Trialing the Carnivore Diet
All Meat Month – give or take a day!
Become a carnivore for a month maybe?
I have been thinking about this a lot lately and this is my take on it for now.
For a start I have a personal bias towards animal products, good clean meats from ‘nose to tail’ so to speak, but also I also eat enough vegetables to make a vegan proud!
I’m the one always emphasizing meat at our clinic meeting and harassing Maria (Harpas) about her vegetable centric focus. Maria has been vegan and vegetarian in the past and inherently leans towards more plant based foods but I think, we as a group, all have an open mind to outcomes and what we find in the real world.
Collagen, Glycine and Nose to Tail
So what do I mean ‘nose to tail’?
The nose to tail bit is important as it means we are eating more of the collagen rich connective tissue. Eating more collagen or gelatin means we are eating more glycine as it is the one of primary amino acid in collagen protein.
By eating more glycine we will be balancing out the higher amounts of the methionine amino acid that is found in muscle meat. Don’t get me wrong methionine is important too as it supplies as the raw material for ‘methyl’ groups but methionine metabolism and the possible excess methyl groups it produces can deplete glycine levels.
Importantly methyl groups are involved in functions including DNA repair, detoxification, gene silencing, neurotransmitter production and prevention of NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) but back to collagen, glycine and carnivory.
Glycine is important because we just don’t make enough ourselves. We make about 3g per day and it is estimated we need about 10g or more per day. So that leaves us 7 grams in the ‘red’ to source from our food or supplementally. Glycine is a whole topic on its own but briefly human studies have shown:
- 3-5 grams of glycine before a meal helps stabilize blood sugar.
- 3 grams of glycine before bed helps improve sleep.
- 15 grams of gelatin before a workout helps improve collagen synthesis in our joints.
- 20 grams of glycine per day is used to treat some rare metabolic disorders that cause an ammonia accumulation and build up of toxic metabolic by-products.
- 60 grams of glycine per day has been used to treat schizophrenia in some studies too but this is a massive dose that we would not suggest trying without medical supervision
Eat some more collagen and organ meat
Do I consume as much collagen and even organ meat as I should?
No I don’t but I have been adding a tablespoon or 2 of collagen (hydrolysate version is best) into my daily diet and I do like a bit of fried liver with thyme and onions or pate but just not as regularly as I really should.
Organ meats just have such high nutrient value they are invaluable. They are natures vitamin, mineral and nutrient punch. Things like vitamins B12, A, D & K, folate, choline, iron and Coenzyme Q-10.
Different versions of Carnivore Diets
Ok, back to CARNIVORE.
It has been around for quite a while but the last couple years it has really been gaining a ground swell of popularity.
It seems people are literally fixing or reversing long term chronic illnesses and on the way also gaining such vibrant health and people like Amber O’Hearn, Jordan and Mikhalia Peterson, Dr Shawn Baker breaking world records to boot and the folk at Paleomedicina.
Please note they actually all have their own way of carnivore dieting that works for them.
So never ever one diet for all!
Are there risks?
I know what you will be saying – we need plants in that our diet? What about fibre? What about feeding our gut bacteria? What about all the nutrients we need that we get from plants? What about red meat and bowel cancer?
These are important questions and we don’t have all the answers yet but there are signs of N=1 examples and multiple N = 1s showing tremendous benefits. Another way of saying this is, we don’t have a scientific published clinical trial but, anecdotally 1000s of people as finding life changing health outcomes. Also people like Belinda and Dr Gary Fettke have highlighted information about where our current dietary paradigms and dogmas appear to have originated from here and here and also here.
Interestingly there are also numerous case reports of people eating nothing but meat for months to decades who suffer no apparent nutrient deficiencies.
When you consider the reverse and ask – is there any 1 singular plant food that when not supplemented in any way could sustain life for weeks to decades and show no clinical signs of deficiency?
The answer is an absolute – “NO there are is not a plant food that could do the same” as deficiencies are guaranteed, so interesting things to ponder.
Diet does change our gut microbiome and fermentable fibre is conventional thought of as being a key ingredient for healthy bacteria. Our gut bacteria usually need indigestible, fermentable plant fibre to eat and live. Some animal based foods, such as collagen, are also thought to feed our gut bacteria, so its an evolving space for now.
As Maria points out a diet such as carnivore (animal only, mostly meat based) can change our gut microbiome, in part by reducing bacteria digestible fibre therefore potentially reducing bacterial numbers and this in some cases may well be the reason for the benefits.
The devil may be in the details – poor gut health (leaky gut) and bacterial composition (dysbiosis or pathogens) may mean great results (especially for those with allergies and autoimmune conditions) with low fermentable fibre carnivore diet. but this may not be optimal for all of us.
Another concept is the increased diversity of our gut microbiome. Increased diversity is conventional thought of as beneficial and gives us a more robust health but again details may matter, as above, and there are a few reports of diversity actually going up on a carnivore diet, so go figure!
This also means that a carnivore diet may not be optimal for all of us and might only mean that if you can’t tolerate fibre or plant based foods you may be better off on a animal based approach used as a therapeutic tool.
Something else that not many people talk about is a real and important risk of social isolation, this can include any highly restrictive eating pattern including plant based diets such veganism. As humans we need social interaction and contact for optimal health
So for some using a carnivore like diet in the short term may provide a perfect, yet extreme, reset. It can be used as a tool with a reintroduction of some plants foods when tolerated and this gives us convenience, flexibility, social interaction, antioxidants and an increased gut microbiome again with all the possible health benefits too. Mikhalia Peterson, who we mentioned above, actually does not enjoy her all meat restriction but continues to eat this way from necessity and continues to trial eating some plant foods provided she does not react.
The need to tweak and change
Here is what I will tell you – if you are chronically ill don’t keep pushing the ‘healthy’ diet whatever that is – vegan, vegetarian, paleo, keto, high fermented foods etc you need to rethink and change and try a different approach or sometimes just a small tweak may be needed.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome” and that is the whole point nothing is perfect and things need to change sometimes, so that is where we also come in to help and support you in finding something that works for you specifically.
Here is the punch line though – we (Maria, yes vego Maria, myself, one of the other clinic practitioners and a couple loony friends are going to do a month of eating only meat, water and salt – so yes all meat , just to see for ourselves what it feels like. Longer may be better but we thought we will see what a short trial does in our lives.
Stayed tuned for an up date as we are also taking pre and post diet pathology blood testing to also get an objective measure of what happens to our biochemistry.
All the best
Tim – Nutritional Medicine & Bredesen Protocol for Alzheimer’s Dementia prevention and reversal