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Jun 06

Guest Post – Troubleshooting Health Issues as a Carnivore

My name is Josh Blackburn. I’ve struggled with obesity since childhood, developed bipolar disorder in my early teens, and my gut health began to deteriorate after high school. Throughout my life I’ve employed a myriad of strategies to try and combat these issues, but battling them through exercise and caloric restriction left me fatter and sicker than before. It has been a tedious trek to arrive at carnivory and conquer these ailments. You can read more about my journey in more detail at my blog.

A Renewed Focus

Finding a carnivore diet shifted my focus from weight loss to health gains.  Removal of all plants from my diet had a profound impact on mood stability and remission from several chronic issues like severe allergies and asthma. But with respect to weight, I am a bit of a carnivore outlier; I steadily gained body fat throughout my first year of carnivory despite having plenty of body fat to lose. This encouraged me to experiment, a lot, within the carnivore framework:

Click to enlarge.

Troubled Waters

When I began a carnivore diet, I went into it with my old mindset of protein-intake and caloric restriction being the most important focuses. I quickly came to the realization that restricting calories would be unsustainable because of ravenous hunger. Because of this pivot, carnivore became the first dietary intervention where I allowed myself to eat ad libitum. My health was improving, but despite this I found myself growing hungrier and my body composition slowly worsening. It was perplexing; I was eating to need, exercising a lot, and working a very active job. My sleep began to suffer, and my appetite grew to uncontrollable portions; I began eating 5lb of meat daily for over 7 weeks during fall 2017 – with a max of 7.8lb in a day and 7.1lb in a sitting. This appetite climaxed with a major depressive episode that left me exhausted and bedridden.

WOBO

It wasn’t until stumbling on Week of Burgers Only (WOBO) through Mike Davis’ YouTube channel that I inadvertently began to up my fat and eat 78/22 ground beef. My appetite was arrested, my mood dramatically improved, and weight began to start coming off. I made WOBO my new baseline and allowed myself to experiment with different foods and macronutrient ratios.

Protein intake vs weight, click to enlarge.

My data made one thing clear, if I consumed over 30% protein by calorie my appetite would steadily grow, and my body composition and mood would worsen. By increasing my protein intake, I was also increasing my food volume and as a result this began to impact my digestion. I started to get constipated, inflamed and having re-occurrence of GI issues I thought were dealt with, which prompted me to try a lower volume, higher fat approach to carnivore.

Unexpected Changes

An example of Josh’s meals – beef tongue, and brisket fat.

To my surprise, this approach had the most profound impact over my body composition, skin, and mood. With respect to my bipolar, this was the most calm and blissful I’ve felt as far back as I can remember. It’s easy to fear that this may simply be a temporary or fleeting experience; But as far as I can tell, the disease is in full remission and has been consistently improving for over 14 months without any symptoms of bipolar disorder. Despite this, my gut issues were not resolving as I’d hoped, although they had improved. This prompted a much-needed investigation.

The Investigation Begins In Earnest

I started by getting bloodwork drawn on April 17, 2019, a little over a month after switching to higher fat on March 11th. I was a bit surprised at a few values that had drastically changed from 18 months prior. My LDL and HDL had significantly dropped, and my triglycerides had more than doubled.

Josh’s lipids over time.

In addition to this my ferritin had skyrocketed from 237 ng/mL in 2017 to 595 ng/mL. My c-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, had also more than tripled. In contrast, some markers also improved. For example, my eosinophils, which were enormously out of range in 2012 and dismissed as allergies or asthma, had steadily come to a low. My high bilirubin, which was always hand-waved by doctors as Gilbert’s syndrome, had completely normalized on Carnivore. In addition to this, my reverse T3 had come down from 50 in 2013 to the low 20s since going carnivore and all symptoms of thyroid issues were gone.

Eosinophils, Bilirubin, and hs-CRP over time.

The Investigation Continues…

I spoke with Dave and Siobhan, who commented that if they had not known what I was eating during my prior bloodwork they would have assumed I had gone from a ketogenic diet to a non-ketogenic diet; yet, it was the exact opposite. They felt further follow up with a doctor might be helpful to figure out what was going on. I agreed, as there were evident issues with my gut and certain health concerns that needed to be ruled out. After consulting with a doctor, we decided that a gastrointestinal microbial assay (GI-MAP) was going to be the best first course of action.

Josh’s results indicated an intestinal infection.

My results indicated I had a clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection, which is a large intestine bacterial infection. This made sense to me as it causes inflammation and narrowing of the colon, and I have been dealing with GI distress, narrowing of stool, and passing blood for a very long time. I suspect this infection occurred right before my elevated eosinophils bloodwork in 2012. This was the last time I had taken antibiotics. It is also the first incidence I can recall of having massive GI distress that warranted the doctor visit. Since finding this out, I am currently treating it with antibiotics, as advised by my doctor, and will re-check my blood markers after treatment, in hopes that they will likewise reflect improved health.

Work In Progress

Through self-experimentation, I have found that removal of plants was the most important dietary intervention for my overall physical and mental health. A higher-fat, carnivorous diet further improved my overall health beyond just food elimination, including improving issues with my body composition, gut, mood, and skin, although I still have regular concern for my mental stability and remission of bipolar depression. However, despite those improvements, I am still reacting adversely to certain foods like eggs, dairy, liver, pork, and high protein. These are things I hope to eliminate from my list of ongoing issues in the future. Although some questions remain, and I am still a work in progress, this is the best I have felt in the last decade. I continue to thrive on a high fat (>80% calories) carnivore diet and have no immediate plans to change this.

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Lucie
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Lucie

What is the “Obliques” line on the graph protein vs weight?

Siobhan Huggins
Admin

Apologies for the delay on the response – I believe Josh already replied, but it’s the widest part of the waist.

Allan
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Allan

that really goes to show how individual all of this really is…it truly is amazing what works for one can be catastrophic for another…keep doing what makes you fee best!

Deb
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Deb

Does saturated fat cause inflammation? I was reading an article today that said,” It is well established that saturated fat contributes to inflammation in the liver so for this we’ll take that as a given. ” Should we?