Food sensitivities, digestive problems and joint pain


Have you been going for physiotherapy or chiropractic for months or even years to deal with chronic low back, hip or pelvic pain? Or do you have arthritis-like joint pain? Or sinus trouble? Skin problems?

Or do you suffer from digestive problems like Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, excessive gas, abdominal bloating and pain?

Or no matter how frequently you exercise and how well you eat, you can’t get rid of the lower belly pooch?

Food sensitivities may be at the root of your problem as they can affect every system in the body. Symptoms can be as mild as a runny nose or as life-threatening as anaphylactic shock.

I frequently had stomach aches after eating, even as a child, and over my adult life I had every medical test in the book to find the cause of the problem. Everything always came back normal. It wasn’t until I was tested for food sensitivities and eliminated those foods that I felt better.

Food sensitivity and allergy cause an immune response in the body. The body treats the allergen as if it were an invading bacteria or virus rather than nourishing food, and damages the hair-like villi in the intestine critical for absorbing the nutrients, which can lead malnutrition.

The damaged intestine becomes inflamed, causing a distended belly and abdominal discomfort, which may disrupt the nerve communication to the local muscles needed to stabilize the pelvis and lumbar spine, leading to low back and pelvic pain.

The damaged intestine may then leak, allowing partially digested food particles to leave the digestive tract and enter the bloodstream, which causes a full-fledged immune response.

Once the immune system is activated, the antigens (the particles that causes the immune response) can spread to any tissue in the body that is accessible via the circulatory or receptor/ligand system.

Often these antigens wind up in the joints causing inflammation and swelling when the body’s antibodies attack them.

Dairy allergies, specifically to lactose and/or casein, are extremely common. Often choosing organic raw dairy resolves the problem, as the milk then contains the enzymes that aid in its digestion. Pasteurization kills those beneficial enzymes.

One in 133 people is sensitive to gluten, the elastic-like protein found wheat and rye that make them the grains of choice for baking. Gluten is in all grains except for rice, buckwheat, millet and corn.

Celiac disease is a genetic disorder of extreme gluten intolerance, and those that have it must stay off gluten for life, but even a mild gluten intolerance and the immune response it causes can lead to a huge variety of seemingly unrelated problems.

Those suffering from arthritis are usually sensitive to nightshade vegetables, like tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and green and red peppers and when those foods are eliminated, the arthritis symptoms are greatly reduced or disappear.

Many people have no idea that they have food sensitivities, and do not relate their various aches and pains to food, as often it takes more than a day after eating the offending food for the immune response to be activated.

Others, who eat foods they are sensitive to on a daily basis, simply have no idea that they are feeling badly until the go off the offending foods and discover what it is like to feel good.

Although gluten, milk, soy, wheat, seafood, peanuts, eggs, sesame, chocolate, and corn are the most common food sensitivities, one can develop a sensitivity to any food, and if you have any of the above symptoms, it is worth being tested.

Blood tests can be done for common food sensitivities, or if you prefer a non-invasive method, vega testing can be done. (I fully admit I haven’t the foggiest idea how vega testing works, but it seems to, as I have personally benefited as have many of my clients.)

It is also worth noting that in some cases, you will not be sensitive to the organic, least processed version of the same food, so choosing quality is always a good idea.

Related Tips:
How hormones, neurotransmitters and steroids work
GMO – Crossing the Species Barrier
Maintain bone mass by preparing grains, nuts and seeds properly

Chek, Paul; How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy! Chek Institute, San Diego, CA, 2004.

Chek, Paul; You Are What You Eat CD Series Chek Institute, San Diego, CA, 2002.

Braly, James M.D., and Hoggan, Ron, M.A. Dangerous Grains Avery, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc., New York, NY, 2002.

Childers, NF and Margoles, MS, An apparent relation of nightshades (solanaceae) to arthritis J. of Neurological and Orthopedic Medical Surgery 12(227-231), 1993.

Online at food allergies


  1. Barbara Bills said,

    August 24, 2008 @ 8:14 am

    Dear Vreni,

    Your e-zine articles are fabulous. I am studying Naturopathic medicine & so apprieciate your easy, comfotable expression of these complicated ideas for a change..what a pleasure. I want to ask a question:is goat plain yogurt a good substite for raw milk for those sensnitve to the erzatz, cleaned up version of cow’s milk we hav all grown accustomed to possibly?? Thanks ever so much for your good works, Vreni!! And PLEASE keep them coming.

  2. Vreni said,

    August 24, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

    Hi Barbara,

    Often people have an easier time with goat’s milk. Definitely worth a try! Or see if you can find a cow share program near you to access REAL milk. Often those farms may offer raw goat milk shares too.

    Glad you like the articles!


  3. Dee Stublefield said,

    October 12, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

    My husband, who normally can eat anything, has in the last 2 months gotten half way through a meal (at restaurants) and had to get up and go to men’s room to throw up. The vomiting lasts about 6 hours, then he seems to feel fine. (Naturally I take him home, but with a few stops along the road to vomit. We live 17 miles from town). Any suggestion on how to stop the vomiting or maybe what is causing this?

  4. Vreni said,

    October 12, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

    Hi Dee,

    Wow, the poor guy! Does this only happen at restaurants?? Is it the same restaurant or any restaurant? My suspicion is he is reacting to a particular food – perhaps something that has gone bad, he is allergic to, or perhaps an additive that his body can’t tolerate. It may be worth keeping a food log and seeing if you notice any correlations with what he eats and when he vomits. Another idea may be to get checked for food sensitivities, as they can develop at any time. IF this only happens at a particular restaurant, it could be an allergen or toxin in the atmosphere at that restaurant that is irritating him. Does he start to feel sick before he eats?

    I would suggest taking some probiotics (I like Primal Defense by Garden of LIfe), and possibly increase the fermented foods in his diet, like natural whole milk yogurt (if he can tolerate dairy), sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi etc. to help build up some good bacteria in his gut, to help him deal with any bad stuff, and build up his immune system. Although it sounds like the food barely even makes it to the intestines …

    Make sure he re-hydrates well after a vomiting bout, pure filtered water being the beverage of choice.

    I hope this gives you a starting point, and best of luck.

  5. Rebecca Cody said,

    August 7, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

    Vreni, I know it was just an oversight, but lactose is a sugar, not a protein.

    Also, when people go off the nightshades to help arthritis, they may not realize that means things like chili powder and paprika are off limits, too, since they are made from peppers.

    I had the experience of using coconut oil daily only to find I developed generalized joint pains about three days later. After going off the oil, a few days later the pains went away. A friend of mine who has rhumatoid arthritis had the same experience. I have tried three or four different organic brands and always have the same reaction. Perhaps others among your readers have found coconut oil affects them the same way. It’s too bad, because coconut oil is generally so good for us!

  6. Vreni said,

    August 7, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

    Hi Rebecca,

    Comments right on the mark as always. I forgot all about paprika and chilli powder, but of course you are right.

    Very interesting about coconut oil. I’ve had a client once who was allergic to it, but I haven’t actively asked my clients about reactions to coconut oil. I’ll start now.

    And yes, definitely an oversight with respect to lactose. I’ll change that right now.
    Thanks for keeping me on my toes!


  7. Brooke said,

    June 21, 2012 @ 11:48 am

    The reaction to coconut oil might be a herxiemers response or “detox” . Coconut oil can produce this at first. I would try again but eat less and build up to eating more. The pain should go away in a few weeks.

  8. Janet said,

    August 30, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

    I actually did a search: “can coconut oil cause joint pain” because I am wondering too. I buy the best, organic, cold pressed, etc.

  9. Curiosity said,

    October 30, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

    I definitely have a joint pain reaction from coconut oil. I didn’t make the connection at all at first – just thought my symptoms were getting worse. I was trying to make positive changes in my diet, and the pain got near unbearable over time. After many months, it went away for a while (I had gone off the oil, but didn’t make that connection then). Then I noticed that it began to fade down, and came back again on an irregular cycle. Took me forever to connect that it was when I was eating food with coconut oil in it. But since leaving the coconut oil alone, I haven’t had the hip pain again.

    Not definitive, since it’s technically possible that it’s been a big coincidence, but I’ve noticed it back when I’ve tried to dabble with the coconut again. I’m very convinced. Great for some people, terrible joint pain for others.

  10. Katerine Bucolo said,

    April 28, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

    Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). Throughout the tropical world, it has provided the primary source of fat in the diets of millions of people for generations. It has various applications in food, medicine, and industry. Because of its stability, it is slow to oxidize and, thus, resistant to rancidity, lasting up to two years owing to the high saturated fat content.”

    My personal online site

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    June 16, 2013 @ 11:14 am

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  12. Ian Ippolito said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 12:41 am

    thanks for the useful info on coconut oil and joint pain. I’ve also changed my diet to be more healthy and was eating a lot of coconut oil for about 3 to 4 months. And I started getting horrrible joint pain in my wrists, that kept getting worse and worse. Finally over the last 1.5 week it started to improve, and I didn’t notice it at the time, but I had run out of coconut oil and wasn’t eating any. Today I had a smoothie with coconut oil and afterwards my wrists are killing me! so I did a Google and found your conversation. This is not definitive proof, but I’m going tocut out the oil for a while and see if I get back on the mend. Thanks so much everyone.

  13. Vreni said,

    October 1, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

    Just shows that it is very possible to be sensitive to a food that is considered to be healthy. Clearly not healthy for you!

  14. Liz said,

    February 23, 2014 @ 10:58 am

    It’s been my experience too that coconut oil gives me joint pains, and so do almonds. I couldn’t understand why my joints were getting more and more painful – worse than they’ve ever been, when I was avoiding the foods I already knew caused pain, like sugar and gluten. It’s really helpful to read the messages from others who have found the same thing with coconut. I’m not just imagining it! Has anyone got ideas for Thai curry without coconut please?! Almonds seem to have the same effect on me as coconut.
    Thank you for the blog.

  15. Ellie said,

    May 11, 2014 @ 1:41 pm

    I have joing pain from all nuts, except peanuts which aren’t a real nut anyway. I am thinking coconut too which is how I found its thread. It’s good to know I am not alone. I just started eating paleo and love it except my RA has been getting worse….I think down to the coconut oil that I’ve been using. I intend to cut it out and see what happens.
    Love to hear from anyone else who has been battling with joint pain that they think is diet related.

  16. yussri said,

    September 15, 2014 @ 3:19 pm

    beside the joint pain and shoulder pain,coconut oil makes my brain fogy and leave me with bad concentration.

  17. iori said,

    July 7, 2015 @ 7:27 pm

    I started to have joint pain and eventually developed a hard bump on my wrist after started to consume organic coconut oil. It took me almost a year to put those two together and stopped eating coconut anything entirely. It took another few months to clear any pain and the bump on my wrist, but it confirmed me after re-introducing either coconut oil or coconut butter (after almost two years of absence), the pain came back in 1-2 days. I do not have arthritis, but do have sensitivity to flax, hemp oil, and homogenized dairies. Thank you for everyone’s comments. Now I don’t feel alone!

  18. Stacy said,

    September 10, 2015 @ 11:58 am

    I too finally figured out that coconut oil was causing me joint pain in my elbows, shoulders, and knees. I thought maybe it was a side effect from medicine I was taking although I had been taking the medicine for months. Saw this discussion and finally put it together with the coconut oil. I was trying to be healthy and was adding one teaspoon to my morning smoothie. I won’t be doing that any more!!

  19. Jenny said,

    October 11, 2015 @ 10:32 am

    I have also been having a bad experience with coconut oil, I got the organic kind from the health food store which costs a LOT, I had eaten about a tablespoon in the evening thinking it would help my foot pain, boy was I wrong! I woke up and my feet were swollen and I could barely walk on them. Thinking it wasn’t the oil, I tried again the next evening, thinking it would help the pain, but I was wrong again! I have a natural aversion to dairy, grains, sugar and most nuts, but when I eat them I have the worst nasal allergies and terrible pain in my wrists, feet, back and hips, now I have to avoid coconut oil, it does help with excema if I apply it topically, which is odd to me, …I have been taking triphala for my digestion and it seems to be helping a lot, also TMG has helped me detox a lot of the chemicals in my intestines and liver, I am also making my own kumbachu and kefir in the hopes that the good bacteria will help me.

  20. Joan said,

    November 30, 2015 @ 12:17 am

    I’m so thankful to find this as everytime I eat something containing coconut oil I have so much pain in my body! I have tried to use it off and on because everyone says it’s so good for you. I was diagnosed with RA years ago, but as long as I don’t eat nightshades I don’t have any pain. I’m wondering if the lauric acid in the coconut oil is similar to the acid in the nightshades.

  21. Gen said,

    December 26, 2015 @ 5:44 am

    I just did a Google search “does coconut oil cause joint pain” and found these comments. I recently started eating coconut oil and have been in dreadful pain since eating some over a period of a week. It’s the only thing that I have changed in my diet. I have been pain free for about 3 years from Rheumatoid arthritis by following a grain, dairy and nightshade free diet. I discovered the paleo mom blog about 3 years ago and have been following most of her recommendations. I seem to tolerate nuts and seeds ok. My fingers and toes are so sore and swollen and I feel like I am back to square one with my symptoms. Hopefully I will back to pain free soon. Not eating coconut oil again – despite all the health benefits you read about!

  22. Ninnan said,

    February 8, 2016 @ 2:41 pm

    I have just recently discovered that my joints are suffering from my coconut oil consumption, took me a while to make the connection too. After switching back to butter the intense knee pain went away completely. I wanted to see if anyone else have had a similar experience, googled it and found this thread.

  23. Vreni said,

    February 9, 2016 @ 10:50 pm

    I have heard that coconut water can be mouldy, which can create huge problems for people. I have not heard that about coconut oil, but I suppose that is possible. It may be worth getting checked for mould.

  24. Anonymous Uk said,

    March 5, 2016 @ 1:41 am

    I also just did a Google search for “does coconut oil cause joint pain”.
    I could not figure out what was causing my painful joints, especially in the ankles and hips.
    Have been off Coconut Oil for 2 days and the pain is already subsiding!

  25. anna said,

    May 6, 2016 @ 10:12 pm

    Whew, I’m so relief to find this website about back pain associated with eating coconut oil. I thought my body was falling apart due to arthritis! And I did noticed my back/joint pain subsided whenever I didn’t eat a spoonful of coconut oil. Okay, I guess I need to stop eating it!

  26. Margaret said,

    May 10, 2016 @ 2:38 pm

    I have been having terrible pain in my left hip. So bad in fact that I have had several weeks off work. I have been so baffled as to why this came on so suddenly. I have been doing a food diary for months, trying to make a connection with my pain and diet. I am fully off all grains and dairy. Not much improvement. Then two months ago I eliminated all the nightshade family and saw a moderate improvement until this week when the pain flared up again. I have been eating masses of coconut oil in place of dairy and also because of its anti fungal properties. I stumbled upon this link in desperation and WOW maybe I have a sensitivity to coconut oil. I am only two days, so far without it and I do feel slightly more comfortable. Thanks for all the comments, it’s encouraging.

  27. Martha Ray Barger said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 6:15 pm

    I began oil pulling using coconut oil about 4 weeks and during the same time joint pain surfaced so I Goggled that thought and found this thread. I am also Nightshade and Caffeine sensitive and the main thing they cause me is joint pain. I am fine when I avoid gluten ( gluten causes GI issues) Nightshades and Caffeine. I eat mostly plant based Paleo but I do eat very low amounts of dairy and grains. So I am relating to a lot of what you all have shared. Would like to know how one confirms for sure if they have a coconut sensitivity or allergy?
    At this point I have more questions than answers.

  28. Maria said,

    September 29, 2016 @ 5:21 pm

    I just found this thread on coconut oil after doing a google search. I am a marathon runner and do triathlons and had a lot of joint pain last year. At that time I had stopped eating gluten and dairy but was eating a lot of coconut butter and oil. I thought my aches were due to my training but I now think it was the oil/butter as I stopped eating it – only because I hadn’t bought any for months. I just got a jar a few days ago and my aches and pains (hips and ankle) have started again. It could just be a coincidence but I don’t think so. Anyway I am now going to stop eating it and see how I get on. I will update in a few days.

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