Could My Food Intolerance Have Caused My Recent Pain Flare?

Accidental dairy consumption seems to cause this columnist widespread pain

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

by Karen Del Vecchio |

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After some thinking, I realized that there may have been a reason behind the seemingly random inflammation and pain flare I wrote about last week. Many people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) struggle with stomach and gastrointestinal issues, including me, unfortunately. Looking back, I think a mistake I made a few weeks ago when eating the wrong cereal ended up kicking off a pain flare.

About a year ago, I started experiencing a sensitivity to dairy products. I noticed that they irritated my stomach, but taking a lactose pill seemed to keep the symptoms at bay. But then, around the beginning of this year, they no longer seemed to work, and almost everything I ate made me sick. In an effort to figure out what was going on, I cut out all dairy from my diet.

Within a few days, I began to feel better, and after a few weeks of avoiding dairy, most of my symptoms were gone. I’ve been dairy-free since then, and along with avoiding some other new food intolerances — a topic for another column! — I’ve been doing much better. I’ve noticed less joint pain and improved overall comfort, as well as fewer gastrointestinal problems, all of which are a win.

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My mistake

The past few weeks have been chaotic for me, so I was in a rush at the store. I knew I wanted to try a new kind of cereal, but of course I had to read all the labels carefully. After several minutes of scanning various boxes, I went back and picked up one that I had reviewed a few minutes earlier.

Or so I thought.

A few hours later, I had a bowl as a snack and thought it was delicious. Which it was, for about 10 minutes, until it felt like someone had lit a fire inside my stomach. I grabbed the box, scanned the ingredients, and realized with frustration that I must have grabbed the wrong box, as this one had milk in it. My severe dairy intolerance was in full swing.

If I consume dairy, even the tiniest bit, my body reacts with inflammation. It appears quickly, with severe stomach pain and gastrointestinal upset, but I think this incident may have set off full-body inflammation as well. I didn’t feel my pain flare until days later, but it may have taken my body time to reach the point where I felt significant pain. Because of the delay, I didn’t make the connection right away.

Thankfully, since I stopped eating the cereal and didn’t make any other mistakes, I didn’t cause any further inflammation. But once my body becomes inflamed, it can be hard to calm it down. Bodywork is usually helpful in bringing everything back under control, so I’m thankful I was able to have a session last week.

I’m finally feeling better and getting my pain flare under control. I’m already careful with what I eat, but I’m going to be extra careful for a while after making this mistake. I sure don’t want to feel like that again any time soon!

Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.


Keir Harrington avatar

Keir Harrington

Hi Karen,
Before I was diagnosed with Hypermobile EDS I have suffered with gastro problems my entire life (I'm 59 now) with no answers from the medical community except the usual you have irritable bowel syndrome. I like you have had problems with food sensitivities/intolerances as well. I am curious if the dairy you used to consume was organic or not? I firmly believe that for people who's bodies are already stressed from medical problems are even more sensitive to the residues left behind from conventional farming and ranching practices. The use of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, herbicides and the like are not meant for human consumption. Regardless of what the "experts" say, these residues build up in the body over time and have an impact on health. I wanted to pass this along to you for your consideration. I hope that you find my thoughts helpful. Tally Ho!

Susan L Leibler avatar

Susan L Leibler

I also have a form of EDS. The more I read, the more my symptoms seem to fit in this crazy disease. From being able to move my teeth, to my velvety skin sloughing off after showers, to not being able to stand on my heels, I think I can add food intake to my list of causes of unstable physical fitness.

Robyn Kiernicki avatar

Robyn Kiernicki

I have found that I have to be careful with chia seeds, they are appearing more frequently in cereals lately and cause both my daughter and I severe GI pain/cramps.

Sarah avatar


Yes! Until I read this I had NO IDEA that all of these food sensitivities I have could be related to my EDS (hEDS most likely). But I have too many of them. It started out with gluten & grains. I cannot eat ANY grains as I get symptoms that match Celiac. First my Dr told me I had celiac after a blood test but then she changed her mind and said it was non celiac gluten sensitivity. I myself believe its celiac as my symptoms match plus I lose weight as well. And some celiacs react to milk protein as well. It acts just like gluten to them and they get similiar symptoms. But its not lactose but the milk protein itself.

Unfortunately I am way more advanced than you are with this. I am down to eating just grass fed beef (has to be from my local Whole Foods as the other supermarket near me who also sells grass fed beef uses packaging made from corn - biodegradable packaging - and I react horribly to ALL corn derivatives - so I cannot eat other beef. Besides beef I eat organic prunes to get more potassium so my gut will work + I get deep sleep. And I can drink GT's Organic Kombucha (Synergy). Sometimes I think by them fermenting the drink I can then tolerate some of the things in the drink - like mango. I use Redman's Real Sea Salt + then supplement with 2 drops of iodine a day.

I had to cut out most fruits + veggies. If I eat them I get horrid joint pain! I am guessing its because they contain plant toxins such as lectins, nightshades and oxalates but it may be due to stuff on the outside of the food. chemicals + pesticides. I also react to plastic! Can't eat anything out of plastic as it absorbs chemicals into the food. I use a reverse osmosis system to drink the tap water here to remove the chemicals.

But YES joint pain + other issues - I get rashes, peeling skin, rumbling guts, extreme fatigue, insomnia, hair falling out, etc - is related to foods you eat. Also frequent peeing, constipation or diarhea, headaches, numbness + tingling in joints, heart palpitations, brain fog, gut + bone pain, etc.

I also react to SMELLS in the air! including food smells from others cooking - it gives me brain fog, itching that can last over an hour, joint pain, stomach issues, etc. Also react to stuff like air freshener + perfume. man made scents.

And sometimes I can try a food + maybe be OK with it a few days (especially if I didn't eat it for like a whole year) but then its like my immune system wakes up and screams I REMEMBER THAT BAD FOOD and then the issues all come back, starting with joint pain. These foods in most cases also makes the Pots worse too! Because the majority of the time I have Pots under control but I get VERY potsy if I eat / use something with hidden corn derivatives.

So I am doing OK on this almost carnivore diet (along with lots of supplements) but I do miss all of those other foods.

I ride horses too! I ride George who is a Tennessee Walker!

Bonny avatar


I cannot agree with you more!! Not quite 10 years ago I was diagnosed, by assessment and elimination, with a dairy allergy. Yes, I had some stomach issues but my reaction was a "slow burn" or immunological response. I had horrible eczema and was told by allergists, dermatologists, and general practitioners that it was just something I had to live with. They didn't know why, how or what it was caused by or how to stop it. Needless to say, I've seen a lot of doctors because I was not OK with the answers I was getting. FINALLY, a new General PC had a light bulb moment because he had experienced the same issues and removing DAIRY helped him. So I totally eliminated it and my eczema disappeared. I could touch my kids with it it hurting either of us and I was thrilled. Fast forward to my Ehlers Danlos diagnosis and the dots just keep connecting! Now when I consumer dairy, on occasion, my joints will ache for a week from when I last consumed it. Dairy is a HUGE inflammatory to everyone but it doesn't both most people enough to make the connection or to stop eating. Thanks for sharing - it is always comforting to know you are not allow,.

Maire Johnson avatar

Maire Johnson

I hear this. I am grain-intolerant--I have gluten intolerance and a general grain-intolerance so severe that I cannot ingest any grains at all without backlash. Of course, as a celiac wheats and analogues are the worst. A couple of weeks ago I was out with family at a restaurant and although I told the server that I had to be gluten-free--that this was a medical necessity, not a matter of preference or fad--and the server did acknowledge it, even working with me to make sure that the items in my order were safe, one item did not get the attention from the kitchen it should have...and it came back with tiny pieces of vermicelli in it. I ate about 1/4 of it before I realized that the pieces of pasta were, in fact, pasta...and the next several days were murder. For me, an accidental glutening results in pain, inflammation, gut pain and IBS flares, migraines, and---for reasons that really are not clear to me---extremely vivid and utterly incomprehensible nightmares. I have nightmares regularly for other reasons, but those usually bear some semblance to rationality. The migraines from glutening are just unhinged.

The worst of it is all I can do is wait it out... and I know it was neither my nor the server's fault. It was someone in the kitchen who was not adequately trained in how to adjust for celiac clientele.


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