Gluten Intolerance & Pain : Could there be a connection?

Gluten Intolerance & Pain : Could there be a connection?

By Mari Ann Lisenbe


July 10th, 2002. That's the date I received my diagnosis:  "Severe gluten sensitivity, leaky-gut syndrome & candida overgrowth". 


How could this be? In my quest to feel better, I'd even become a vegan. I was eating lots of fresh fruits, veggies and healthy, whole grains. I had become regular health-food nut!


Becoming a vegan, I'd lost a ton of weight. But also, I was losing bone mass. And the pain was getting worse.


"OK. Where's the truck?" 


That's the question I'd wake up asking every morning. 


Surely that's what happened. If I hadn't been hit by a truck, why did I hurt so badly?


Groggy Head. 


Draw a very hot bath, and soak at least 30 minutes so I could face the world. 


And, the crazy body aches was just one part of it. 


I had excruciating bouts with cramping. And constipation.  It had even gotten to the point where I was regularly performing soap-suds enemas just to get rid of the bloating. 


So, here I was again. Back in another doctor's office on my never ending quest to try to find out why I felt so miserable. 


And she tells me I need to get off wheat? AND all those other "healthy" whole grains I'd been filling my body with?


How could it be so simple? I'd spent the last 20 years going to doctors in attempts to find out why I hurt. Gastroenterologists. Neurologists. Orthopedics. Gynecologists. Allergists. Pain management clinics. 


How could they have missed something so basic? So simple. 


But I was desperate, so I decided to listen to this new doctor's recommendations and eliminate all grains from my diet. Not just wheat, but all grains (including corn).


And, within 3 weeks, I felt as though I'd been given my life back. 


I've spent the last 10 years learning about gluten and it's devastating effects on the body.


For one thing, you do not have to have "celiac disease" to experience problems with gluten. I didn't, and that is why the gastroenterologists missed it. They were looking for signs of celiac.


Gluten sensitivity causes inflammation in your body. And, the inflammation does not just manifest in your gut. It can manifest in pain all over your body. In my case, it caused excruciating leg pain, swelling, bloating and carpal tunnel syndrome. 


Gluten is also linked to neurological disorders. This is one reason why "brain fog" goes away when you eliminate gluten from your diet.


Now, "gluten free" has become the new buzz-word. In a way this is good because people are becoming aware of problems with gluten.


However, many of the so-called "gluten free" products you see everywhere now, are not really gluten free!  They are only "wheat-gluten" free.  


And, that is why many people go on a "gluten-free" diet, but don't see all their symptoms go away. 


You see, every grain (including rice) contains it's own form of gluten. Even corn. ESPECIALLY corn! 


In fact, corn gluten is often one of the biggest offenders, and it is added to many products in the form of "malto-dextrin". 


So, even if you're reading labels, you may miss some of the hidden forms of gluten lurking in your foods. You have to learn all the hidden things to look for.


Why is this? Why are people suddenly becoming gluten sensitive when grains have been consumed for thousands of years? 


It's quite possibly because of the hybridization of grains. Genetic selection and sometimes actual genetic modification produces grains that are vastly different than they were 200 years ago. Genetic modification of corn has become so prominent that unless the corn you buy specifically says "USDA Certified Organic", you can safely assume that it is GMO corn!


If you experience Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Crones, IBS, Carpal Tunnel, or neurological problems, let me encourage you to try going gluten free for at least 3 weeks. 


– No grains (not even rice). This means no flour, or products made from flour, too. Eliminate breads, pastas, rice, corn, corn chips, tortillas, etc. You really can get by with out this things for 3 weeks!  


– Read labels. If the product contains malto-dextrin, MSG, monosodium glutamate, "natural flavors", or any obvious form of grain…put it back!


– At the end of 3 weeks, begin adding back 1 grain at a time. 


Begin with quinoa since this is usually the least offensive grain. Then, try brown rice, corn, oats…waiting at least 4 days between the time you add a new grain. If you notice any of your old symptoms returning, eliminate that grain. 


Being gluten free does not necessarily mean remaining bread free. Many people who are gluten sensitive can tolerate sprouted grains. The most commonly known sprouted grain products are by "Food for Life", the makers of Ezekiel Bread. However, there are many others. Just look for the words "made with sprouted grains".


There are also many truly gluten free recipes for products made with almond meal and or coconut flour. With many of these, you'd never guess that the muffin you're eating doesn't contain even an ounce of grain! 


For overall good health, you should continue to be fanatical about reading labels. 


This new way of eating may take a little getting used to, but feeling good again is worth the effort.  You can do it!



About the Writer:

Mari Ann Lisenbe is the creator and CEO of The MARI Method where they teach “Mindful Actions for Radical Improvement!”. Her faith-based approach to weight loss is helping people, many who’ve struggled with weight their whole lives, finally lose weight and keep it off… without feeling deprived. One reason for Mari Ann’s success with her clients is her belief that “weight loss begins in your mind”. So, she sets out to help clients change the way they think about food and exercise. Married to her childhood sweetheart, musician Steve Lisenbe, they have 2 grown sons and one beautiful daughter-in-law. Mari Ann & Steve are active in their local church and live on a hobby farm near Houston, TX. At 56 years old, Mari Ann is living proof that you can continue living a strong active life when you learn to honor and respect the body God gave you. You can find her at While you are there, grab her free online training called 8 Secrets to Transform Your Body in Record Time.


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  • Next2normal

    so true,now if only they stop putting gluten in the meds of sick people

  • debbie

    I sure will read the labels more carefully from now on. It is nice to know there are healthier alternatives that are better for us and have the flavor we crave.

  • Hotrodz

    this will help a friend of mine greatly, me also. I have been against gmo’s since I first heard about them, too bad the public doesn’t get the info w/o searching.

  • Pingback: Ningxia Red: Good Eating is not Common Sense()

  • Trudyldonnelly

    I have incredible bad stomach/bowel cramps. I do have an appointment to see my GP this week, but I am going to try and eliminate the grains. Every-time I eat something grainy, I end up with a stomach cramp, then the next day (as its usually my last meal of the day) terrible cramps in the bowels and the diarrhea. I cant live like it anymore. Too painful. Will advise you as to how it goes in a few weeks. 🙂 I read ALOT of pages but this one made the most sense!

    • Mary Starr Carter

      Trudy, Thanks for the comment.  Sounds like it is very bad for you.  Don’t stop searching until you get a diagnosis and hopefully a solution to stop that awful issue.   Food intolerances are difficult because to stop them we have to stop all those foods with the culprit in them.  But I have seen many people recover their gut after a few years and  even as little as a few months of elimination and healing.

    • marystarr

      How did the no grains go? 

  • lamba444

    I was in severe pain in my joints and muscles and eliminated all the grains and became pain free, so I wanted just to test to see if it was and started eating bread again (which I love) but after having severe pain after just a few days in my body again, I am now going to eliminate them for good!!!It just isn’t worth the pain filled days!!!

  • Patti Bartsch, Ph.D.

    Thanks for this great article.  I will forward it to some of my coaching clients who are struggling with pain and are focusing too much on “carbs”.

    • Dr. Mary Starr

       Thanks Patti, and  is a great tool as well.  I see you are a fan of Young Living too.  They are awesome!  

  • elizabeth jorge

    i think that these doctor dont really care they just want you coming back over and over and they tell you little by little and that way they make money and that why they give us very little imfortmatin, i been sick for a long time and had many surgery and iam still having a hard time with my life.

    • Dr. Mary Starr


      Praying for you health.  – Dr. M 


    Wow, I found out I have celiacs a year ago but still need to see a specialist about it. I’ve been having major stomach pains, pelvic pain, major headaches always sleeping, cold sweat, shakes, restless leg syndrome etc. blood tests and ultrasounds have come up kind of empty so I am beginning to believe that maybe it all has something to do with my celiacs. I try to stay gluten free but I didn’t realize rice and corn are also included. I will begin to read labels more. It would be wonderful if I just felt well. I’ve just ben progressively getting worse. 🙁

  • Kayla

    I'm a "healthy" 20 year old according to my doctor.  However, I was hospitalized earlier this year due to a debilitating migraine for five days.  I wake up in the middle of the night with awful sharp migraine pain, I ache most days and find it hard to exercise, and I have this stomach pain that currently hurts to the point I really don't want to walk.  My doctor's can't find anything wrong with me besides that I have migraine disease. 
    I went gluten and dairy free for 3 months and I never felt better!  I didn't have migraines, the stomach pain went away, and I had energy to do things.  I wasn't achy all over.  It was amazing!  I slowly started adding things back as my doctor had convinced me to and I did fine for a while.  However, I'm right back to where I started.  I was tested for Celiac's and it was negative so what was the point of staying on that gluten free diet? 
    Getting my life back is the point.  It's simple and easy and I'm only 20 years old.  I shouldn't feel sick every day. 
    This was by far the best thing I've read about going gluten free and as I start going gluten free this time I will definitely use it as a guide.  Thanks for the information!

    • marystarr

      Thanks so much Kayla!!!  Your words are helping others. 

  • Isha Baum

    I am trying to go completely gluten free but cannot eat any dairy right now because of a severe whey allergy. I am dangerously under weight and losing more daily. I also feel hungry all the time. I have added some gluten free grains and ghee back into my diet trying to survive. Amarath, Buckwheat, Sorgham GF Oatmeal etc. I stay away from corn and all corn products. I have a lot of leg pain and it isn’t getting better after 2 weeks on this diet. I am going to cut out all rice but what do you think of the other GF grains? Isha

    • marystarr

      I think most people would benefit from an 80/20 GF diet, but I think those who struggle with their health will benefit even more from GF . You may also want to check out SDS Lifestyle they are experts in food, digestion, and severe weightloss due to food allergies etc. Do a google search and check them out.

  • Robert Miller

    I have developed spinal stenosis,pain
    down legs,trouble walking,someone
    mentioned Gluten?Would like comments on this possibility??Am going to try (3) weeks as vegetarian to
    experiment on the pain issue?

    • marystarr


      It would be worth a try. If it is causing inflammation then it will increase the issue you already have.

  • Wendy

    Hi, i also struggle with those bodypains, no energy and brainfog progressively getting worse over the years. Tried to be GF, now since a week also rice and cornfree but still eating GF bread because i lost so much weight (also lactose and fructose intolerant!)
    Should i leave that out as well? And when should i start feeling better?
    Tried to look up “DSD lifestyle” but cant find anything.

    • marystarr

      Try SDC lifestyle they would be a good resource

  • Patricia

    I fell like I have been hit by a Mack truck every day, and I try to eat very little grain, but guess even that may be too much. I am type 11 diabetic, exercise about 4 hours a week, swimming and yoga, and unable to lose weight. I have terrible pain in my lower extremities and been dismissed by my Dr. Guess this will be worth trying. What do I have to lose, except pain, and perhaps gain health!

    • marystarr

      You can do it! A great resource is the Mari Method. she helps many!

  • Dedee Royale

    Hi: I’m Dedee. 75 y.o. in great health. However I have been suffering with thigh pain for the last 2 years and have been to holistic and medical doctors to diagnose my problem. I dance and exercise without pain however, if I sit or stand too long the pain is excruciating. The last holistic doctor treated me for 2 months and used computerized methods to determine that I have to get off wheat, eggs and sugar. I caved over the holidays and have not recovered from the pain. It keeps me up at night and no amount of ice, heat, sleeping aids help. Any suggestions?

    • Dr Mary Starr

      Dedee; Thanks for the comment. I am sorry you are suffering so much. It sounds like your gluten intolerance is causing a whole lot of inflammation in your body that settles when you are sitting or standing. You may want to consider three things that have helped myself and many clients with high inflammation. #1) If we eat the bad things we take nutritional supplements that help lower inflammation including Enzymes and Supplements with MSM and Wolfberry high quality though #2) you may want to improve your lymphatic drainage with dry brushing, vibration, or simply mild stretching. #3) I am a big fan of alkaline water and lots of it. It may cause a little bit of detoxing at first but once you get through that it’s amazing. I try to do a 1/2 of gallon myself everyday. Some health food stores like Body B Healthy in Crestview sell it by the jug for a few dollars vs the more expensive brands and if it’s positive for you consider getting an alkalizer.