Nutrition

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Carnivore for Alzheimer’s Prevention – A No Brainer

Globally, every three minutes, someone develops dementia. By 2050, an estimated 152 million people will have dementia. So chances are you know someone – a parent, grandparent, or friend – has as suffered from this horrible disease as well. But contrary to popular belief, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is not a normal part of aging. It can be prevented. The key is to take action as soon as possible since it’s thought that AD begins 20 years or more before symptoms arise. Keep reading to learn more about the causes of dementia and the choices you can make to avoid this terrible disease.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

AD is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive decline of memory, cognitive functions, and changes in behavior and personality. Sadly, AD is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and the 5th leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older. AD is the most common type of dementia, a category of mental impairment that also includes cerebrovascular disease (vascular dementia) and Lewy body dementia.

What are the Risk Factors for Dementia?

Dementia can be prevented and, in some cases, early symptoms can be reversed. Risk factors for dementia can be categorized into modifiable and non-modifiable. Non-modifiable risk factors include age, genetics, gender (women are more likely to have Alzheimer’s), and a positive family history of dementia since more than one-third of AD patients have one or more affected first-degree relatives.

The good news is that there are modifiable risk factors – areas where our choices can mitigate dementia. Modifiable risk factors include avoiding smoking, head injury, environmental factors, and metabolic syndrome (MetSys), one of the fundamental causes of dementia. MetSys is a signal that the body is not properly handling carbohydrates and is, therefore, a risk factor for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Treating MetSys minimizes the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias in 40% of the population.

Alzheimer’s Dementia is a Metabolic Issue

While the cause of AD is multifactorial, with both genetic and environmental factors implicated in its pathogenesis, AD is arguably a metabolic issue that stems from the brain’s inability to harness energy from glucose. In addition to these lifestyle choices, we can modify (lower) our risk of AD through dietary choices.

The brain is an energy-hungry organ. Although it only typically accounts for 2% of body weight, it can require up to 20% of the body’s glucose and oxygen. That’s why adequate fuel delivery is so important. Compared to healthy people, those with AD have been found with up to a 45% reduction in the cerebral metabolic rate of glucose or CMRglu. This results in reduced fuel usage by brain regions responsible for memory processing and learning. Because areas of the brain dedicated to visual and sensorimotor processing are unaffected, it can be difficult to notice changes, even though the risk of developing AD is present. A decline in glucose metabolism can be detected decades before overt symptoms.

Type 2 v Type 3 Diabetes

You may have heard the terms “Type 3 diabetes” or “diabetes of the brain” because similar to Type 2 diabetes, the brain becomes incapable of adequately metabolizing glucose due to insulin resistance (or insulin insensitivity). Without adequate fuel, neurons in regions of the brain start to degenerate. Degraded neurons eventually become incapable of communicating, leading to symptoms associated with AD such as confusion, cognitive decline, and behavioral changes.

Type 2 and Type 3 diabetes are related in that they may have the same primary underlying cause of insulin resistance, but they are not the same. An individual does not need to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in order to develop Type 3 or AD. In fact, many people with AD have normal blood glucose levels and are not diagnosed with diabetes. The key factor is, therefore, not glucose, but insulin resistance, a reduction in the body’s sensitivity to insulin, and hyperinsulinemia (elevated levels of insulin in the bloodstream for extended periods of time.) These disturbances lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, an imbalance of free radicals which can create damage to the cells and tissue in the body. While Type 2 diabetes affects muscles, organs, and the rest of the body aside from the brain and central nervous system, damage from AD is localized to the brain.

Insulin and Beta-amyloid Plaques

Interestingly, insulin also plays a crucial role in the formation of amyloid plaques, protein fragments that accumulate in the brain. While these plaques are found in healthy brains, in AD patients, beta-amyloid plaques accumulate to an unhealthy level, interfering with cell communication. Aside from reduced glucose utilization, beta-amyloid plaques are one of the defining features of AD.

One theory as to why these plaques accumulate in the AD brain is that they are not broken down and cleared away as they should be. Beta-amyloid plaques are primarily cleared with insulin-degrading enzyme, the same enzyme the body uses to clear insulin once insulin has done its job. Because the enzyme prefers insulin to beta-amyloid plaques, it works on clearing insulin first, leaving plaques to accumulate. Chronically-elevated insulin levels lead to more plaque build-up. And the more it builds up without being cleared, the more likely it is to form plaques that interfere with neuronal communication.

The Importance of Early Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

This article cannot overstate the importance of AD prevention. AD begins with small changes in the brain that are initially unnoticeable to the person affected. Only after years of brain changes do individuals experience noticeable symptoms, at which point disease reversal may be too late. While there is no cure for AD, it can be prevented through dietary and lifestyle interventions. Consider prevention a lifelong concern. Waiting for an AD diagnosis may be too late – the brain may have already suffered too much damage.

Dietary Changes for AD Prevention

Carbohydrate restriction by way of a carnivore, keto, or ketosis-inducing diet is one of the first steps we can take to begin to ease the metabolic dysfunction that causes AD. If the brain has become incapable of properly metabolizing glucose, then a low or no-carbohydrate diet utilizing another fuel source can help correct abnormalities. This alternate fuel source – ketones – are generated when the body switches from metabolizing carbohydrates to metabolizing fat. In a low insulin environment, the body will produce ketones, a product of fat burning, to provide the brain with nourishment.

“The therapeutic and neuroprotective effects of ketones are so impressive, in fact, that one of the premier researchers studying ketones and brain health has suggested that a drawback of the modern, carbohydrate-heavy diet is that is it ‘keto-deficient.’” 

The Alzheimer’s Antidote

While the causes of AD are multifactorial, dietary changes can play a significant role in preventing or even reversing AD symptoms. The price of poor brain health is too high to delay starting to pay attention today. To learn more about Alzheimer’s prevention using a low-carb diet, please refer to Amy Berger’s book, The Alzheimer’s Antidote.

Written by Laura Guy
I dedicate this article to my father, Stuart. I love my father dearly and have watched him transition from an ambitious, independent man to an immobile and totally dependent man with very little speech capacity. Sadly, he has experienced very little quality of life over the past 11 years due to the degenerative effects of dementia, a disease for which there is no cure.

Why All the Fuss Over Fiber?

When thinking about starting the carnivore diet, one of the first questions people ask is, “Where will I get my fiber?” This is based on our conception that fiber is good for us and that our bodies need to process fiber in order to function properly. We’ve all heard of a “high fiber, heart-healthy diet” or been told that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

 

However, similar to other popular nutritional advice, science does not support the claim that fiber is healthy, necessary or even beneficial. Keep reading to learn where the fiber myth originated, why conventional advice about fiber is inaccurate, and how much fiber – if any – you should be eating per day. 

 

What is fiber?

Fiber is a carbohydrate composed of indigestible plant matter that is further categorized as soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can be partially dissolved by water while soluble fiber cannot. Despite this distinction, by definition, the body cannot fully digest fiber, which leads many people to believe that it moves through the colon “sweeping” other waste matter along to its inevitable exit out of our bodies. 

 

How much fiber do we need?

Believe it or not, the answer is none. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, an essential nutrient is defined as “a vitamin, mineral, fatty acid, or amino acid required for normal body functioning that either cannot be synthesized by the body at all, or cannot be synthesized in amounts adequate for good health, and thus must be obtained from a dietary source. Other food components, such as dietary fiber, while not essential, also are considered to be nutrients.” 

 

Not convinced? Well, if you’ve been following a low-carbohydrate diet, then you may be familiar with the following statement from the Panel on Macronutirents: “The lower limit on dietary carbohydrate compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fats are consumed.” If fiber is a subset of carbohydrates, then we don’t have a need for fiber, right? 

 

Unfortunately, convincing most people why fiber is unnecessary is not as simple as this logic. Our medical and lay community is filled with high-fiber recommendations and conflict with the Panel’s. Let’s take a closer look. 

 

Where did high-fiber recommendations come from?

High-fiber recommendations originated in the 1970s based on observations of Ugandan populations by Dr. Denis Burkitt. He compared their disease patterns to Western diseases and concluded in the British Medical Journal that many Western diseases –  such as coronary heart disease, diabetes type II, colorectal cancer, obesity, and hypertension –  were the result of Western diet and lifestyle. His book about fiber became an international bestseller and led to the now widespread conventional advice that low-fiber diets cause disease. 

 

Why Burkitt’s simplistic approach was readily and widely accepted is unclear. But it has led many to believe that necessary for digestion and is protective again colon cancer, heart disease, and digestive issues. According to human physiology and research studies, does increasing fiber increase our overall health? 

 

Don’t we need fiber to break down undigested carbohydrates?

A lot of people will argue that we should eat copious amounts of fiber to break down carbs. But let’s take a look at what fiber does once consumed – it is broken down into short-chain fatty acids, namely propionic acid (propionate), acetic acid (acetate), and butyric acid (butyrate), which is the fuel source preferred by the large intestines endothelial cells. 

 

But you don’t need to eat fiber to get butyrate. In fact, butter is the best dietary source of butyrate and it doesn’t require carbohydrate consumption. There is no need to consume glucose, fructose, and/or processed foods to realize the benefits of butyrate for digestion. 

 

Does fiber reduce the risk of colon cancer?

In 2005, a study was published that aimed to get to the bottom of inconsistent observational findings related to fiber and colon cancer. Researchers followed 725,628 men and women involved in 13 other cohort studies for 6 to 20 years to determine which individuals had higher incidents of colorectal cancer. While dietary fiber intake was inversely associated with the risk of colorectal cancer in age-adjusted analyses, after accounting for other dietary risk factors, high dietary fiber intake was not associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Similar to other nutrition-based research, other factors were at play. 

 

Fast-forward to 2017 and researchers still do not have strong evidence. This study systematically reviewed five studies of over 4000 subjects. Researchers concluded there was no evidence to suggest that increased dietary fiber intake would reduce the incidence or recurrence of adenomatous polyps within a two to four-year period.

 

Does fiber reduce the risk of heart disease?

But what about heart disease? Fiber is widely recommended as part of the “heart-healthy diet.” While fiber intake has been shown to improve glycemic control, a factor related to diabetes – a risk factor for heart disease – studies have also shown that fiber administration using psyllium has no effect and does not lower serum cholesterol. 

 

What about fiber and digestive issues like constipation and IBS?

If fiber acts like a broom in the colon, then shouldn’t it help with digestive issues like constipation and IBS? Should it accelerate transit to push matter to its inevitable exit? One systematic research review of 17 randomized controlled trials found that the treatment of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) patients with fiber is controversial. 

 

The conclusion: “The benefits of fibre in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome are marginal for global irritable bowel syndrome symptom improvement and irritable bowel syndrome-related constipation. Soluble and insoluble fibres have different effects on global irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.” Clinically, bran was no better than placebo in the relief of the overall symptoms of IBS and is possibly worse than a normal diet for some symptoms.

 

Summary 

Is fiber beneficial? In some instances, like lowering blood sugar, yes, it can help. Is fiber necessary? No. Unfortunately, recommendations for high-fiber diets started with mere observations that confused association with causation and we can support our digestion with animal fats, butter being an excellent source of butyrate. Hopefully, these facts provide you with the information you need to move forward with an animal-based way of eating. 

Is Dietary Fiber Necessary For A Healthy Diet?

Dietary Fiber became a part of the public’s nutritional consciousness in the mid-1970s, when the newly released US Dietary Guidelines recommended that a healthy diet include plenty of “foods with adequate starch and fiber.” With that advice, along with the simultaneous ostracism of animal-based saturated fats, dietary fiber secured its place as a sacred component of mainstream nutritional wisdom.

Today, nearly 50 years later, most nutritionists still insist that plant fiber is necessary for optimal human health. But when we look more closely at what fiber does within the body, it becomes difficult to see how it provides any health benefit. With the health success that many people find with all-animal-product diets, fiber is being shown in a new light, and in most cases, it’s proving to be more a nuisance than a nutrient for human health.

A problem with discussing dietary fiber is that, on the surface, much of the conventional wisdom makes sense. The idea that ingesting a good amount of plant roughage to help “scrub” our intestines and colon to keep us regular and free of disease seems intuitive. The thought that we must keep our gut biome happy and well fed with a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber to assure gastrointestinal tract health sounds reasonable.

What is Dietary Fiber?
Simply put, fiber is the non-digestible part of plant foods. Common fiber types include cellulose, pectins, beta-glucans, and gums. Fiber is classified as soluble or insoluble based on whether it is dissolvable in water. Beans, oat bran, avocado, and berries are sources of soluble fiber; whole grains, wheat germ, beans, flax seeds, leafy vegetables, and nuts are sources of insoluble fiber. Animal-source foods, such as meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy, contain no fiber.

At a molecular level, plant fibers are chains of sugar molecules (polysaccharides) that our digestive tract can’t break down and that don’t offer any nutritional value to humans directly. Plant fibers pass through the stomach and end up in the small intestines intact, where they are either broken down and enjoyed by bacteria or pass through us unchanged. While the fiber-eating microbes in our gut are happy, they break down a small percentage of the rough plant materials for their own benefit, with no direct use to us.

Plant Fiber Myths
Fiber has multiple alleged mechanisms of health, but the impact of each is largely unsupported. Claims for dietary fiber’s preventative and healing powers include benefits for various illnesses and diseases, including constipation, colon cancer, diverticulosis, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more. Unfortunately, these wisdoms are based primarily on best-guess assumptions and epidemiological studies (studies that get data from patient or subject group questionnaires). Over the decades, there have been a few controlled scientific studies regarding dietary fiber, and the results fall short of conventional nutritional advice.

Is Fiber Needed to Cure Constipation?

The notion that humans need plant fiber for proper bowel function and intestinal health is false. Research regarding fiber and constipation shows that plant fiber does not lead to better outcomes; it often worsens things. While fiber does cause those with constipation to have larger bowel movements, it does not improve any of the unpleasant symptoms of constipation. Studies have shown that removing fiber from one’s diet can improve constipation. Many carnivorous mammals (and humans) have no problem whatsoever having normal, regular bowel movements in the complete or nearly complete absence of fiber.

Does Fiber Prevent Colon Cancer?

In line with the idea of scrubbing our insides for health, many believe that high fiber intake helps reduce the risk of colon cancer, but studies have proved this to be erroneous. The Nurses’ Health Study in 1999 followed 88,757 women over 16 years and found no significant benefit in reducing colon cancer risk. In 2000, a similar randomized study of high fiber intake also failed to show any reduction in precancerous lesions known as adenomas.

Can a High-Fiber Diet Heal Diverticulosis?

Diverticulosis is the pathological process that occurs when the innermost layer of the colon (the submucosa) protrudes through the outer muscular layer, forming small pockets that pouch out from the large bowel. A high-fiber diet and increased frequency of bowel movements are associated with a greater, rather than lower, prevalence of diverticulosis. Patients with IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis all seem to respond similarly well to a reduced fiber diet.

Does Dietary Fiber Prevent Heart Disease?

The Diet and Reinfarction Trial in 1989 randomized 2,033 men to three different diets after their first heart attack. A standard, low-fat diet did not seem to reduce risk at all, and a high-fiber diet showed no benefit to cardiovascular health. The high-fat Mediterranean diet was shown to be beneficial. More recent trials such as the PREDIMED confirm the benefits of eating more natural fats such as meats, nuts, and olive oil. In all of these trials, the beneficial impact of fiber was essentially nonexistent.

Can Fiber Help Control Diabetes?

The role of fiber in insulin sensitivity and diabetes is open to debate. There is some evidence that dietary fiber can help, but only in indirect ways. High-fiber foods require more chewing, which may help to reduce food intake. Soluble fiber absorbs water to form a gel, further increasing the food’s volume, helping fill the stomach, and boosting satiety. Fiber bulks up food, decreases its energy density, and slows the body’s insulin response to carbohydrates. But we must remember that plant fiber from whole fruits, starchy vegetables, and grains usually comes with more sugars and carbohydrates, which are associated with poor glycemic control.

But Fiber Works for Other Animals

The animal kingdom’s ruminants, herbivores, and omnivores have evolved many ways to extract nutrients from plants and convert them to the building blocks needed for their growth and health. A cow’s stomach has multiple compartments, each with a highly specialized microbiome to break down and digest plant materials. Gorillas and other great apes have massive intestinal tracts and colons to deal with the nearly 40 pounds of plant material they eat daily — a volume that speaks to how little nutrition is in plant materials, even for a highly adapted herbivore. Cows and great apes graze and forage almost constantly throughout their waking hours. Yet even with these plant-digesting guts, the fiber mostly just passes on through. Cows, apes, and most all other herbivores produce a lot of waste!

Humans have small colons, comparatively short intestinal tracts, a small stomach, and a gut biome that is more suited to breaking down animal proteins and fats into building blocks we can use. If the need arises, humans can digest a limited range of plant foods (fruits, berries, nuts, roots, etc.) without issue. Still, the benefit — immediate energy availability — is small and certainly not required for long-term health.

Summary

So, is dietary fiber necessary for a healthy human diet? The answer is no. The goal of human nutrition is to provide our bodies with the energy and the structural components needed to build and maintain our animal-based cells — we don’t need anything from plants to accomplish these nutritional goals. Just because humans can ingest fiber-filled food, this ability in no way indicates that fiber is a nutritional health requirement. Much of the touted benefits of plant fiber have been based on erroneous assumptions and flawed epidemiological surveys. For these reasons, plant fiber should be regarded as unnecessary at best, and perhaps even harmful for many.

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

Nine Tips for the New Carnivore

Transitioning from one thing to another can be difficult. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting or where you’re going. Changes in relationships, jobs, and family situations are challenging, and diet is the same. The transition period is a stressful time on your physiology, and problems can often manifest in several ways. A new diet, regardless of its composition, affects gut function, causes a stress response, and induces some metabolic changes. But I can give you some ideas of what to expect and how to handle any issues.

Fatigue
One of the most common issues of the transition period to a carnivore diet is fatigue, lethargy, or poor energy. As you ramp up your metabolic machinery to deal with a new fuel source, you initially will be fairly inefficient. Your capacity to extract all the nutrition from meat may be compromised. Many people suffer from decreased stomach acid production or other digestive maladies, and those issues may take a while to resolve after you transition to a carnivore diet. While your body works on resolving those issues, you may find that you can’t eat as much as you need to, or perhaps you’ll eat quite a bit but won’t fully absorb it. Whether you’re undereating or not making use of all that you do eat, a lack of adequate calories and other nutrients can lead to poor energy or fatigue. Eating more is the most helpful solution for this, and it’s what I suggest as the first line of treatment. Increasing your meal frequency and adding salt to your diet often allow you to eat a bit more. For some people, digestive enzymes—like lipases, proteases, or HCl supplements—aid with the transition period. Most people can discontinue them after a few weeks.

Bowel Movements
Malabsorption, typically of fat, can often show up as steatorrhea, or fatty, loose stools. As you transition to the carnivore diet, your microbiome goes through a shift in its composition. The fiber-loving magical bacteria in your gut dies off and is replaced with meat-loving bacteria. One of the more common digestive issues as this happens is not constipation but diarrhea. Most people on a high-fiber diet are accustomed to daily (and often multiple daily) bowel movements. Going on a carnivore diet will dramatically reduce the volume of waste you produce, and it will likely lead to less frequent bowel movements. What many people mistake for constipation, particularly early on in the diet, is just a dramatic reduction in waste.
If you’re not having discomfort or pain when you have a bowel movement, you don’t have anything to be concerned about. Some people find that adding a bit more dietary fat or avoiding dairy can help things move a bit quicker. Can you suffer from true constipation while you’re on the carnivore diet? Sure, but it’s not common, and sometimes it’s a result of an electrolyte issue that has caused altered gut motility. Adding fat, fluids, and sometimes electrolytes can be helpful.

GERD
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.

Joint Pain and Gout
For the vast majority of carnivore converts, joint pain or other musculoskeletal pain diminishes or goes away completely. A small subset of people reports a temporary increase in pain as they first start the diet. One possible reason for this phenomenon of more pain is higher uric acid levels. We know that elevated uric acid levels are associated with gout, and a diet that puts someone into ketosis can sometimes lead to increased uric acid levels. The uric acid level likely increases because the body is inefficient at using the ketones, so for a while, more ketones are excreted as waste in the urine. The ketones the kidney excretes can competitively inhibit the excretion of uric acid, so the level of uric acid rises and potentially results in joint pain or other pains. Over time, your body becomes more efficient at using the ketones you produce, the uric acid levels often normalize, and the joint pain disappears.

Skin Conditions
Some people report that they develop a rash as they transition to the carnivore diet, but the incidence seems fairly rare. Skin issues are likely related to the elimination of ketones (as I describe in the previous section). In this case, the body excretes the ketones through the skin, which results in an irritation response. Skin conditions usually resolve with time as the body becomes more efficient with using ketones.

Headaches
One transition-phase issue I dealt with was headaches. Headaches are most likely related to fluid and electrolyte shifts that occur as your body adjusts to the new eating regimen. In my case, the headaches were sporadic and very mild; I had them off and on for about ten days. For those who experience headaches when they first start the carnivore diet, I recommend eating more food and upping fluid and electrolyte intake. Even if you don’t alter your habits, the headaches generally pass fairly quickly.

Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps are another fairly common occurrence that seems to crop up with some regularity among carnivore dieters. Electrolyte or hydration problems may be at play here. For most people, the cramps dissipate with more time on the diet. I’ve been following the diet for years, and I get an occasional muscle cramp, but I can almost always relate it to having exercised very hard and without eating at an appropriate time in relation to my exercise. Eating relatively soon after you exercise—at least within a few hours—can sometimes help reduce the occurrence of muscle cramps.
Some people find electrolyte supplementation helpful. People have tried adding regular salt (sodium chloride), potassium, and magnesium and have found varying results. Some people soak in Epsom salts to alleviate muscle cramps. If you experience cramps, the first thing I suggest you do is to look at your overall food intake to ensure it’s adequate. Beyond that, you can add various electrolytes in the form of salt (such as Redmond Real Salt) or electrolyte supplement.

Ketosis
The point of the carnivore diet is not to achieve a state of constant ketosis, and artificially manipulating fat ratios is not part of the program. I believe it’s counterproductive to measure ketones because it usually leads to unnecessary anxiety and a waste of money that you could otherwise spend on food. If you have a medical condition that requires you maintain a minimal level of ketones, you’re in a different situation. For most folks, though, I recommend putting away both the ketone monitor and the scale. Remember, your ultimate goal is to be in a position where appetite and eating are naturally controlled, and you’re not constrained by some arbitrary number or a predetermined fasting window.

Energy Level
Many people say they notice a general increase in their energy and work or exercise capacity. People often state that they have very restorative sleep, but the overall quantity of sleep they get decreases. Perhaps people on the carnivore diet require less sleep because they have better materials with which to repair their bodies, and they might be less beat up metabolically. However, not everyone immediately has deep, restorative sleep as soon as they transition to the carnivore diet. Some people have a hard time sleeping, particularly early on. Some people feel the need to urinate, and it wakes them up at night. Eating more protein can require more water for processing the food, which can lead to increased thirst. Salt ingestion also likely plays a role here. Modulating salt intake might be another strategy for preventing fluid shifts at night.

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

Meat: The Ultimate Superfood

Why is meat such a staple across cultures? Because human life demands it, and it’s one of our most primitive needs. Eating meat is as vital to our survival as breathing. If we don’t provide our bodies with a regular supply, then our bodies begin to cannibalize our tissues to make up for the deficit. That’s when the slow reabsorption of body tissues begins, and we start to see issues like sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle mass. We lose bone mass, which is about 40 percent protein. Our production of vital hormones, neurotransmitters, and basic cell functions start to fail. Eventually, our very existence becomes one of daily pain, weakness, and despair.
People who’ve adopted all-meat diets often report feeling two or three decades younger. Their chronic pains go away, their desire for life returns, and their diseases resolve or remit. For some people, the changes have been downright miraculous. People who have given up on life and suffer chronic depression have seen profound reversals in their mental states. For the first time in memory, they find that they’re happy and looking forward to life. Let’s talk about why these changes may happen.
Meat offers a tremendous amount of nutrition, even though it’s vilified for having cholesterol and saturated fat (which are vital components of the human body). As I like to remind people, meat is made of basically the same stuff that we are made of. If you want to build a car and you have access to a pile of car parts or a pile of computers, from which one would you draw your supplies? I can take all the nutrients from a rib-eye steak, which is made up of a bunch of animal cells, and then turn them into whatever my body needs.
Yes, we have a limited capacity to turn material from plants into what we need, but the process is much less efficient than drawing nutrients from meat, and it comes with some drawbacks. Meat is rich in several unique compounds found exclusively, or almost exclusively, in animal-based foods. These compounds include carnitine, carnosine, creatine, taurine, retinol, and vitamins B12, D3, and K2. These compounds offer some tremendous benefits.

Carnosine
Carnosine’s antiglycating properties can help mitigate the development of things like Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, and renal disease. Muscle levels of carnosine are significantly higher in people who eat meat compared to the levels in their vegetarian counterparts. By some accounts, carnosine may be one of the most potent antiaging molecules known.

Carnitine
Like carnosine, carnitine is found almost exclusively in animal products, especially red meat. Carnitine has several potentially beneficial effects in preventing and improving diseases. It has been shown to help with anemia, particularly for anemia associated with kidney dysfunction. It appears to improve the body’s use of glucose, and it may reduce the effects of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. In heart attack patients, carnitine has been used to prevent ischemia in cardiac muscle, and it’s even been shown to assist with resolving male infertility via an improvement in sperm quality.

Creatine
Creatine (a supplement athletes commonly use and one of the few that’s been found to be beneficial after being rigorously tested), is another product found only in meat. Meat eaters register higher levels of creatine, and when vegetarians supplement creatine, they experience improved cognitive function. It’s also interesting to note that patients with Alzheimer’s disease have lower levels of creatine. Heart failure patients who receive creatine have shown improved overall performance, and type 2 diabetics who supplement with creatine have improved glycemic control, particularly when they also exercise.

Taurine
Taurine is found in high levels in both meat and fish but is woefully absent from a plant-based diet. As you might expect, taurine levels are significantly lower among herbivorous humans. In animal studies, taurine has been shown to reduce anxiety. Perhaps that is one reason so many folks on a carnivore diet report a sense of calmness and a resolution of anxiety. Taurine is similar to carnosine and has been shown to inhibit glycation. It’s also a powerful antioxidant. Some evidence suggests that taurine contributes to preventing the development of diabetic renal disease.

Zinc
Although zinc is not exclusive to animal products, it’s found in much greater quantity and is more highly bioavailable in meat, and numerous plants containing phytates interfere with zinc’s absorption. Accordingly, zinc levels are fairly low in vegan and vegetarian dieters. Zinc deficiency has been associated with poor learning capacity, apathy, and behavioral problems in children. In adult males, low levels of zinc are associated with erectile dysfunction and decreased sperm counts. Zinc also is essential in the formation of insulin and appears to have a protective effect in preventing coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathy.

Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is found exclusively in animal products, and experts advise people who abstain from meat to supplement it. One of the more common causes of deficiency is gastrointestinal malabsorption. Up to 62 percent of pregnant vegan women were noted to be deficient in B12, and up to 86 percent of vegan children and 90 percent of vegan elderly were B12-deficient. A deficit of vitamin B12 has been associated with several neurological diseases, including dementia; it’s also related to depression.

Heme Iron
Heme iron is another mineral found in abundance in red meat but absent from nonmeat sources. Unsurprisingly, a 2015 study of vegetarian women saw a 100 percent rate of some degree of iron deficiency anemia, which was more than double the rate of deficiency in their omnivorous counterparts. Certain plants, like leafy greens, soybeans, and lentils, contain non-heme iron, but those plants also can contain compounds like phytates and oxalates that limit iron absorption. Deficiency of iron has been shown to result in impairments in cognition and mental health status and a sense of general fatigue.
On average, people who include meat in their diets generally have better vitamin and mineral status than those who do not, and the vast majority of nutritional deficiency problems are in parts of the world where access to meat is scarce. In impoverished locations where meat is abundant, it’s not common to see nutritional deficiencies, whereas in poorer areas where people rely on a plant-based diet, residents frequently suffer from stunted growth and have numerous nutritional deficiency syndromes. Meat is indeed, a superfood!

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

How Much Meat is too Much?

This question is perhaps more common than any other question I receive. My smart-aleck answer often is, “Enough.” Although that might sound flippant, it’s truly a very honest and simple answer. But how do you know what is enough?
I’m going to throw out some general numbers; don’t take these as gospel. I’m merely giving you some ballpark starting figures; they aren’t concrete:

  • Males: Around 2 pounds of meat per day
  • Females: Around 1.5 pounds of meat per day

When you first start, aim for the suggested amount and then adjust as needed. For instance, many small females can put away 4 to 5 pounds of meat in a day without a problem. I don’t think you should shy away from that quantity if your appetite directs you there for a while. More often than not, females have a long history with diet and caloric or nutrient restriction, and they have some catching up to do to replenish their bodies with nutrients.

Remember, protein is used to build our bones, internal organs, muscles, and skin. If those tissues are depleted, plenty of food is necessary to bring them back to normal function. Also, remember that weight loss is not the short-term goal of the carnivore diet; instead, get healthy and stop with the constant anxiety created by day-to-day fluctuations in weight. Just relax and enjoy the freedom of eating.

If you eat and find that you’re still hungry, eat more. If you find your energy or performance is lagging, then eat more. If you find your mood is low, then eat more. The typical gnawing in the stomach and the “I’ve gotta eat something in the next five seconds or someone is going to get hurt” sensation of hunger will go away. Hunger often becomes a subtle signal that maybe you should eat something soon rather than it being a sign of cellular crisis of impending glucose depletion.

How Often Should I Eat?

In the beginning, your meal frequency should be whatever it needs to be to keep you satisfied. Do you feel peckish an hour after throwing down a 24-ounce porterhouse steak? Fire up another steak or line up a pound of bacon. Do what it takes to quench your appetite. Beat back the craving demons and learn to fill up on nutrition, not entertainment. Over time, you’ll find that your cravings will diminish; eventually, they’ll likely disappear.

At that point, you’ll see the emergence of a regular, well-regulated appetite that meets your nutritional needs. I know I keep saying this over and over again, but the carnivore diet isn’t a quick-weight-loss scheme. Trying to fix a malnutrition problem by starving yourself is a recipe for disaster. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, and instead you gain 5, but you now enjoy life, don’t have back pain, and are no longer a slave to processed food, you’re far better off with the 5 extra pounds for now.

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

Digging Up the Real Data on Minerals

When officials at the USDA came up with the recommended daily allowances (RDA), they primarily studied populations and individuals who consumed high-carb, grain-based diets. In a 2007 Institute of Medicine review of the RDA, several speakers asserted that the Dietary Reference Indices should be based on a higher standard of evidence than what had been used to formulate the recommendations. Basically, the RDAs are more or less a guess, and they certainly weren’t formulated by evaluating people who were eating low-carb or (heaven forbid!) meat-only diets. Consequently, we have no real idea of what the optimal or even sufficient levels of vitamins and minerals are for various subsets of dieters. For now, the entire dietary profession uses this low-quality evidence for the basis of almost all the current recommendations.

We’ve seen evidence of other differences in requirements for some vitamins, minerals, and cofactors. A deficiency of thiamine, for example, leads to a condition called beriberi, which results in severe neurological and cardiac disease. Researchers have found that an animal’s requirements for thiamine vary based on that animal’s carbohydrate consumption. This result was observed as far back as the late 1800s when scientists noted that animals fed a low-carbohydrate diet didn’t develop disease in the presence of low thiamine levels, but animals fed a high-carbohydrate diet developed disease at the same low thiamine levels.

Magnesium is a mineral that’s crucial for many human physiologic functions. Recently magnesium deficiency has been implicated as a potential source of numerous disease states. Interestingly, magnesium is a cofactor that is crucially involved in carbohydrate metabolism, and there is some research showing a relationship between blood glucose and magnesium levels. Is it possible that many people are identified as having a magnesium deficiency because of increased demand via high rates of carbohydrate ingestion? It’s certainly an interesting question, and that relationship would account for the lack of any clinically relevant nutrient deficiencies in our observations of the modern-day carnivore-dieter population.

Unfortunately, it’s challenging to make assessments about vitamin or mineral deficiencies. We can look for overt clinical symptoms and more subtle subclinical things like poor energy, sleep, or mood. Aside from those symptoms, we’re often limited to studying the things we can measure most easily, which generally comes down to a blood test.

For all the billions of dollars we spend annually on blood tests, the sad fact is that many are poor predictors of chronic issues. Sure, sometimes we can get important information from a blood test, but to think that a blood serum vitamin C level can tell us something specific, such as the cellular concentration of the vitamin C level in our left tibia, is misguided. Perhaps at steady state, when no environmental or internal changes are occurring, a certain level can be expected to exist, but the truth is that trafficking of materials in the blood can vary wildly.

Does sleep, exercise, recent meals, temperature, time of year, injury, or illness (not to mention thousands of other things) affect those concentrations? Almost certainly, the answer is yes. Another solution for identifying problems is to biopsy the tissues, which gives a far better representation of one’s nutritional state. The problem is that biopsies often are fairly painful, they require far more risk, and they’re expensive. Thus, we continue to rely on unreliable guesswork to make many of our decisions about how to address health issues.

One of the recurring themes that I like to talk about is that, despite what many people like to proclaim, the science of nutrition is not settled. (Stating that science is settled would completely undermine the basic concept of science.) Take this theory, for example: Red meat causes diabetes. The evidence in support of this theory would be based on population survey data that shows that people who eat more red meat have higher rates of diabetes. There’s nothing wrong with that theory as long as the data continues to support that claim.

However, what if you have information to the contrary—such as numerous accounts of people who eat only red meat and notice that their diabetes resolves? At this point, you have to adjust your hypothesis and modify your theory. You could say that maybe it was some other factor common to those meat eaters with diabetes that caused the disease; in other words, maybe meat combined with something else is to blame.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when entire industries and careers are built upon a particular hypothesis, and even in the face of new or overwhelming evidence, some people are unwilling to revisit or revise their original assumptions. This is human nature and to be expected. The unfortunate part is that those assumptions can affect many lives around the world, and many billions of dollars are tied up in it.

Here’s a general question to ponder before we go on: Why is it that every wild animal that eats meat as part of its diet doesn’t suffer from the chronic diseases that modern humans do? How can a food source that is ubiquitous throughout the animal kingdom and has been clearly eaten by humans for millions of years now suddenly be toxic to only humans while every other animal is just fine?

Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.

Learn more HERE

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