How to Start and Stay on The Carnivore Diet for your IBD or IBS
An introduction, instructions, tips, plus a sample set menu to get on and stay on the Carnivore Diet. You'll find it both easy: only eat meat and salt - and difficult: only eat meat and salt. We'll walk you through it.
How Do I Get Started on the Carnivore Diet?
The Carnivore Diet targets the root of so much disease, the guts, or if you have an IBD or IBS, perhaps you’d call them the root of all evil. The diet is incredibly simple and potentially doesn’t require any complicated counting of calories or food intake. It defines what you can eat. Eat meat and fat (1:2 ratio). Eat when hungry. Eat until full. That’s essentially it. There are, however, a lot of other things you should know along the way.
This diet requires dedication, but if you adhere to it, your body and mind will adapt and you’ll find it simple to maintain. They say that one of the ways successful people live their lives is wearing and doing the same thing every day to reduce stress and decisions. You’ll never have to spend time thinking about what you’re eating again. In addition, you won’t be subject to general cravings you have on a regular diet. As long as you eat until full, you should be perfectly satiated until your next meal. While sitting on your throne atop the food chain, you’ll be free from the chains of food.
But there is a pesky adaptation period, or “keto flu,” to get through first. Dr. Kevin Stock1 calls it the “Trough of Despair.” You will likely go through withdrawal, both physically and mentally, during adaptation, especially if you consumed a decent amount of sugar before. This reaction is natural, because your old gut bacteria are literally being starved to death to allow new bacteria to flourish. Don’t worry, if you can get through the next few paragraphs there are some simple hacks that will make it much easier on you.
Symptoms of the adaptation period include:
- Brain fog
- Sore throat
- Digestion problems
- Halitosis2 and smells
- Metallic taste in your mouth
- Dry mouth
- Sugar cravings
- Inability to focus
- Lower performance
- Lethargy and decreased energy
- Rapid heart rate
- Night sweats
- Urinating at night
Your body will undergo major metabolic changes. Your fluids will drop and your kidneys will remove sodium, which will remove water weight. It is very possible that you will lose ten pounds of water weight very quickly. Your body will then process the last of the glucose before switching to fatty acids. As you lose sodium, you lose electrolytes. A good response is to supplement with sea salt on your meat, or buy non-sugar rehydration salts, the kind they put in IVs. It is important to stay hydrated, always drink more water than you think you need.
If you have an IBD and are coming from a low-fat diet, be aware that it will take your guts a moment to adapt and during that period you may have some additional GI issues with your usual IBS or IBD symptoms. L. Amber O’Hearn, suggests you go in “cold turkey (or hot beef)” and that’s as good an idea as it is a bad joke.
If you must, segue into the diet slowly by eating leaner cuts of meat at first, or, ideally, supplement lipase, ox bile, and A Betaine HCL (ABHCL) for the first few weeks or so. You may want to check with your doctor before supplementing ABHCL, because some medications react badly and lead to ulcers.
You will also lose potassium and magnesium. You can find supplements, but many supplements and medication sneak in lactose and starches. Consuming bone broth is a much better solution if you can manage, but see how your body is doing and react how you (or your doctor) feel is appropriate. Once the diet is underway, your lowered carbohydrate intake will reduce your body’s need for magnesium. The same can be said for vitamin C. Don’t worry, you won’t get scurvy.
The actual amount of vitamin C we need is 10mg a day. That is four Skittles. The USDA does not require the level of vitamin C in meat products to be measured, recorded, or stated beyond listing it as zero. But as L. Amber O’Hearn points out, that is silly. She presents information stating that one of the lower C content animals, an ox, still contains 1.6mg of Vitamin C out of 100mg of ox meat and 2 lbs of meat equal 907 grams nearly 300g more than you need to avoid scurvy. The only known case of scurvy in carnivores came from eating only pemmican. If you know what that is, don’t eat it all the time.
There’s one more issue you’ll want to prepare for: social adaptation. This diet is, unsurprisingly, very contentious. Since many of us are coming to it for relief from Crohn’s and colitis, it is very possible we have a lot of herbivore friends. L. Amber O’Hearn wisely suggests that you keep your diet on the down-low for the first month or so. Enlist a few trustworthy collaborator/counselors to assist you with your needs, but otherwise avoid the jaws that you’ll tend to see drop when you are asked, innocently at first, to explain why you just ordered a steak with nothing else.
Eat Meat and Fat. Eat When Hungry. Eat Until Full.
To get the best nutrients and vitamins for your body you should be eating the highest quality meat that you can find and afford. The nutrition content of meat comes largely from what the meat ate, and higher quality animals graze on higher quality nutrient rich vegetables. Remember that you’ll be saving a lot of money to spend on them once you’re weaned off the expensive IBD or IBS medications you’re on. If you are receiving benefits and can remove any health-related costs from your life then it is still a win. If you need to be cheap in general or for a while, there are less expensive cuts. Consult with your butcher.
Because you’re not eating carbs — or any plant foods at all — it is crucial that you get enough calories to keep your energy up, so fattier cuts of meat are best. This diet is not about protein. It’s about fat. If you eat only lean beef you’re not on the right track. Your fat to protein ratio should be 2:1. For example, if you want to eat fish, it’s best to eat high quality fatty cuts of salmon.
You’re going to want to find a good connection for a steady supply of high-quality meat. Having a regular butcher (especially in a butcher shop) or a regular supplier (maybe at a farmer’s market) is best because they are now your nutritionists. You can ask them regular questions and discuss what exactly is going into different meats so that you can find what you react to and enjoy. You can also order meat online because it’s the future.
It is possible you will begin to eat much more than you used to. You should not feel like snacking. If you do, eat more at meals. This is one of the only times in the carnivore diet you may need to do math.
The Carnivore Diet: Zero Carb Dinner
There seem to be three schools of thought bouncing around the carnivore world, the zero carb approach, the zero carb with dairy approach, and the very limited carb approach. Ultimately, many proponents of all three suggest you tailor it to yourself as you move forward. If you are going to experiment, keep a food journal to keep track of changes in what you eat and how you and your IBS or IBD feel.
The zero carb version is fairly self-explanatory. You’ll want to eat only fatty cuts of meat, with maybe a small amount of salt. A lot of people agree that honey is fine. Bacon and many sausages are contentious. Mostly stay away from processed meat because even when you inevitably become an expert in all cuts and preparations of meat, you will still never know for sure what’s in it.
Giving up caffeine may be one struggle too many for most of us, luckily coffee or tea are seen as allowed by most practitioners, despite coming from plants. As you begin adapting to the diet, you may feel like you don’t need the extra energy. I know it seems impossible to consider, but if you want to try going coffee-free, you can always add it back later. I drink a lot of water whenever I do a caffeine cleanse. Try different things and find out what works for you.
Dr. Kevin Stock gives a wonderful step-by-step guide at Meat Health (meat.health – yes, that’s a web address). Here are the four stages he suggests to begin and follow through, sort of, with some additional information.
You want to maximize your fat to protein ratio and therefore beef is tops, followed by lamb, pork, chicken, and fish and then eggs and dairy. However, not all cuts of meat or dairy are equal. For example, chicken breast is very lean and many dairy products are high carb, both should be avoided.
You should absolutely, really, seriously think about removing alcohol from your lifestyle, especially for the first month or so. If you must drink alcohol, stay away from beer. At lower rates, dry red wines and low sugar liquor still aren’t your friends, but they won’t stab you in the kidney when you look the other way either. Be aware that your tolerance won’t be what it used to be, so you should probably avoid any competitive drinking. As with anything outside the scope of zero carb, take it in moderation and see how you feel.
Proponents of a more generous version of the diet, suggest that 70% of your diet should come from animal fats and protein, meat and eggs, again 2:1, and 30% of foods that pass the paleo test, like vegetables (root vegetables are best) and fruit (only one a day) won’t hurt you too much. Again, try things yourself, but for IBS and IBD removing them entirely could be a good idea.
Additional Carnivore Tips
Eat organ meat! Liver, kidney, tongue, marrow, heart, and gasp brain are all believed to be very good for your health and nutrition. You should be okay without, just think about trying it out and keep an eye on your nutrients.
Don’t ever use any type of oil, only animal fat. Coconut oil may be important in keto, but is especially bad for IBS and IBD.
Stabilize your sleep schedule or you may lose your sleep schedule. Don’t eat too close to bedtime and give yourself some time to wind down beforehand. Try to be in bed by 11. This is a tip for IBS and IBD in general, but is more important here.
If you’re having problems with your IBS or IBD during the adaptation period, removing rendered fats could provide some relief, but be careful not to remove quantity.
It’s going to be a rocky road at first, but if you commit, adhere, and persevere there is a giant dinosaur destroying sized asteroid of anecdotes that say you’ll be relieved of your IBS or IBD and reach pain-free.
- Though the term “Trough of Sorrow” comes from Paul Graham of YCombinator, referring to the long nadir of a startup’s life cycle, which itself stems from the “Trough of Disillusionment” in the technology Hype Cycle.
- Bad breath
16 responses to “How to Start and Stay on The Carnivore Diet for your IBD or IBS”
Hi….what if IBS- c is getting worse on carnivore or even keto? I end up relying on magnesium but then feel lethargic for days.
Hi! Thanks for the question.
1. A side-effect of “keto flu” that’ll go away on its own. How long have you been on either diet?
2. A side-effect of “keto flu” that won’t go away, because the diet doesn’t work for everyone. This is one of the tricky and frustrating things, that there’s no silver bullet that works for absolutely everyone.
I have Gastritis/Functional Dyspepsia, and a month ago the acid reflux kicked in, will this help? I have been on it for 3 days now, the heartburn is relentless after 1hour or 2 of eating, i have to take zantac. I just want to feel normal again!
We’ve not looked into it as solution for gastritis per se, but as noted in earlier comments, this doesn’t work for everyone. There are no silver bullets.
Try taking some apple cider vinegar, the organic kind with the mother.
Reasoning: you’re not dealing with too much acid, but *not enough* acid. The design for our digestive system is that when stomach acid increases for digesting food, the lower sphincter of the stomach opens up to let the digested food pass to the small intestine, and this higher level of acid makes the upper sphincter of the stomach *close* so that the extra acid doesn’t get into the esophagus. Without these 2 events, the esophagus is now exposed to the strong stomach acid, and the food is not emptying from the stomach, but sitting in that pouch fermenting, both which bring on the acid reflux, heartburn, and bloating/burping symptoms.
Taking the vinegar will stimulate the sphincters to do their jobs.
How to take: you can do this before you eat or right after or when the heartburn hits.
Drink 2 tsp to 1Tbsp vinegar mixed with 1 to 2 tsp water. I add a drop of liquid sucralose (not the little squirt bottle, but drops from actual liquid-you can get it on amazon). (I use the little dosing cups from liquid medicine) Drink like a shot, quickly. It also helps to hold your nose till after you swallow.
If you have some irritation in the esophagus, this may burn a bit. You can sip a little water to get thru that. (You don’t want to avoid diluting the vinegar.) But it will go away quickly. If this is helping and you’re still hurting, you can take another dose in 15 to 20 min.
Vinegar will not hurt you. Sometimes I’ve had to do it 3 times on a bad night.
Alternatively, you can get ACV in capsules. Again you can take it before eating, right after, or when the pain hits. 3 capsules seem to work good for me. I recommend the liquid first because the organic ACV is so good for you, and you may not know the quality in the capsules.
But your esophagus may be so irritated, the capsules will be easier to take.
It seems counter intuitive, but all this crap about too much acid is just that: crap. We have stomach acid to digest the food. Circumventing that process with acid blockers only causes more problems! Typical mainstream medicine!
I took this antibiotic called Clindamycin 2 years ago and have been having loose stools and diarrhea ever since.
I’ve tried all sorts of treatments and supplements, diet and nothing is fixing it for good.
Just patch work here and there.
These days i rely heavily on Psyllium Husk but again it’s patch work.
I am also absolutely clueless about cooking and meat and I guess I’m getting overwhelmed trying to figure out how to get started.
Do you think this is something I should try?
I’d try something less drastic first – for instance, probiotics/prebiotics, or elimination diets like FODMAP. Check our other articles 🙂
Definitely go worth what Yuri says…probiotics, probiotics, etc. Psyllium Husk usually causes a lot of digestive distress to me, personally. So IMHO, avoid them and try the FODMAP diet. Research it…there are differing opinions on what’s on it 100%.
Definitely go worth what Yury says…probiotics, prebiotics, etc. Psyllium Husk usually causes a lot of digestive distress to me, personally. So IMHO, avoid them and try the FODMAP diet. Research it…there are differing opinions on what’s on it 100%.
Have you considered you might have sibo from the antibiotic?
Please explain why Coconut oil is bad for IBD? I can’t find any studies about that
That’s a really interesting question. We should do some research and write an article 🙂
To confirm, I’m not allowed to use olive oil or any other oil while cooking food?
So what, just butter or ghee?
The safest (and often, tastiest) thing is to use rendered animal fat – e.g., tallow for cooking steaks.
We’re all suffering terribly so because of this is why I wanted to share this comment for all our sakes in here. Im not an expert or doctor so try this at your own risk and ability. this is my experience. Go running!!!! After 1 1/2 hour after eating and taking a chewable multivitamin for extra energy and sipping small quantities of water between meals go outside to a park or trail after 1 1/2 hour passed then go for a 30 sec moderate run. Walk for about 5 minutes and then go for a 15 sec moderate run followed immediately by the hardest and fastest running speed you can do while lifting the knees up as high as you can for about 10 sec. Do this after a 9:00 or 9:30am breakfast meal and 1 1/2 hours after a last meal at around 3:30 or 4:30pm. Then sip only water until 11pm bedtime. Try to drink at least 1 to 1 1/2 water bottles. That equals about 2 or 3 cups of water in the evening unto bedtime. You can drink more if you are safely able but don’t push it. Don’t drink water after 10:00pm and don’t be full stomach of water near 10pm. This whole procedure is giving the stomach and intestines at least 6 hours or more a rest every day and around the clock. I eat cooked oatmeal and cold yogurt and few cold strawberries mixed in one bowl and eat about 1 to 2 cups full. At 3pm to 4pm I eat chicken breast, rice, and broccoli [my own cooking or sometimes panda express] about 1 to 2 cups full of food quantity. I’ve tried to eat raisin brand in the morning with whole milk but Im not sure if that was hurting me or not. I’ll try it again and test that meal more often. you guys can test whatever else meals work for you other than cooked oats for the 1st meal and chicken,rice, broccoli for the 2nd meal. This has helped me. I dont know what disease or disorder I have suddenly but it’s in the stomach or intestines. Feeling of swift fullness, pain, gas, gurgling sounds in gut, cramps, bloatedness, Constipation. I’ve had acid reflux appeared a few times but then also acid reflux vanished when doing this running exercise. This method gave me some relief from the pain and disorder in the bowels which I can feel it’s still there, but it got better and may heal me completely soon if I keep doing this. After all this I’m still going to an appointment for a CT Scan in a few days to see what they find. This might not help everyone but I hope it helps many of you. This gastric stuff is torment and annoying. Gastric CPR is what I called this and I hope it helps.
Here it is again in a list.
1) 9:30am eat cooked oats, then mix with cold yogurt, and cold strawberries.
2) 9:45 take a multivitamin.
3) 10:30 sip on small amounts of water.
4) 11:00 run moderately for 30 sec warmup
5) 11:01 walk to catch breath
6) 11:06 run moderately for 15 sec then run hard as you can lifting the knees as high as you can for 15 sec.
7) rest sitting in upward position with reclining and both knees up above the chest.
8) sip water comfortably until 2:30pm.
9) at 2:30pm stop drinking water and prepare to eat at 3:30pm.
10) eat at 3:30pm and repeat steps 4 – 7.
11) stop drinking water at 10:pm don’t be full of water nearing 10pm so that bedtime is more comfortable to lay down on an emptier stomach.
You might notice you are finally passing gas when running, I guess this is the first good sign your gastric system is being jolted back into a well running engine it was before or should be presently.
My terminal ileum has been removed and I am having diarrhoea straight after every meal. I am loving the diet and feel a lot better on it but the diarrhoea is getting to me. Because of this missing part of my intestine will i ever be diarrhoea free on this diet? Am I missing vital nutrients because of lack of absorption in this area and what supplements should I look into?
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