are you possibly being exposed to heavy metals and/or other toxins? Consider some milk thistle for liver detox if that is the case. Good luck! I wouldn’t wish an AI disorder on my worst enemy. My fiancé is currently suffering through AI hepatitis!!

        1. Thanks! Most of this is already “on my radar,” I think:

          I do pilates/yoga/tai chi a couple of times per week, take long walks daily (about an hour or two), and occasionally do “sprints” in the pool or on the bike on my better days (that averages out to about once every two weeks, I guess). Sleep is dialled in (about 8 hours per night), vitamin/ mineral/trace element levels are fine (including D, the other fat solubles, and selenium). I do eat bone broth/organ meats. I don`t currently take NSAIDs, and don`t suffer from heavy metal/any other typical environmental toxin exposure (had that tested a couple of months ago).
          I don`t currently take any supplements except curcumin; I actually tried out cod liver oil, several different prebiotics and probiotics, quercetin, and a lot of other stuff in the past, but none of it seemed to make a difference except for the curcumin, which I stuck with.
          I have never heard of naltrexone as an arthritis-treatment before; sounds interesting.

          Sorry about your fiance, and good luck right back at both of you!

  24. If you want some reassurance regards muscle mass and strength in ageing, go and have a look at Dr Charles Eugster. 93 or so and lifting weights. He does not want to get old & weak either! What an inspiration! Google him!

  25. If you want some reassurance regards muscle mass and strength in ageing, go and have a look at Dr Charles Eugster. 93 or so and lifting weights. He does not want to get old & weak either! What an inspiration! Google him!

  26. Weston Price also discussed the coming and going of rheumatoid arthritis in his book when people were on their native diets vs. “white man’s food”–white flour and sugar.

  27. Removing grain (and sugar) completely removed both my rheumatoid arthritis inflammation and asthma. I have been completely symptom free for a year. On occasions in the past when I let grain and sugar back into my diet, the arthritis came back almost immediately. The asthma took a lot longer, but it came back too. So now I am fully committed to sticking with this lifestyle. Moving and breathing freely are amazing gifts I don’t want to lose!

  28. So…what do I do? Not long after starting Primal (which I have been about 70/30…not ideal,) my eye doctor noticed that my eyes were dry. So I am doing preservative free tears and fish oil to help with them.

    This spring I had two blood tests done and I am boarder line RA. I am doing my best to eat grain free (still 70/30 primal most of the time.) I have some aches…but not much, and they are better when I am primal.

    Today, one of the links talked about risks associated with paleo/primal type diets….and dry eyes (low production of mucus) was one of the problems. So am I in a Catch 22 situation?

    1. Perhaps your diet is too low in carbs? According to:
      a diet that is too low in carbs can lead to low mucus production and dry eyes, among other things.

      The author (Paul Jaminet) also hypothesizes that low vitamin C and/or D may contribute to dry eyes.

      Also: from yesterday’s MDA (6/22/14 Weekend Link Love), under Research of the Week: “People who stare into computer screens for more than seven hours a day have dysfunctional tear fluid similar to the fluid of patients with clinical dry eye.”

      Hope this helps!

    2. Which link mentions the dry eyes/mucus problem? There’s a v interesting article re this on the Perfect Health Diet website. 2 years into eating VLC primal, I started getting bad sinus issues, constant dry clogged throat, cervical and nasal polyps. This coincided with reading about resistant starch and I reintroduced potatoes and rice and occasional legumes back into my diet. Finally, after 3 months, I’ve noticed a huge improvement.

  29. I found out about Cardamon by eating out far too often Hahaha!, there is a dessert called Gajar Halwa that is very popular in India and Pakistan. Its shredded carrots cooked in milk, sugar, and cardamon. DELICIOUS

    I’ll admit it looks kind of strange in the pot/serving dish. You wouldnt believe how hard it was to get people to even try it, when it doesnt taste at all like carrots anymore!


    1. Oooooo, I just googled “Gajar Halwa” and found a recipe. Thanks for the idea, I think that my son could make this (my evil plan to make him want to try it of course).

  30. I think I am allergic to potato starch (trying out the RS theory)

    My knee joints flared up after taking 2 tablespoons yesterday.

  31. I met a guy years ago that had been crippled with joint pain and after visiting a herbalist had been told that he ate too many oats and was told to eliminate them, and fruit juice, and have pumpkin, sunflower, flax, sesame and poppy instead and in following this he healed himself.
    I tried eliminating oats and for me, they are the one that trashes my joints, i’m sure. I crept back up with them, mostly as cereals, and then re-eliminated them about a month ago, and within a day all my aching joints when i get up in the morning have gone.
    I can’t see how i can afford to go fully primal as meat is expensive and i don’t have lots of spare cash, but getting rid of oats really helps me

  32. Preparing your grains traditionally will probably make a huge difference. Eliminating grains usually means cutting carbs drastically unless you are pounding the fruit. Cutting carbs means less glucose, which means down regulation of available energy for cells, which means down regulation of most major systems including the immune system. I think many people experiencing pain relief going grain free are simply experiencing a down regulation of the immune system from the subsequent carb reduction. The only way to be sure is to replace carbohydrates lost from the grains, with equal carbohydrate from fruit and see the results. If the pain stays, it’s probably an insulin resistance issue. If the pain subsides, its probably a phytate/endotoxin issue.

  33. Cardamon helps in reducing toxins, helps in reducing cancer. One of ingredients used in indian cooking for aromatic flavour and health benefits. Good to know that it also give relief for joint pains.

  34. Unfortunately this doesn’t work for everyone. I have been truly gluten free since 2006,when I was diagnosed with celiac and hashimotos. When I was close to be 100% back to normal I got pregnant with my 1st,then a couple of years later my 2nd and in 2014 had my 3rd.While I was/am super healthy (never get sick with anything),I could feel getting really tired,some back pain, insomnia,massive hair loss and was not able to lose the last 20 lbs from my last pregnancy .In February of this year I decided to go paleo.We were already eating super healthy with only grass fed/pastured raised meats, organs, fresh from the farms pastured chicken and duck eggs,sprouted gf grains and flours,tons of organic fruits and vegetables. I cook every meal from scratch,3 times a day every day,plus baking .Since going paleo my health has been greatly deteriorating. Every bone in my body hurts to the point where I can’t move properly, or even holding things with my hands is a struggle. I sleep 8-10 h a night and I still feel tired.My hair loss is even worse and the thing that shocked me the most is the tons of wrinkles that appeared in such a short time (Did not have any wrinkles before and while I am close to 40 I was constantly getting compliments about my looks).We are all different and whatever works for me,might not work for someone else.

  35. It’s been a really long time since anyone’s commented on this topic, and I should see if it’s been brought up somewhere else on this site. But I’ll add it here b/c it’s most relevant to the comments in this post.

    I eliminated gluten for years (occasional treats with small effect), but over time I became more sensitive to oats, rice, and corn. One day in the news, I came upon an interesting article on the current process of harvesting grain crops by farmers that wasn’t always the process. They use Roundup to dessicate grain crops in order to accelerate the drying of the plant so that they can harvest when they want, and not when Mother Nature decides. This, of course, increases the crop, reducing lost seed, but also means there’s a double-dose of glyphosate in our grains (before planting and again at harvest). Anyway, I’m speculating as are others, whether the grains themselves are not the culprit (entirely), but that residual glyphosate could be what many are reacting to. It’s a thought.