Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health. This week I’m going to talk about my personal experience with the Carnivore Diet. As you know, there’s nothing like “experience” to teach you a few things about your health, and in this case, I learned A LOT about the relationship between food and my gut.
My Own Gut Issues
I had a very upset intestinal tract for several months. It all started when I took a steroid (Prednisone) for a few days because of an inflamed knee from playing pickleball. Note: Prednisone can upset your gut. After the steroid period, I took an antibiotic for a mild case of Covid. Note: antibiotics are notorious for upsetting the gut.
It was the perfect storm: the Prednisone, the antibiotics, the Covid, all wreaking havoc on my GI Tract. Unlike anything I had ever experienced, gut wise! I tried everything but the kitchen sink to get my stomach back to normal and the only thing that really helped was changing my diet (what I ate).
The game changer? The Carnivore Diet. The idea of eating red meat all the time seemed crazy, but I was willing to give it a try (or at least a variation of it). Note: I’m not saying that I would suggest this to everybody, but it’s worth a try to get your gut back on track (or if you have certain autoimmune diseases and/or other conditions).
As lean as I am, I lost 10 pounds during my GUT dysfunction. I was one that needed to do something. Honestly, I was starting to get worried. It finally got better, and I’m pretty sure it had a lot to do with my diet. Note: I tried every kind of supplement and even prescription intestinal antibiotics, antifungals, and anti parasites. Nothing seemed to help much. I even tried the Low FODMAP diet, and it really didn’t help much, either.
Again, never change a winning game plan. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you feel great, healthy, lean, fit, and you’re happy with your gut, please don’t change a thing. It’s only when you have a losing game plan that you need to look for something different.
The Carnivore Diet
To prepare for this Note, I gathered information from podcasts/books of two well known physicians/authors, Dr. Paul Saladino and Dr. Shawn Baker. Dr. Saladino is the main person people think of when they think Carnivore Diet. He wrote the book The Carnivore Code. He’s an interesting doctor, taking Carnivore to an extreme (eating pure red meat ALL the time), but now he has changed his idea about the diet and has added certain fruits and honey to the protocol.
Dr. Shawn Baker is an orthopedic surgeon who got disgusted with having to turn down patients for surgery because they were obese and too high risk. He is now into integrative medicine with a great podcast called REVERO. Dr. Baker is more strict about Carnivore than Dr. Saladino.
It’s important to note that there are different versions of the carnivore diet. For example, Dr. Saladino does not eat chicken, fish, or pork whereas Dr. Baker does. Dr. Baker does not eat certain fruits and honey, whereas Dr. Saladino does.
What About Vegetables?
Are plant fibers good for your gut? In a lot of cases, no. What does that mean? That means in certain cases, you should cut out vegetables. We’ve always been taught to eat the rainbow of vegetables. That’s often the first thing you learn in any nutrition course you take! Well, for some people a plant based diet is a horrible thing for their gut (at least until they straighten it out).
There’s good AND bad things that come from vegetables. Some people simply can’t tolerate vegetables. I used to tell patients for years to increase their fiber. How do they do that? Eat more fruits and vegetables! But a lot of times, when people ate more fiber, it made their gut worse. People who have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) usually have difficulty eating salads. Salads make their gut worse.
Also, raw vegetables can wreak havoc on a lot of people’s gut function. And then, there’s cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Even when cooked, they can affect some people’s thyroid in a bad way. Spinach contains oxalates which can bind the calcium up and even cause kidney stones. Also, lectins in plants cause a lot of inflammation. So, there’s good AND there’s bad with vegetables, depending on the person.
Everybody is different with their diet and their gut microbiome. That’s one thing you have to learn in this profession. You have to be able to adjust and use what works for certain patients, because everybody’s gut microbiome (the balance of good and bad bacteria) is different.
Carnivore Diet For Gut Related Issues
I thought at one point I may have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). It’s kind of an onerous thing to get tested for, so I didn’t test for it. Unless you go through the trouble of getting this breath test done, it’s really a guess. I tried a few things that really didn’t work.
Dr. Saladino thinks that maybe SIBO isn’t a real thing so much, that it’s really more of an autoimmune and a motility based disorder. I know one thing, if you avoid sugars, gluten, seed oils, lectins, and oxalates, then a lot of times what you think may be SIBO may go away. Even lactose intolerance and gluten sensitivities may disappear if your leaky gut and microbiome are healed.
A few tips:
- When you think about intestinal disorders like IBS, try an animal based diet.
- When you’re talking about IBSD, try a carnivore diet for a while.
- When you think about GERD and acid reflux, try a carnivore diet.
- GALLSTONES are another one. Gallstones can mean you actually have a choline deficiency (decreased bile acids).
- UNBALANCED GUT: If you have an unbalanced gut, try eating meat, eggs, and maybe liver. Raw liver is actually good for you. If you can’t stand the idea of this, you may want to take the liver capsules instead (although they’re not as potent). Raw liver has so many minerals in it. It may be the most nutrient dense supplement you could ever take.
Note: You also need to get rid of the beans, lectins, and the vegetables when you have an unbalanced gut. And SUGAR! I think sugar is the worst thing you can eat!
- VITAMIN D. Vitamin D helps your gut microbiome. People need to get out in the sun. That’s the best way to get Vitamin D for sure. When you take Vitamin D you need Vitamin K2 with it.
- LOCAL HONEY. I’ve always loved raw, unpasteurized, local honey. Turns out that this is also very good for your gut. It’s an animal based product.
- KEFIR. Kefir is great. Raw milk if you can find it. There’s another kind of milk called A2 Milk that I like and can actually tolerate pretty well (I’ve always been lactose intolerant).
When people have a lactose deficiency, it may be that they can tolerate certain types of dairy more when their gut is straightened out. Certainly, the A2 Milk is much healthier than the regular pasteurized milk that you see. It’s hard to find raw milk and goat milk. Those are actually pretty good for you, too, if you can find it and tolerate it. Raw milk is on the carnivore diet.
Carnivore Diet and Autoimmune Disorders
A carnivore diet can be helpful for some people, especially those with autoimmune disorders. Go back to Dr. Gundry’s work. I use Dr. Gundry’s Autoimmune Diet quite a bit. It’s a very low carb diet, almost a “carnivore type” diet. He hammers lectins all the time.
If you have these autoimmune issues like:
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Crohn’s Disease
- Chronic Pain
- Mental Disorders
These can be helped greatly by eating a carnivore diet. One reason for this is because it’s low in Omega 6 fats (those inflammatory fats that we measure in our Cleveland Heart Panel). The worst Omega 6 is linoleic acid. That, probably, is much worse than high cholesterol as far as your overall health. When you get on a carnivore diet, it’s really low in Omega 6’s. It also removes oxalates and lectins (those plant proteins that are very inflammatory).
Note: Please avoid vegetable oils and seed oils. They are terrible for you. If you see seed oils, like sunflower and safflower, on the ingredients list, don’t eat it.
The other thing that’s good about the carnivore diet is that it increases something called carnosine. Carnosine is really good because it attracts glucose. It reduces your blood glucose levels and lowers your chance of diabetes, or something called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). That’s where you have glycation, where sugar will bind to a protein. This is bad and very inflammatory. It makes your arteries sticky. The carnosine in a carnivore diet helps bind that up, and then it goes out as waste. It is very good for longevity and weight loss.
One of the long standing criticisms of the carnivore diet is that it may cause heart disease because of the saturated fats in it. Even the American Heart Association recently has agreed that saturated fats DO NOT cause heart disease, which is something we’ve preached for years.
It’s not your cholesterol that causes heart disease! You have to look at it in detail. It’s not only your total cholesterol, HDL or LDL, but more importantly your ApoB, which of course we measure in the Cleveland Heart Panel.
Other risk factors for heart disease:
- Insulin resistance
- Blood pressure
When we’re just prescribing statins to everyone with a slightly elevated cholesterol, it’s probably not the best thing to do because they can cause side effects. You need cholesterol to make your cell walls and to make your hormones. Remember: testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, and cortisol all come directly from cholesterol.
The carnivore diet is very low in the unhealthy fats (linoleic acids, PUFAs, and seed oils). Those are not a part of your natural human diet. You get those through processed foods. If you cut out processed foods, you’re doing yourself a big favor. The worst fats are the seed oils often found in chicken and pork.
Dr. Saladino’s diet doesn’t include eating fish because of the toxins in the water. He doesn’t eat chicken or pork, either. He just eats red meat and now honey and certain seedless fruits that are low glycemic. A lot of the problem with the chicken and the pork is that they have high amounts of linoleic acid, thanks to the grains they are fed. So, if you eat these make sure they are pasture raised. As for fish I recommend wild caught, not farmed.
If you get on a carnivore diet and you eat a lot of red meat (which you will), then you have to get grass fed, grass finished beef. It’s very accessible. Some people say they eat grass-finished beef, but It has to be both grass fed AND grass- finished. When they say grass-finished it means the cow has been grain fed for the first part of its life, and at the very end was grass fed, to make it look like they were grass fed animals.
Yes, grass fed, grass finished beef is a little more expensive, but when you consider all the bad stuff you’re cutting out, it’s worth it. Plus, you’re cutting out a lot of pricey processed foods. You’re going to be more full, have more energy, and be less inflamed! Your gut will thank you.
Another thing about the animal based diet is the protein in it. It’s much more bioavailable than plant protein. You’re getting a lot more protein which builds muscle, burns fat. Much more so than plant proteins.
Note: I’m not saying that a vegan or vegetarian diet is bad for everybody, but there are nutritional deficiencies you can certainly get from those. I don’t promote these diets a whole lot. There are certain people who do feel better on vegetarian diets, so don’t argue with them.
Everybody’s different. If your health and your gut are already optimal, don’t change a thing. But if your gut is unhappy, (and you know when your gut is unhappy, i.e., gas, bloating irregular bowel movement, constipation, diarrhea, GERD, overweight, tired, brain fog), then you need to think about trying something different.
Consider the carnivore diet. I know it gets a lot of bad press, but if you are having gut issues, I think it’s a pretty reasonable diet to try. It certainly has helped me. See what it can do for you, even if its’ short term. Most people are going to end up on a more modified version of the diet in the long run.
Till next time.