As I mentioned in part 1 of “my big, fat, dietary experiment, a specific way of eating had been popping up repeatedly in my face for quite a while as I was trying to work out why my gut was not healing and why I was stuck back in my carbohydrate weight gain cycle again.
I read a whole lot of first person stories of before and after, I joined groups, followed the life style leaders and became more and more convinced that the Carnivore diet was the next, logical step for me.
Many years ago, long before I knew that the seeds of Hashimoto’s and Celiac were already growing, I tried the Atkins Diet, which was high in fat and protein and low carbohydrate and I had never felt better in my life!
High protein really seemed to suit my metabolism. I lost the most weight I ever had and managed to keep it off for about 4 years which was quite amazing for me.
But eating only protein felt quite scary and the potential impact on the balance I had finally found with my health was something I was very concerned about. So, I took my time doing my research, checking in with my intuition which has never steered me wrong when I actually listened to it and gathered evidence that felt right for me.
This is exactly the same process that I followed when I first found AIP and began looking into it and took that first, big leap of faith that this was going to help get me out of disability and back into being able to live well and support my family.
What resonated with me about the Carnivore diet were several key factors:
Meat is the ultimate primal diet. Meat is credited for growing our big, human brains and is widely cited as the major evolutionary development that made us the apex predators that we are today. With our developing brains, we created tools to hunt and cut up our catch, our bodies began to change to run down prey, we hunted in packs, learned how to cook and cure meat to make it portable and began to thrive.
Our digestive tract which is much more similar to other predators like wolves, lions and hyenas is made to digest protein because of our high stomach acid content. We also lack the large cecum which helps other animals digest plant based cellulose.
Meat is also the ultimate anti-inflammatory diet.
It is almost completely digested by our strong stomach acid and absorbed through our gut with little waste and it is nutrient dense.
What also resonated is that we tend to see plants as “friendly” or neutral, but like any other living thing, plants do not want to be eaten.
Because they cannot move, they develop chemical pesticides to reduce insect or other attacks, especially in their seeds which are the most protected part of the plant.
In fact, the only thing that plants actually want eaten is their fruit and they purposely develop the colour and sweetness of their fruit so that the fruit is eaten and the seeds which are designed to survive their trip through the digestive tract, will be eventually spread with their own built in manure.
Plants have their own defences and have evolved them over millions of years to ensure their survival. You can read a very detailed account of how plants protect themselves and the impact of plant based diets in this free e-book from Kevin Stock. I found it fascinating!
The other issue that made sense to me is that we have evolved fruits and vegetables way beyond their original forms. You can read more about this and see some interesting pictures of the original version versus the genetically modified ones here.
Knowing more about plant phytochemical like lectins and oxalates which can be problematic for many people, made me curious about how vegetables and fruits may be creating symptoms in my body and causing the issues in my gut.
But I also had a lot of fears that eating an all protein diet would harm my body.
- Would it damage my kidneys?
- Would I get scurvy from lack of vitamin C?
- Would all that meat clog my arteries and cause heart disease?
So I began searching for people who have been doing the carnivore diet for years and found stories like Charlene Anderson and her husband Joe, who have been carnivore for decades. The Carnivore diet was the one thing that helped Charlene overcome a host of long term chronic health issues including Lyme disease. Plus, they both look amazing and so youthful for their age.
All in all, my concerns were similar to the ones I had about AIP so I followed exactly the same process I had before and read personal stories, gained enough information that I felt satisfied and decided that I was going to give it try with the promise to myself and my family that at the first sign of any issues, I would stop.
I kept a daily food and mood journal exactly as I did for AIP. I wrote every day what I had eaten, any symptoms I had and how I felt. The only thing I didn’t get was a starting weight but I can estimate how much weight I have lost.
I started the Carnivore diet, originally for 30 days, on 21st March 2019. This is the first entry in my journal:
I need a starting point and a way of tracking my progress to see if this is for me. Zero Carb/Carnivore has been on my radar since a few years back when I saw a Facebook friend who also has Hashimoto’s start it with great results. She not only lost weight but her thyroid antibodies went way down and she was trialling being medication free.
If I have to be completely honest, my weight gain is getting to me. Seeing the full body photo’s from the awards night only brought home to me that I look as overweight now as I did pre-Hashimoto’s, even though my current diet is cleaner than I have ever managed to sustain before. I’m eating too much ‘good’ chocolate, veggie chips, cassava flour flat breads. I still binge like the old days just on ‘better stuff.’
My gut has continued to give me issues. I know that I am still inflamed because I feel it. One of my thyroid antibodies refuses to go down, no matter what I do. In the past week, I have been increasingly called to try Carnivore though it is by far the most radical diet I have ever tried.
I have listened to podcasts, watched videos, heard first hand stories of better mental health and clarity, weight going down and muscle building without exercise, chronic illness improving. Though I have markedly recovered my health all the way back from disability, I still feel like there is more that I can do. I want my gut to finally feel better. I want to see how good I can feel.
My bodies feedback.
At the time I started Carnivore I was still drinking organic, decaffeinated coffee with some coconut cream and collagen hydrolysate about twice a day.
Then an interesting thing started happening.
The coffee stopped tasting good to the point that I no longer wanted to drink it which I really resisted. Eventually I had to accept that this was a clear sign from my body that it did not want coffee and stopped drinking it.
The same thing began happening with my hot chocolate that I made using cacao powder. So that stopped too.
Then I switched to organic loose leaf tea and for a few months enjoyed daily pots of Earl Grey until I began waking up each morning with the taste of the bergamot in the back of my throat.
So out went the Earl Grey. Then all tea.
I wondered what the common denominator was and when I looked it up, all of those things are high in oxalates. While I grieved the loss of yet another thing that I had once enjoyed and felt really annoyed for a while with my body, I was pretty impressed at how loudly and clearly it was communicating that oxalates are a big issue for me.
Time went on and I passed the 30 day mark and was very surprised that I didn’t feel any reason to stop and I still don’t. It has become just how I eat now.
Here are the things I love about being Carnivore:
- After the first two weeks I had zero cravings.
- I don’t think about food except to plan what needs to come out of the freezer for my meals.
- It saves me masses of time in food preparation. I can have my protein cooked in one pan within about 10 minutes, clean the pan and any utensils and I am ready to eat and the clean up is done.
- I have almost no food waste. No more veggies going off in the fridge. Yay!
- My shopping time is reduced. I pretty much go to the meat section and I am at the checkout and out the door.
What I have experienced at certain times, especially in the first month or so was signs of “oxalate dumping” where the body begins to “dump out” the oxalates crystals that have been stored by making them smaller and then excreting them. People report getting pain at old injury sites. I have had skin rashes, big cysts at different places on my body, pain in some of my finger joints and in my knee, all of which resolved over time. Oxalates are often the cause of kidney stones and interestingly enough, a study of thyroid autopsies found oxalate crystals in 79% of adults.
What do I eat with Carnivore?
- Various different minced (ground) meats made into burgers with an egg yolk and salt.
- Fresh and canned fish.
- The very occasional half of an avocado mashed with tuna and some lemon juice.
- Occasional powdered Sage or Garlic powder.
So what were my overall results, changes and weight loss?
I will tell you all about it in part 3 next week!
See you then.