The first part of this article is a repost from my email newsletter to my subscribers sent over a year ago on May 7, 2019. (By the way, if you are not a subscriber and would like to be, we can easily fix that. Just click here.) Then be sure to continue reading for much more good stuff.
We all know that lion’s and wolves are carnivores. But could a meat-only diet possibly be healthy for humans?
I had never even heard of this being a thing until fairly recently, and then I didn’t even pay that much attention to it. Or rather I should say any, because I pretty much dismissed the idea, thinking it fanatical and fringe.
Carnivore humans = crazy constipated constituents. I couldn’t be wrong, could I?
However, after hearing about the Carnivore Diet again and again, I decided to give it a bit of attention, at least so that I could speak a little intelligently about it.
Briefly, this is what I found:
Some people claim to feel better eating only meat. Some swear that their problems with chronic disease, autoimmunities, and depression/anxiety issues have resolved
Proponents of the Carnivore Diet also report drastically improved energy levels, finally being able to lose weight, sugar cravings disappeared, brain fog and memory problems resolved, libido increased, arthritic pain abated, plus much more.
You probably will not be surprised to learn that there are different versions of the Carnivore Diet. Some people include animal products besides meat, like dairy and eggs. Others, such as author Jordan Peterson, stick to meat only. In fact, all he eats is beef, salt, and water, claiming that when he attempts to add in other foods he feels ill, and debilitating symptoms return.
Advocates of the Carnivore Diet claim that it is healthy, providing essential nutrients; some others admit the diet has a limited value, while yet others vehemently decry its folly.
While this limited amount of information may not be enough for you to converse intelligently about it at a dinner party, consider it to be an introduction to a diet that seems to be gaining popularity.
So a number of months ago, I tried the carnivore diet and lasted all of 2 days. On the third day, I had what I call an “Episode”, which is caused by Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS). Now, this needs another whole article to properly explain, but basically, if you have never heard of MCAS, it is a condition caused by mast cells (types of white blood cells) acting inappropriately and causing varying degrees of problems in a body, some of them even life-threatening. However, I am pretty sure that the above-mentioned Episode was triggered by the types of meat I was eating those 2 days, many of them being sausages and deli meat, which are higher histamines foods, thus more likely to cause problems for someone like me.
Anyway, fast forward to 6 days ago. I started the carnivore diet again, this time with much more success. So far. It may be way too early to be writing about my experiences with it, but it may prove to be an interesting journey to follow.
My biggest reasons for wanting to try the carnivore diet are to feel better by healing my body, alleviating as many chronic health complaints as possible, reducing MCAS episode occurrences, and losing a bit of weight. Plus, I have experimented with other diets and eating plans without much success, although the Bone Broth Diet has worked well for me. Maybe you could say due to the process of elimination I am trying this diet, along with solid science directing this decision.
I have been following a number of people who promote the carnivore diet, one of them being Paul Saladino, MD, who has used the carnivore diet in his own life to heal from autoimmune issues. What is particularly compelling to me about him is the amount of science and research he uses to back up his claims. I bought his book about a month ago, The Carnivore Code, and read enough of it to get started.
So far, I have lost 3 pounds in 5 days and have not been hungry. This in itself is huge as I have tried many different diets and either can’t stick to it or I don’t feel good on it, and/or I experience very little to no weight loss. The last few days I have been sleeping more soundly, having fewer hot flashes, GERD is mostly gone, my face is less puffy (inflammation?), and my brain function is improving.
The Carnivore Diet in a Nutshell
You can eat meat, fish, eggs, and bone broth. Eating an animal nose to tail is encouraged for greater and more diverse nutrients as well as it being a more responsible use of an animal. This means that bone marrow, organs, and other parts of the animal are consumed along with the muscle meat, which is what we typically eat. Some people advocate and include a small amount of cheese or other dairy products, but Dr. Saladino has seen in his patients that dairy can disrupt satiety levels, that because of its opiate-like qualities it can be addicting, that it can trigger inflammation, and that it can damage the lining of the intestinal tract. So, Saladino recommends that omitting all dairy at least for the first 60-90 days of starting a carnivore diet.
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, sugar, and grains are eliminated.
As with everything it seems, there are different carnivore camps and versions of the diet. The best way to do the carnivore diet may just depend on the individual person. For instance, some advocate meat only (so no dairy or eggs), others say no to processed meats like sausage, some think occasional cheat meals are okay, etc. And some, including Saladino, add honey in moderate amounts.
Besides health considerations and weight loss, other bonuses of the carnivore diet is that it can be an easy way to do an elimination diet, and that shopping, menu planning, and cooking are much more simple.
Other compelling bits of information: Studies have shown (many are cited in The Carnivore Code) that foods high in linoleic acid, polyunsaturated fats (PUFA’s), cause fat storage, insulin resistance, and visceral fat accumulation, These accusations are typically sallied against carbohydrates. In addition, it is thought that high stearic acid consumption, saturated fat found in animals, may signal fat cells to release fat. These two nuggets would be so important for weight loss if they are really true, and it appears that there is good evidence that it is according to Dr. Saladino.
What about food costs?
Depending on what kind of carnivorous foods you eat will determine the expense. I haven’t evaluated this much yet, but just off the cuff, I don’t think it is costing that much more since I have eliminated wine, the pricey gluten-free/grain-free crackers, dairy-free cheeses, and vegetables and fruit.
But what is wrong with grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, you may ask!
They contain things like lectins, polyphenols, oxalates, and phytoalexins, which can cause leaky gut, inflammation, damage DNA, disrupt hormones, damage mitochondria, and much more. Some carnivore advocates think that some plant foods can be added back in once health is substantially restored, inflammation has died down, and the intestinal tract has healed. I, for one, am hopeful that this is true, as I really enjoy eating salads, all kinds of vegetables, and almond flour and cassava flour-based crackers and mixes. And I am a foodie who has already been deprived of gluten, dairy, corn, most other grains, nightshades, and on and on.
What about getting enough nutrients without all of those other foods?
Per carnivore diet enthusiasts, all necessary nutrients can be obtained from eating this diet, although most ascertain that it requires eating more of the animal than just muscle meat. Most of the carnivore proponents I have been following don’t even take many, if any, supplements. Plus, they claim that many of the plant foods rob us of important nutrients so that even if they are supplying some, they are taking more away. And furthermore, Dr. Saladino goes to great length in his book to debunk the notion that we need plant fiber to be healthy. He insists it is exactly the opposite.
A meat-only diet? I know it sounds crazy. I know it sounds extreme. But sometimes conditions warrant this. I am going to give it a good try! You may want to too!!!
Updated 4/10/21: My carnivore update ~ I was mostly on the carnivore diet for 90 days, during the months of September, October, and November. I lost 10 pounds without being hungry or limiting amounts or counting anything. And overall I felt better. Around Thanksgiving Day, I added more foods back in, felt worse in some ways, so had to back off some of them. I am still not sure what the culprits are because I failed to add things back in slowly. Yep.
My carnivore diet takeaway ~ I think it can be a good tool short term, especially for those with multiple food sensitivities. But I think anyone’s goal with food is to get to where they are able to enjoy the widest variety of foods possible, both for enjoyment and nutrients. But I do miss the simplicity of the meat-only days.
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