What’s the hype about the ZC diet? Also known as the Carnivore Diet, there’s a reason you should try it. ZC or “zero-carb” diet is not necessarily the same thing as some of the other “low carb” or “zero-carb” diets that have gained popularity recently, such as a ketogenic diet. However, that is for another discussion. Back to the Carnivore or ZC diet. First off, let me remind you that I am a scientist. One of my absolute pet peeves is misinformation and fads. So, I hate food marketing, especially the pro-HFCS commercials and cold cereal cold ads. You can check out both of those links if you’re not sure what I’m referring to.
One example of a food fad that really gets me ranting is the popularity of kale. Despite what you may have heard, kale is not a superfood. Kale does not grow on the earth for smoothies, juicing, chips, and massaged salads. Kale is a cruciferous vegetable that contains oxalates, or oxalic acid. This substance is a naturally protective measure for kale so that it doesn’t get devoured by animals or insects. Oxalic acid is a gut irritant, and a mycotoxin. Mycotoxins are toxic metabolites produced by fungal organisms that can cause disease or even death. Oxalic acid will bind itself to calcium and create painful crystals (think: kidney stones) in muscle tissues. So why is everyone eating so much raw kale? I don’t know, other than the fact that it’s a fad. Popular culture has elevated kale to the throne of superfood and the masses worship it like the biblical golden calf. But, it's really just all hype and marketing that has spread like a summer wildfire in fierce winds.
As a result of things like the kale dilemma, when I hear about new diet crazes or food fads, I always do my research. And you should too. I make recommendations for diet and lifestyle choices based on science, not what is popular on Reddit or others’ blogs. If I hear a claim, I do some investigation before making a judgment about whether or not to try it. As a nutrition and lifestyle coach, my clients need to be able to trust me, so I especially do my research before recommending any fad or craze to others.
So, you can imagine my scientific skepticism when I saw popular bloggers and Instagramers talking about an all-meat diet. My first response was: ‘Come on, really? Now I’ve heard it all.’
I’ve discovered for myself and learned about nearly every diet and eating plan out there: The Paleo Diet, a Vegan diet, Vegetarian diets and all their variations, Fruitarian diets, Flexitarian diets, a Pescatarian diet, Omnivore diets, Ancestral diets, the Atkins Diet...you name it, I’ve heard about it. But when I heard “Carnivore Diet” for the first time, my warning flags went up and the alarm bells started sounding.
I guess the remnants of old programming were still somewhere in my hard-drive, because I started stammering about heart disease, acidity, and the like. I grew up in the 1980s, where dogmas ran rampant about the dangers of saturated fats and cholesterol. We always had margarine and fat-free yogurt in the fridge. We ate mostly chicken and turkey, and ordered the egg-white omelet as an alternative to the real thing at restaurants. The idea that fat is somehow “bad” reigned as king and was accepted as the truth for over 30 years. That mindset is a powerful one that has been supported in the media, by the USDA, and become the standard in American families.
My next feeling about Carnivore was guilt. I felt guilty for all the animals that will suffer because of the popularity of the Carnivore Diet. And then I pictured a bunch of gym rats trying to get “swole” by eating off a giant side of beef, or raiding the local McDonald’s for their stash of “hamburgers.” I believe in eating happy and healthy animals. I cringe at the thought of supporting factory-farmed animals.
Once I got past the whispers of socially learned dogma and overreaction, I decided to follow the science. And guess what I found? The truth!
There is one universal truth about diets and eating plans. That truth is this: there is no “one size fits all” diet or eating plan that works perfectly well for everyone in all times and seasons. There are no absolutes in eating plans. Eating a certain type of diet may make you very sick, while it cures a long term illness within my body. It’s all relative.
After doing a fair amount of research, I decided to give the Carnivore Diet a try. I am still eating on this plan, and I want to give you the best idea of what the Carnivore Diet might do for your lifestyle and your health. So, the easiest way for me to do this is to tell you the truth about how the Carnivore Diet is affecting my body, at this time. Maybe I won’t stay on the Carnivore Diet forever, or maybe I will. As long as I keep getting good results, it will be my eating plan of choice for myself, (though not necessarily for my clients).
To tell you a bit about me and my body, I have long-standing gas, bloating, belching, diarrhea, constipation, and PAIN. If you have digestive issues, then you understand the pain I’m talking about. This specific type of pain falls into two main categories: burning and cramping. The burning feels like a cat scratching at the inside of your gut, only this cat has laser hot claws and likes to dig in deep. The cramping feels as though my entire body is being wrung out like a dirty dishtowel. The cramping is so intense that it actually causes nausea, cold sweats, and vomiting.
Do you know why I get these symptoms? I don’t. Additionally, no one knows, for sure, why anyone actually has IBS, IBD, Colitis, SIBO, Crohn's Disease, or any other digestive issues. Before the age of 40, I had a sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, barium swallow, CAT scan, lactulose breath test, and x-rays done with no conclusive diagnosis. So why do I suffer?
Here is what I have learned from long hard days on the toilet or in bed -- carbohydrates, especially the complex kind, are not my friend. I learned this the hard way by repeatedly trying to eat a whole-food-based, “Weston A. Price” style diet. I was eating organic, sprouted, and properly cooked grains (no wheat), but still feeling bloated and sick. I was swinging from absolute constipation to endless trips to the toilet. I started eliminating things that seemed to upset my digestion, and the first culprits were grains. This was back in 2008 when “Paleo” was not even a mainstream word or movement yet. I stuck to simple starchy vegetables for my carbohydrate intake, while quietly feeling guilty for avoiding the reportedly healthy complex carbohydrates. I was following the rules of a Paleo Diet before I even knew what that meant.
Back then, no one was really about talking FODMAPs, GAPS, SCD, Paleo, AIP, Keto or Carnivore. And don’t forget about low histamine diets, low lectin, or low amylose plans. Those were all unknowns into the early 2000s. But luckily for me, and many people who suffer from unresolved digestive ailments, these low carbohydrate diets have gained popular acclaim and scientific support over the past decade.
If I had to use one word to describe why all of these plans provide symptom relief, I would say: “fermentation.” You see, all foods with carbohydrates contain fermentable fiber. So, any plan that is low in carbohydrates is naturally going to be lower in fermentable fibers. Fermentation is what causes gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and all the other uncomfortable symptoms of digestive issues. Fermentation, while a natural part of digestion, can happen too soon, too late, not at all, or too much. Fermentation is another way of saying carbohydrate malabsorption. In its simplest terms, your digestive system cannot process carbohydrates properly.
Why does fermentation go awry? There are so many possible answers. It is difficult to sort out. It would take years or even decades to figure out the “why” of malabsorption. Here is a list of possible contributors to carbohydrate malabsorption. Keep in mind, some of these can be both a precedent and consequences of carbohydrate malabsorption. Starting from the top and moving down, these are things that can influence your carbohydrate absorption:
- Not chewing your food properly
- Eating food laden with added sugar
- Low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria)
- H Pylori infection
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- SIBO (small intestinal bowel overgrowth)
- Dysbiosis (imbalanced flora)
- Parasite infection
- Other infections (candida or other fungi)
So what is a person to do when they are faced with carbohydrate malabsorption? What do you do when your digestive system is so off-balance that you seem to react to everything? What is the answer when almost every form of carbohydrate from vegetables and fruits to grains cause a reaction? The easiest answer is to stop eating carbohydrates all together. And that, my friend, is the Carnivore Diet. Which, again, is also known as the Zero Carb diet.
While I don’t doubt that many people have been helped by following Paleo, AIP, Keto, FODMAPs, et al diets, my issues have not been completely resolved dieting on any of these plans. So I’m left with the Carnivore Diet. So far? So good. I carb-cycle in AIP-friendly carbohydrates every 3 or 4 days. I have less gas, bloating, pain, and diarrhea. I feel more mental clarity, no painful cramping, and no drowsy hang-over feeling after eating.
So if you, like me, have ongoing digestive issues, maybe the Carnivore Diet is for you.
I would recommend it if you are suffering from an autoimmune illness, SIBO, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, IBS/IBD, Crohn’s Disease, or Colitis.
While some may be arguing that Carnivore is the ideal human diet, I would argue that it isn’t. And although I’m finding great relief and vitality while on it, I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. There isn’t an ideal human diet that fits all people at all times. So don’t try to fit into this mold if it isn’t for you. Alternatively, don’t be afraid to give it a try.Click here to schedule your FREE Discovery Call with me!