No Gallbladder? No Problem!

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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.

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