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Paleo Diet and Severe Stomach Aches & Cramping

by (10)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:12 PM
Created March 01, 2010 at 8:30 PM

I started the Paleo diet 15 days ago. (Eating fish but no meat). My overall energy and body feels very good on this diet. I don't find myself having any sort of side effects except from the diet with the exception of severe stomach aches.

Generally the stomach pain happens 1-3 hours after breakfast (eggs + broccoli + kale or chard). The pain is so intense that I've felt like taking a trip to the ER. It typically lasts anywhere from 1-3 hours. I've had the pain at night before too and one time thought that I had food poisoning. That time the stomach aches/cramping included severe diarrhea.

I notice feeling very flushed and hot before the stomach pain begins and then when the pain is full blown, I get very chilled and cold and then hot again and cold again. As if I am dealing with the flu.

These symptoms have been going on for the past 12 days. Two days ago I didn't eat eggs and broccoli for breakfast and I didn't experience a stomach ache.

Has anyone else had similar symptoms? Everything I've read discusses feeling much better on this diet. I am wanting to stick with it but finding that this reaction in my body is taking over my life. Could this be a symptom of sugar withdrawal? I appreciate any comments, advice or stories.

Cheers, heather

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1173 · October 16, 2012 at 9:36 PM

apparently H. Pylori hates Paleo dieting! How did you find out you had an infection?

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1617 · March 18, 2011 at 1:43 PM

Oh, wanted to add that her broccoli problems appeared out of the blue. She ate it for most of her life with no problem and suddenly one day just BAM.

C491ff8ce20d5c17f8f7ff94392a9570
1617 · March 18, 2011 at 1:40 PM

I agree. My sister has terrible problems with broccoli. Horrible stomach aches that last for hours that she needs to sleep off, and the last two times she ate it she actually vomited. She won't touch broccoli with a 10-ft pole anymore.

6ec71fad80c744d16220bab99f9fbc60
60 · August 31, 2010 at 4:21 AM

A few years ago I developed an intolerance for cabbage family foods. Cabbage itself is a no-no, as it causes intense gastrointestinal pain and bloating--and eventually it all comes up. But not until I suffer for a good 2 or 3 hours. I would try the eggs with something other than cabbage family vegetables and see if that helps. Wikipedia has a couple page on cabbage family plants, which are "Brassicas": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassicaceae

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2254 · March 05, 2010 at 4:57 PM

While spinach isn't a member of the cabbage family, I thought I'd mention this anyway just in case -- I've recently developed a reaction to spinach, which sounds very similar in nature (severe cramping, diarrea) to what's being described here. I never had this before but when I started eating large amounts of spinach I got this reaction every time, and now avoid it altogether.

8e606dbf570848c4bc95f98e974a42ca
312 · March 03, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Heather, any flare ups?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 02, 2010 at 1:51 AM

Also, beano never worked for me :(

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 02, 2010 at 1:51 AM

Yeah, I missed this. I also can't eat most foods from this family. Leaves like kale and chard work OK for me and fermented cabbage, but broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, and other members of this family REALLY upset my stomach. The specific carbohydrate diet bans them because they have indigestible sugars that can feed bad gut bacteria. Once your gut bacteria is rebalanced, they allow you to eat them again, but I never bothered.

75695e0f974ddfa0a848742aaf294ffa
10 · March 01, 2010 at 10:05 PM

Thanks for the detailed information. I am going to start eliminating foods that I think might be hurting my stomach and see what happens. I feel a little nervous about not eating eggs especially since it is my main protein/animal source.

75695e0f974ddfa0a848742aaf294ffa
10 · March 01, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Steven, I've eliminated everything that I thought might be hurting my stomach. Salsa, supplements, garlic. Nothing else in my diet has changed. I am going to try to eliminate eggs and see what happens.

8e606dbf570848c4bc95f98e974a42ca
312 · March 01, 2010 at 9:46 PM

Heather, I am with Melissa here a lot of the digestive issues I had are clearing up since I have started eating paleo. Some of them I was not even aware that I had to be honest becuase they were always there so I thought it was "normal" to feel that way. Did you change anything else? The type of eggs? Style of preperation? Are you taking any supplements at breakfast as well?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 01, 2010 at 9:17 PM

I have no idea where I got chronic salmonella. But my symptoms were similar to yours. My doc said that it was just IBS acting up, but it just keep depleting me until I ended up in the ER.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 01, 2010 at 9:15 PM

This page gives some ideas of foods that can irritate the gut http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/legal/legal_illegal_a-c.htm though back then they didn't know about the egg thing. My own site has a list too http://huntgatherlove.com/paleofoods

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 01, 2010 at 9:14 PM

Leaky gut is what many people do paleo to heal. In order to heal leaky gut, which is a disorder of too much gut permeability, eating gentle foods low in antinutrients and fermentable carbs is essential. It requires eating a little more careful than just paleo because foods that might make the problem worse include things like nuts and many vegetables.

75695e0f974ddfa0a848742aaf294ffa
10 · March 01, 2010 at 8:55 PM

Hi Melissa. This is excellent information, thank you. I will try to eliminate eggs from my diet and see what happens. Is Leaky Gut a common symptom of eating Paelo? Could chronic salmonella come from one piece of bad fish? Thanks for your help! heather

75695e0f974ddfa0a848742aaf294ffa
10 · March 01, 2010 at 8:49 PM

Steven, I've never had a problem with eggs in the past. In fact, I generally eat them 5 times a week with no problem. I'm not allergic to broccoli either. I've never experienced food allergies or stomach issues in my life. This is a first for me.

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16 Answers

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64
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11478 · March 02, 2010 at 1:12 AM

Excellent points in previous posts about salmonella and egg allergies. I'll just point out that broccoli and kale are part of the cabbage family. Foods from the cabbage family are prone to causing problems with cramping and gas. If it's not the eggs, then it could be the cabbage foods. You could either eliminate broccoli and kale from your diet, or try the over the counter product "beano", which claims to work for broccoli and cabbage.

C491ff8ce20d5c17f8f7ff94392a9570
1617 · March 18, 2011 at 1:43 PM

Oh, wanted to add that her broccoli problems appeared out of the blue. She ate it for most of her life with no problem and suddenly one day just BAM.

C491ff8ce20d5c17f8f7ff94392a9570
1617 · March 18, 2011 at 1:40 PM

I agree. My sister has terrible problems with broccoli. Horrible stomach aches that last for hours that she needs to sleep off, and the last two times she ate it she actually vomited. She won't touch broccoli with a 10-ft pole anymore.

6ec71fad80c744d16220bab99f9fbc60
60 · August 31, 2010 at 4:21 AM

A few years ago I developed an intolerance for cabbage family foods. Cabbage itself is a no-no, as it causes intense gastrointestinal pain and bloating--and eventually it all comes up. But not until I suffer for a good 2 or 3 hours. I would try the eggs with something other than cabbage family vegetables and see if that helps. Wikipedia has a couple page on cabbage family plants, which are "Brassicas": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassicaceae

70d9359a2086e890a4c3bccb2ba8a8cb
2254 · March 05, 2010 at 4:57 PM

While spinach isn't a member of the cabbage family, I thought I'd mention this anyway just in case -- I've recently developed a reaction to spinach, which sounds very similar in nature (severe cramping, diarrea) to what's being described here. I never had this before but when I started eating large amounts of spinach I got this reaction every time, and now avoid it altogether.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 02, 2010 at 1:51 AM

Also, beano never worked for me :(

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 02, 2010 at 1:51 AM

Yeah, I missed this. I also can't eat most foods from this family. Leaves like kale and chard work OK for me and fermented cabbage, but broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, and other members of this family REALLY upset my stomach. The specific carbohydrate diet bans them because they have indigestible sugars that can feed bad gut bacteria. Once your gut bacteria is rebalanced, they allow you to eat them again, but I never bothered.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
6
56596 · March 01, 2010 at 8:39 PM

Wow, your symptoms sound like they could be chronic salmonella or something else nasty. I had chronic salmonella once and the symptoms were similar. I would get a stool test for food poisoning and parasites at your doctor.

The problem could also be eggs. Eggs can cause stomach problems for some " We further recommend avoiding eggs, at least until LG symptoms subside. Egg white is a source of some membranolytic proteins, such as lysozyme16, that break cell membranes and may contribute to LG." From the Paleo Diet newsletter. LG= Leaky Gut.

I know a paleo diet without eggs might seem horrible and expensive, but I had to do it and now that my gut is healed I now eat just the yolks without a problem.

My personal failsafe diet for stomach problems is making bone stock (there is good info on the Paleohacks using bones question about that) and mixing it with a can of pumpkin or a cup of homemade pureed pumpkin. That usually stops the loose stools.

75695e0f974ddfa0a848742aaf294ffa
10 · March 01, 2010 at 10:05 PM

Thanks for the detailed information. I am going to start eliminating foods that I think might be hurting my stomach and see what happens. I feel a little nervous about not eating eggs especially since it is my main protein/animal source.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 01, 2010 at 9:17 PM

I have no idea where I got chronic salmonella. But my symptoms were similar to yours. My doc said that it was just IBS acting up, but it just keep depleting me until I ended up in the ER.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 01, 2010 at 9:15 PM

This page gives some ideas of foods that can irritate the gut http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/legal/legal_illegal_a-c.htm though back then they didn't know about the egg thing. My own site has a list too http://huntgatherlove.com/paleofoods

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 01, 2010 at 9:14 PM

Leaky gut is what many people do paleo to heal. In order to heal leaky gut, which is a disorder of too much gut permeability, eating gentle foods low in antinutrients and fermentable carbs is essential. It requires eating a little more careful than just paleo because foods that might make the problem worse include things like nuts and many vegetables.

75695e0f974ddfa0a848742aaf294ffa
10 · March 01, 2010 at 8:55 PM

Hi Melissa. This is excellent information, thank you. I will try to eliminate eggs from my diet and see what happens. Is Leaky Gut a common symptom of eating Paelo? Could chronic salmonella come from one piece of bad fish? Thanks for your help! heather

8e606dbf570848c4bc95f98e974a42ca
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312 · March 01, 2010 at 8:35 PM

You took the eggs and broccolli out and you did not have the stomach ache. Is it possible that you are allergic to eggs? You don't mention not being allergic to either item but took them out and the problem did not present. Any problem with eggs in the past?

8e606dbf570848c4bc95f98e974a42ca
312 · March 03, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Heather, any flare ups?

75695e0f974ddfa0a848742aaf294ffa
10 · March 01, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Steven, I've eliminated everything that I thought might be hurting my stomach. Salsa, supplements, garlic. Nothing else in my diet has changed. I am going to try to eliminate eggs and see what happens.

8e606dbf570848c4bc95f98e974a42ca
312 · March 01, 2010 at 9:46 PM

Heather, I am with Melissa here a lot of the digestive issues I had are clearing up since I have started eating paleo. Some of them I was not even aware that I had to be honest becuase they were always there so I thought it was "normal" to feel that way. Did you change anything else? The type of eggs? Style of preperation? Are you taking any supplements at breakfast as well?

75695e0f974ddfa0a848742aaf294ffa
10 · March 01, 2010 at 8:49 PM

Steven, I've never had a problem with eggs in the past. In fact, I generally eat them 5 times a week with no problem. I'm not allergic to broccoli either. I've never experienced food allergies or stomach issues in my life. This is a first for me.

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20 · February 24, 2012 at 2:57 PM

My bet is it's the broccoli. I actually searched for a post like this just now because I am having terrible stomach pain, and I wanted to find out if others have had similar issues... Lo and behold, I ate cauliflower at dinner last night... I'll be avoiding Brassica from now on.

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0 · August 23, 2013 at 1:37 AM

Im currently having this same issue! It even wakes me up at night..im gonna try taking out eggs. And just eating more veggies. But damn it really hurts! :(

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0 · July 07, 2013 at 2:06 AM

So, I'm assuming if you've had your gallbladder removed, you may have more trouble digesting the fats vs one who has a regularly functioning gallbladder?

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0 · June 11, 2013 at 1:42 AM

dropping this here for future internet readers: consider gallbladder issues as well. eggs or fatty meals that cause stomach pain could be gallbladder. Paleo diets aren't shy about fat, and the gallbladder squeezes into action after a fatty meal.

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0 · October 27, 2012 at 11:22 PM

i've been having them for a while too...

I've tried eliminating eggs, and other things, but i cannot successfully identify a culprit.

I've always had a really strong gut, and this is very new to me ever since going Paleo...

The pain hasn't been crippling, but i'm lucky if i can go 2 or 3 days a week without having aches during digestion, and like everyone else, they seem to ramp up throughout the day.

I'm also wondering if its just cause i'm not consuming enough calories in general or something. I don't know, I suppose I'll go see a Dr. soon but their are none in my area that are qualified nutritionists, so I don't expect to get good information from them either.

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442 · October 16, 2012 at 9:29 PM

Wow, I experienced the same symptoms. Turns out I had a pretty intense h.pylori infection. I opted for a non-traditional protocol via my DC. It took about three weeks to clear up. I'm much better now. YMMV

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1173 · October 16, 2012 at 9:36 PM

apparently H. Pylori hates Paleo dieting! How did you find out you had an infection?

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0 · October 16, 2012 at 8:06 PM

I am experiencing this same thing RIGHT NOW.. I had what basically amounts to a kale smoothie for breakfast on an empty stomach and now have very bad stomach pains and bloating. Thought I was going to have to go to ER myself but it finally stopped getting worse... I have never experienced anything remotely close to this in my life. I am never touching kale again that's for sure.

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255 · February 24, 2012 at 2:57 PM

I hate to hijack this thread, but I was wondering if any of the responders had some follow-up anecdotes. What has helped you recover from your stomach cramps? Did you discover the root of the problem?

I've been eating very paleo for about a year and a half, and very recently been getting intermittent severe stomach/intestinal cramps. It seems to occur several hours after eating a full meal and before I pass a stool. These cramps are not accompanied by any vomiting or diarrhea (maybe slight nausea), but I do think there is some bloating/gas involved.

I suspect it may have been a bad batch of meat (i.e. salmonella responses), since this is not something I've experienced over the last 18 months on the same diet. Could a bout of salmonella or other harmful bacteria disrupt the composition of gut flora, inducing a bout of IBS?

Thanks

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3180 · August 26, 2011 at 11:04 PM

I had the same thing a couple times. Triggers for me were raw onion, raw brocolli, and raw garlic. Worst pain ever! I think as your gut flora changes from eating crap to eating good food, it changes the way you can handle certain foods.

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115 · August 26, 2011 at 9:02 PM

I'm going through something very similar as well but my diet only contains homemade/clean broths & some beef.

I'm getting upper abdominal pains similar to cramps (lasts for 2 hours) and this started after I started my elimination to heal my possible leaky gut.

I'm guessing my condition could be the 'die off' effects of yeast/bacteria no longer getting their sugars & starch?

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0 · March 18, 2011 at 1:19 PM

Yes! I am 2.5 weeks in on Paleo and have ben experiencing the same thing. Its mostly at night and the pain makes it hard to even stand sometimes. Not sure which food in casung mine though. Going to start keeping better track.

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0 · February 01, 2011 at 1:18 AM

Yes ihave had the exact same issues especially with eggs the cramping was so bad I put some grains back in my diet and i'am doing fine now but your symptoms are exactly the same

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-2 · April 15, 2011 at 9:04 PM

I too have the same issues!! I am 3 weeks in and have been getting serious stomach pains and cramping everyday at 3pm sometimes lasting until I go to bed. I write down everything I eat and my guess was eggs and nuts. So today I didn't eat either and guess what, no stomach pains!!! I have always eaten eggs previously but not everyday and since we started the Paleo I have had two eggs every morning and sometimes 2 eggs with lunch. This morning I had a bowl of gluten free oatmeal and my day was great. Not sure what to do for breakfast now.

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