Adapting to carnivore diet

Optimize your lifestyle

Won’t an all-meat diet give me scurvy?

Do people on carnivore diets develop scurvy, which is a deadly result of vitamin C deficiency? Basically, the answer is a resounding no. The one exception would be if you attempted to live off a diet of only dried and preserved meats. That type of diet is the reason British sailors developed scurvy. For months at a time, they lived off dried, salted meats while they traveled the sea. High-carbohydrate items comprised the rest of their diets, and those foods potentially made matters worse.

Vitamin C has numerous roles in the body. One role is to assist in the synthesis of collagen, which is a vital protein used structurally throughout the body. When collagen synthesis is down, we see some of the classic symptoms of scurvy, such as bleeding gums, loss of teeth, joint dysfunction, and nonhealing wounds. The body also uses vitamin C to help form carnitine, and vitamin C acts as an antioxidant that plays a role in modulating our immune systems. Humans who are deficient in vitamin C start to show signs of scurvy within a few months.

Okay, so if vitamin C is necessary, meat doesn’t contain vitamin C (at least according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture), and humans can’t make vitamin C, what gives? Why are so many people who follow an all-meat diet not walking around with their teeth falling out? Well, several things are in play.

It has been known for well more than 100 years that meat, particularly fresh meat, both cures and prevents scurvy. This evidence was well documented among many nineteenth-century Arctic explorers. Fresh meat is the key difference in a modern carnivore’s diet compared to the diets of the British sailors, which was dominated by dried, salted meat.

Amber O’Hearn, a brilliant long-term carnivore, investigated the USDA’s claim that meat has no vitamin C. She was shocked to discover that the USDA had never bothered to test for vitamin C in meat. As it turns out, meat does contain a small but sufficient amount of the vitamin, particularly in the context of a fully carnivore diet.

Vitamin C enters your body through the intestinal tract. Interestingly, glucose can directly compete with vitamin C absorption because they share a cellular transporter. If there’s a lot of glucose in your system, vitamin C absorption is effectively inhibited. In a meat-only diet, glucose is effectively zero in the intestines; thus, vitamin C becomes more available. Interesting work coming out of the Paleo Medicina group in Hungary has shown that serum vitamin C levels are normal in patients who follow a carnivore diet. In fact, animal-derived vitamin C was more effective than similar plant-derived vitamin C for maintaining serum levels.

Dietary antioxidants are widely believed to benefit us, although there are some significant challenges to that theory. As I mentioned previously, vitamin C has a role here. It’s interesting to note that when an animal that can manufacture its own vitamin C starts eating a carbohydrate-restricted diet, the animal’s synthesis of vitamin C decreases. It’s almost as if eating carbohydrates increases the requirements for antioxidants. Although humans can’t make vitamin C as other animals can, in the presence of a low-carbohydrate diet, we see an increase in some of our endogenous antioxidants (that is, our body makes them).

The role of vitamin C in helping to form collagen involves the hydroxylation of the amino acids proline and lysine to form hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine, respectively. When you eat a meat-rich diet, some of those molecules are absorbed in the already hydroxylated form via specific gut transporters; therefore, you likely require less vitamin C.

The upshot is that when you’re on an all-meat diet, vitamin C absorption is more efficient, and your body’s requirements for it go down. You get a sufficient amount of the vitamin from the food (fresh meat) you eat, and you don’t get scurvy.

 


Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

Water: The Classic is Back!

Every animal on the planet drinks water; it works well for hydration. Seventy percent of your body is made of water. It’s all you need to drink, and as you get unhooked from sugar and artificial sweeteners, you’ll come to enjoy it. If you want to go crazy, get some sparkling water. Although you might feel like you might die at first, you really and truly won’t perish if you don’t have some kind of sweet beverage to drink. Water—it’s good. Drink it!

What about bone broth, alcohol, and coffee? Bone broth is fine. It contains some good stuff and can help to satisfy your urge to drink something hot or flavored. However, drinking bone broth isn’t crucial to the success of the carnivore diet. You don’t need to drink it unless you want to. You can get all the nutrients you need without it, but if you enjoy or benefit from it, feel free to indulge.

Alcohol is not a health food. It won’t make you live longer, and it won’t make you any hardier. When you’re deciding whether to indulge in alcohol or skip it, understand that ethanol is toxic. Once in a while, I have a glass of red wine or two. I generally can expect my sleep to be less restful, and my athletic performance often is a little impaired the next day. Neither issue is the end of the world; the important thing is that I understand what the negative consequences of having the wine are and account for them when I make my decision. Most people who do a carnivore diet for a long period report their desire to drink alcohol drastically diminishes. Beer and certainly sugary mixed drinks are a bigger negative than a dry wine or a distilled spirit. Some people even have problems with the grains that are distilled to make the liquor.

Coffee is something I have little experience with. I’ve tried a few cups here and there over the decades, but I’ve never enjoyed it. Perhaps, if you’re a coffee lover, my inexperience is reason enough for you to stop listening to me. Many people find coffee incredibly satisfying and often turn drinking it into a ritualistic experience.

The science on whether coffee is good or bad for us continually changes. Caffeine has some effects on our physiology and acts as a central nervous system stimulant. It also affects the sympathetic nervous system and has been shown to aid in sports performance. However, research has found that it leads to sleep disturbance and can negatively affect gastrointestinal motility and gastric acid secretion. Some people find that caffeine acts to dysregulate appetite, often suppressing it. It may interfere with nutrient and mineral absorption. In all likelihood, though, for most people caffeine probably has a minimal impact in the grand scheme of things.

My suggestion is that you not try to quit coffee or caffeine during the initial phases of the diet. Once you’ve adapted to your new eating habits, give it a go if it’s something you want to take on.

 


Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

Truth About Kidney Health and Gout

People who are emotionally invested in avoiding protein often state that protein damages the kidneys, particularly when that protein comes from animals. Where did this theory come from? Not from studying humans. On the podcast I share with ultra-endurance world-record holder, Zach Bitter, I was talking with Dr. Stuart Phillips, one of the world’s leading protein experts, and we got into this topic. The misconception about this issue evolved from some work researchers did on rats, but no research on humans has ever shown the same results.

Protein doesn’t damage kidneys, but damaged kidneys tend to leak protein, which is something that contributes to the confusion about the relationship between protein and the kidneys. Many physicians have bought into this myth that protein damages kidneys even though the assertion has almost no scientific support. As with other misconceptions, you can look at the treasure trove of nutritional epidemiology and find some relationship between a high-protein diet and an increased incidence of kidney disease, but, as always, you have to ask the question, “Does it apply to all people in all situations?”

In my experience, people who eat a high-protein carnivore diet aren’t finding that their kidneys are compromised. I’m not saying that no one who follows the carnivore diet will ever have kidney problems; they can occur for many reasons. But I do not think that an all-meat diet causes kidney issues. I know of some cases where chronic kidney dysfunction has started to get better for several people.

Let’s put this in perspective. Humans evolved in an environment where eating copious amounts of meat was likely a common occurrence. We have several historical accounts of humans consuming very large amounts of meat, and those accounts show no evidence that the people experienced kidney problems. As I mentioned earlier, the explorers on the Lewis and Clark expedition were noted to have eaten as much as 9 pounds of meat per day. Modern-day competitive eaters have sometimes eaten more than 20 pounds of meat in one sitting without damaging their kidneys. If protein did indeed damage our kidneys, humans would not have made it this far through history.

Another common myth about the consumption of meat is that it leads to the development of gout. This perception goes back to the days when gout was considered a “rich man’s” disease. Because the financially well off were diagnosed with gout more frequently than the less affluent population, and the rich also were the people who could afford to eat meat, the assumption was that meat was the cause of gout. However, what do you think we find when we look at people who eat only meat? They don’t get gout, and if they had it before they start the carnivore diet, the gout generally clears up.

One of the beautiful things about a carnivore diet is that it tends to make some things crystal clear. You can wallow around in pointless epidemiology or use some questionably applicable animal studies to try to interpret something about the effects of eating meat, or you can take the simpler route and look at people who eat only meat. When we look at populations of meat eaters, such as the Maasai, Mongols, or Sámi, we see that there’s no indication that they were hobbled by gout. Today I routinely observe people with gout who go on an all-meat diet; for them, gout becomes a distant memory within months.

So, what about those rich dudes from a few hundred years ago? Why did they have gout? Because they had access to something that the common folk did not. Sugar! The wealthy also had more access to alcohol, and both sugar and alcohol are strong drivers of gout. The traditional view of gout is that it’s caused by an increase in uric acid because we can see uric acid crystals when we view gouty tissue under a microscope. I’ve taken care of plenty of gout patients over the years, and I’ve even removed large gouty tophi (which are basically giant blobs of crystal deposits in the skin that resemble toothpaste when cut open) from all parts of the body. None of my gout-afflicted patients has said he was a pure carnivore.

We know that purines form as food breaks down, and they can lead to increased uric acid production. Meat is often high in purines, and thus experts concluded that meat was the reason for the rich man’s disease. The problem is that most food leads to purines being produced, and high uric acid levels do not always lead to gout. As with all things, the path to gout isn’t a simple route. Is uric acid more of a problem when an underlying inflammatory state exists?

If so, what drives the inflammation? What about hyperinsulinemia (excess insulin)? Because of the complex system that comprises the human body, we have to look at issues like gout from all angles. Fructose is a vital component of table sugar, making up 50 percent of the sucrose molecule; the other 50 percent is glucose. We’ve seen that as fructose consumption goes up, the incidence of gout also goes up. Coincidentally, markers of inflammation and uric acid levels also rise as fructose consumption increases. Alcohol is another major contributor to higher uric acid levels. Like fructose, higher alcohol consumption tends to increase the incidence of gout.

One caveat is that if someone already has gout or is strongly predisposed to it, that person may experience a flare up during the transition phase into a ketogenic or carnivore diet. The flare-up is likely a result of a preexisting inflamed state combined with entering into a state of nutritional ketosis, or it’s because a transient uric acid elevation is a likely reason for the short-term occurrence of gout. After a person has fully transitioned to an all-meat diet, the gout generally subsides for good.

 


Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

The Red Meat Cancer Risk Doesn’t Add Up

Some researchers have said that red meat leads to colon cancer. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) proclaimed that red meat was a Class 2 carcinogen, and that processed meat was a Class 1 carcinogen, which puts it in the same category as smoking cigarettes in terms of the risk of developing colon cancer. The level of relative risk was around 17 percent for red meat and 18 percent for processed meat.

Scientists from all over the world have criticized this proclamation for several reasons. Independent observers of the process that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) used to inform the WHO’s declaration have pointed out that it was not a consensus decision because approximately 30 percent of the participants disagreed. About 800 studies were considered, but only about 50 were deemed worthy of supporting the position that meat causes cancer; the other studies were thrown out for various reasons.

Dr. Georgia Ede has done a remarkable job of sorting through the same data that the IARC cited, and she has determined that the evidence in support of the claim that meat causes cancer appears to be fairly underwhelming. You can find Dr. Ede’s critique at DiagnosisDiet.com, and it’s well worth reading. To summarize, her findings show that the vast majority of the data comes from epidemiology, which always lumps true meat eaters with those people who eat junk like burgers, shakes, and fries.

Much of the other research was based on rat studies in which the animals were genetically bred to develop cancer, given a cancer-inducing drug, and then fed meat and some toxic rat chow. These types of studies are hardly applicable to a normal human being who eats a healthy diet that includes meat, and the studies in no way accurately represent the habits of a purely carnivorous human. Among those studies on rats and mice were a majority that didn’t support the hypothesis that meat causes cancer, and there even exists a study that concludes that bacon was relatively protective against colon cancer. Dr. David Klurfeld, who was one of the IARC panel members, has recently spoken out about the process. He was fairly concerned that contradictory evidence was dismissed and that a large percentage of the panelists were vegan or vegetarian but did not disclose that information on the review.

Let’s assume that the weak evidence that the WHO used was sufficient to suggest a true relative risk increase in cancer of 18 percent. What does that mean? Well, the generally accepted lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about 4 percent. If the WHO is correct, that risk goes to 5 percent. In other words, based on the data that supports the WHO’s claim, there’s a whopping 1 percent increase in absolute risk. This is one of the classic statistical numbers games used to scare people from consuming something that someone doesn’t like for various reasons. As always, meat consumption is not the only factor in the risk of developing cancer; we also could look at things like hyperinsulinemia, abdominal obesity, and chronic inflammation (and we could paint a far scarier picture).

As I see it, there are two possible approaches to the WHO’s decree: You can question the findings of the WHO because of the poor science backing them, or you can put the findings in context with other factors to determine your overall risk. People who follow a carnivore diet often report greatly improved insulin status, lower levels of abdominal obesity, and significantly reduced inflammation. When you put the whole package together, you find that overall risk for colon cancer likely falls for people on a carnivore diet. Remember—when we talk about associational data, you always should ask, “Does this apply to all people in all situations?” Rats that have been genetically bred to develop cancer and have been given a drug that promotes cancer shouldn’t chase down a bolus of toxic rat chow with a steak. Similarly, people who spend their lives eating sugar, vegetable oils, and refined grains and become insulin resistant and obese may want to avoid triple bacon burgers with a side of fries and a shake.

In Asia, red meat and processed meat (whether cooked or raw) has basically no association with colorectal cancer. Is meat on that continent magically different than in North America? Not likely, especially because much of the red meat in Asia is imported from the United States. Do the Asians have special meat-resistant genes? That’s also not likely because when Asians emigrate to the United States, the likelihood that they’ll become sick and fat and develop cancer goes up. Instead, perhaps the higher incidence of colorectal cancer in North America has to do with the garbage that we eat with our meat rather than with the meat itself. (Note: Only about 4.5 billion people live in Asia, so I’m sure it’s totally fine to ignore their data.)

 


Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

Switching to a Healthier, Meat-based You

We’re now ready to discuss some detail about common strategies to transition into the diet. There are pros and cons to these methods, and no solution is going to fit everyone. Your starting diet may help dictate which method you want to pursue.

 

Hard-Core Carnivore

This method is pretty much a direct drop into the purest form of the diet. If you go hard-core carnivore, you go straight to meat and water all the time right from the get-go. Many long-term carnivores recommend using this technique, which is analogous to removing a bandage by quickly ripping it off. There might be more discomfort in the short term, but the overall process often is quicker than easing into the diet.

With this method, on day one, you start eating nothing but meat and drinking nothing but water, and you repeat until you’ve adapted. This approach works best for very motivated individuals and those who are transitioning from a mostly animal-based ketogenic diet (because they’re already pretty well accustomed to fueling on fat). The downside of this cold turkey approach for many people is that the symptoms associated with the transition can be more severe than with a more gradual switch. Consequently, some people quit because the transition is too difficult.

 

Carb Step-Down Strategies

If you’re coming from a carbohydrate-heavy background, a good strategy may be to first adopt a lower-carbohydrate diet for at least several weeks before transitioning to a full carnivore diet.

If you’ve been on a standard American diet, which is high in carbohydrates, and you’ve been taking medications to address high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic pain, or depression, you should visit with your physician to discuss potential medication changes that might need to occur as you shift your diet. I’ll use blood pressure medication as an example: Many people find that medications to treat blood pressure can lead to dangerously low blood pressure as your body adapts because the diet can normalize blood pressure. The result is that the medication becomes unnecessary or needs to be reduced. The body can make similar adjustments for the other types of ailments, and it’s important that you and your doctor make corrections to your medication as necessary.

For some people, a good transition strategy is to include more meat-based meals gradually over time. One example schedule is to spread three fully meat-based meals throughout the first week. The next week bump up to eight carnivore meals. In the third week, try two days of only meat-based meals, and spread ten carnivore meals on the other days. In the fourth week, you should be able to handle five days of carnivore meals, and by the fifth week, all but two of your meals will be meat. In week six, your transition to full carnivore will be complete.

Alternatively, you could set short-term challenges to go full carnivore three days out of a week. The next challenge is to go one full week of eating only meat. The third challenge is to go for two weeks; finally, you attempt to go carnivore for thirty days in a row. This method is pretty much what I used, and it was a fairly smooth process.

The third technique for a gradual transition is to fade the vegetables and starch off your plate as you increase the amount of meat you eat each day. A drawback to these gradual techniques is that for some time, you still have access to addictive or otherwise problematic food, which may make it harder for you to let go of those things. It’s kind of like having an alcoholic quit drinking by only having alcohol twice a week.

However, as long as you continue moving closer to a fully carnivore diet, you will likely feel better, and those cravings will subside over time. Also, the gradual withdrawal of fiber- or oxalate-rich foods might make the transition easier. By gradually reducing fiber from your diet, your colon may better adapt to being able to absorb fluid and minerals efficiently. Gradually tapering from oxalate-rich foods may help you avoid a potential rapid precipitation of oxalate crystals into your joints, skin, or other tissues.

 

The Beginner Phase

 

How long does the beginner phase last? It can vary, but here are some signs that identify you as an experienced carnivore rather than a beginner:

 

  • Food no longer rules you, and you no longer see food as a form of entertainment. Instead, it’s a deeply satisfying form of nutrition.
  • You have no problem passing up a food that was previously one of your favorites.
  • You can go out socially and not cave to pressure to eat something just to satisfy someone else.
  • Nothing other than meat seems like food.

For some people, these signs are evident within a few months. Other people need years to reach all these milestones.

 

Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

Starting The World’s Simplest Diet

One of the hardest concepts to understand about the carnivore diet is how simple it is. Do you need to track macros or calories? Do you need to weigh your food and calculate micronutrient amounts? Do you need to be hooked up to daily blood monitors and check your lab results every few months? I would argue that you don’t need to do any of that. If a diet requires constant monitoring and calculation, then it is arguably not a very good or sustainable diet.

One big misconception about the carnivore diet is that it’s a way to lose weight. Certainly, weight loss can and often does occur, but it’s not guaranteed. Some folks even gain body fat. I have mentioned that malnutrition is a huge problem because people tend to eat energy-rich but nutrient-poor; this diet tends to fix that imbalance. If you approach this diet with the focus of weighing a certain amount or fitting into a certain size of jeans, then you will likely struggle. It’s not that those things won’t happen, but they’re secondary to improvements in nutrition. Nutrition
precedes health; health precedes body re-composition.

Here are some simple rules for getting started on a Carnivore Diet:

  1. Take one day at a time. You’re not committing to a life sentence when you start a carnivore diet, and you’re not joining a race. Enjoy life! Each day is a new chance to learn and experiment. This experience should be about you finding out what it takes for you to feel and function your best. There is no one way to follow the plan, but there are common paths. Remember that failure precedes success, so don’t beat yourself up about any miscues.
  2. Enjoy the process. I often tell people to count how many meals they enjoy after starting the carnivore diet. You should enjoy most of your meals. If you don’t enjoy what you eat, you’ll never stay with any diet long term. Learning how to cook and prepare meat can be a wonderfully enjoyable process. When you’re starting, variety can be your friend, so experiment with your choices. There are thousands of different cuts and types of animal products to enjoy.
  3. Eat enough. The vast majority of issues that occur with transitioning are a result of not eating enough. Many people come from a background of restricting calories or macronutrients, and that habit is often hard to break. That style of eating leads to a poorly regulated appetite and a ton of anxiety. (I’m going to keep repeating this idea: If you’re constantly managing your appetite, you will not be happy.)
    When you’re hungry, you should eat! (Shocking, I know.) However, think about it in the context of any other physiologic function. When you need air, you breathe. It’s as simple as that, and eating to satisfy hunger can be the same. While adapting to the diet, eat until you’re full, and repeat as often as needed to keep yourself out of the cupcakes. If you try to limit your intake, you’ll rapidly fall prey to old habits and cravings.
  4. Don’t make comparisons. Your results are your results, and they may be different than someone else’s. Constantly comparing yourself to others is a quick path to misery. Be objective about who you are, where you’re starting, and what’s important to you. You’re more than a number on a scale or a collection of lab values. Your physiology is dynamic and unique to your environment.
  5. Remember that you’re eating for you. The pressure to fit in socially can sometimes be enormous, and many people collapse on a diet so as not to disappoint a friend or loved one. People who truly care for you will understand that you’re embarking on a trial to improve some aspect of your being, and they’ll respect what you’re doing.
  6. Focus on feasting. As stated in rule 3, you need to eat enough, and I’m referring to both the frequency and the quantity. After some time on the carnivore diet, most people tend to fall into a pattern of eating meals less frequently. I typically eat once or twice per day, but that presumes I’ve eaten enough not to be hungry between feedings. If you focus on the delicious food and ensure you get plenty of it, you won’t need to set a stopwatch to tell you when to eat again.

    7. Not everything is diet related. As you become more attuned to how you respond to food, particularly as your diet begins to become narrower, it’s sometimes easy to fall into the trap of analyzing every single health-related issue and trying to attribute it to diet. Diet is hugely important, and I can’t overstate its effect on your health. However, constantly worrying about every blemish, belch, or sneeze is not productive and will turn you into a miserable hypochondriac. Things will happen—many good, some bad. Some will be diet-related; many will not. Take the big-picture view and learn to relax. Put your energy into thinking, “How does my health compare to three months ago?” rather than thinking, “How does my health compare to yesterday?”


Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

Plants Are Out to Poison You!

Plants have been on the planet for roughly 700 million years, and they have been successfully fighting off various fungi, insects, and other animals since well before humans arrived some 3 million years ago. Plants have developed all kinds of defense strategies to ensure the survival of their species, including a system of elaborate chemical defenses. If you and I (or perhaps our ancestor, good ol’ Urk) were to go walking in the wilderness, and we started eating random plants, we would very quickly find ourselves either very sick or dead.

Of the approximately 400,000 species of plants on Earth, only a tiny fraction are edible by humans. Among the edible plants, typically only a portion of the plant is safe to eat; the rest is often harmful to humans. Even today, plant poisonings are still relatively common events.

Most of the produce that we see in the supermarket has absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the plants that would have been available to our ancestors 50,000 years ago. Cruciferous vegetables basically didn’t exist, and our ancestors would have avoided leafy greens because of their extremely bitter taste. Tubers and other starchy “underground storage organs” were not particularly tasty and would have been primarily composed of fibrous, tough material. Nuts and seeds are well-protected physically by a tough outer shell or more subtly by toxic chemical defenses. Unprocessed nuts or beans can be among the most deadly plant-based foods around. Plants are especially protective of their offspring. The fruits we eat today have been manipulated to the point that prehistoric people wouldn’t recognize them.

We know that plants are full of chemicals, many of which serve as pesticides. If we had to introduce those same natural plant pesticides to the market today and subject them to rigorous toxicity testing, many of those chemicals would not be allowed on the market. However, because there is no real regulatory organization that examines “natural substances” in food, we tend not to worry about it.

I’m not saying that researchers have never studied these naturally occurring plant compounds in everyday fruits and vegetables. In fact, there are numerous studies on this topic. In 1990, famed toxicology researcher Professor Bruce Ames investigated the use of pesticides in food production and compared manufactured pesticides to naturally occurring plant-chemical pesticides. Shockingly, Ames found that 99.9 percent of pesticides we consume by volume comes from plants themselves. When he examined some of these compounds in more detail, a majority were shown to cause cancer in animal models. We shouldn’t run away from all fruits and vegetables because of a potential cancer risk. However, it does show us that there are plenty of chemicals in the plant foods we eat, and many of them have a potentially negative effect.

 

Plants Waging Chemical Warfare

The list of chemicals found in the plants we commonly consume is extensive, and I’m not going to list them all. However, I’m covering some of the more common ones so I can talk about the potential and documented effects. Remember, researchers have studied many of these compounds in limited capacities, and we likely will never know all the potential interactions and issues that may be related to them. It’s also important to note that although a particular compound may cause a major problem in one person, another person may not experience any obvious issues.

 

Oxalates

Commonly found in leafy green vegetables, some fruits, nuts, seeds, and even French fries, oxalates are a pretty common antinutrient. They can lead to medical problems—particularly when people ingest them in higher doses. One of the most common issues is kidney stones, which often are comprised of oxalates. Oxalate crystals in the body can become very needlelike, and some research has associated them with gastrointestinal irritation. The crystals may lead to leaky gut syndrome and potentially can lead to autoimmune issues.

 

Lectins

Lectins, recently made popular by Dr. Steven Gundry’s book, The Plant Paradox, are a fairly ubiquitous plant compound, but they’re particularly concentrated in things like grains, nuts, corn, quinoa, fruits, nightshades, vegetable oils, legumes, beans, and squash. The trouble with lectins is that they can lead to a leaky gut situation and likely contribute to all the potential downstream effects of leaky gut.

 

Glycoalkaloids

Glycoalkaloids are in nightshade plants like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Limited evidence suggests these compounds have a connection to leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune problems like psoriasis. The foods that contain glycoalkaloids—particularly the nightshade vegetables—have been reported to worsen symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

 

Goitrogens

Goitrogens are substances that can interfere with the function of the thyroid. Thyroid dysfunction is particularly common among women, and some researchers believe that high amounts of goitrogen-containing foods may play a role. Foods like soy and cruciferous vegetables tend to be high in these substances. Perhaps all those years of forcing ourselves to choke down broccoli and cauliflower were not kind to our thyroids.

 

Cyanogenic Glycosides

Cyanogenic glycosides are in common foods like almonds, flaxseed, linseed, lima beans, cassava, and certain stone fruits (such as cherries, peaches, and plums). Cyanide poisonings can and do occur, commonly with consumption of cassava root; sometimes death is the result of poisoning. Chronic exposure to cyanides is postulated to contribute to chronic diseases such as impaired thyroid function and neurological disturbances.

 

Phytic Acid

Phytic acid is in grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. It can lead to mineral deficiencies, particularly deficiency of zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Deficiencies in these minerals can lead to a host of potential problems, including heart disease, depression, infertility, impotence, hair loss, and compromised immune function. On the beneficial side, phytic acid has been shown to lower blood glucose and potentially lessen the formation of kidney stones.

 

Protease Inhibitors

Protease inhibitors are in most legumes, particularly soy; cereals; fruits such as kiwi, pineapple, papaya, bananas, figs, and apples; and vegetables such as cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The protease inhibitors interfere with the activity of enzymes involved with protein digestion, such as trypsin, and in animal studies, they have been shown to lead to poor growth in subjects. Conversely, there is some evidence to show these compounds may have a positive role in limiting cancer.

 

Flavonoids

Flavonoids, which are responsible for some of the pigment found in plants, are commonly found in citrus fruit, cocoa, blueberries, parsley, onions, and bananas. They’re potentially beneficial at low levels, but in higher doses, they’ve been noted to cause genetic mutations, oxidation that leads to free radical production, and inhibition of hormones.

 

Saponins

Saponins are in legumes, beans, garlic, alfalfa sprouts, peas, yucca, and asparagus. They have been shown to cause digestive disturbances, thyroid problems, and damage to red blood cells. Fun stuff indeed!

 

Salicylates

Salicylates are in many fruits and vegetables and some spices. They’re often responsible for sensitivity reactions that can trigger asthma, gut inflammation, and diarrhea.

Humans survived an Ice Age, which means our ancestors’ habitat was like Iceland, not Costa Rica. If we’re willing to set aside our arrogance about how much we think we know and apply some commonsense observations, we can see how impractical a diet full of indigestible fiber and nonessential phytonutrients is. We need fat, protein, and some vitamins and minerals. We require no other nutrients to live or—I’ll argue—to thrive. We require zero carbohydrates, zero phytochemicals, and zero fiber.

 

Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

Plant Epidemiology is hard to Swallow

In studies of plant chemicals regarding nutrition, we often see a confirmation bias to support the epidemiology (and what our parents have always told us) about the benefits of vegetables and fruits. I’ve read countless studies on this stuff, and it’s almost comical to see that nearly every paper starts with, “We all know that people who eat fruits and vegetables are healthy.” Then the author goes on to describe a study on some isolated plant compound that shows why fruits and vegetables are good for us.

These researchers aren’t testing a hypothesis; they’re merely trying to confirm it. Hence, we have reports that cruciferous vegetables prevent cancer, even though we have data to show that it can either increase or decrease the occurrence of cancer. However, because the existing epidemiology says cruciferous vegetables prevent cancer, we favor the positive data and tend to ignore the negative data.

If I believed that drinking gasoline was a good thing, perhaps because my grandfather told me it was a good thing, and we also conducted a small epidemiologic study that showed that people who’ve ingested gasoline had less incidence of cancer-related death, I’m sure I could design another study to support that conclusion. For example, I could easily take cultured cancer cells and then expose them to various doses of gasoline until I found one that inhibited the growth of cancer cells. Voilà—we now have a mechanistic method by which to show gasoline drinking is healthy and may lower rates of cancer. These situations abound in the literature. Someone looks at an isolated compound in an isolated scenario, which is then extrapolated to the whole of human physiology to support an epidemiologic claim.

Nutrition science continues to make the same mistakes over and over again; we rely heavily on epidemiology and then merely try to use further study to confirm the findings rather than refute them. If you look at an epidemiologic study that shows people who eat more fruits and vegetables appear healthy, you easily could conclude that eating plant-based foods is a healthy thing to do. That’s a very logical conclusion, and no one would fault you for making it. However, if you ask some different questions, things get more interesting. Let’s say that people who eat fruits and vegetables avoid eating snack cakes, donuts, and sodas.

Perhaps they smoke less, drink less alcohol, wear their seat belt, exercise more, have more wealth, and can live in a nicer area. All these things, and likely dozens of other things, contribute to what is known as the “healthy user bias.” In other words, if your overall lifestyle tends to be healthful, how much of the observed improvements in health outcome is attributable to the other factors versus the one particular food being studied. The epidemiologist will attempt to control for these other factors, but really she’s just guessing how much each factor contributes.

I’ve already mentioned some glaring examples of situations where the epidemiology suggests one thing, but real life suggests another. For example, meat is supposedly bad for us and will shorten our lives, yet the population of Hong Kong eats more meat than any other population in the world, and they also live the longest. This observation sets off the immediate cries of, “But they don’t smoke as much; they’re wealthy; they exercise,” and so on, and it’s fine that people make those arguments.

However, when we make the same argument that fruits and vegetables are bad for us, we tend to hear silence from those same people. Nutrition is like politics, and people fight hard for their team. Results that don’t confirm a particular bias are quickly ignored or dismissed. Questioning the current dogma often is met with anger and an almost religious deference to authority and the “consensus”; however, those questions that challenge the status quo should be embraced in a true scientific community.

It’s heretical to suggest that fruits and vegetables are anything but goodness, rainbows, and unicorns. Yeah, we acknowledge that they may have chemicals in them that can cause issues, but, by golly, we still say you need to eat your five (no wait, it’s now ten) servings per day.

Quick, tell me which fruit, vegetable, or other plant is an absolutely essential requirement for human life? If you can think of one, then I’d like to know whether it grows all year round and in all parts of the world. If we have essential requirements for them—and we don’t—we would have had limited access to them for roughly 99 percent of our time on Earth as a species. Given that, why does it make sense to recommend we eat copious amounts of fruits and vegetables every day?

 


Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

No Gallbladder? No Problem!

Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) is a common condition for many people. In most cases, the carnivore diet seems to clear up this problem. However, some people find that the diet makes reflux worse or that nausea or other types of dyspepsia occur. For some people, fat, or perhaps meat in general, is difficult to digest. Strategies to deal with this problem include lowering the fat content a bit and temporarily adding digestive aids as you go through the transition period. Hydrochloric acid supplements (most commonly betaine HCl) or a bile supplement (like ox bile) can be effective.

Some people notice that not drinking water around mealtimes can help; the theory is that water in the stomach dilutes the stomach acid and decreases the acidity of the stomach, which leads to difficult digestion. Some people have observed that adding salt to their diet helps with symptoms of reflux as well.

While we are on this general topic, I want to point out that many people who are without a gallbladder successfully manage quite well on a carnivore diet. The gallbladder stores bile, which acts as a detergent to emulsify fats for easier digestion in the small intestine. Without a gallbladder, the liver still produces bile, but the bile isn’t released in a bolus fashion in response to a fatty meal as it would be in the presence of a functioning gallbladder. Interestingly, the common bile duct often expands chronically after gallbladder removal and can “store” a little bile for release, sort of like a mini gallbladder. Folks who have had their gallbladders removed often initially use lipases and bile supplements, limit fat, or eat smaller, more frequent meals as they transition to the carnivore diet.

 

Other Digestive System Concerns

Former bariatric and gastric bypass patients are other special groups of people who may have to modify meal frequency and portion size. I know of numerous people successfully doing a carnivore diet post-bariatric surgery. In some cases, a person who’s had bariatric surgery needs to supplement certain nutrients because some types of surgery result in the loss of some absorptive capacity. If you’ve had bariatric surgery, you may be at added risk for vitamin or mineral deficiency and need to supplement.

Patients who’ve had lower intestinal resections because of conditions like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or cancer often report excellent function while adopting a fully carnivore diet. People with active disease or conditions like irritable bowel syndrome can have a tumultuous transition to the carnivore diet. However, they usually note a gradual and steady overall improvement, although it can take many months for things to smooth out.

 


Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

Might I Suggest the Carnivore Platter

I’m sure you’ve been thinking, “What food can I eat?” Generally, if a food comes from an animal, you can eat it: beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, deer, bison, fish, shellfish, pork, caribou, whale, shark, elephant, snake, crocodile, whatever. Most people on a carnivore diet limit what they eat to the animals that are available in the same geographic region where they live.

Eggs work for many people, but they’re problematic for other people. I recommend that you use eggs as a side dish, perhaps in the classic form of steak and eggs for breakfast. I eat eggs once in a while—often when I’m traveling. In general, they’re a nutrient-rich food, and they make for a nice addition to your meals if you tolerate them.

Dairy is unpredictable. Some people do poorly with it, perhaps because of lactose intolerance or some other sensitivity. Other people find they can handle nonbovine dairy foods, such as sheep’s or goat’s milk dairy. Other
people claim to do better with raw dairy or A2 dairy (dairy that contains only A2 beta-casein). Remember: Like many plant foods, dairy was relatively a late addition to the human diet. If you struggle with health issues, I strongly recommend that you consider forgoing dairy for at least a trial period.

Aside from different tolerances to the various types of dairy, people sometimes find they tolerate some dairy styles better than others. For example, many people tolerate hard cheeses better than they tolerate softer cheeses or milk. Some people don’t tolerate cheese or milk, but butter and especially ghee don’t cause any problems for them. Fermented dairy products, such as kefir and yogurt, can be fine for some people but cause issues for others. If you choose to use these products, don’t use the varieties with added flavoring or sugars. I’m not convinced you always need to choose high-fat products versus other products; it depends on the ingredients. If the food includes a lot of gums, stabilizers, or sweeteners, I generally avoid it.

People often ask me about cooking oils. My simple answer is that you should use animal fats, period. Use butter, ghee, lard, tallow, suet, duck fat, and so on. Plant oils are generally garbage for us; there’s no need for them. And, honestly, the animal fats taste and cook better anyway. My apologies to any keto folks in the audience, but I suggest you dump the coconut oil, MCT oil, avocado oil, and olive oil. Although these oils are generally better options than corn, soybean, and canola oils, they still can contain compounds that might be problematic—for example, salicylates in coconut oil, which, cause a rash, digestive upset, headaches, or swelling for some people. Here’s a trick I often use when I’m cooking: Heat a pan. Touch the fatty edge of the meat I’m cooking to the pan until the fat melts. By doing this, I get a nice layer of fat to cook the meat in.

Spices and seasonings come in handy, especially for people who are transitioning into the carnivore diet. Many people do fine with spices and seasonings over the long term, although just as many people tend to find them less desirable over time. I often use only salt on my steaks, and I’m quite happy with that. Sometimes I add some spice to the meats and consider the meal to be a bit of a special occasion. I suggest you avoid sauces that are heavily laced with sugar, vegetable oils, soy, gluten, MSG, and other ingredients that have the potential for problems. If you want to add flavor to your meats, the best option is to make homemade rubs, spice blends, or marinades. Cooking with herbs or vegetables also can add a nice flavor, but you need to be objective about how they affect you and eliminate anything that causes a problem.

 


Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

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