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The Carnivore Diet: Panacea for Autoimmunity & Diseases of Westernization?

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By Kelley Herring

When it comes to modern day epidemics, “chronic diseases” like cancer, heart disease and diabetes take the spotlight – for good reason. These preventable illnesses are leading causes of death worldwide.

But there is another epidemic, which causes untold suffering for millions of people. And it doesn’t get nearly as much attention. I’m talking about the “Syndrome Epidemic”

A syndrome is defined as, “a group of symptoms that consistently occur together.” As the definition indicates, a syndrome is not a real diagnosis of disease. In fact, it is actually an admission that doctors have no idea what’s really wrong with you… so they create a label for a group of symptoms.

Consider “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”, for example. It might as well be called “You’re Always Extremely Tired and Your Body Aches Disease.” Or consider “Irritable Bowel Syndrome”, otherwise known as “You Have Bloating, Gas & Diarrhea (or Constipation) and We Don’t Know Why Disease.”

Of course, hand in hand with the syndrome epidemic are autoimmune disorders. According to the National Institutes of Health, over 23 million people in the United States alone are diagnosed with autoimmune disease (with millions more suffering undiagnosed).

The constellation of symptoms we’re talking about include everything from chronic pain, fatigue and weakness… arthritis and painful, swollen joints… psoriasis, hives and rashes… chronic sinus problems… hair loss… cold intolerance… brain fog, anxiety and depression… and of course a range of painful and embarrassing digestive troubles.

With such a wide range of ailments – and the fact that many people present all of these symptoms simultaneously – it’s no surprise that conventional medicine has very few answers for this growing epidemic. Most doctors prescribe a basket of prescription drugs, each one aimed at suppressing a particular group of symptoms. This approach rarely works… and often makes the problem worse.

Some people find great benefit by switching to a diet in line with that of our Paleolithic ancestors. However, there are many more whose symptoms do not respond to a traditional Paleo Diet.

But there is a very controversial diet that is growing more popular by the day. It is a diet that has helped thousands of people – and possibly soon millions – to put a lifetime of debilitating symptoms into remission (often in a matter of just two weeks).

What if the Plants You’re Eating are Making You Sick?

When it comes to health, we live in world where we’re constantly encouraged to “eat more fruits and vegetables.” We are fed the message that a “plant-based diet” is the healthiest for everyone (although don’t forget that nearly every processed junk food in the grocery store is “plant-based”).

Of course, some people thrive on a plant-based diet. But not everyone does…

In fact, what if the plants we’re eating actually contribute to inflammation and digestive distress? What if these “plant foods” are the leading cause of leaky gut and a primary factor in the rise of autoimmune disease?

And is it possible that a meat-only diet could help reverse autoimmune disorders, quell inflammation and alleviate severe pain and suffering for millions of people?

The answer may surprise you!

Today, we explore the makings of the carnivore (or zero-carb) diet… how plant foods can “bite us back”… and the stories of people who are finding extreme relief (and six pack abs) by subsisting on meat alone.

The Meat-Only Diet: A Diet That Doesn’t Bite You Back

I have to admit that the concept of subsisting on meat alone is one that seriously challenged me.

My educational background is in biology and chemistry. For the last 20 years of my career, I’ve studied nutritional biochemistry. In addition to being a recovering vegetarian, I’ve written a dozen books and hundreds of articles on the subject of nutrition (many of which focus on the nutrients in plants)…

But I was also very sick during parts of my life (sometimes for years at a time). And it wasn’t meat that made me sick… it was plants!

My journey to health began when I discovered 14 plant foods to which I had developed either an intolerance or full blown allergy. My inflamed gut was leaking undigested food particles and other immune-stimulating compounds into my bloodstream. As a result, I later developed an autoimmune condition… as well as an overgrowth of bacteria in my small intestine (SIBO).

So, how did I find relief?

I got better by following specific protocols and by removing quite a number of “plant foods” from my diet. The truth is that I now believe I would have improved much faster if I had removed ALL plant foods from my diet (at least for a couple months).

But what about the vitamin C in plant foods? What about age-defying, cancer-fighting antioxidants? (Not to mention how delicious a ribeye steak tastes with a basil pesto, served with broccoli drenched in butter and a baked potato on the side.)

Does a zero-carb diet mean saying goodbye to berries and crisp greens… onions and garlic… nuts and seeds… spices and herbs?

It does… but bear with me here.

To begin, it is critical to understand that…

Plants Don’t Like to Be Eaten!

One of the arguments for a vegan diet is that it is cruel to eat animals. After all, every living creature strives for self-preservation. The world would be much better, they argue, if we would just leave the animals alone.

The truth is that nothing likes to be eaten… and that includes plants!

Unlike animals, which can defend themselves from predation or make a speedy escape, plants do not have these capabilities. But they do have protection mechanisms. At the slightest nip of a leaf, plants release chemicals that can irritate or poison predators – the plant’s version of an immune response.

In fact, researchers at the University of Missouri recently showed that plants don’t even have to be damaged to mount a defense. They found that the mere sound of caterpillar “munching vibrations” caused a plant they were studying (related to broccoli and kale) to ramp up production of mildly toxic mustard oils.[1]

The defenses that plants use to protect themselves take affect after you have consumed them. And for many people the results of a plant-rich diet can be pain, inflammation and a life of debilitating illness.

tomato, nightshade, carnivore diet

Examples Of Toxic Plants

The examples of plant toxins and anti-nutrients are voluminous. But let’s review some of the common edible species and the compounds within them known to have health-harming effects:

  • Nightshades: The solanaceae family of flowering plants includes quite a number of species that are outright poisonous. But the nightshade family also includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant and goji berries, which have long been known to promote inflammation and joint pain in sensitive people.
  • Phytic Acid: A natural substance found in plant seeds (including grains and legumes). This compound is known as an “anti-nutrient” due to its ability to bind to minerals. Phytic acid impairs the absorption of iron, zinc, calcium and other minerals and can promote mineral deficiencies.
  • Oxalates: Compounds found in dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and other “superfoods.” Most people can break down oxalates in the gut. For others, however, these compounds turn into sharp crystals and can lead to chronic pain, inflammation, oxidative stress, kidney stones and autoimmune disease.
  • Lectins: Plant compounds that can promote leaky gut, alter the microbiome, stimulate the immune system and trigger inflammation. The highest levels are found in whole grains, legumes and dairy.
  • Salicylates: Naturally-occurring pesticides found in plants to protect against insects, fungus and bacterial infection. In humans, they can cause a wide range of symptoms from tinnitus to ulcers. High concentrations are found in avocados, berries, grapes, almonds, honey, many spices and dried fruits.
  • FODMAPs: Though not technically a defense mechanism of plants, these compounds are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates that are not properly absorbed in the gut. Consumption of FODMAPS can cause severe digestive distress for some people. High-FODMAP foods include a wide range of fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, condiments, drinks and dairy foods.
  • Saponins: Anti-feedant compounds that protect many plants from insects, microbes and fungi. Saponins have soapy, foaming characteristics. They promote leaky gut and can cause bloating, gas, nausea and diarrhea. Legumes (soy, beans, peas and lentils) as well as quinoa are rich in saponins.
  • Prolamins & Glutelins – Consisting of a wide range of proteins, used by plants to store energy in seeds. This group of compounds are the primary environmental factors in causing Celiac disease. Found primarily in grains and rice.

I would be the last person to say that there are no benefits to eating plant foods. But it is important to understand that there can be a dark side… and not all plant foods are right for all people all of the time.

If you’d like to learn more about the “dark side” of plants, I encourage you to check out the video presentation by Dr. Georgia Ede, MD from the 2nd Annual Ancestral Health Symposium, titled Little Shop of Horrors? The Risks and Benefits of Eating Plants.[2]

Dr. Ede cites the meat-only diet as very useful in managing the many “mystery syndrome” symptoms that do not respond to a traditional Paleo Diet.

I am not suggesting that you or your loved ones embark on a meat-only / zero-carb diet for the rest of your life. But it might be a worthwhile experiment to try for a few weeks or months. And this is especially true if:

  • You have stubborn fat to lose
  • You suffer from autoimmune illness or “syndrome” with a constellation of symptoms
  • You know that you have a range of food allergies and intolerances

The stories of those who have healed their bodies on a meat-only diet after enduring years of debilitating and mysterious illnesses are numerous. And there’s no shortage of physique transformations either.

carnivore diet, filet mignon, steak, grassfed beef

Stories of Healing (and Adonis Physiques!) on a Meat-Only Diet

Dr. Shawn Baker, MD is an orthopedic surgeon, a pure carnivore and a physical specimen at 51 years of age. He is one of the leading proponents of the meat-only diet and encourages people to experiment and share their stories on his websites, N Equals Many and Meat Heals.[3]

Dr. Baker says:

“A clear lack of progress in combatting diseases of lifestyle, the specter of bias and frequently confusion in the literature has led many to take matters into their own hands, often with excellent results and often being at odds with traditional recommendations.”

If you’re considering this diet to see how it makes you feel, I encourage you to check out these two sites, where you can find before-and-after pictures and testimonials from people whose lives have been changed forever by the carnivore diet.

The Zero Carb Diet: What to Eat?

So, what does a meat-based diet look like?

While some people add minimal dairy products like butter or cheese, most people who embark on this radical way of eating to improve difficult health issues are purists. They limit their intake strictly to meat (with mineral-rich salt) and water alone… as well as coffee / tea if you don’t want to give those up.

Here are the meats recommended on the carnivore diet:

*Because egg whites and shellfish have allergenic potential, those with autoimmune issues, allergies and food intolerances often choose to avoid these foods on the meat-only diet.

What’s more, many meat-only diet enthusiasts find they react to certain types of meat – like pork or certain fish – so it’s important to listen to your body and pay attention to your symptoms. Most people do best with beef and lamb.

On the carnivore diet, it’s important to eat to satiety (no calorie counting), add high quality sea salts to your food and be sure to choose fatty cuts of meat. Here are a few (very simple!) meal ideas:

Do you have nagging health symptoms that haven’t resolved on a Paleo or keto diet? Would you be willing to give the carnivore diet a 30-day challenge? We want to hear from you!

ED NOTE: Kelley Herring is the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, makers of grain-free, gluten-free, low-glycemic baking mixes for cakes, cookies, breads, pizza and much more.

Kelley’s academic background is in biology and chemistry and for the last 15+ years, she has focused on the study of nutritional biochemistry…and the proven powers of compounds in foods to heal the body.



[2] Little Shop of Horrors? The Risks and Benefits of Eating Plants |

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