How I Ate Away My RA (rheumatoid arthritis)
With the Paleo Diet

We love sharing success stories from our members who have used the Paleo diet to overcome their health issues. They keep us inspired and are a great reminder of why we choose to eat the way we do. If you have a success story that you would like to share, please fill out our form. We can’t wait to hear about how the Paleo diet and Paleo Plan have played a role in your life!

It is with great pleasure that I am able to share my story of how I used the Paleo diet to heal my rheumatoid arthritis. My name is Kinsey, and I’m one of the nutritionists here at Paleo Plan. It’s an interesting story of how I came to be a nutritionist, and it all started when I discovered that the diet I had been eating for the majority of my life was making me sick without my even realizing it.

Before going Paleo, I was a vegetarian for nearly 25 years. Like many people, I was under the impression that whole grains and legumes were healthy foods, and I consumed them copiously along with soy products that were supposekinsey-pre-paleod to look and taste like meat. Throughout my life, my family and friends were always complimenting me about “how healthy I was eating”, so it made no sense whatsoever when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the young age of 30.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of autoimmune disease that causes pain and inflammation in the connective tissues of the body, most often in the joints of the hands and feet. RA can progress to the complete destruction of any and all of the joints in the body, leaving a person physically and psychologically crippled. At the time I was diagnosed, I had been practicing massage therapy for 10 years and thought that the severe pain I was experiencing in my hands was the result of doing too much massage work. When the results of my bloodwork confirmed that I had RA, I was devastated, but also somehow relieved to finally know what was happening to me.

I’ve never been a fan of pharmaceuticals, and after refusing the numerous prescription medications that my rheumatologists told me I needed to survive, I went to see a Naturopathic Doctor who by the luck of the draw, happened to be a Paleo doctor. When she told me I needed to start eating meat and give up grains and legumes, I thought she was off her rocker! I would have laughed in her face, except that would have taken too much energy, and I was too depressed, weak, and scared to do anything but listen to what she had to say. She explained to me that my vegetarian diet was high in antinutrients, chemicals found in grains and legumes that interfere with the absorption of nutrients from food. These antinutrients also irritate the lining of the intestines, causing a condition called leaky gut syndrome.

A leaky gut is basically what it sounds like: your intestines develop tiny holes that allow for the passage of food particles and bacteria from inside of the gut, through the gut lining, and into the bloodstream where they evoke the immune system to create inflammation. If the leaky gut never heals, the inflammatory response can become chronic (long-term). Eventually the liver becomes overwhelmed with all of the foreign invaders in the bloodstream, and the cascade of particles flowing through the gut wall gains access to systemic circulation. The resulting inflammation can wreak havoc on virtually any part of the body, and in my case, it was triggering the expression of rheumatoid arthritis in several of my joints.

kinsey-paleoHow do I know for sure that it was my diet (and not something else) that was contributing to my RA? Well, because when I finally heeded the advice of my Naturopathic Doctor, and gave up the grains and legumes (as well as other foods that were agitating my system…like seed oils and nightshades), my symptoms began to go into remission. Within only three days, I was feeling lighter, more energetic, more clear-minded, and happier than I had ever felt, EVER! The pain and swelling in my joints was already starting to subside, and the ache in my hands that I thought was due to my massage work dissipated. Within a few weeks I was able to return to working part-time, pain-free. This was enough evidence for me to decide to keep on with the Paleo diet for at least a month, however I still wasn’t totally sold on the idea of eating meat, and was secretly telling myself that I would go back to vegetarianism after the month was over.

The first month of eating Paleo wasn’t easy, mainly because I didn’t know how to cook or prepare meats, and the act of eating meat completely grossed me out. But I could not deny the fact that I was feeling a little bit better every day I ate this way. It took me about three months before I achieved complete remission of my symptoms. The RA had left my body and I had no signs of inflammation anywhere! I was able to return to my massage work full-time. I was feeling so amazing that I kinda forgot that it was my diet making me feel this way, and I decided to ‘celebrate’ one day and treat myself to a gluten-free pizza. Whoopsies. Within a day, the pain and swelling in my joints had returned, and while I wasn’t back to square one, I was definitely made painfully aware of the fact that the food I had eaten had caused a re-flare of my RA. Over the past 5 years of eating Paleo, I will admit that I have had more than one ‘faileo’, and each time I eat a food I know I shouldn’t, I pay the price by experiencing a return of my RA symptoms. This keeps me highly motivated to be strict on my diet! While some people can get away with the occasional cheat, I personally cannot (unless I want to be in crippling pain).

It is fascinating to me that the longer I go without the foods that I had to give up, the less attractive they become to me. While I used to have dreams about soy burgers and pizza, I now look at these foods and feel absolutely no desire for them (they actually repulse me). The experience of eating my way back to health was beyond inspiring, and I decided to attend graduate school to study the scientific mechanisms behind why the antinutrients from grains and legumes were contributing to my autoimmune disease. I will go into the nitty-gritty details about the connection between leaky gut, inflammation, and autoimmune diseases in a future post, but for now I will just tell you that the science is founded, and that we now have methodical evidence that explains how a leaky gut lies at the root of virtually all autoimmune disorders.

I am now a licensed nutritionist, and specialize in working with people who are also suffering from autoimmunity. It is the most exciting and liberating feeling in the world to watch people overcome their diseases just by changing their diets! I discovered Paleo Plan about a year after I started eating Paleo, and wish that I would have found them sooner. I use the Paleo Plan Quickstart Guide and online meal plans to guide my patients through the process of changing their diets, and these have proven to be absolutely invaluable resources. If you are suffering from an autoimmune disease (or any disease/disorder for that matter), I highly recommend trying the Paleo diet on for size to experience first-hand just how much diet is connected to your symptoms. I didn’t believe it either…that my diet could be causing my RA, but the proof is in the Paleo pudding, and now looking back 5 years later, there is absolutely no question in my mind.

The Paleo diet literally saved my life, and I have yet to meet someone who has not also experienced a significant reduction (if not complete remission) of their autoimmune disorder by eating the diet that nature intended for us to eat all along. I would love to answer any questions you may have about the Paleo diet and how it can help you along your journey to overcoming disease and achieving optimal health. Feel free leave a comment below, and thanks for taking the time to read my story!

In good health,

Kinsey Jackson, MS, CN


    1. Thank you James, I appreciate your feedback! I hope your people with RA are able to try Paleo on for size! As I mentioned in my article, sometimes it takes a little more than Paleo to fully heal the gut and overcome autoimmune conditions. But diet is absolutely key, and it’s wonderful that you realize that! Your friends are lucky to have you around :-)

      Best wishes,

  1. Yay Kinsey! My health issues were not as severe, but I was pleasantly surprised when my paleo weight loss plan resulted in my daily aches and pains disappearing. Your excellent article is my blog feature for Friday October 10, thanks so much for sharing your story. Way to UnMedicate! ~Tom~

    1. Yay Tom! That is so awesome to hear that you have also been able to overcome your health issues with Paleo! I love hearing people’s success stories too. :-) And WOW thank you so much for featuring my story on your blog and for your very kind words! Wishing you all the best fellow Paleo pal!

      In good health,

  2. WOW! I’m always looking for ways to stop my daily pains from RA. I’ve had arthritis for 27 years and very interested in a change with something as simple as a diet. I am looking forward to the newsletters and recipes.
    Thank you for your story, that put a smile on my face during this wet, damp day.

    1. Ruby,
      Geez I’m so sorry to hear that you have been dealing with RA for so long…I can only imagine how difficult and painful that must be. I am beyond excited for you to try Paleo! It is still AMAZING to me just how much simply changing the diet reduces inflammation in our bodies! As I mentioned in the article, you may have to be a little more restrictive with your diet at first in order to heal your gut, and we offer a 21-day Paleo Cleanse eBook that helps to guide you through that. Please keep us posted on how you are doing! I wish you the best of luck on your journey, and am always here to answer questions that may come up along the way. And thank you so much for your kind words!

      Best regards,

  3. i’m having hip replaced Monday caused by arthritis. lots of pain in shoulders.
    i’m gonna do whatever i can to stop this, i’m very active and this is causing me lot of problems.

  4. Hi Kinsey,
    What a wonderful story, thanks for sharing!
    I have RA and I’m about to embark on giving a Paleo diet a go. I must admit I’m worried it won’t work but also worried it will. Stories like yours give me hope that I will cope cutting out so many foods. Hopefully it works for me too :)

    1. Hi Faye,

      Thanks so much for your kind comment! I’m sorry to hear you have RA, I know first-hand how painful and frustrating the disease is. I too was worried that Paleo wouldn’t work, however within a few days I began to notice a difference in my joint pain, so I kept on going. It didn’t take all that long for my RA to go into remission, and I urge you to stick with it! I have actually never met a person with autoimmune disease that wasn’t able to vastly control their symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes. My radical healing prompted me to obtain my Master of Science degree in Nutrition, and I devoted my thesis to studying the biochemical mechanisms behind how and why dietary components can trigger autoimmunity. Understanding how/why grains, legumes, industrial seed oils, and other ‘neolithic’ foods were causing my autoimmunity made it a lot easier to avoid these foods. I wrote a three-part summary on our blog recently, explaining the connection between these problematic foods, “leaky gut”, and the expression of autoimmune disease. Here are the links to the articles, which might give you some extra inspiration to keep strong on the Paleo path! I explain in Part 3 that I had to take Paleo a step further for several months (by following the Autoimmune Protocol) to fully heal my leaky gut and to go into complete remission of my RA. Please keep us posted on how you are doing, and I wish you all the best!

      The Autoimmune Epidemic: Part 1

      The Autoimmune Epidemic: Part 2 Leaky Gut

      The Autoimmune Epidemic: Part 3 The Autoimmune Protocol

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, MS, CNS®
      Paleo Plan

  5. hi my 3 year old son has Juvenile RA.

    His naturopath arranged for an IGE blood test to see what foods he has antibodies to.
    Culprits were dairy, wheat, eggs and a bunch of other things.

    We eliminated all the offending food items and are now on day 3. There is no change in his pain and still needs NSAIDs to cope.

    How long does it take before this starts working?

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment and I’m so sorry to hear that your son is suffering from Juvenile RA. Multiple food sensitivities (elevated IgG antibodies to various foods in the blood) and virtually all autoimmune diseases are frequently the result of a leaky gut. Food particles are able to escape through a leaky gut and trigger the immune system to create antibodies against virtually any food that is able to gain access to the bloodstream via the leaky gut. The solution isn’t necessarily to avoid all of the foods to which the body has produced antibodies to. Rather the leaky gut needs to be healed, so the immune system can take a break and do some healing itself. Only after the immune system stops having to constantly deal with a massive influx of foreign food particles leaking in from the gut, does autoimmune disease go into remission. The Paleo Diet is very helpful because it removes many of the foods that contribute to a leaky gut, and many people are able to reverse their autoimmunity simply by going Paleo. However as I discuss in this article, often additional modifications are necessary (i.e. The Autoimmune Protocol of the Paleo Diet) to fully heal the heal gut and overcome autoimmunity. Additionally, you may want to check out this article which explains why food allergy testing is often misleading.

      To answer your original question is difficult, because if the triggers for leaky gut are not removed from the diet (which may or may not be indicated on food allergy testing), then healing will likely be delayed. In general, most people take several weeks, months or years of strict Paleo or AIP to fully heal their leaky gut and immune system, and to put their autoimmunity into remission. Also, once remission is achieved, most people with autoimmune disease are unable to return to eating problematic foods (i.e. grains, legumes, seed oils, etc.) without experiencing a re-flare and exacerbation of their condition.

      I completely understand from personal experience how overwhelming making this sort of change can be, but I assure you that it is extremely rewarding in the long run, and the results will happen faster than you think! I urge you to check out this 3-part blog series, which goes into depth about the topic of diet and autoimmune disease, and clarifies some of the confusion regarding how/why/when. Please keep us posted on how you and your son are doing, and let us know how we can be of further assistance. We are here to help in any way that we can. I wish you both the very best of luck and health.

      Part 1: The Autoimmune Epidemic
      Part 2: Leaky Gut
      Part 3: The Autoimmune Protocol

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, MS, CNS®

  6. You might also research about the Seignalet diet. In his book he explains why autoimmune diseases occur and I think the diet is less restrictive.
    Following this kinds of diets (raw or semiraw foods) you end up balancing your gut microbiota killing the “bad” bacteria that cause leaky gut and release toxins, enzymes or whatever that triggers the disorder.
    And dont forget that stress is a cause of leaky gut, if you dont control it you slow the healing process.

    1. Hi Fabian,
      Thanks for your comment! In my experience, each person requires a slightly different approach when attempting to overcome autoimmune disease via diet and lifestyle. As I explain in this article, the newest theory of autoimmune disease (based on research surrounding the endogenous molecule zonulin, which moderates intestinal permeability) requires three factors to be simultaneously present in order for autoimmune disease(s) to be active:

      1. A genetic predisposition to autoimmunity, such as those people who carry the HLA gene.

      2. A leaky gut (caused by zonulin)

      3. Environmental triggers that are causing the release of zonulin from the gut wall (i.e. gluten, grains, legumes, dysbiosis, etc.)

      Indeed research has also shown that stress and dysbiosis (overgrowth of any one type of microorganism in the microflora) are other major triggers of leaky gut, thus in addition to modifying one’s diet to minimize zonulin production, lifestyle changes are also often required for a person to achieve complete remission of autoimmune diseases (and most “diseases of modern civilization” in my opinion). Thanks so much for your comment, and please let me know what you think of the other articles!

      In good health,

      Kinsey Jackson, MS, CNS®

  7. Well done, Kinsey. I knew you were destined to be a healer. I’m sorry you suffered for so long, yet it’s bittersweet bc you suffered, but you also saved your life & many more, including mine! I look forward to working with you in the future. I believe a Paleo lifestyle will resolve most, if not all my symptoms, but I’m fearful bc the specialist does not want me exercising bc I’m allergic to my own sweat! My mind is blown. I was thinking about getting in a pool bc it’s nice & cool. I just NEED my health back. I’m done. I don’t mind eating an anything. The taste doesn’t matter. I prefer simplicity. I’m eating to survive! Again, major kudos to you! ❤️

  8. Hi, I did paleo for 6 months. My endometriosis got worse until it was crippling again. I made one change… gave up meat (my last joy). Instantly I was better which after decades wad a miracle. I believe in the Paleo message, the science is sound. I’d love an honest opinion on why meat could affect auto immunity in some people! I also miss meat and fat so bad… :)

    1. Hi Jacqui,

      I’m sorry to hear about your struggle with endometriosis, and that’s great to hear you were able to find a dietary tweak that helped you recover! Without looking at your situation more closely, it’s hard to know why meat/fat was triggering you. My initial thoughts after reading your comment are: ‘what kind of meat were you eating?’, ‘how is/was your digestive function?’, ‘did some types of meat (i.e. red meat) bother you more than others (i.e. seafood)’, ‘how is your omega 6:3 ratio”, ‘hormonal status’, etc. etc. There are a lot of different factors to consider when attempting to answer this question. What I can tell you, is that the vast majority of people with autoimmunity benefit from the complete removal of grains and legumes (possibly nuts and seeds) strictly from the diet. This would be difficult, if not impossible, without eating meat of some sort. I personally had to follow the Autoimmune Protocol for a number of months and address my underlying dysbiosis issues, to finally ‘heal’ my leaky gut and bring my autoimmune diseases into remission. I must remain strict on my diet, lest symptoms return. I’d be curious to learn more about your situation, please keep me posted on how you are doing!

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS®

  9. Hi Kinsey, Thank you so much for sharing your insteresting story! I suffer from severe RA and sweet syndrome for 6 years now injecting biologics every other week and taking 1 pill of hydroxychloroquine a day. I am doing pretty good but dreaming about quiting medications one day! I started Paleo 2 months and 10 days ago! I used to eat pretty healthy so the biggest thing for me was to quit bread. I did it! I didn’t feel much of the difference after first month on Paleo but second month is better, I can feel the difference just hoping that’s the diet not only temporary relief. I needed to stop the medication for 2 weeks for my wisdom teeth removal, 3rd week without medication and I am feeling OK. Wish me good luck! And thank you for encouraging article!

    1. Hi Ania!
      Thank YOU so much for sharing your story! I’m really sorry to hear about your health struggles…I know how much pain you must be in. You are definitely on the right path and I really look forward to hearing how you progress as the months go on. As you are observing, it does take time for the body to heal the tissue damage caused by autoimmunity, and also the leaky gut lying at the root of it all. I remember being fearful that the Paleo diet would quit working and my relief would be ‘only temporary’, however this has not been my experience, and after several years I am still in remission without the use of any pharmaceuticals, via diet alone. I should mention that certain foods re-trigger my symptoms and will cause the RA to return, which is why I completely avoid all grains, legumes, industrialized seed oils, all processed foods, and most dairy and nightshades. I also found that eating too many egg whites triggers my symptoms, and in the beginning I had to completely remove eggs from my diet for almost a year to achieve complete remission. Many people struggling with autoimmune disease (including myself) benefit from following the Autoimmune Protocol , and I did this for almost a year in the beginning, which significantly expedited my healing. One more thing I want to mention is that when I finally weaned off my RA medications, I flared pretty bad for the following week. It was scary, but I rode through it, and about a week after stopping my meds I woke up one day…and the pain was gone. I had to get worse before I got better, and as it turns out, my meds were also contributing to my leaky gut and autoimmunity, despite their dampening effect on my immune system.

      I’m wishing you the BEST of luck and health Ania, and please do keep me posted on how you are doing! Keep up the faith and the great work too! :)

      In the best of health,
      Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS®

  10. Hello, I have had RA for 2 years now. The first year I went on the meds and eventually came to my senses. I quit taking them and tried a paleo approach. Currently I am on a strict AIP diet and have been for 30 days. Did the pain go away immediately or did it take the 3 months to completely go pain free? I’m feeling low right now just having the up and down in pain, but I’m trying hard with the food. Thank you.

    1. Hi Erika,
      Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story, and CONGRATS to you for taking your health into your own hands and giving Paleo a try! To answer your question, the pain did not immediately go away, and it did take several months to achieve full remission of my RA. After being strict Paleo for a few months, my RA had vastly improved, but I was still experiencing occasional flares. That’s when I transitioned to the AIP, which I followed for about 9 months in an attempt to fully heal my ‘leaky gut‘ (which can take people several weeks, months, or even years to accomplish). In my experience working with others also suffering from RA, it takes about 6 – 12 months on the AIP to achieve complete remission, and as you may have read in my post, I maintain eating 100% strict Paleo/Primal in order to keep the RA at bay. The few times that I have attempted to eat grains, legumes, seeds oils (or other problematic foods), my RA comes back pretty quickly (although it also disappears quickly if I go back to eating strict Paleo). It is frustrating at first to imagine avoiding these foods indefinitely, but I assure you that it gets waaaaaaay easier with time, and there is truly no food in the world that is worth the pain and suffering of RA, which makes being strict on the Paleo diet/AIP much easier. After a few years, my ‘cravings’ for foods I couldn’t have completely disappeared. I’ve talked to several others who have also used Paleo to overcome their RA, Lupus, and other autoimmune disorders…and their stories are very similar to mine….they ate Paleo, then followed the AIP for several months to finally achieve remission (which came slowly, not overnight). I hope this is helpful info, and I thank you again for reaching out. More than anything, I wish you the absolute best of luck and health! Please keep me posted on your progress Erika!

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS®

  11. Hello,
    I agree with Jacqui about the red meat – it makes RA worse, in some people. There is a substance in red meat (I forgot the name of it) that aggravates RA and causes more inflammation.
    Just like dairy (casein) is bad for RA, and this is something I have the hardest time giving up – my morning coffee with lots of half and half. There is NO substitution for half and half, nothing tastes that good, but I had to give it up, and started to feel better in a few days, my sleep improved, I had sleepless nights because of my joints pain, it was excruciating.
    So no red meat and dairy for me, along with grains and beans.
    P.S. — coconut: dry, shredded, cream etc, gives me horrible stomach aches and bloating, I can’t digest it. On top of that it causes bad skin allergy in my case.
    Everyone is deferent, listen to your body, modify food for your individual body.

    Health to all ?

    1. Hi Sabrina,
      Thanks for your comment and I couldn’t agree more…different strokes for different folks! :-)
      I find it fascinating how various foods can affect people differently, and how those ‘intolerances’ often change as the body (and the gut) heals. For example, I was allergic to shellfish before going Paleo, but over the past few years I no longer get anaphalaxis from any seafood! I personally tolerate red meat much better than poultry, which still continues to give me slight digestive upset. It’s probably impossible to determine all of the reasons why a person might be reactive to certain foods (as I mentioned in the comment to Jacqui above), but in general, when a person is suffering from a leaky gut, large food particles are able to escape from your gut into your bloodstream and trigger your immune system to create antibodies against any particles which it deems as foreign. If the leaky gut is severe enough, a person can quite literally become allergic to everything they eat!

      I encourage my clients suffering from autoimmune disease to remove all questionable foods from their diet for a minimum of 6 weeks (ideally much longer) and then reintroduce them systematically (one at a time) in a true “elimination/provocation” challenge. Also keep in mind that ‘allergies’ are not set in stone so as you said “listen to your body” and we shouldn’t write off any healthy Paleo foods permanently! Thanks again for your insightful message Sabrina!

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS®

  12. Hi,
    Thankyou for the post. I m from India and suffering from RA from last 15 year. I m 33 year old & vegetarian. Please tell me what should I eat/ what diet should I follow.


    1. Hi Neeta,
      Thanks you for your comment, and I’m sorry to hear about your RA. If you are willing to eat meat, I would definitely recommend starting out with the Paleo diet and potentially transitioning to the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) after a few months if strict Paleo doesn’t alleviate your flares. Our meal plan service is super helpful to get you going with eating Paleo. Here’s a link to a free 2-week trial –

      We also offer private Paleo coaching, and I would be happy to work with you one-on-one to transition from vegetarian to Paleo, which I know can be a tough thing to do (I was a vegetarian for almost 25 years).

      I wish you the best of luck and health, and please keep me posted on your progress Neeta!

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS®

  13. This is MY story. I was a vegetarian, thin & “healthy”. I became a vegetarian at 13 years old. At 30 years of age I was diagnosed with RA. I went on the drugs & felt better but never completely. I then tried a Paleo Whole30 last year & I was blown away with the results. I stayed at paleo & as gf as I could after that, with decent results. Then the pain began creeping back. August 2014 we went on vacation & I fell off the wagon. I spiraled into the worst flare up to date & I am still reeling from it. I am now about to begin methotrexate but I am thinking I might wait & do another Whole30 again instead. Or I can take the drug & begin my clean eating at the same time. I really do not want to go on methotrexate though.

    Do you allow yourself any dairy at all in your diet? What able alcohol? Occasional glass of wine?

    I am so glad I read your story. I am inspired all over again. :)

    1. Hi Melissa,
      I’m so glad you’ve shared your story here, thank you so much. We are definitely birds of a feather!
      I won’t tell you to not take your prescribed pharmaceuticals, as that would be out of my scope of practice.
      However I will say that the reason I decided to forgo medications and instead go strict/no-cheats Paleo/Primal 4Life was because multiple Rheumatologists and research articles informed me that Methotrexate and other immune-suppressing medications come with a myriad of side effects, and may eventually quit working when taken long-term. After researching the connection between certain foods, anti-nutrients, leaky gut, and autoimmune disease, it made more sense to give my gut a proper chance to heal before resorting to pharmaceuticals. My personal experience coupled with my professional experience as a Paleo nutritionist witnessing hundreds of other autoimmune folks sharing a similar experience keeps me motivated along this path. By changing our diets and lifestyles, we are absolutely capable of fixing the ROOT of the problem instead of resorting to temporary bandaid solutions.

      By strictly eliminating all grains, legumes, seed oils, all processed foods, and seriously minimizing egg whites, nuts, seeds, nightshades, dairy and other immune-triggering foods…I’ve remained in remission of ALL of my autoimmune diseases for almost 5 years without medications. I did have to STRICTLY follow the autoimmune protocol (AIP) for 9 months to achieve full gut-healing during my first year of Paleo. I can now eat dairy occasionally, but too much (or the wrong type) will bring about a flare. I don’t drink wine much because it doesn’t sit well with me, but other types of alcohol (clear liquors) seem to work fine for me when kept in moderation. I avoided dairy and alcohol for the first two years of Paleo, which instinctively felt like the amount of time my gut/immune system needed to ‘reset’/heal.

      Having said all that, I would like to add the caveat that it is NOT all about diet! I’ve also found that stress (not enough sleep, poor stress management skills, not enough/too much exercise, etc.), overall hormonal balance (esp. thyroid and adrenals – I do take bioidenticals), gut flora balance, and a general feeling of ‘safety‘ are also intimately related to my leaky gut and subsequent autoimmune diseases. So I’ve had to learn how to manage all aspects of my lifestyle and psychology to maintain remission from flares without any immune-suppressing medications, including Ibuprofen.

      I’m definitely not perfect, and ‘faileo’ happens. But when I flare, I know why, and over time, I have come to inherently believe that my health is more important than any food or habit which does not serve my higher purpose.

      Melissa, thank you again for sharing your experience here, which is an inspiration to all of us! Please keep us posted, and let us know how we can help you to surTHRIVE along this journey. You can do it! I won’t sugar coat the situation…it’s not easy at first. Change is inevitably uncomfortable. But the payout is most DEFINITELY worth the investment! :)

      Best regards,

  14. Hi Kinsey,
    I am 36 and I’ve been experiencing joint pain all over my body for almost two months. The joint pain started in my right hand and has pretty much spread to every joint. All my test are normal but im desperate to find a cure for the pain. I’m also afraid that this will get worse and become debilatating. I’m not sure if I have RA but am willing to try paleo in case that is ultmately what i end up having. How strict of a diet do you recommend in order to stop the pain quickly? I got checked for food allergies and the only thing i should not eat is cow’s milk. Also, does this also help with energy? I have had serious fatigue for three months and wonder how soon it takes to feel back to normal(apart from joint pain)…

    1. Hi Elzio,
      Thank you for your comment here, and I’m sorry to hear about your joint pain. :( Some (many?) people with RA (or other autoimmune conditions) test “normal” in their blood/lab tests, but have great success alleviating their symptoms with the Paleo diet. The “gold standard” of determining whether food(s) may be related to your symptoms is to remove all questionable foods from your diet (ideally for at least 6 weeks) to see if your symptoms (pain) improve.

      A couple things to keep in mind: the longer an ‘illness’ stays in your body, the harder it becomes for our body is able to fully overcome it. In my opinion, the earlier a person can make a change in their diet/lifestyle, the better! Thus, time truly is of the essence. Also (from my experiencing working with others), the stricter the diet/lifestyle change, the faster the body heals. Often intense illnesses require an equally intense intervention to turn-around.

      Regarding your question about energy levels….YES! I was shocked at how much my energy levels were related to the ‘brain fog’ I had been unknowingly suffering from for years due to my leaky gut. You may also want to have an *experienced doctor/Naturopath/Functional or Integrative doctor take a look at your thyroid hormone levels, which are also intimately connected to autoimmunity and energy/fatigue.

      We are hosting a guided 30 day Paleo challenge starting this Monday, which might be a great opportunity for you to figure out if diet may be the culprit here. Here is the link to join our free Facebook group–>

      Also here is a link to our free 2-week meal plan trial, which can help you to get going with the Paleo diet –>

      I wish you all the best, please let us know how we can help you along your journey to wellness!

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS®

  15. Thank you, Kinsey, for your personal story and the 3 articles on the autoimmune epidemic. I am 67, going on 68, and was diagnosed with RA a little over a year ago, and then with mixed connective tissue disease about 6 months ago. I’m on methotrexate. While I am glad to have the use of my hands again (they had swelled up until I couldn’t use them), I’m worried about the effect of methotrexate on my liver. My brother and sister-in-law have done several Whole30s, which seems to be a very similar program to Paleo Plan. I am getting myself organized to try a Whole30. If it works, I will seriously lobby my rheumatologist to begin weaning me off the methotrexate. I understand that this is a “rest of my life” direction. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    1. Hi Cecilia,
      I don’t blame you for being concerned about the long-term effects of methtrexate…the potential side effects were one of the major reasons why I decided to change my diet so drastically. Please do keep me posted on your progress, and I wish you the very best of luck and health on your journey to eat away your autoimmune diseases. As you read in part 3 of my autoimmune epidemic series, it may require a more intensive approach than Paleo alone (i.e. the AIP or another variation) to fully get your symptoms into remission. Our nutritionists have a lot of experience working with autoimmunity, please let us know how we can be of help!

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS®

  16. Kinsey, what an amazing story! Mine is very similar (through my own health journey I was inspired to study nutrition as well) although I have never been tested for the RA antibodies. Since I am managing very well, would blood work still show the antibodies?

    1. Hi Caitlin!
      Congrats on taking your health into your own hands!!! :-D I’m so happy to hear you are managing your RA via diet…are you strictly following a Paleo diet? It’s not unusual for antibodies to remain elevated long after a person has changed their diet/lifestyle and gone into remission of their autoimmmunity. My Rheumatoid Factor remains elevated, even after years of eating Paleo and remaining mostly free from symptoms. Also, some people with RA will never have a positive antibody test…so I think the best bet is to rely on how you are feeling to gauge progress. :) Congrats and keep up the great work Caitlin!

      In good health,
      Kinsey, Paleo Plan

  17. Reporting some good progress. I’m nearing the end of my first Whole30. My fatigue fog has dissipated and my heartburn/reflux issues are largely gone. The doctor has agreed to a 15 percent reduction in the methotrexate. My only physical issue at this time is that my hands are a little bit stiff and a little bit swollen. Lab work still shows problems, antibodies and muscle damage. I’ve noticed sporadic heartburn/reflux issues when I ate potatoes with skin on and when I ate a fresh tomato. Hmmm. My current plan is to do another Whole30 and keep better track of what I ate and any reactions, then give very serious thought to some consulting help from you for some form of an AIP protocol. Even though I’m a bit down because I was secretly hoping for magic within 30 days, I sincerely believe I’m heading down the proper path.

  18. I too started following a paleo diet to lose weight. Within a week I was off two of my diabetes meds, no longer taking ibuprofen for my very painful osteoarthritis, my neuropathy had stopped being painful, and had more energy than I have had in years. I am down 12.6 pounds and am making it a part of my daily life. Without the dyes, additives, fats and sugars that are in processed foods, my migraine headaches have also stopped. What’s not to like?

  19. Hi Kinsey,
    Your story is very inspiring! I have recently been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis after years of on and off symptoms. I immediately sprung into action to find an alternative to the meds on offer, and started the vegan/plant based McDougall diet. This diet has so far (2 months in) worked amazingly for me personally. My pain is nearly gone. I am wondering if it is because my body is particularly sensitive to dairy and processed foods. I am staying away from nuts and seeds, but have been having rice on this diet which seems to be going fine. I am going to give the AIP a go as I am missing meat. I will see if I can maintain my current progress. Have you had anyone who went paleo but kept the rice? I am wondering if I am playing with fire by changing from the McDougall program when it is working well, but I also don’t want to cut out meat/fish if its unnecessary :)

    1. Hi Emily,
      Thank you for your kind words! I’m sorry to hear about your psoriatic arthritis, but congrats on taking the situation in your own hands, and it’s great to hear that your pain is “nearly gone” now. Hooray! :-D

      Some ‘Paleo’ folks do fine keeping white rice in their diets. For autoimmune folks, white would be preferable to brown rice, since most of the anti-nutrients found in brown rice are contained in the husk and bran. You might look into the “Perfect Health Diet” which includes more starchy foods than Paleo. I personally eat a Paleo/Primal/lower carb/SCD-type diet with very few nuts/seeds, and no grains/legumes (except occasional white rice), which works best to keep my autoimmunity at bay. I wish you the very best of luck and health on your journey!

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS®
      Paleo Plan Nutritionist

      PS Here’s a post I wrote about the AIP, and another one (based on my thesis research) regarding the link between leaky gut and autoimmune disease.

  20. Thank you for your insight a few weeks ago we were encouraged to try a raw foods diet we did so for about ten days but then began adding back chicken and beans. Now we are reading about the Paleo diet can you give me some insight into this diet. Is your rheumatoid Arthritis still gone? Any suggestions? My adult daughter has moderate/severe Rheumatoid Arthritis and had a flare up about six weeks. We need something because it has altered her life tremendously

    1. Hi Nikki,
      Thanks for your comment! In my experience (personally and as a Clinical Nutritionist), Paleo is extremely therapeutic for RA and all autoimmune disorders, largely due to the removal of specific foods that are known to trigger autoimmunity – grains, beans, bad oils, etc. To answer your question – YES – I remain in remission of my RA, Lupus, Alopecia, and other autoimmune disorders by following this diet.

      In general, the severity of one’s autoimmunity is strongly correlated to the health of their gut. Here is an article explaining the connection between leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune diseases. I’ve seen some people with RA reach remission following a Paleo diet or Primal diet, however some people need to take things a step further by following the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), GAPS diet, or another gut-healing protocol. If she hasn’t tried a strict Paleo diet for at least 6 weeks, I would start there. The AIP, GAPS, etc. are pretty restrictive, and Paleo is a great way to make that transition, if need be. There’s a learning curve upfront, and I will say that some people ‘feel worse before they feel better’ (that was my experience), but it’s absolutely worth it once you get to the other side! Please keep me posted on your process and keep the faith- you’re headed in the right direction!

      Best wishes,
      Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS®

  21. Sorry but being a vegan is much healthier and I would never ever eat meat or animal products. If this blog isn’t a blatant marketing exercise for the meat industry I dont know what is. I would rather live my life in physical agony than have to live with myself after eating meat. No true animal lover would ever go back to the disgusting practise that is eating meat.

  22. Hi, I have had RA since 2000 and to date have had 2 complete knee replacements. I use to take Mobic for pain , and refused all other strong meds when I found out how bad they were. I did take methotriciate for about 2 months until my hair started to fall out, then I stopped it. I have not been on any meds for over 7 years except tylenol and ibuphefen. I want to get off of the tylenol and ibuphefen completely. This year I have stated having problems with my hands and elbows. I can barely dress myself and I can do no housework or even open a drink bottle. I don’t drink sodas by the way. I have been in so much pain the last 2 months that it has brought me to the web looking for a way to possibly put my RA in remission. I stumbled on your sight and I feel like there might be hope. I am 63 and I want to be able to feel good again and although I can’t replace the damage that has been done, I want to try to prevent anymore damage from happening and I want to be able to pick up my great grandson. I am going to try the Paleo Diet for 30 days and see what happens. I have already started working on cutting out all grains, however I did not know that beans could be a problem as well, but I will cut those out as well. I already only eat antibiotic and hormone free chicken. I only use very small amounts of red meat for flavoring in some of my dishs. I have many slip ups, but I am getting alot better and now after reading your information, I will work harder to succeed. I already have started eating whole foods and trying to eat very clean. Your article gives me hope. The responses of the post have given me hope. I will keep you posted on my progress. I am so glad I found this sight.

  23. Hi Ms.Jackson,
    My daughter Megan is 22 years old and recently diagnose with psoriasis and RA in April 1 this year, two of her right hand fingers and her left elbow and knee are in so much pain, she starts eating Paleo diet in mild of April this year and taking all the supplement such fish oil,Turmeric, B- complex,Curcumin, Probiotic and this week she starts drinking all green juice too and it didn’t seem to work. We also took her to see a Naturopathic Doctor is currently treating her leaky gut system and the bacteria in her stomach and she also took a Bio-Resonance testing for food allergy. It is so painful for us to see our daughter in so much pain but we couldn’t do anything but support and encouraging her continue to find a way to get well. Please help us find a way to heal her.

    1. Hi Joann,
      Thank you for your message here. I’m so sorry to hear about Megan’s autoimmune issues and that she is experiencing joint pain at such a young age. :( I empathize with her situation very much. I am happy, however, to hear you guys found the Paleo diet and that she has such great support from you. You’re on the right track! Depending on the person/severity, it can take several months to “heal” leaky gut and put autoimmunity into remission. I personally followed the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) for 9 months to get my symptoms under control, before re-introducing a Paleo, and then Primal diet. I found that certain “Paleo-friendly” foods were really contributing to my autoimmune conditions, such as eggs and nuts. It’s a case-by-case situation, meaning, the foods needed to reverse autoimmune disease vary by person and it can take some trial-and-error (and a lot of patience!) to figure it all out. Having said that, it’s not all about diet, and it’s really important to address a person’s stress response, sleep patterns, exercise/movement habits, breathing patterns, etc – because any type of perceived stress can elicit the production of inflammation, which is the precursor to autoimmune ‘flares’. I’ve seen countless people reverse their inflammatory diseases with diet and lifestyle alone, and I’d be happy to work with you guys one-on-one to troubleshoot Megan’s situation. Here’s more info about our Private Paleo Coaching options. I encourage you to ‘keep on keeping on’…I know how scary it is to feel powerless, but please rest assured that you are definitely on the right path and that her immune system just needs more time to heal itself. Please keep me posted on her progress!

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS®
      Paleo Plan Nutritionist

  24. Hi
    Interesting to read about your success with Paleo diet, do you know if it would help with ALS, known as motor neurone disease in Australia?

    1. Hi Fong,

      Thanks for your message. While the research is currently lacking, there is some anecdotal evidence that a Paleo-type diet may be helpful for controlling ALS. Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter suggests a ketogenic diet approach for treating ALS.
      In any case, I would recommend trying at least a few months of a Paleo diet (and perhaps experimenting with keto) to see the foods in your diet are playing an obvious role.
      I wish you all the best of luck and health! Please keep us posted on your progress.

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, MS, CNS®
      Paleo Plan Nutritionist

  25. I have Hashimoto’s and RA. I haven’t been officially diagnosed wit RA, but I know I have it.
    I’ve followed Paleo on and off for several years. Right now I am only gluten, grain, and sugar free. By doing this, my Hashimoto’s symptoms have been substantially reduced. However, my RA symptoms seem to be stronger. After reading your article, I’m reminded how important it is to stay away from all of the foods that trigger autoimmune reactions. I’m going to remove the remaining foods that are known to cause problems (eggs, nightshades, dairy, and nuts) and hope that my RA pain will go away.

    1. Hi Dana,
      I wish you the best of luck with your dietary elimination trials! Another thing I’ve found that’s really connected to my RA symptoms is stress…in its many various forms. Practicing diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing) and learning to re-train the way I think about things (i.e. it’s NOT an emergency!) have also been a critical part of re-wiring my nervous system and immune system to be less over-reactive. So, diet’s a big part of things, but making sure we get adequate sleep, regular movement and hydration, and minimizing the stressors in our life are also important parts of the big picture. Please keep us posted on your progress…and keep the faith! :)

      Kind regards,
      Kinsey, Paleo Plan

  26. Hi,

    Just got back from the Chiropractor and I casually mentioned to her that my finger had been hurting for almost a year and I can’t bend it fully. She mentioned it could be diet related which led me to your site. So, my question is whether I should get an official diagnosis from a doctor before trying Paleo? I thought I hurt it tying my shoes too much and it was just overuse or a sprain. Also, what role does alcohol play in the Paleo diet? I like wine and the occasional whisky.


    1. Hi Arturo,

      You don’t need to wait for a diagnosis before you try Paleo — the Paleo diet is a healthy lifestyle that, even if you don’t have a specific condition, can bring about some healthy changes and improvements.

      As far as alcohol and the Paleo diet, check out these blog posts that we wrote all about that:

      Best wishes!

  27. This was an encouraging post! I have been on the Paleo AIP for 30 days now. I’ve had eczema since I was a baby, psoriasis and joint inflammation for 13 years. A few years ago I reduced the gluten in my diet and then a dr recommended eating an anti-inflammatory diet but when those didn’t seem to help my symptoms too much, I researched some more and found out about Paleo AIP and jumped in whole-heartedly. Unfortunately, not only have I not seen any positive changes, I’ve actually had a new joint become swollen and inflamed over the past three weeks. I’ve added bone broth and gelatin to my diet and am working hard to reduce stress and get enough sleep, although that’s difficult since I’m a single mom of four :). I’m sticking with this because I am confident it will work at some point. Just disappointed to have not seen any results yet. I’m glad I ran across your information and will look more at your website. I’m signing up for your newsletter and if you have any other advice, feel free to throw it my way! Thank you!

    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      Thank you for your comment, although I’m sorry to hear that your symptoms are flaring. It really does sound like you’re doing everything right! Often times people will feel worse before they feel better (the autoimmunity will often flare before remission). So I encourage you to hang in there and see if things improve, but this can take a few (or more) months. How long it takes to reverse the course of a disease is often dependent on how long you’ve had the disease. Sounds like you’ve been dealing with autoimmunity for several decades, so keep in mind that our healing time is often proportional to the length of time we’ve been sick. I’m glad to hear that you’re tending to other lifestyle factors like sleep, stress, gut healing (gelatin), as these factors can all affect our immune system as well (as you know). You should like a sharp cookie and I’m rooting for you Elizabeth – please keep me posted on your progress, and keep the faith!

      Kind regards,
      Kinsey, PaleoPlan

  28. Hi, I am a patient diagnosed with oestoarthritis and has affected all the load joints (knee, ankle, neck, jaws).
    I am managing with tablets and exercises, however, this fails.Please help me out with suggestions and advices with regards to paleo diet.

    1. Hi Beena,
      I’m sorry to hear about your osteoarthritis. People with all sorts of arthritis have benefited from eating Paleo to reduce inflammation, so I encourage you to give it a shot for at least 6 weeks to see if any of your symptoms improve. I’ve linked below to some resources to help you get started with Paleo, and I wish you the very best of luck and health!

      Free 2 week trial to our Paleo meal planning service

      22 Tips to Make Your Next Meal More Paleo

      10 Top Questions from People New to Paleo

      How to Shop for the Paleo diet

      Paleo Food List (allowed & disallowed foods)

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, MS, CNS®

  29. Hi loved reading your story. I’ve been paleo for about 3 years or maybe longer at this point but it’s helping me heal issues with digestion, hormones and overall immunity issues. I want to change careers and was hoping you could share information on how you chose your program. I want to work with patients in the same manner and heal through food

    1. Hi Suchi,
      Thank you for your message and for sharing your experience with Paleo; it’s so great to hear the diet has helped your health issues! I also changed careers after my life-changing experience with Paleo, so I totally know that feeling! :)) What program to pursue depends on 1) where you live, 2) what previous education/degrees you have, or 3) how many years you want to spend in school. Since I already had my Bachelor of Science, I chose to pursue my Master of Science in Human Nutrition. In the US, each state has a different set of requirements for what it takes to practice nutrition, and some states require an RD license to practice nutrition. Thus, it’s best to first find out the requirements to obtain certification/licensure in the area that you live or want to practice nutrition. Another option is health coaching, which can also allow you to work with people on their diets and lifestyles, without doing years and years of school. For continuing education, I recently completed the Primal Health Coach program (through the Primal Blueprint) and loved it! I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors, and please keep me posted on what you end up doing!

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, MS, CNS®

  30. Hello! Your story is inspiring. I am 27 years old and have had Rheumatoid Arthritis since I was 2 years old! I have struggled with the pain which you well know and understand. I went through a phase of about 5 years where I had only minor pain but since having my son it has come back ten fold I feel. I have also gained over 80 pounds which makes it all the worse. I have just discovered paleo two weeks ago and am afraid to start! Weird right? Your story gives me hope that I could maybe one day not have to take 8 pills a day for the rest of my life. Thank you

    1. Hi Rachel!
      Thank you for your kind message, and I think YOUR story is inspiring! You’ve been struggling with RA for 25 years and are still able to maintain a positive attitude amidst the pain…that speaks volumes of you as a person, and in my experience, having HOPE is one of the best forms of medicine when it comes to inflammatory disorders. I’m very excited that you found the Paleo diet, and I think you’ll be amazed at how the diet can help with joint pain/flares. I do want to let you know that many people’s symptoms tend to flare before they get better once you start the diet. Since you’ve been struggling with autoimmunity for SO many years, it may take several weeks or months to get past the ‘hump’. Also, when I tapered off my immuno-suppressants (after I’d been eating Paleo several months) and then finally quit taking them, I flared again, which was scary…but I kept on. Basically, one day I woke up and it was like my RA had left the building. While I did follow the Autoimmune Protocol of the Paleo diet (AIP) for several months to heal my leaky gut, I recommend that most people (who are new to Paleo), start by eating a Paleo diet for at least a few months before transitioning onto the AIP. I wrote my master’s thesis on the connection between leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune disease, which you may find helpful. I truly believe that knowledge is power, and the more we understand why and how certain foods trigger our immune systems to go haywire, the easier it is to choose foods that heal our bodies, instead of hurting them. I’ll be hosting a guided 30 Day Paleo Challenge starting in a few weeks, which I’ll be announcing on the PaleoPlan newsletter soon. I’ve designed the course to teach people all about the connection between inflammation and diet, and have a special emphasis for autoimmune folks. Our Paleo meal planning service is also really helpful for people who are new to the diet. Thanks again for your message Rachel, and please keep me posted on how you are doing. I’m rooting for you!!

      Kind regards,
      Kinsey, PaleoPlan

  31. Did your blood test show that the RA was decreasing?
    I’m all for natural cures. What did the numbers say? I have friends with RA that have done Paleo to no avail. Their RA continued.

    1. Thanks for your comment Christy, I’m all about natural cures too. :) Yes my RF (rheumatoid factor) has continued to decrease over the years, along with other autoimmune markers like my ANA (went from positive to negative), anti-CCP, etc. Since I was already working in the healthcare field, I had been tracking my bloodwork for years and monitored it closely before, during and after my transition to the Paleo diet (and then to the AIP). It was truly remarkable to watch the numbers reflect what I was feeling in my body as symptoms improved and then vanished (over the next months/years).

      I was recently a participant in (what I believe to be) the first-ever study examining the connection between RA and the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, out of Massey University in New Zealand. The responses from the other participants echoed mine, and most of us needed to follow the AIP for anywhere from a few days to a few months or years to achieve “remission”. In my own experience, the Paleo diet helped a lot, but it wasn’t enough to fully turn my health around. I had to take Paleo to the next level and followed the AIP strictly for about 9 months to fully get my symptoms under control. Everyone is different and depending on the severity of a person’s situation, it can take months or years…so I always encourage people to keep the faith and keep on keepin’ on!

      In sum, my symptoms and lab numbers decreased most drastically at first (within the first month of eating Paleo), then gradually over the next several years, and they continue to decrease every time I have them checked. Having said that, my RF is still positive (and likely always will be). I recently ran the Vectra DA blood test (one of the newer tests for assessing RA disease activity level) and scored in the lowest group, which was great to see. But I’m by no means “cured”, in fact, cheating too much on my diet, or getting too stressed out, or not exercising/sleeping enough (or anything stressful, really) can all trigger a relapse of my symptoms. The difference now is that my symptoms pretty quickly disappear once I clean up my act and reduce the stressors around me. Moreover, my numbers have continued to decrease, despite occasional cheats and setbacks, so I definitely think that the longer I eat this way, the more resilient my immune system is becoming. I wish your friends the best of luck getting their RA symptoms under control! It’s a terrible disease and my heart goes out to them. I hope you share this message with them too! :)

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, MS, CNS®

  32. Hi, I am gobi from india. my have struggling with rheumatoid arthritis. her RA factor above 500 IU/mL. Is it possible to take paleo diat for curing above problem. please help us .

    1. Hi Gobi,
      I’m sorry to hear about your RA. The Paleo diet has helped MANY people to reverse their symptoms of RA. I highly recommend trying the diet for at least 6 weeks strictly. You should know by then if the diet is helping you. I’m launching a 30 day Paleo challenge that begins soon if you need help getting started with the diet. Here’s a link for the pre-registration page –

      I wish you all the best Gobi; please keep me posted with your progress!

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, MS, CNS®
      PaleoPlan Nutritionist

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