low vitamin D levels may be a consequence, not a cause, of poor health

Why I don’t take vitamin D supplements /  Getting Stronger

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Posted 11 Nov 2012 in Uncategorized

Vitamin D has been associated with numerous health benefits, including cardiovascular and immune health, bone strength, and prevention of cancer. However, studies claim that most of us are deficient in vitamin D, and thereby unnecessarily vulnerable to increased heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, infection and autoimmune disorders.  According to a review of recent studies in Natural News, there is a woldwide epidemic of vitamin D deficiency:  59% of the population is “vitamin D deficient”.  The article goes onto to speculate that “What’s becoming increasingly clear from all the new research is that vitamin D deficiency may be the common denominator behind our most devastating modern degenerative diseases.”

Supplementation with vitamin D capsules is advocated even by “primal” advocate  Mark Sisson, normally one to take inspiration from our paleolithic ancestors, shunning medication and embracing a lifestyle of eating whole foods and engaging in moderately stressful, playful exercise:
We can’t all bask in the midday sun.. For those of us unable to run shirtless and shoeless through a sun kissed meadow…our option is oral intake… food will help, but it won’t suffice. You need something stronger. ..take a good D3 supplement if you can’t get real sunlight. As long as you don’t go overboard on the dosage, you’re good to go. If it’s not in an oil-based capsule, just take it with a bit of fatty food (not a stretch for an Primal eater). It travels the same pathway and results in the same benefits. It’s always easier to just let nature take its course, but it’s not always realistic. A good general rule is 4000 IU per day.
Therefore, we should supplement with vitamin D.  Right?

Not so fast.  A closer examination shows that low vitamin D levels may be a consequence, not a cause, of poor health.  And that supplementation with Vitamin D may actually be counterproductive.  Let me explain.

Homeostatic regulation.  First, I’d like to return briefly to a previous post I wrote.  In The case against antioxidants, I presented evidence that supplementation with antioxidants is not only unhelpful, but may actually be counterproductive.  In my article, I surveyed several meta-analyses of  the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E — demonstrating a lack of benefit from supplementation, and in some cases positive harm.  At first, this result surprised me. How can one explain it?  After all, we know that vitamin-rich fruits, vegetables and herbs are good for us.  Extracts from these anti-oxidant-rich foods have been shown to neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the lab.  Hence, it must be the case that fruits, vegetables and herbs are good for us because of their antioxidant content – right?
Wrong. As we all know, correlation does not always imply causation.  And it turns out that fruits, vegetables and nuts may improve our resistance to oxidative damage for reasons other than their antioxidant content.

A more likely reason is that these foods are rich in polyphenolic phytochemicals–such as bioflavanoids– that stimulate the cells in our bodies to turn on a transcription factor called Nrf2, which activates our “xenobiotic” defense system.  This xenobiotic defense system or Antioxdiant Response Element turns on the production of a number of  endogenous anti-oxidant enzymes–such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase–that inactivate ROS species catalytically.  That means that unlike the antioxidant chemicals in foods–which quickly get used up one-for-one when neutralizating oxidant molecules–the anti-oxidant enzymes turn over thousands of times, and are thus far more potent and sustainable defenses.  In addition, these enzymes are produced in cells throughout the body, localized where they are needed most.

In short, empowering our in-born antioxidant defense system is much more effective than supplementing with chemical antioxidants.

But what is even more startling is that supplementing with endogenous antioxidants can actually suppress your body’s endogenous ARE defense system.  Startling, but not too surprising once you realize that the ARE system is homeostatically regulated. That means that your metabolism compensates for external changes by making the appropriate internal changes in order to restore a rough balance.   Just as body temperature, blood glucose, and countless other internal variables are regulated, our defenses against oxidative stress are regulated.

Homeostatic regulation, ubiquitous in biology, evolved to help us adjust to changing circumstances, and to conserve resources. If antioxidants are supplied from the outside, there is less need to spend energy and internal resources making our own anti-oxidant enzymes, so the organism turns town their production.  In my earlier article, I surveyed studies showing that this is just what happens, concluding:
So it appears that, by consuming more antioxidants, we become dependent upon them and perversely reduce our innate ability to detoxify. With any let-up in the constant supply of external defenses, we become more vulnerable to oxidative and inflammatory attack. And the externally supplied antioxidants themselves are in any case much less effective than the endogenous ones.
I ended by recommending that we select foods and herbs not for their anti-oxidant content, but rather for their hormetic ability to stimulate our native ability to produce’s its own detoxifying antioxidant enzymes.  At the top of that list are brightly colored and bitter foods and herbs, such as broccoli, blueberries, red peppers, curcumin, green tea and even chocolate.

The moral of the story:  When possible, build your own capacity rather than relying on external supplies.

Now on to vitamin D.  Not everyone realizes that this “vitamin” is actually a hormone — a secosteroid in the same family as other steroid hormones like testosterone and cortisol.  As a hormone, the primary function of vitamin D is to regulate levels of calcium and phosphorus in the bloodstream, thereby promoting healthy bone formation.  But vitamin D also regulates a number of other important processes in the body, such as activation of both the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.

The diet can supply vitamin D as either D2 (ergocalciferol, from plants) or D3 (cholescalciferol, from animals), but it is most effectively synthesized in the skin by the action of UV-B rays in sunlight acting on 7-dehydroxycholesterol.  (Yes, it all starts with cholesterol!).  But neither D2 nor D3 — the molecules present in supplements or food — are biologically active forms of the vitamin.  The diagram at right shows how vitamin D must first be converted by hydroxylation to calcidiol (usually designated as 25 (OH) D, or just “25-D”) in the liver and then further hydroxyulated to calcitriol (1,25 (OH)2 D or just “1,25-D”) in the kidney.  It is the 1,25-D form that is biologically active, binding to the vitamin D receptor (VDR) and activating a cascade of important biological functions, such as calcium absorption in the intestines.  So a well-functioning liver and kidney are required in order for vitamin D to be effective.

Vitamin D studies. Nobody doubts the important role of vitamin D in the body.  But are higher levels of a hormone like vitamin D–whether or not provided as a supplement– always a good thing?  Well, that is far from clear.  In a review of vitamin D studies in The End of Illness, David Agus, professor of medicine at University of Southern California, cites both positive and negative consequences of increased vitamin D levels.  On the positive side, a 2009 study presented by the Intermountain Medical Center in Utah, following 27,686 men older than 50 years over the course of a decade, found that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D had:
  • 90% higher incidence of heart failure
  • 81% higher incidence of heart attack
  • 51% higher incidence of stroke
Pretty impressive association!  And yet Agus also cites two negative studies worthy of comment:
  • A 2010 double-blind, placebo-controlled study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that older women who received annual oral high-dose vitamin D had an increased risk for falls and fractures.
  • A 2008 study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that vitamin D does not reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and furthermore that higher circulating levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D may be associated with an increased risk of more aggressive forms of prostate cancer.
Correlation vs. causation.  Agus points out that most of the vitamin D studies are “observational studies” that show associations. They uncover a correlation bertween vitamin D levels and some other condition. But they don’t show cause and effect. The few mechanistic studies of vitamin D action were mostly carried out in cell culture, for example adding vitamin D to breast cancer cell cultures suppressed their growth.  But in real humans, vitamin D is part of a homeostatic regulation system.  Vitamin D doesn’t just do one thing, like promote bone growth.  It is involved in as the regulation of as many as 2000 genes, turning up the expression of some, turning down the expression of others.
So how do we interpret these associations? As Agus points out, in regard to the Utah study:
An association, however, does not prove cause and effect. Another way of looking at this study is to say it’s quite possible that a heart condition lowers vitamin D levels, directly or indirectly— by keeping people with health challenges indoors and out of the sun. Also, obesity throws another wrench into the problem because excess fat absorbs and holds on to vitamin D so that it cannot be properly used in the body. Hence, is low vitamin D in this study just a marker for those who were obese? It’s the old chicken-and-egg conundrum. The same can be said for hundreds of other such studies that link the health (or lack thereof) of an individual to levels of vitamin D.
This is the key point:  Low vitamin D levels may be a biomarker for other problems.  It may be the consequence, rather than the cause, of certain conditions such as heart disease or obesity. For the same reason, high vitamin D levels may be a biomarker for good health.  Agus quotes Dr. JoAn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital:
People may have high vitamin D levels because they exercise a lot and are getting ultraviolet-light exposure from exercising outdoors. Or they may have high vitamin D because they are health conscious and take supplements. But they also have a healthy diet, don’t smoke, and do a lot of the other things that keep you healthy.
If vitamin D level in the blood is merely a biomarker, a consequence of good or bad health, then adding vitamin D to the diet will not necessarily improve your health.  To really know whether vitamin D supplementation is beneficial, we need to look at interventional studies, where supplements are provided, and the outcomes are compared with those of control subjects who don’t get the supplement.  In fact the two above-cited studies on the effects of supplementation on bone fractures in older women, and prostrate cancer in older men are two such interventional studies.  And they showed that vitamin D supplementation was harmful in both cases.  And note that the positive Utah study I cited above–showing a correlation between low vitamin D levels and elevated incidence of cardiovascular disease and stroke–was an observational study, not an interventional one.

The men in that study with the higher vitamin D blood levels and lower incidence of heart disease were not given supplements.

Vitamin D levels are homeostatically regulated in our bodies, and this process varies with your genetics and health.  As one examlple of this, people with lighter skin color and less melanin in the skin evolved to make higher vitamin D levels even with reduced sun exposure; the converse is true of those with darker skin. (This may explain why African Americans are at much higher risk for vitamin D “deficiency”, particularly if they live in higher latitudes and work indoors).  People vary widely in the level at which they regulate vitamin D levels in their blood — it tends to be homeostatically controlled in a given individual, but the “normal” level may vary between 8 and 80 ng/ml, or even more widely than that.  Vitamin D levels are are genetically controlled by 3 or 4 genes, and are under control of the vitamin D receptor.  (This homeostatic regulation of vitamin D levels will sound familiar to those who read my previous post, “Change your receptors, change your set point“).  As Agus notes,
When your cells are deluged with vitamin D…they will pull back on their sensitivity to vitamin D by reducing their number of receptors for vitamin D. But if there’s a perceived shortfall of vitamin D in the bloodstream, your cells will up-regulate— create more receptors for vitamin D— to become more sensitive to every vitamin D molecule that passes by. What happens, then, when we consume lots of vitamin D from unnatural sources such as supplements? (I use the term unnatural to imply that it’s not coming from the sun, which is a source of vitamin D that has built-in regulatory mechanisms.) No doubt our bodies are adept at adjusting using their feedback loops as I just described, and the constant surplus of vitamin D means our cells are constantly down-regulating. If we took the supplemental vitamin D away, our cells would up-regulate to make up the difference. Vitamin D has multiple downstream signaling molecules, for the vitamin D receptor signals several reactions.
So if you take vitamin D supplements, and vitamin D is regulated homeostatically, your body will turn down its endogenous production of vitamin D.  If you believe that vitamin D is a “biomarker” of good health, do you really want to turn down the upstream processes that synthesize vitamin D?  Think about that before you pop a vitamin D capsule.

Unintended consequences.  Even worse, taking vitamin D supplements may actually suppress the immune system.  This “alternative hypothesis” of vitamin D has been put forward by Trevor Marshall and Paul Albert.  Supplementation with vitamin D will tend to increase levels of the inactive form of vitamin D–that is,  25-D.  Conversion of inactive 25-D to active 1,25-D in the kidneys is not immediate, and may not be efficient, particular if kidney function is less than optimal.  Now here is the problem:  While both the inactive 25-D and active 1,25 bind to the  vitamin D receptor (VDR), only the 1,25-D turns on the VDR, allowing it to perform its beneficial functions; the inactive 25-D actually inhibits the VDR.  This is a problem because the VDR is the “gate-keeper” of the innate immune system, regulating over a thousand genes. So elevated levels of 25-D can result in immunosuppressive effects.  As Albert writes in Vitamin D: The alternative hypothesis:
Indeed, the secosteroid 25-D may exert palliation on the innate immune system not unlike the way corticosteroids exert palliation on the adaptive immune system. So is it possible then that supplemental vitamin D is now perceived as a wonder substance simply because it effectively palliates the inflammation associated with diseases across the board? If so, this would certainly explain why its effects are most noticeable in the short-term and why efficacy often diminishes in the long-term.
And we need to also take into account the regulation of vitamin D levels through homeostatic feedback processes.  Consider that it is typically the 25-D form of vitamin D–not the biologically active 1,25-D– that is measured in blood tests.  And there is very little correlation between the active and inactive forms, as shown in the the figure below, from a 2009 study by Blaney et al., published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in a sample of 100 Canadian patients. As the authors note, while  many of the subjects had very low levels of 25-D–the type reported in most blood tests–most of them had levels of 1,25-D elevated above the normal range. Can those subjects with low levels of 25-D but elevated levels of the biologically active 1,25-D truly be considered vitamin D deficient?
Because low levels of 25-D are often associated with inflammatory conditions such as cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disease, people jump to the conclusion that low 25-D levels are a cause of the inflammatory condition.  On this point, listen again to Albert:
Yet, the alternative hypothesis must be considered – that the low levels of 25-D observed in patients with chronic disease could just as easily be a result rather than a cause of the inflammatory disease process. Our research suggests that this is the case. Indeed we have found that 1,25-D tends to rise in patients with  chronic disease and that these high levels of 1,25-D are able to downregulate through the PXR nuclear receptor the amount of pre-vitamin D converted into 25-D, leading to lower levels of 25-D.  I describe this finding further in my paper.  So are we really facing an epidemic of vitamin D “deficiencey” or are we simply beginning to note more signs of an imminent epidemic of chronic disease – an epidenmic which would be exacerbated by increasing the amount of vitamin D added to our food supply?
So the body is making enough active vitamin D to deal with inflammation–maybe even too much, leading to downregulation of the inactive 25-D precursor.  Trevor Marshall has also pointed out that elevated levels of 1,25-D may result from impaired activity of the  VDR, which is essential for innate immunity.  The excess 1,25-D can cause problems with other secosteroid receptors in the body, such as the thyroid receptor.  But adding more 25-D, beyond what is needed, will tend to only further inhibit the VDR, interfering with its beneficial anti-inflammatory actions, and impairing innate immunity.  In other words, well-intended supplementation with Vitamin D3 may actual backfire. Something to think about!

Marshall is currently conducting studies with a protocol involving restriction of vitamin D and use of an agonist drug that binds to the VDR receptor, upregulating it, and acting as an immuno-stimulant to treat immune disorders like arthritis and multiple sclerosis.  Marshall’s protocol is controversial, because it flies in the face of the orthodoxy about Vitamin D.  He acknowledges that vitamin D supplementation can indeed deliver some short term benefits because it acts as an immuno-suppressant–in much the same was as corticosteroids like prednisone. But just as prednisone is useful for acute treatments, yet is harmful if taken chronically, the immune-suppresant effects of vitamin D on the VDR may be detrimental.

One need not go to the extent of restricting or avoiding vitamin D to exercise some caution about actively supplementing it.  If supplementation has risks, is there anything you can do to ensure adequate levels of the active form of vitamin D?  Certainly, it is important to have at least an adequate level of D3 entering the liver, by eating foods rich in vitamin D,  and through biosynthesis from adequate exposure to sunlight.  But you also want to make sure that the conversion processes to 25-D in the liver and 1,25-D in the kidneys are functioning well.  Which means eating a low-inflammatory diet — that is, one that is low in sugars, processed omega-6 vegetable oils and other pro-inflammatory compounds.

Here is the takeaway from this vitamin D story, together with my earlier post about antioxidants: Inflammatory conditions, such as heart disease, infection or autoimmune disease are often associated with reduced levels of certain biomarkers in the blood,  such as antioxidant vitamins or hormones.  Our natural instinct is to conclude that these are “deficiencies” that need to be corrected.   While that may sometimes be the case, particularly in extreme cases, you should keep in mind the direct supplementation with additional vitamin or hormone may actually be counterproductive–by shutting down or impairing your body’s own ability to mount it’s own defense against oxidative stress and inflammation.

Rather than taking hormone and vitamin supplements, it is more effective to stimulate your body to strengthen its own defense and detoxification systems.  I’m not against all supplementation — for example, I believe that ingestion of phytochemical-rich vegetables and herbs is useful as a hormetic stimulus.  But I think we have to overcome the simplistic notion that if X is a good thing, we should consume more of X.

The body is more than a repository for chemicals — it is a self-regulating organism with hundreds of complex and dynamic feedback loops, evolved to enable us to adapt to changing circumstances and meet many challenges.  We should take care that what we ingest is used to build up our natural capacities, not subvert them.


Is Alcohol Good or Bad For Health? | Mark's Daily Apple

Alcohol: The Good and the Bad


What do we make of alcohol? In sufficient amounts, it’s a poison. It’s incredibly addictive. It destroys entire communities. It tears families apart and compels otherwise reasonable, upstanding individuals to commit terribly senseless acts. On the other hand, it’s a powerful social lubricant. The good stuff tastes great and can enhance the healthfulness of certain foods while inhibiting the unhealthfulness of others. It’s fun, it’s pleasurable, and it brings real (if chemically enhanced) joy to people. Moreover, we have a long and storied history with alcohol; it’s been an integral part of human culture and society for thousands, if not tens of thousands, of years.

So, what’s the deal? Is it good, or is it bad? Is it poison, or is it a gift? Let’s take a look at both sides of the story, which, as is often the case, isn’t exactly black and white:
First, the downsides.

It’s toxic.

Our ability to break alcohol down into less toxic metabolites didn’t arise because of our tendency to seek out fermented fruits. Over the course of an average day, the average human digestive system produces about three grams of ethanol just from the gut flora fermenting the gut’s contents. If we didn’t have the ability to metabolize and detoxify ethanol, those three grams would add up real quick and represent a huge toxin load on our bodies. After alcohol is consumed, a number of enzymatic reactions ensue. In the liver, an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase converts the ethanol to acetaldehyde, an incredibly toxic compound that’s been implicated in causing many hangover symptoms. An enzyme called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase converts the acetaldehyde into acetic acid, or vinegar (which is harmless unless you’re a cucumber). From there, you’re good to go. Sounds simple enough, right? Just let the enzymes do their thing. As long as you make those enzymes, the alcohol will be safely and effectively metabolized into table vinegar which can then be extracted to form a delicious salad dressing (that last part isn’t true).

Unfortunately, not everyone produces the same amount and quality of detoxifying enzymes. Many people of East Asian descent possess a dominant mutation in the gene that codes for aldehyde dehydrogenase, making it less effective. While they’re less likely to be alcoholics, folks with the mutation (characterized by a “flushing” upon ingestion) are at an elevated risk of liver damage and esophageal cancer.

It can give you fatty liver (and worse).

Around these parts, we usually talk about non-alcoholic fatty liver, a disease associated with sugar and fat intake coupled with inadequate choline to support the liver’s function. But notice that we have to qualify it with “non-alcoholic.” That’s because the most-studied type of fatty liver is alcoholic fatty liver. The mechanisms behind alcoholic fatty liver are myriad and multifaceted, but it ultimately comes down to the fact that you’re bathing your liver in a known toxin. Liver alcohol metabolism increases the NADH/NAD+ ratio, thereby promoting the creation of liver fat cells and a reduction in fatty acid oxidation; the result is added fat in the liver and impaired fat burning. Acetaldehyde, especially if it lingers for too long, also induces inflammation in the liver, which can ultimately progress to full cirrhosis and liver failure.

It can be carcinogenic.

Excessive alcohol intake is an established epidemiological risk factor for several cancers, including stomach, liver, and colon cancer (to name just a few; more than a dozen cancers are linked to alcohol abuse). In the stomach and liver, alcohol dehydrogenase converts ethanol into acetaldehyde, which is inflammatory and toxic. Alcohol that makes it through the stomach into the small intestine is also oxidized into acetaldehyde, this time by gut flora. While the liver produces the necessary enzymes to break down acetaldehyde into acetic acid, our gut microbes aren’t so well equipped and the acetaldehyde is allowed to linger longer.

It’s addictive.

While I’d argue that being addicted to anything will have a negative effect on your life, if not your physical health, being addicted to alcohol is particularly harmful because of how toxic it is – especially the more you drink. To get an idea of just how addictive it is, check out the results of this study: alcohol is less addictive than nicotine, crystal meth, and crack, but more addictive than heroin, intranasal amphetamine, cocaine, and caffeine. One’s susceptibility to alcohol addiction is often hereditary, too, meaning some people will be far more likely to become addicted than others.

It disrupts sleep.

A nightcap is a misnomer. Sure, it’ll help you fall asleep, but your sleep won’t be any better. In fact, as plenty of people reminded me in the comment section of last week’s post on sleep, alcohol is a serious disrupter of sleep quality. It increases the incidence of sleep disruptions, and it perturbs the healthy sleep cycles.

It affects judgment and perception.

Even though alcohol destroys a person’s ability to safely maneuver a motor vehicle, one in three car accidents that result in death involve drunk drivers. Everyone knows that you shouldn’t drive drunk, but why does it keep happening? A recent study even showed that just a single drink caused subjects to find “intentionality” in other people’s actions (PDF). Subjects who got the alcohol were less likely to view simple actions as accidental, rather than intentional. Thus, when you’re under the influence of alcohol, you’re more likely to take personal offense at the guy bumping into your shoulder, the lady stepping on your shoe, or the person “staring” at you from across the bar. Because, after all, they “meant” to do it, right? The title of the study sums it up quite nicely: “‘There’s No Such Thing as an Accident,’ Especially When People are Drunk.”

It promotes bad eating.

Everyone who’s ever gotten at least a buzz from a glass or two of wine or a mixed drink has felt the often irresistible urge to snack, to order something salty, crunchy, and sweet from the menu, to beg the driver to swing by the greasiest nastiest fast food drive-thru. This is a well-documented phenomenon. Alcohol affects both active overeating and passive overeating. Active overeating describes the conscious decision to “get some grub.” Passive overeating describes the amount you eat once the food is in front of you. Both are enhanced by alcohol. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if you’re drinking at a Primal meet-up, where you’re surrounded by relatively healthy food, but that’s not where most drinking occurs.

It gives hangovers.

What’s worse than a bad hangover? I’m unaware of anything, at least on a physical scale. Sure, you can mitigate the damage, but the fact that a hangover even exists tells us that whatever we’re ingesting that gave us the hangover is bad for us (in the amount we ingested, at least).
But what about the positives?

It improves endothelial function (with a catch).

Impaired release of nitric oxide from the endothelial cells is strongly associated with cardiovascular disease. Ethanol actually increases the production of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels, regulates blood pressure, induces vascular smooth muscle relaxation, and basically improves endothelial function. If you want good cardiovascular health, you want good endothelial function. However, it’s important to note that large doses of ethanol seem to decrease endothelial function, so caution is obviously warranted.

It can reduce stress.

A lot of people use a glass of wine or beer to “wind down” after a hard day. This sounds bad on the surface – “you’re relying on alcohol to stay sane!” – but really, if you have to choose between stewing in your stress hormones all day and night and having a drink or two to settle yourself down, I think the drink can be a better option for some people – particularly if the stress is going to impair your sleep and affect your relationships. You’ll want to identify and deal with the original source of the stress, of course, but some people may find a net benefit from having that drink.

It promotes socializing.

Humans are social animals, and we are happiest and healthiest when we have friends, loved ones, and spend quality time with them. Social isolation is a consistent and strong risk factor for increased mortality and morbidity (meaning it’s linked with earlier death and worse health in the days up until that death). You shouldn’t base your socialization entirely on drinking alcohol, but it can certainly be a powerful enhancer of your social life, and if you’re having a couple of glasses of wine as you host dinner parties, hang out with friends, enjoy a candlelit dinner with your significant other, or throw a BBQ with your social circle, it will likely have a net positive effect on your health. Of course, this isn’t to say that alcohol is any way needed to have a good time in a social setting.

It can reduce post-prandial blood sugar and lipid peroxidation (when taken with a meal).

Just like it says above, drinking alcohol (like wine, for example) with food can reduce postprandial blood glucose and the susceptibility of blood lipids to peroxidation (PDF).

It can lower iron absorption if you’ve got iron overload.

Although the conventional push is to increase the intake of iron from foods (especially via fortified grains), some people don’t actually need the added iron. If you have hemochromatosis, a genetic condition that probably arose in Europeans as a survival response to the bubonic plague, you are a hyper-absorber of dietary iron. Luckily, ethanol seems to inhibit the absorption of heme iron, the kind you find in red meat. Red wine is also effective at reducing non-heme iron absorption, an effect most likely due to the polyphenols present. That said, the entirely non-alcoholic black tea also inhibits iron absorption and has even been shown to reduce the frequency of blood-draws required in patients with iron overload. Coffee works, too.

If you’re going to drink:

Have it with food.

When you eat a meal, and your stomach is “full,” the pyloric sphincter – which controls the passage of food and drink from the stomach into the small intestine – closes up until your stomach can break down its contents. Any alcohol added to a full stomach will also spend more time being broken down by the relevant enzymes. If you drink on an empty stomach, the pyloric sphincter is wide open, and a greater proportion of alcohol will make it to the small intestine for immediate absorption. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, drinking alcohol with food can reduce postprandial blood glucose and the susceptibility of blood lipids to peroxidation (PDF). Keeping your drinking around meals will let you take advantage of these benefits.

Focus on alcoholic drinks with greater fluid content.

Shots of plastic bottle vodka (or even the best vodka) are concentrated sources of ethanol, and as long as we’ve been nibbling on fermented fruits and brewing up Paleolithic moonshine from mushrooms and honey, consuming concentrated, distilled ethanol in the form of rum, gin, whiskey, vodka, and other hard liquors is a relatively recent practice. Some accounts suggest that the Chinese were distilling rice liquor in 800 BC, while others say it wasn’t until the 12th century AD that distillation became commonplace across the “known” world. At any rate, one could certainly argue that alcohol with a low fluid content is an evolutionarily novel food item. Less fluid means less “stuff” in your stomach, which means a more open and allowing pyloric sphincter, which means faster absorption through the small intestine. More fluid means more “stuff” in your stomach and a more restrictive pyloric sphincter and slower absorption. You could even make like the ancient Greeks and water down your wine, which some people seem to think actually improves the wine.

Choose your drinking companions wisely.

Even among voles, peer pressure-induced binge drinking is a reality. If that super cool vole with the sweet facial hair is double fisting acorn shells filled with dandelion wine, you’ll be subconsciously drawn to do the same. If your group of friends gets absolutely obliterated every time you go out with them, you’re more likely to join in on the “fun.”

Drink moderate amounts.

All the research suggesting health benefits to drinking revolves around “moderate drinking,” which is one, two, or three drinks a day. They’re not talking about pounding shots, or drinking Long Island iced teas, or doing Jello shots (although the gelatin might help matters). They’re talking about a glass or two of something.

Have everything else in line.

If you want to drink and remain healthy, you should strive to eat healthy, exercise well, reduce stress, walk a lot, experience nature, hang out with friends and loved ones, get sun when available, avoid nighttime light exposure as much as possible, and every other lifestyle prescription I recommend. In short, alcohol can augment (or at least fail to impact either way) an already healthy lifestyle, but it probably won’t make a bad situation better.

Full disclosure: I drink. My drink of choice is red wine, and I might do a glass or two most nights, but I never get drunk. Heck, I don’t even really get “buzzed.” I’d never recommend that people take up drinking or continue drinking, but I also don’t see it as a great evil in and of itself. The dose and frequency make the poison; it’s just that depending on a number of factors, the dose that makes alcohol a poison might be lower or higher for you than for me. If your sleep is affected or you are the least bit “off” the next day, you probably surpassed your ability to effectively process it and you should factor that in to your choice and approach to drinking again. And remember, alcoholism is a serious issue for some people and I am in no way suggesting there is any “workaround” or excuse herein for someone with those issues, or that drinking, even in moderation, is necessary or optimal for healthy living.

Okay, that’s about it for me. Let’s open it up to you guys, now. I want to hear your thoughts on alcohol, especially whether it’s had a positive, negative, or neutral effect on your life and the life of those you care about. I want to hear how you’ve integrated alcohol into your otherwise healthy lifestyle (or not). Thanks for reading!

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Eating fish safe - A lot safer than not eating fish!

Is eating fish safe? A lot safer than not eating fish!

This is going to be a long article and I know not everyone will have time to read it. So I’m going to summarize the key points right up front because I think this information is so important:


  • Selenium protects against mercury toxicity, and 16 of the 25 highest dietary sources of selenium are ocean fish
  • If a fish contains higher levels of selenium than mercury, it is safe to eat
  • Most species of commonly eaten fish in the U.S. have more selenium than mercury
  • Fish are not significant sources of PCBs and dioxins when compared to meat, dairy or vegetables
  • The benefits of eating fish regularly far outweigh the potential risks, which are neglible
  • Pregnant mothers and young children should eat 2-3 servings of oily ocean fish each week
These days a lot of people are scared to eat fish. They’ve been told that fish are full of contaminants like mercury, PCBs and dioxins that cause neurological problems and may increase the risk of cancer. Pregnant women have been especially warned due to the supposed risk of these toxins to the developing fetus.

In the last few articles I’ve established the importance of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA in human health. I’ve argued that the conversion of plant-based omega-3 fats like ALA into the longer chain EPA and DHA is extremely poor in most people.

The conclusion is obvious: fish should be a part of our diet. But is it safe to eat fish?

You might be surprised to learn that the answer is a resounding yes. In this article I’ll demonstrate that concerns about toxins in fish have been overblown, and that there is almost no risk associated with eating fish when a few simple precautions are taken.

The selenium story

Although people are increasingly concerned about the effects of mercury levels in fish, recent evidence suggests that the trace amounts of mercury in the fish Americans eat aren’t high enough to pose a health risk.

But measuring only mercury significantly exaggerates this risk, because it ignores the important role of selenium.

Selenium is plentiful in many ocean fish species, but the public is unaware of its protective role against mercury. Selenium has high binding affinity for mercury. This means that when the two elements are found together, they connect, forming a new substance.

This new substance makes it hard for the body to absorb the mercury separately. Simply put, when selenium binds to mercury, mercury is not longer free to bind to anything else – like brain tissue.
Studies have shown that relevant amounts of selenium (Se) can prevent oxidative brain damage and other adverse effects associated with mercury toxicity. (PDF)

University of North Dakota researcher Nicholas Ralston has published several papers on the protective effects of selenium. He describes the relationship between selenium and mercury as follows:
Think of dietary selenium as if it were your income and dietary mercury as if it were a bill that you need to pay. Just as we all need a certain amount of money to cover living expenses such as food and rent, we all need a certain amount of selenium.
And guess what foods are highest in selenium? You’re right! 16 of the 25 best sources of dietary selenium are ocean fish.
He goes on:
Only one major study has shown negative effects from exposure to mercury from seafood, and that seafood was pilot whale meat. Pilot whale meat is unusual in that it contains more mercury than selenium. When you eat pilot whale meat it’s like getting a bill for $400 and a check for less than $100. If that happens too much, you go bankrupt. On the other hand, if you eat ocean fish, it’s like getting a check in the mail for $500 and getting a bill for $25. The more that happens, the happier you are.
What Ralston is telling us is that as long as the fish we’re eating has more selenium than mercury, there’s nothing to worry about.

Fortunately, studies by several independent organizations have consistently shown that most of the fish we eat contain significantly more selenium than mercury. Fish that contain more mercury than selenium include pilot whale, tarpon, marlin, swordfish and some shark.

The following chart illustrates the relative levels of selenium and mercury in commonly eaten ocean fish:

The selenium health benefit value (SeHBV)

Researchers have proposed a new measure of seafood safety called the Selenium Health Benefit Value (SeHBV) that takes the protective role of selenium into account.

Fish with a positive (above zero) SeHBV ratio would be safe to eat, whereas fish with a negative ratio would be unsafe. Using these criteria, most varieties of ocean fish have positive SeHBV ratios and are thus safe to eat.

A study conducted by the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also found that an estimated 97% of the freshwater fish from lakes and rivers in the western U.S. are safe to eat. It is the only study I’m aware of that has measured both mercury and selenium levels in the tissues of freshwater fish. 1

So how much fish is safe to eat?

The joint recommendation for fish consumption of the EPA and FDA as of 2004 is as follows:
  • Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of commonly eaten fish and shellfish found consistently low in mercury, including shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish
  • Limit albacore tuna to 6 oz. per week
  • Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury
Notice that these recommendations are already quite liberal compared to the fish-phobes who suggest we avoid fish entirely.

But even these recommendations are too strict, because they don’t take the protective effects of selenium into account. As long as the fish is higher in selenium than it is in mercury, there’s no reason to limit consumption to 12 ounces per week.

What about dioxins and PCBs?

PCBs are synthetic organochlorine compounds previously used in industrial and commercial processes. Dioxins are organochlorine by-products of waste incineration, paper bleaching, pesticide production, and production of certain plastics. Yummy!

While it makes perfect sense to try to avoid these toxins to the greatest extent possible, abstaining from fish isn’t a particularly good strategy.

The highest dietary sources of PCBs and dioxins are not fish, but beef, chicken and pork (34%), dairy products (30%) and vegetables (22%). Fish constitute only 9% of our dietary intake of these chemicals.
The primary concern with PCBs and dioxins is cancer. Animal studies and some evidence in humans suggest that both are carcinogenic.

However, an analysis has shown that, per 100,000 individuals, consumption of farmed vs. wild salmon would result in 24 vs. 8 excess cancer deaths, respectively, while consumption of either farmed or wild salmon would result in 7,125 fewer coronary heart disease (CHD) deaths.

Another analysis of the same data suggested that, for all ages evaluated (25-35 to 85 years), CHD benefits outweighed cancer risks by 100- to 370-fold for farmed salmon and by 300- to more than 1000-fold for wild salmon.

It’s important to note that the benefits of fish consumption are based on prospective studies and randomized trials in humans, whereas estimated cancer risks include a 10-fold safety factor and are based on experimental data in animals and limited studies in humans at extremely high doses.
Cancer estimates also assumed lifetime salmon consumption of 1,000 mg/d of EPA & DHA (four 6-oz servings of wild salmon every week for 70 years). Of course virtually nobody in the U.S. currently eats this much salmon.

On the other hand, CHD mortality reduction may be achieved with lower intake (i.e. 250 mg/d – one 6-oz. wild salmon serving per week). At this intake, CHD benefits would be the same (7,125 fewer deaths) while lifetime cancer risk would decrease by 75% (6 and 2 estimated deaths per 100,000 for farmed and wild salmon respectively). The CHD benefits would outweigh cancer risks by more than 3500-fold in the case of wild salmon.

Once again, with few exceptions (the species of fish with more mercury than selenium), it’s not only safe but incredibly beneficial to eat fish regularly.
How beneficial? Let’s find out.

Fish consumption, cardiovascular disease and total mortality

In 2006 Mozaffarian & Rimm published a paper in JAMA called “Fish Intake, Contaminants and Human Health: Evaluating the Risks and Benefits“. They analyzed several studies that examined the impact of fish consumption on both coronary and total mortality. They found that modest fish consumption (e.g. 1-2 servings/wk) – especially of oily fish higher in EPA and DHA – reduced the risk of coronary death by 36% and total mortality by 17%, and may favorably affect other clinical outcomes.

The authors summarized their findings this way:
For major health outcomes among adults, based on the strength of the evidence and the potential magnitudes of effect, the benefits of fish exceed the potential risks.
For women of childbearing age, benefits of modest fish intake, excepting a few selected species, also outweigh risks.
They also pointed out that the Japanese eat 900 mg/d of EPA & DHA on average, and have death rates from coronary heart disease 87% lower than those in Western populations (like the U.S.).

If you’re interested in learning more about this study, I recommend listening to the JAMA Audio in the Room interview with its lead author, Mozaffarian.

Fish consumption, pregnant mothers, and children

DHA is essential for proper development of the brain. It is preferentially incorporated into the rapidly developing brain during gestation and the first two years of infancy, concentrating in the gray matter and retinal membranes.

In a meta-analysis of 14 trials, DHA supplementation improved visual acuity in a dose dependent manner. In another trial of 341 pregnant women, treatment with cod liver oil from week 18 until 3 months postpartum raised mental processing scores at age 4 years.

This is consistent with observational studies showing positive associations between maternal DHA levels or fish intake during pregnancy and behavioral attention scores, visual recognition, memory, and language comprehension in infancy.

An FDA report issued in 2008 noted that the nutrients in fish – especially n-3 LCFAs, selenium, and vitamin D – could boost a child’s IQ by an estimated ten points. 2

The FDA report summarizes evidence suggesting that the greatest benefits to children would result if pregnant women of childbearing age, nursing mothers and young children ate more than the 12 ounces of fish per week currently recommended by the EPA.

According to the National Fisheries Institute, Americans currently consume only five ounces a week of fish high in n-3 LCFA, which is less than half the recommended amount. The NFI also estimates that up to 14 percent of women of childbearing age eat no fish at all, despite the fact that n-3 LCFA are essential to proper fetal brain and eye development.

Based on the new understanding of selenium’s protective role, and the importance of DHA for fetal and early childhood development, pregnant mothers should be advised to eat oily ocean fish regularly.

Fish consumption and autoimmune and inflammatory disease

The first evidence of the significant role of dietary intake of n-3 LCFA in reducing inflammation came from epidemiological observations of the low incidence of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders in a population of Greenland Eskimos compared with gender- and age-matched groups living in Denmark. The Eskimos in this study had dramatically lower rates of psoriasis, asthma and type 1 diabetes, as well as a complete absence of multiple sclerosis.

Animal and human studies suggest that n-3 LCFA suppresses cell mediated immune responses. Increasing the amount of n-3 LCFA while decreasing omega-6 fatty acids leads to improvements and a decrease of steroid use in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

This is because omega-3s have been shown to suppress the capacity of monocytes to synthesize interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). IL-1 and TNF are the principal mediators of mediation in several different inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.


This is simply a re-cap of the overview presented at the beginning of the article. But it’s worth repeating.
  • Selenium protects against mercury toxicity, and 16 of the 25 highest dietary sources of selenium are ocean fish
  • If a fish contains higher levels of selenium than mercury, it is safe to eat
  • Most species of commonly eaten fish in the U.S. have more selenium than mercury
  • Fish are not significant sources of PCBs and dioxins when compared to meat, dairy or vegetables
  • The benefits of eating fish regularly far outweigh the potential risks, which are neglible
  • Pregnant mothers and young children should eat 2-3 servings of oily ocean fish each week
  1. Energy & Environmental Research Center, University of North Dakota (EERC). EERC Research Finds Mercury Levels in Freshwater and Ocean Fish Not as Harmful as Previously Thought. June 22, 2009. Accessed at http://www.undeerc.org/news/newsitem.aspx?id=343
  2. Energy & Environmental Research Center, University of North Dakota (EERC). EERC Research Finds Mercury Levels in Freshwater and Ocean Fish Not as Harmful as Previously Thought. June 22, 2009. Accessed at http://www.undeerc.org/news/newsitem.aspx?id=343


The gut-skin connection: how altered gut function affects the skin

The gut-skin connection: how altered gut function affects the skin

I’m preparing for my talk at the upcoming Wise Traditions Conference in Santa Clara, CA on November 10th. I’ll speaking on the “gut-brain-skin axis”, a fascinating topic that I’ve been exploring for some time. I hope some of you will be able to come to the conference, but I thought I’d share a little slice of my research here for those of you who can’t. (If you don’t make the conference and want to watch my entire presentation, I believe the Weston A. Price Foundation sells DVDs of the talks after the fact.)

I’ve discussed the gut-brain axis several times on my radio show, and I’ve at least mentioned the triangular connection between the gut, brain and skin. In this post I’d like to go a little deeper on the gut-skin connection. Researchers as far back as 1930 suspected a link between gut and skin health, and modern research has now confirmed the importance of this relationship. And as a clinician who works with people on these conditions, I’d go as far as to say this:
If you want to heal your skin, you have to heal your gut.Tweet This

Associations between gut disorders and skin conditions

Epidemiological evidence shows a clear association between gut problems and skin disorders. A recent report indicated that small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a condition involving inappropriate growth of bacteria in the small intestine, is 10 times more prevalent in people with acne rosacea than in healthy controls, and that correction of SIBO in these individuals led to marked clinical improvement. (1) 14% of patients with ulcerative colitis and 24% of patients with Crohn’s disease have skin manifestations. (Interestingly enough, a study just came out showing that a drug normally used to treat psoriasis is also effective for Crohn’s disease.) Celiac disease also has cutaneous manifestations, such as dermatitis herpetiformis, which occurs in 1/4 of celiac sufferers. Celiacs also have increased frequency of oral mucosal lesions, alopecia and vitiligo. (2)

How altered gut function impacts the skin

Intestinal permeability (a.k.a. “leaky gut”) causes both systemic and local inflammation, which in turn contributes to skin disease. In a study way back in 1916, acne patients were more likely to show enhanced reactivity to bacterial strains isolated from stool. 66 percent of the 57 patients with acne in the study showed positive reactivity to stool-isolated bacteria compared to none of the control patients without active skin disease. 1 In a more recent study involving 80 patients, those with acne had higher levels of and reactivity to lipopolysaccharide (LPS) endotoxins in the blood. None of the matched healthy controls reacted to the e. coli LPS, while 65% of the acne patients had a positive reaction. Both of these studies suggest that increased intestinal permeability is an issue for a significant number of acne patients. (4)

Speaking of permeable barriers: most of you have heard of leaky gut by now, but what about “leaky skin”? The main function of the skin is to act as a physical, chemical and antimicrobial defense system. Studies have shown that bothstress and gut inflammation can impair the integrity and protective function of the epidermal barrier. This in turn leads to a decrease in antimicrobial peptides produced in the skin, and an increase in the severity of infection and inflammation in the skin. (5)

The gut flora also influences the skin. Substance P is a neuropeptide produced in the gut, brain and skin that plays a major role in skin conditions. Altered gut microbiota promotes the release of substance P in both the gut and the skin, and probiotics can attenuate this response. (6) The gut microbiota influences lipids and tissue fatty acid profiles, and may influence sebum production as well as the fatty acid composition of the sebum. (7) This may explain why a Russian study found that 54% of acne patients have significant alterations to the gut flora (8), and a Chinese study involving patients with seborrheic dermatitis also noted disruptions in the normal gut flora. 2

Probiotics improve skin conditions

Another line of evidence suggesting a connection between the gut and skin is the observation that probiotics improve skin conditions. Oral probiotics have been shown to decrease lipopolysaccharide, improve intestinal barrier function and reduce inflammation. The first formal case report series on the value of using lactobacilli to treat skin conditions was published in 1961 by a physician named Robert Siver. He followed 300 patients who were given a commercially available probiotic and found that 80 percent of those with acne had some clinical improvement. 3 In a more recent Italian study involving 40 patients, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum in addition to standard care led to better clinical outcomes than standard care alone. (9) And another recent study of 56 patients with acne showed that the consumption of a Lactobacillus fermented dairy beverage improved clinical aspects of acne over a 12-week period. (10)

The beneficial effect of probioitics on skin may explain why pasteurized, unfermented dairy is associated with acne, but fermented dairy is not. I haven’t seen any studies on raw dairy and skin conditions, but my guess is that it wouldn’t be associated either. Orally consumed probiotics reduce systemic markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are elevated locally in those with acne. (11) Oral probiotics can also regulate the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines within the skin. (12) The fermentation of dairy reduces levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) by more than four-fold. (13) This is significant because studies show that acne is driven by IGF-1, and IGF-1 can be absorbed across colonic tissue. (14) This would be particularly problematic when increased intestinal permeability is present, which as I mentioned above is often the case in people with acne.

Now I’d like to hear from you. Have you noticed a connection between gut health and skin conditions in your own experience? Has healing your gut improved your skin? Let us know in the comments section.
  1. Strickler A, Kolmer JA, Schamberg JF: Complement fixation in acne vulgaris. J Cutaneous Dis 1916, 34:166-78.
  2. Zhang H, Yu L, Yi M, Li K: Quantitative studies on normal flora of seborrhoeic dermatitis. Chin J Dermatol 1999, 32:399-400.
  3. Siver RH: Lactobacillus for the control of acne. J Med Soc New Jersey 1961, 59:52-53.


You're a Vegetarian. Have You Lost Your Mind? | Psychology Today

You're a Vegetarian. Have You Lost Your Mind? | Psychology Today

Vegetarian diets are correlated with an increase in mental health problems

Entirely vegan diets are unknown among traditional human cultures. Back in the early part of the 19th century, dentist and explorer Weston Price went looking for vegans, but found only cannibals*. Since vegan diets in nature provide no vitamin B12 and very little in the way of usable long chain omega3 fatty acids, it is not surprising that humans have continued to eat animals and animal-derived products. Nowadays one can obtain algae-derived DHA (the major long chain omega3 fatty acid present in the brain). and supplement B12. That wasn’t possible until a few years ago, and there’s little evidence that supplementation with DHA alone is helpful for the brain.

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We have been encouraged to eat more plants and less animals. Various writers have suggested it is healthier for our bodies and our planet. I have no objections to a mostly plant-based diet as long as attention is paid to protein requirements and micronutrition. However, since little things in animal products (some essential like B12, some that can be created in our bodies but perhaps not in the amounts we need, such as creatine) seem to be very important for the brain, it’s interesting to look at the literature on vegetarian diets and mental health. Here is the latest (and the best) observational study:  Vegetarian diet and mental disorders: results from a representative community survey.

It's a German study, and for a large population-based retrospective observational design, it's actually fairly thorough and sensible.  And if you are a vegetarian, it certainly doesn't say that vegetarianism causes mental health problems.  But in all but two studies done in the past, vegetarianism has been linked with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and particularly eating disorders (bingeing, restricting, and purging behaviors).  But to be perfectly honest, all those studies had some serious limitations (they were small, done special populations, and often measures based on just a few answers to general survey questions).  I've reviewed a few of them.  (My favorite has to be the one where they calculated arachidonic acid ingested to the hundredth of a gram based on data from a food frequency questionnaire, which seems very unlikely to be accurate)  I don't think it is a coincidence that the two positive studies were done by the same group of researchers in the Seventh Day Adventist population.

The interesting thing about the general trend that vegetarians aren't quite as mentally healthy as omnivores (in observational studies) is that vegetarians tend to do better in other measures of health. They are better educated, as a population they are generally younger, less likely to smoke or drink, more likely to exercise, and they tend to care about ethics and the quality of their food. However, vegetarians are also more likely to be female (which is more likely to be associated with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders by a long shot).

So this new study has some things to recommend it. For one thing, the mental health diagnoses were determined not by answers to typical questionnaires, but by a full clinical interview using psychologists or physicians, lasting an average of 65 minutes each. (Pretty impressive, considering there were over 4,000 participants in the population-based study). In addition, the researchers matched omnivores to vegetarians based on age, education, sex, and whether they were urban or rural and crunched those numbers as well, so we got a good sample that took out some of the major confounders that dogged the previous studies. Finally, this cohort was a purposeful random sampling of the German adult population (excluding people over 65, however), rather than the Seventh Day Adventists or adolescents and college students sampled in previous studies.

And when the researchers went down the line of depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, somatoform disorders (things like body dysmorphic disorder, health anxiety and hypochondriasis), and eating disorders, the mostly vegetarian were more likely to be afflicted, and the strict vegetarian even more likely.** The full blown eating disorder diagnoses were rare enough, however, that the researchers didn't compute the odds ratios, as they felt the dataset was not robust enough to be fair. Compared to the general population, the vegetarians were more likely to have mental disorders, and compared to the sex and education and population and age matched controls, the risk of mental disorders in vegetarians really shot up, with odds ratios hovering around 2 fold increased risk, some as high as 3 fold.

When the data was taken apart from another direction, it was found that participants in the study with depressive, anxiety, somatoform, and anxiety disorders consumed less meat than people without a mental disorder. The amount of vegetables, fruits, fish, and fast food did not have a consistent pattern separating those with and without mental disorders (except fish consumption was linked with reduced anxiety. Hmmm).  In fact, unlike the 2010 Australian study, those with mental disorders in this German population were less likely to consume fast food than the mentally healthy population.

Temporally, the adoption of a vegetarian diet, on average, tended to follow the mental health diagnosis, suggesting that the vegetarian diet was not in fact causal. I know originally the abstract of the article said the opposite, but if you read the full text, you find that the abstract was misrepresentative. A retrospective study isn't the most robust way to determine this issue, but I would tend to believe this timing to be true, particularly for anxiety disorders, which often begin before the age of 10. The main exception to the temporal findings in this study were the eating disorders, which tended to start right around the same time as adoption of a vegetarian diet. As I've reported before, several of my eating disordered patients have told me they adopted vegetarianism so they would have an excuse to restrict food and not have to eat in public.

So what is going on? In Germany, are the neurotic perfectionists who are more likely to be choosey about food (and thus select vegetarianism and eschew fast food) also more vulnerable to depression and anxiety? Sure, could be. Or maybe those with mental troubles try to avoid what is thought to be bad food (meat and fast food). It is also possible that the nutrient deficiencies common in vegetarian diets (the most robustly studied being long chain omega 3 fatty acids and B12, though I think zinc and creatine and even too low a cholesterol could also be issues) could accelerate or worsen pre-existing mental conditions.

A large study comparing choosey, neurotic, perfectionistic omnivores (ahem) with strict vegetarians would be interesting, I think.

*these cannibals preferentially ate fisherman, who would be chock ful of long chain omega3 fatty acids!!

**the German word for "meat" excludes poultry.
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Image Credit
Copyright Emily Deans, MD


A Diet of Just Meats and Fats? - The Carnivore’s Dilemma | The Primal Parent

The Carnivore’s Dilemma – A Diet of Just Meats and Fats? | The Primal Parent


Pemmican, grassfed beef and liver, pastured eggs, lime, shrimp, chicken
I eat a diet of meat, seafood, eggs, and animal fats. I don’t eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, or vegetable oils. I don’t eat grains. I am able to throw in some coffee, limes, non-fat yogurt, and cane sugar with little problem. I have tried every possible version of a Primal type diet over the last six years until finally, about four years ago, I settled on a carnivorous diet.

I didn’t come about this decision intellectually, though I did read just about everything I could get my hands on about nutrition. I ended up here after years of experimentation in an effort to feel excellent.
In 2007, after having been Paleo for two years, I still had a good long list of symptoms I wanted to overcome, so I decided to try an elimination diet. Since I did’t eat grains, of course my base could not be rice, so I chose fermented raw dairy. I had eliminated dairy two years before, after going primal, but since I had never tried raw dairy and, being infatuated with Weston Price’s work, I thought I’d give it a shot.

For about six months or so I drank only raw dairy which I soured, unrefrigerated on the counter. I stayed on just that one food for so long because each time I tried adding something else, I didn’t feel as good. I was also reading the most underground, alternative nutrition info could find – all meat diets, raw meat diets, raw juice diets, raw dairy and blood diets. I had had enough of feeling like crap my whole life and so I explored everything.

At some point I added raw beef and blood. No problems there so I’d found another food. I added other raw meats and seafoods and even included a little white rice (which I don’t eat anymore) and eventually eliminated dairy again. For the next year or so I ate a raw Primal diet and felt amazing! I was able to maintain the discipline to eat a strict diet of raw meat, raw seafood, raw eggs, and a little white rice because I felt so great. It just didn’t make any sense to add other foods which altered my mood, impaired my delicate digestion, and fired up my joint pain.

It was getting practically impossible to get back to a “normal” diet because I was feeling so spectacular. I took long hikes every day carrying my daughter on my back for miles. I slept only 6 hours a night and always felt rested. I was happy and smiling all the time. I was busy and productive. My skin was clear for the first time in 12 years. I quit needing lotion or deodorant. Why would I ever go back?

I probably wouldn’t have had I remained a single mom, but I met my boyfriend who ate cooked food and thought it was kind of weird that I didn’t have a stove or oven in my apartment. He brought over a single burner for the counter and little by little I started eating cooked meat again. Cravings are not as easy to control on a cooked carnivorous diet as they are on a raw meat diet so I began trying other Primal based foods as well.

Very slowly I started to discover which particular foods bother me and why. While people are generally ready to accept that food affects our physical health, people often balk at the idea that our attitudes, intelligence, and motivation are affected by the same. After years of careful observation I am certain that the food we put in our bodies is largely responsible for our moods, our mental disorders, our productivity, and satisfaction.

It really is this big.

Interestingly, I have determined that at least for myself a carnivorous diet is not perfect either.  A carnivorous diet comes with its own set of emotional complications, namely no emotions. A carnivorous diet makes me Vulcan.

This wouldn’t be much of a problem if I had remained a single mom with no emotional investments (raising children is a job, and doesn’t have to be particularly emotional) but I met this boyfriend of mine whose personality is in stark contrast to my own.

The dilemma: To be or not to be like everybody else. Well the answer is easy if it involves feeling crappy. I am done falling apart from the inside out and am quite content being a Vulcan thank you very much! Except that I am in a relationship and have friends and family who all have heightened emotions. That makes me look rather cold. If I could just run away to Mongolia where people eat a native heavy meat diet and don’t feel much pain, I would be fine, but here I am tethered to the US. Oh well, I went on being a carnivore anyway!

But one particularly hot summer week I stumbled upon a solution to this dilemma: non fat yogurt and a small amount of pure cane sugar does not bring about any of the symptoms I mention below and, in fact, makes me somewhat caring, silly, and mildly emotional. Sugar cured my apathy! (Not that I believe apathy is a thing to be cured. Weston Price noted repeatedly that primitive peoples did not “suffer” from a whole lot of emotion. When people died, loved ones did not dwell or freak out.) I realize that this may come with some trade off since sugar and pasteurized dairy are not primal foods but I have weighed this against ruining my boyfriend’s life (that’s almost a joke) and have decided that I will simply stay tuned for any deleterious effects and fine tune things as needed.

Laugh all you want it won’t bother me too much and if it does I’ll just remove sugar for a couple of days and return to my usual poker face.

With no further ado, I will leave you with a sample week of my carnivorous diet that has seen me well through many years (other than my moments of weakness and failure because we all have them, even Vulcans).

Food Diary and Exercise Regimen:

A note on exercising

I’m not really big on exercising anymore but I don’t drive very often and I live in a hilly area. I ride my single gear bike daily 6 miles to daycare and back, pulling my daughter behind me in a trailer. I also walk to the nearby stores and cafes. I get a lot of enjoyment out of walking and contemplating so I will often walk many miles in one day. I also run around and play a lot with my kid. I don’t do sit ups too often but being a singer and doing lots of turning movements gives me six pack abs nevertheless. My arms are fairly strong from the pull ups that I often do walking through my bedroom doorway and the heavy things I carry around (such as the groceries I have to carry up the hills and the 20lb trailer I place on the other side of the gate each day.) Life is exercise for me.

UPDATE: This is a sample of a real week. While I do eat pretty much the same things all the time, there is some variation. For example, I don’t usually eat yogurt every single day. I often throw one food in, which isn’t in my base diet just to keep it interesting and to observe my reaction. So, this month it’s been yogurt. Last month it was bacon. I’ve had hot dog phases, and gellato phases, phases where I drink a whole lot of tea or a whole lot of alcohol. Sometimes I even let myself eat peanuts for a week because I like them so much. As soon as I get tired of feeling icky, I get back to the tried and true.
I also wanted to mention that I was out of fish oil on the week that I charted all of this, but usually I take cod liver oil each morning. I also drink bone broth several times a week but it has been so brutally hot in the last couple of weeks that I haven’t fired up the pot. I eat 100% local grass finished grass fed ground beef because I lOVE it. I realize that steaks may be healthier but I love ground beef, so there.

A week in the life:

Up at 6:30
8am breakfast: 2 eggs cooked in grassfed tallow from US Wellness with about 6 wild shrimp.
Bike ride 3 miles to daycare.
10am Black organic coffee.
12pm Lunch: Ground grassfed beef and a can of sardines.
4pm 3 mile bike ride to daycare
6pm Dinner: Two chicken thighs with skin, a glass of limeade  (1 lime, 2 tsp sugar, water), and a few bites of raw, grassfed liver.
Walk to the river. We all stopped at the store hungry and bought some vanilla non-fat yogurt.
Bed at 11pm

Up at 6am
8am Breakfast: Decaf orgainic black coffee, a good sized handful of grassfed ground beef, 2 pastured eggs cooked in tallow.
Walked 1.5 miles to daycare (the trailer broke down!). Rode my bike back.
11am Lunch: Glass of limeade, 1 can of sardines in water with lime, cup of non-fat yogurt.
1pm cup of decaf coffee
6:30 Dinner: I had a coupon at a wicked sushi place nearby so we went out to eat.
We all shared tuna sashimi, muscles steamed in a saki lemongrass broth, and three huge orders of pork and apple skewers. Things I shouldn’t have had included apples, saki (rice), wheat free tamari, and maple syrup. Oh well. I survived.
A walk down to the river and back, about 2 miles.
11pm Bed time

Up at 6am
7:30am Breakfast: 2 pastured eggs cooked in tallow with 3 slices of bacon. (While I absolutely love bacon I don’t eat it too often because I can’t digest it well. The same is true for all processed meats.)
3 mile bike ride to daycare.
10am Black organic coffee
11am Lunch Cup of yogurt, super thick slice of ham, 1 hard boiled egg.
3 mile bike ride to daycare.
No Dinner: I decided to fast till tomorrow.
5pm Evelyn and Julian ate dinner and I had a small glass of fresh squeezed limeade.
5:30 5 mile bike ride downtown to go shopping and see a movie.
(Evelyn had a sucker during the movie. I had water. While Winnie the Pooh and I were fasting I was thinking that planning a fast before going out on the town would not a bad idea. I have super human discipline and think that anything sold at a movie theater is utterly repulsive so I wouldn’t have need for this tactic but I bet this could work for a lot of people.)
Bed at 10pm

Up at 6am.
8:30am breakfast: 2 pastured eggs scrambled in tallow with some grassfed ground beef.
I rode as fast as I could on my 3 mile commute.
10am Snack: A hard boiled egg, a cup of non-fat yogurt with sugar, and a cup of black coffee.
1pm Another Snack: Cup of iced coffee and a thick slice of ham plus a few bites of pemmican.
A 2 mile walk down to the cafe and back for a cup of ginseng peppermint tea.
5 mile bike ride to daycare and downtown.
6pm Dinner: Chipotle carnitas, double meat with lime.
2 mile walk downtown and back.
Cup of black coffee and one Grey Goose and soda with lime.
Bed at 2am

Up at 6am
9am Breakfast: 2 pastured eggs and 1 yolk with white fish cooked in tallow.
12pm Lunch: A potluck with our meetup group: 1 hardboiled egg, 2 bautwurst, homemade beef jerky, iced decaf coffee (this was not a carnivorous meetup group, that’s just what I ate for lunch.)
Long bike ride and walk in the hot sun.
6pm Dinner: Frozen yogurt – hot sun, hangover, and no sleep = bad decisions (although frozen yogurt doesn’t come with too many consequences for me).
Bed early

Up at 5:45
8:30am Breakfast: Shrimp sauteed in tallow.
3 mile bike ride to daycare and back. Some pull ups
12pm Lunch: 400 calorie pemmican bar
7pm Dinner: 12 raw oysters with lemon juice, non-fat yogurt, and a chicken thigh with skin.
3 mile bike ride to daycare and back.
Sparring with Julian.
Bed at midnight
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  1. Your story is so interesting! I had no idea we could be allergic to the foods that you are allergic to. Thank you for sharing with the world.
  2. Wow. You ate amazing for figuring that out!! I wouldn’t think you need to work out either so much bike riding that’s awesome!
    I always wonder when certain things bother me or not. The main thing I’ve noticed since goin primal is more energy and better digstion. Though I still have weird digestion sometimes but it’s hard to pinpoint what it is. Sometimes I think it’s when I have a lot of berries. I’ve told you before I’m nursing two kids so I don’t want to eliminate a bunch of stuff to figure it out cuz I gotta eat enough to make lots of milk.
    Anyway that was a really interesting post. Thanks for sharing a week in the life :)
  3. Wow, Peggy, I wish I had your discipline! Since becoming “Primal” (very loose for me, 80/20 for sure, probably more like 75/25, and full-fat dairy) a year ago, I have felt healthier and shed some fat. The things I struggle with are emotional and hormonal and the idea of any kind of elimination is overwhelming. As you mentioned the difficulties of just adding a boyfriend in the mix, I have my hubs and four kids to contend with and they balk at the tinest changes I try to make. In fairness to my kids, they are pretty willing to go with my flow, it’s the husband that throws a fit.
    • It’s a lot harder to be strict with yourself when you’re tempted by other people’s choices, that’s for sure. While I do have huge discipline I have weak moments too! It gets easier, though, to be more strict the more strict you are. A diet that is easy on your body is easy on your mind. They just kind of work together.
  4. Thanks for this post, I was so looking forward to it! I’m currently in the stages of figuring out what exactly I’m “allergic” to. I like how you said “but what does a diagnosis matter really?” I feel the exact same way…if a food makes me feel crappy, I stop eating it. Whats the point? I don’t need a doctor to tell me whats good or whats bad for me. I’m not sure I could do raw meat, its the consistency that I can do. Raw fish I don’t mind at all. My body definately doesn’t handle sugar well, and I’m very lactose intolerant.
    Knowing what you eat on a daily basis is SUPER helpful! Now I have some awesome guidelines on what to work on! Thanks so much!
  5. This is awesome! I’ve experienced so much of the same well being in being Primal. And the few cheats have made it very apparent how certain foods affect me. What I love about this article is that it’s easily digestible to pass on (pun intended). I have 2 folks dear to me whose mental state is never great. Ima forwarding this on. Thanks for all you do Peggy (yeah…I’m blogger-crushing).
  6. Excellent story. Thanks for sharing. It’s amazing the journey one must take to learn the truth about one’s own health.
    Through research and personal experience I have come to most of the same conclusions as you. I am mostly Paleo/Primal in my eating but am still working to nail down what foods are best for me personally. Your story is encouraging.
    If you have not already come across it, Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride published a book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” which, as the title indicates, provides a lot of explanation and support for the connection between our diet and our psychological states.
  7. This is so interesting, Peggy! Thank you for sharing.
    I remember you saying that you can’t tolerate butter, but it looks like you eat non-fat yogurt with no problems – was it cow’s milk yogurt that you ate? I have Celiac Disease too, so I didn’t eat dairy for about a year, and have experimented with adding it back into my diet. High-fat dairy like butter and cream I can eat with no problems, but the low or non fat does not treat me well!
  8. How did you figure out you were allergic to these various foods? When you did elimination did you try to subsist on one thing at a time? Say fruit for the whole Day/week? I’m trying the fodmaps to figure out what the heck keeps causing my stomach discomfort.
    • For the specific allergies I had IgG testing done with my Naturopathic doctor. As far as pinning down symptoms, though, I’ve kept food diaries literally for years. And yes, I will add one food in at a time and check out how I feel for a few days. It can be pretty obvious when your diet is simple and is one on which you feel quite perfect from the beginning. I don’t suspect this would work to well, though, if you didn’t feel great from the beginning.
  9. Hi! I find your story very interesting. I started my food conversions while wanting to naturally treat my son’s ADHD. Salicylates is one of the things we avoid as well as processed foods.
    We started SAD then went more WAPF and now are moving more Primal. I feel better with no grains. But still have lots of cravings and give in more than I should. (I’m also nursing right now and that has to have something to do with it all.)
    Have you every heard of the GAPS diet? It uses lots of bone broth and fermented foods and is supposed to heal food allergies and gut issues. We’re working towards that, but it’s very restrictive…which you are already good at. LOL
    Do you have reactions with ghee? I’ve read that most people who can’t have butter do fine with it.
    Why do you only eat the non-fat yogurt? I’ve read so much about why it’s bad and why whole milk (preferably raw) yogurt is best. I was just wondering your stance on that.
    • I eat non-fat yogurt because I can’t tolerate dairy fat at all. Yes, I have tried ghee, plenty of it. It was equally problematic. But clearly dairy solids and lactose are not an issue for me, so why would ghee vs butter matter anyway? :) I don’t think non-fat yogurt is a good thing, but I like it and it doesn’t cause me any noticeable problems (for now). I actually do quite a bit of bone broth throughout most of the year, but not during the summer! I have done a diet heavy on the fermented foods and bone broths to heal the gut, yes, but in the end I still cannot tolerate the same foods I’ve had issues with for years.
  10. I love reading about your journey. I am sending this to my husband because he will find it equally fascinating!
  11. Wow! You are intolerant of/allergic to more foods than me, I didn’t think that was possible! Thanks for sharing your story. It always feels good to know there are others like me out there! I eat mostly paleo w some soaked millet/quinoa and can tolerate small servings of low sugar fruit. No dairy for me but ghee is okay. Over the process of working w a ND the past year and a half, I have discovered that I’m sub clinically hypothyroid (symptoms but lab scores in “normal” ranges) with adrenal fatigue, estrogen dominance, and lead/mercury poisoning. I’m chelating the metals right now and am hoping it heals my gut. But when it comes down to it, I don’t care what I eat as long as I feel good. I’m glad you have figured out what works for you.
    • I’d be interested to hear how the chelation treatment turns out. I had a my heavy metals checked years ago and found no significantly high levels… unfortunately. I was really hoping that would be the answer to all my ills…
  12. Very interesting peek into your life and diet. It all sounds delicious to me. Out of curiosity, what do you do for work? Do you have to sit all day?
    • I am a writer, for work. I sit way too much but never a day goes by without getting outside to moving around. I can’t stand to sit for too long. I get up and to lunges, pullups, or pushups for breaks during the day.
  13. I find this fascinating. We started the GAPS diet in February, and I felt absolutely terrible on it for the first 3-4 months, until my naturopath had me take a metabolic typing test and we figured out I needed massive amounts of fat and protein and almost no carbs. Now, I feel like I *can* feel good, IF I eat carefully. It’s a relief to me! I much prefer the outlook of the primal community to the attitude of the GAPS community, though the diet is so similar – primals tend to be happy to have found a way to feel good. GAPS people tend to be at their wit’s end and furious that it has come to this. Of course those are generalities. ;)
    My question is this though: do you worry about nutrient deficiency since you’re not eating veggies? Veggies do not work well for me either. I’m currently pregnant and eating liver regularly and my body seems to LOVE nettle infusion, both of which my midwife is comfortable with me using to replace a prenatal vitamin (which I cannot tolerate because of the iron content), but I still wonder if I’m getting enough nutrients.
    I also notice that if I eat no fruit/starches, I have no cravings. But as soon as I start again, oh man! The cravings get intense!
    • That’s an interesting comparison but looking at the detailed list of foods to avoid, I can see how it would be frustrating.
      I don’t worry about nutrient deficiencies. I eat lots of special foods like bone broths, shellfish, liver, kidney, and quite a variety of fishes, meats, and fats. When I first started this, I was worried about it but after doing it for so long it’s not so much of a concern. I experience the worst nutrient deficiencies when I eat foods which compromise my digestion.
  14. This is so fascinating to me. I am literally only a week into eating low carb. I can’t say I’m primal yet, because I’m just learning what that means. I totally agree that food effects our moods. For the first few days I felt great, but today I’ve had muscle and joint aches, and that has made me really grumpy. I think I’ve been eating too many egg yolks, so I’m backing off for a few days and seeing how that feels. I do think avoiding sugar and grains is hugely beneficial. I have osteoarthritis throughout my body and need a diet that is as low inflammatory as possible- so I’ll be experimenting with food too.
  15. What a brilliant blog Peggy! I live in London and have been trying to follow a weston-price-ish diet since reading Nutrition and Physical Degeneration ( ordering raw butter from france, going to farmers markets for milk) I found your thoughts on how foods influence personality really interesting – it’s something I seem to be reading about more and more. I look forward to your next blog! x
    • Oooo… where do you order your raw butter from? I’ve been trying to find a decent source in the UK for ages, to no avail…
  16. Great article Peggy.
  17. Thanks for the post and detailing out your diet was probably not an easy thing to make public.
    I commend you on your determination for sure. For me cutting out dairy and grains was a huge deal and it has impacted my life pretty significantly. I’ve also read GAPS and found it to be a brilliant book that finally explained my digestion issues.
    I’m still having some issues with fatigue and considering that I get 8 hrs sleep I think it could be food related, or possibly hormone related. Now I just have to decide if I want to bite the bullet and pay for a homeopathic dr visit to really find out.
    Also I think it is great that you can get by without using a car. I imagine in the winter time you have to drive?
    • It can be a little scary to get so naked, but I just don’t think about it. I am quite certain that this info will help so many people who search all over the internet for something that makes sense. I just think about that and then lay it all out there.
      I ride my bike up until about January here in Colorado. I actually have a snow tire so sometimes I’ll ride in snowstorms. My boyfriend has a car though so when we need it, it’s there, and when we want to go on trips, it’s there. We’re responsible driver; we only drive when we need to. :)
  18. Your articles are always great, and you don’t hold anything back (vodka and soda water;) ) which is so helpful for everyone else. I think that when we do give into things sparingly, it doesn’t even have to be a “cheat.” When you take such good care of yourself, good food, good sleep hygeine, good emotional state, low stress, having a glass of vodka, or some chocolate ice cream (or a vodka and ice cream shake…….. :D ) is nothing your body can’t handle. And you can enjoy it guilt free as an extroidinary occasion.
    I too was eager to see what your diet looked like, when I first saw that you didn’t eat nuts or vegetables. While I have always loved my veggies, I find that I am often left bloated, have heartburn and don’t have that great energy you expect to have from eating such colourful foods. It was a puzzle, and if you have any articles or books that were helpful to you, please post them. In the meantime, I have just naturally gravitated towards a more canivorous primal diet, With fat being my main staple, followed by meat, offal, and some veggies. I rarely eat fruit, though I have no problem with most of them (bananas and pineapple are a no go for me) I just don’t like too many sweet things. I eat a lot of pemmican, now that I know how to make it ;) Thanks for that too Peggy. You’re spectacular!
    • Thanks Grainne for the kind words. And I will amend this post with some extra resources in a few days. I really wanted to do that but I’ve been wildly busy. Thankfully, I can focus on a few other things for a week while your pemmican guest post takes the stage. Be sure to drop by for comments!
  19. I love your blog! This is probably the most intriguing and fascinating post that I’ve read in a while. Thank you! You know have a new reader in me!
    I do not have many issues anymore. My weight and health are in check (started with Atkins and now I am mostly Paleo/Primal except for a thing here and there [real beer, not the mass produced crap]). I have no issues with “will power” as I’ve learned to be responsible for my actions (meaning, I learned that I could not blame anyone but myself for what went into my mouth).
    Thank you for this!
    • Welcome John and thank you for reading! I think it’s awesome that you’ve mastered will power. By the looks of it you keep active and I bet that has a lot to do with it.
      • Thank you!
        Will power is a state of mind. No?
        But you are an inspiration to many by how you are searching for what works for you, regardless of what popular fads are in fashion at the time. Thank you for being honest. :)
  20. Thank you for foraging so bravely into this new world. You’ve inspired me to analyze my own eating habits in the effort to beat PCOS entirely.
    One question: can you eat plain Greek yogurt?
  21. Interesting…. thanks for sharing…
    I’m eating a ton of raw goat milk kefir, butter and raw goat cheese now, it goes pretty good i think, i want to experiment soon with adding some grasfed beef and fish and leaving the dairy out… see if i feel anything different! Greetz!!
  22. Interesting…. thanks for sharing…
    I’m eating a ton of raw goat milk kefir, butter and raw goat cheese now, it goes pretty good i think, i want to experiment soon with adding some grasfed beef and fish and leaving the dairy out… see if i feel anything different! Greetz!!
  23. Hi Peggy!
    Im 21 and used to be depressed. Ive become better but I still dont feel as good as I hope to become. I sometimes feel strong anguish and sadness. Sometimes even thoughts about suicide if something goes wrong. But those are just thoughts these days, not wishes.
    My question is if you think becoming less emotional by eating certain foods would help?
    I too feel bad if I eat fruit or nuts and other natural healthy stuff. Im sensitive to many things.
    Thanks for a great blog. Take care!
    • I am certain it would help, Erik. My depression used to be just as severe, if not worse. The thing is, I have learned to be very careful about what I eat in order to feel great. I have known others who have depression and panic attacks who ate paleo but did so about 80/20 and they never got well. Some people are easy cases and some people aren’t. Figure out which you are, accept it, and then go with it.
  24. I went in to my (fabulous) doctor earlier this week, frustrated by the constant elimination diets I have to do and the huge amount of carb restriction I need to feel good, and said “It’s like even diabetics have an easier time with food than I do!” And she said, “Yep.” I think this extreme food sensitivity thing may have to do with PCOS. Just another gift it bestows upon you.
    But yes, I agree with the above comments – another great post! I’m so glad I’m not alone in my carnivory… Do get a lot of questions about my bowels though, which I think might be a tad invasive. :)
    • Wow, if severe food intolerance is responsible for PCOS, then the only cure for it would be this crazy ass meat diet.
      I have gone into my doc’s office in the same way. “Can’t you please help me eat other foods!?” So far, she can’t…
  25. Hi Peggy!
    I’m the spanish girl with acne and PCOS who commented a couple of weeks ago. After reading your post I decided to try a zero carb diet combined with intermittent fasting, in order to try to clear my skin and feel better. And well, two weeks after starting the diet I am ALMOST CLEAR. So, so unbelievable. You don’t know how big is that for me. I had been trying with paleo diet for A YEAR with little or no improvement in my skin condition.
    You know, I had always read these stories about people getting magically clear one way or another, and for me It just wasn’t happening. I was asking so desperately for my little miracle… and two weeks ago, I stumbled upon your post through Mark’s Daily Apple, I read it and I just thought “everything is going to be fine”.
    At the moment I’m having no troubles with ZC diet. Not constipation at all (fat is great for that) and not insomnia, although I do need less sleep. My mood is so great, I’m completely free of anxiety and cravings and I’m just peaceful and happy. I’m also trying to exercise, have a lot of sun and enjoy life.
    I’m eating lots of pastured eggs, liver, seafood, meat and fish. I’m also eating raw cheese, heavy cream, organic butter and some yogurts (but only the cheese is raw, I’m afraid). I’m supplementing with magnesium, vit C and cold liver oil, and planning to get a good multi. I don’t know if I will continue eating this way my whole life, since I do miss veggies and I think I will try to include them again when I get clear. But, as you said, I want to be healthy and I will change my diet and lifestyle until I get it. No matter what is needed to be done, I’m going to do it.
    I hope things will continue this way, and I just wanted to THANK YOU so much. I don’t know if I would have tried ZC if I hadn’t read your post, but I do know it arrived in a moment of my life that I was so hopeless and desperate, and so needed for my miracle. Acne has been my curse since I was 12, and I’m 26 now.
    You will never know how thankful I am. I really have no words. Keep on being so brave and doing things your very own way. You are truly amazing.
    • Reading that brought tears to my eyes, Marina. I am so unbelievably happy that I am able to pass this on . I know exactly how you must feel.
      I spent the same number of years trying everything, every supplement, every diet, every holistic and conventional approach – nothing.
      I was so hopeful when I started the Paleo diet. I read Loren Cordain’s paper about the absence of acne in uncivilized peoples and it made so much sense. I totally quit processed foods and it didn’t make a damn bit of difference. I kind of gave up on the acne – thinking I was plagued to be different – but I couldn’t give up on the digestion. Bad digestion is distracting and noisy and itchy and irritating. It was through the desire to not notice my belly that I was blessed with clear skin. (By the way, there is a connection to digestion and acne but it is not bi-conditional. If I have acne, my digestion is undoubtedly messed up, but if my digestion is messed up, I may not necessarily have acne. Processed meats mess up my digestion but they do not cause me acne. Peanuts majorly mess up my digestion but also do not affect my skin terribly. Just had to throw that out there.)
      Please keep me posted, Marina.
    • I have had a very similar problem to Marina since I was 12 — horrid cystic acne that no doctor could cure, though it was brought under control (but not completely gone) with birth control pills and long-term antibiotic use. I was raised vegetarian, and ate mostly carbs growing up — my mother worked very hard to feed my brother and me sufficient protein. I spoke with my mother a few weeks ago, and she reminded me that I was very colicky and had multiple digestive problems as a baby, and some of her attempts to help me involved feeding me only starches. Not surprisingly, this never helped! None of her attempts ever included meat, so I imagine I developed insulin resistance and hormone imbalances fairly early in life. I never had a regular cycle, and cystic acne started early.
      I’m in my 30s now, and have started to wonder how I will ever have children, if I have to be on birth control pills my entire life. A few years ago I went off the pill to see if my hormones had adjusted, but it resulted in a rapid return of the acne and a course of Accutane. The scarring was just as bad as when I was a teen.
      Peggy’s recent posts have been so helpful, and although I haven’t yet gone zero carb (I’ve had to teach myself how to cook and eat meat, so I’m working toward this goal), I’ve noticed a definite difference in mood and energy levels on days when I can keep my carb intake below 40-50 g. I’m hoping within the next few weeks to convince myself to try organ meats, so that I will feel more comfortable switching to a zero-carb diet…who knows for how long…and possibly even go off the pill again.
      Thank you, Peggy, for all of this information! I’ll always have more questions, but you’ve answered so many. I really appreciate your sharing this with us.
      • I do appreciate you and everyone else keeping us updated. One of these days I think I’ll open up a forum. Oh, Autumn, you’re still on the pill? I didn’t realize that while we were emailing. That could be part of the problem.
        • Two years ago I tried going off the pill, but my cystic acne came back within 2-3 months, and I had to take it again. The acne is currently under control, but I’m terrified to go off the pill again. I’m trying to determine how to gauge when my body is ready for me to stop taking it. My skin has become dryer since I’ve changed my diet, but that’s not enough to convince me to drop the pill. I’m also thinking about ways to “cut down” – perhaps taking it every other day – to decrease the amount of hormone I’m putting into my body, without going off it all at once. I want to be healthy without medicine, but hormonal balance has always been tricky, so I am ambivalent.
          • A good friend of mine has cystic acne and has seen tremendous improvement of her symptoms because she’s stated taking 1 Udo’s probiotic in the a.m. (the one with the highest # of live cultures) and 1 capsule of oregano oil at night.
            • Home remedies like this never did a thing for my acne. Maybe she was simply lacking in gut bacteria and that was all she needed to restore. Good for her! She was probably in decent health to begin with. For some of us, though, the problem is quite a bit more complicated as is the strategy to restore health.
    • Marina, I would love to hear another update on your diet and skin, either here or in the forum!
      I’m very interested in the details, as I think we’ve had a similar history with acne. If you’re not comfortable discussing further in the comments or forum, perhaps we can swap email addresses somehow?
  26. I was just watching an episode of House on TV last night, and his patient had “phytate intolerance”–he could only eat meat. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a wanted mass-murderer who ate his victims.
    I know this was TV, but it’s worth looking up to see if this “phytate intolerance” really exists. If it does, then you know you have company–it probably has a genetic base.
    A totally true fact to dwell on: traditional Eskimos get very little vegetation or grain in their diet, and mainly live on seal blubber, seal meat, fish, and whatever else they can get meat-wise…nothing grows in the ice caps!
    Could you be part Eskimo? :)
  27. I found this buried in a document about grain intoleraqnce:
    “PHYTATE INTOLERANCE – The liver’s inability to digest phytate (a phosphorus-containing compound sometimes referred to as phytic acid) most abundant in the outer hull of cereal grains. The intolerance reduces absorption of zinc, copper, iron and other minerals as well as vitamins.”
    The only remedy? Soaking your grains via the WAPF method (Weston A. Price), or just eliminating them altogether. The WAPF method wasn’t working for me, so I just eliminated them myself.
    This (above) may be why you feel like crap when you eat certain foods.
    • I am going to have to watch that episode! I will definitely look into it too.
      Having been a long time lover of WAPF and Weston Price I know all about soaking of grains and nuts and, of course, I tried that too. No different for me. Maybe these extreme cases of intolerance are beyond soaking though.
      Thanks a WHOLE LOT for thinking of me. I have managed to figure out that I can only eat meat, but I sure am vexed by why, even my ND has no clue…
  28. Fascinating – thanks Peggy for sharing this. I’ve just finished 30 days auto-immune paleo. My recent blog post covers this. I found that putting my carbs back up to around 100 grams a day is my ‘sweet spot’ (I love my veggies – and fortunately don’t have sensitivities to them)It’s amazing how we all find our own place on the paleo spectrum that works for us. And by experimenting we find what works for us.
    • It is amazing! There are many ways to go paleo. I often wonder about alcohol though. During your last 30 days you stopped drinking every day and I wonder if that one change would have been enough to make the difference you were looking for. Just a thought about alcohol (and other poisons). I know I cannot drink very often and feel really super great at the same time.
      • Hard to know – it’s not as though I drink much at all – I may only have 1/3 – 1/2 glass, and I rarely drink in the last 2 hours before bed, because I don’t like it affecting my sleep. I also never have more than 2 glasses – an that much only rarely.
        • I just mentioned it because I too used to drink a small amount each night and even though it was just a small glass it seemed like any time in which I did not do that, health was much more tangible. I wish I had done a more controlled experiment on that. Maybe I will one of these days. (I love doing experiments on myself, just for my own interest.)
  29. Wow, so interesting what you can and cannot eat. Just curious–what does it have to be nonfat yogurt?
    That’s really interesting about the apathy thing. I’m a highly emotional person. When I was in college I went on Prozac for two years to get me through to my degree. I hated that it stunted my emotions. Even though it prevented depression and rage, it also prevented me from feeling excitement and elation. But being “Vulcan” would be much easier than being a mental or physical wreck, for sure. Luckily, I’m getting less negatively emotional as I eat better.
    Obviously, you’re eating the best diet for you, but I’m really curious about how meat-heavy diets affect longevity. I’ve read a few articles on this, but was wondering if you knew of anything helpful on the topic.
    By the way, I am so amazed that you were able to eat only soured dairy for six months. Talk about determination. I don’t think I could handle that kind of restriction.
    • Hi Lisa. I just eat non-fat yogurt because dairy fat gives me some unwanted symptoms. I noticed that when I eat my regular meat diet but add butter I break out and have digestive issues. It was kind of an accident that I realized non-fat yogurt is alright.
      I have read a few studies on meat affecting longevity and the ones I’ve read are poorly executed. You have to understand that sooooo many of the studies done today employ terrible statistical methods. For example, check out this widely accepted study about calorie restriction. http://theprimalparent.com/2011/05/29/calorie-restriction-the-quality-of-diet-seems-to-matter/ The methods are non-sense, though, because the test subjects eat a high-carb diet. Likewise, you can’t conclude that eating a lot of meat affects longevity when the meat your using in your study is feed lot, processed meat, alongside a high grain diet. Nobody that I know of has done studies on real people that eat a variety of healthy meats and seafood and organs.
      But even if meat did have some affect on longevity, I couldn’t care less about it. I am only interested in the quality of life, not how long I live. It doesn’t make any difference to me if I die tomorrow as long as the days I do live are great ones.
      • Yeah I read that article you wrote and found it really fascinating. I agree about the meat studies you are talking about. It seems like high-meat and high-grain is a poor combo, especially factory meat and modern grain. I was thinking more of traditional diets, though, like the traditional Inuits. They are said to be pretty healthy but age quickly. I just don’t know where a reliable source for that kind of info is. But I totally agree–better to feel great and die younger then feel like crap your whole life. I just have this personal thing about wanting to live a long time :)
        Weird about the dairy fat thing. Usually it’s the sugar or protein people can’t handle. I just keep thinking it’s so amazing you have been able to figure out how to feed yourself because it’s so different from the norm.
  30. Well said Peggy!
  31. I just adore what you’ve said about aging! Most people seem to be on this quest for longevity. My grandmother is 90. In a diaper, bent over, on tons of meds, confused and in an expensive nursing home. I love her dearly but is this living? Personally, since the first time I saw Harold and Maude, I knew I’d take myself out when I felt ripe and ready to go. But recently, being a huge “you create your own destiny (literally)” person, I set an intention for my demise and I plan to feel excellent when I get there. I love when people say things about the way I eat and throw longevity into the picture. I now have the exact words to say to them.
    • That’s awesome, Jamie. I’m with you on that. My dad is in the same boat as your grandmother. It’s a sad sight to be sure. We would all be so much better off if nature (or family) were allowed to take its course.
  32. This post is so inspiring Peggy! I’ll be writing a response to it tonight :)
    I have no idea what foods disagree with me outside of grains, legumes and dairy. I’m not even one hundred percent sure that all foods in those groups cause me harm. Ill be starting an elimination experiment after my camping trip with my siblings. Thus, it starts on Monday, august 8.
    Thanks so much for the inspiration Peggy!
  33. I haven’t had a chance to go through your mountains of replies yet so it may have been covered but I have a couple of questions:
    1) You mentioned that certain foods give you panic attacks. May I ask which ones have you seen a link to (diffinitive or possibly) and if you came to this conclusion purely through the elimination diet? I suffer from heart problems related to panic attacks and have been looking for possible alternative solutions, namely nutrition.
    2) How do you know/think you have the fructose malabsorbtion? My 1 yr old gets diarrhea frequently and can be timed to have anything int he berry family (including the non-berry blueberry) go through her within a half hour. I’m trying to figure out if it is fructose. Namely I need the diagnosis so my extended family doesn’t give her anything that upsets her stomach.
    3) Do you ever feel restricted in your diet? Or is it restricting to the point of liberation?
    4) Any words of encouragement? lol.
    Thanks so much for your blog. It is so very helpful to an aspiring Primal Mom.
    • Understandable and good questions.
      1. while I suffered many different mental problems before I changed my diet, panic attacks were never among them. Until, that is, I had a severe brain injury last year. For months I was a very different person and the panic attacks seemed life-threatening. After the accident I was still eating paleo but had added starches and several other things I cannot tolerate. In retrospect, it seems that the panic attacks were due to the TBI in conjunction with starches and allergens.
      2. I suspect I have fructose malabsorption because I get a very rumbly gassy stomach each time I eat fruit or honey and almost always get diarrhea too. I also get acne and depression. It was difficult for me to believe this for a long time because fruit is supposed to be detoxifying and healthy. It is also supposed to elevate the mood. Anyway, I’ve done some pretty controlled tests on this with myself and these symptoms are undoubtedly linked to fructose. There is a test for it but I haven’t bothered getting it.
      3. Oh yeah, I do feel restricted sometimes. But I find that feeling of restriction is exaggerated after I actually eat the stuff I shouldn’t be eating. But yeah, sometimes I give in. And then I force myself to pull it together again. These phases usually last me a week. Once my digestion has gotten bad and my skin and my mood I get out of it.
      4. When I want to eat something out of my ordinary I deliberately think of the consequences I can expect. I ask myself if it’s worth it. 95% of the time I answer no. I have a vivid imagination so I can really put myself there.
      • Thank you so much for your reply! And thank you for putting yourself out there so that others (like myself and my DD) don’t feel quite so alone. :)
  34. Yay, I just found your site! Your signature on a comment on Mark’s Daily Apple caught my eye, so I clicked.
    I have been having digestive issues for 7 years or so, mostly bloating, and in the past 4 years have been experimenting with WAPF and primal diet stuff. My diet is so clean now (raw dairy kefir, coconut oil, pastured eggs, no grains etc), you would think I should be totally healthy, but there is still something else going on. The reaction to a food seems so random and I read it could be delayed up to 72 hours! I have thought before about trying a raw meat and egg only diet for a while to see how I do, but that seems scary.(don’t I need fiber?!) This post has inspired me to try it though. I was a vegetarian for a while (I know now all that soy protein was hurting me), and I wonder if I could eat that much meat all day. Sometimes just chewing it grosses me out. I don’t like liver, except some liverwurst, and definitely don’t think I could it raw! Did you have any problems with that at first? I do really like ground beef, filet mignon and our pastured eggs, although I have never tried them raw!
    I am very tired of trying to figure this out and usually feel like I am the only person dealing with something like this (which I don’t understand when everyone around me is eating fast food SAD), so I am excited that I found your site.
    I am looking forward to reading more of your blog, although I am not on my computer much because I am outside playing with my kids!
  35. Hey Narnia…I think I got this idea from Weston Price but I’m not sure. You can buy your liver and freeze it and cut into pill size chunks. Then just swallow them down with the chewing. Hope that helps!
    • I read that somewhere too, maybe WAPF, I don’t remember either. :) What I do is dice it up really small, put it on a spoon, plug my nose (I wish I liked liver but I don’t), put it in my mouth, and wash it down with water. My daughter and I both do this. It may sound silly but it works!
  36. I meant to say withOUT the chewing. Sorry.
  37. Just thought I’d throw in my experiance on the liver. Lambs liver has less of a strong flavor than Beef, or chicken livers. I just cut it into tiny little pieces, and eat them raw one by one with my fingers. While it’s not the most enjoyable thing in the world, it’s not unpleasant, and goes down (for me anyways) much easier than beef.
    Another thing I started doing was putting it in my bone broth (I’m all about condensing as many nutrients as possible into a meal) You can keep it in your broth for the benefits of the nutrients, or, throw the liver in after the broth has been simmering for a few hours, for five minutes. When you take it out, it might be a little pink inside, but that’s just fine. It will have soaked up some of the flavour, and is unbelievably tasty. It’s doesn’t have the mushy gritty texture beef does either. It’s easier here for me to get lamb liver than beef liver, which is just fine because I happen to like it!
    • I have found that rabbit liver is VERY mild. Only just starting to research the paleo thing, so not sure I could get the liver down raw (I’m flashing on the scene in Rosemary’s Baby… yikes!)
      My husband and I raise our own meat, dairy, and eggs on our little farm. I am much better at raising animals than veg, though I’m no slouch in that dept either.
      I’m very hopeful that I’ll be able to get past fibromyalgia symptoms by exploring paleo eating.
      • Ivy, you have a farm? You are so lucky! I want a little farm one day. :) I was reading about fibromyalgia just yesterday. In case you haven’t read about this already, I read that while fibromyalgia can have several possible causes including low thyroid, it is often caused by low serotonin. It might behoove you to take some tryptophan.
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  39. Hi!!! Have read your success story over at MDA, wow! Amazing. Since you are a momma too I have a question that maybe-hopefully you can answer. What about calcium for a two year old? We have been primal for about a year, no dairy, but my sons teeth get grey looking if we slack off on the bone broth soup. He will drink it but his sister and hubby make such a fuss over it that sometimes I feel it’s not worth the effort to cook if no one will eat it. We were drinking keifer for a while but any dairy, even kefir, would make him angry and tantrum. Do you do anything special for calcium for your child? Any information would be helpful. Thanks.
    • Hi MamaLovey ,
      My daughter got her dietary calcium from bone broths, canned fish with the bones and skin in, and dark green veggie broth. She also eats a little bit of cheese (like 6 oz every two or three weeks) and occasional yogurt.
      I don’t know that calcium deficiency leads to grey teeth. A few things that definitely do, however, are a trauma to the tooth, tetracycline anti-biotic, and too much iron.
  40. Paleo’s a fad. Everyone needs carbs.
    • Sure… If you want to be unhealthy and overweight… But Paleo is not about carbs.
    • Peggy, great blog. fyi, i’m here via MDA. re: your diary avoidance… are you sure it is a diary FAT issue and not casein (primary protein in dairy) intolerance? my kids and I have acute GI, skin and respiratory issues in response to even the most minute amounts of diary or wheat. many coeliacs have issues with casein because of its similarities to gluten (see robb wolf’s book for a good explanation)
      you mention your mood being a bit too level without a little bit of sugar. I find that my mood is greatly influenced by the amount of fat i eat. for me, high saturated fat = level mood. do you eat enough fat? i’ve found jackkuses.com pretty good reading regarding this.
      and @Gavin… we have essential amino acids, essential fats and now… the essential carbohydrates? explain how one can manage a constant and virtually unwaivering blood glucose level of 4.8mmol/L (can binge on carbs every two weeks and not see a change of more than .3) despite consuming less than 25g of daily carbohydrates per day and lifting weights for hypertrophy (hint, glycolysis is a necessary process, but that does not mean that ingested carbohydrates are)
      • Tim,
        Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am aware that people with gluten sensitivities are also sensitive to casein. I eliminated dairy for years with the assumption that I was not ok with the proteins. I tried butter – still a problem. I tried ghee – no different. (I think I already said something to this effect in another comment above.) And I have not found digestive problems with non-fat dairy so it kind of looks like there’s not a sensitivity there. Dairy fat (and vegetable oils too) makes my digestion very messed up. I don’t want to go into graphic detail here in public (unless people are dying to hear lol) but it was so bad and consistent that I thought I had some sort of bile problem or a bad liver or pancreas that could not process fats. I actually quit eating fat for a while because I just couldn’t process the stuff. But I’m not ignorant enough to go fat free for long so I kept trying to add it back in. Always the same horrible digestive problems, until I discovered tallow. As long as I stay away from dairy fat and veg oils, I’m cool.
        My mood is absolutely great. That’s kind of the problem. I am happy and fun loving but just not emotional. I imagine that part of my vulcanness comes from the fact that I used to be so incredibly overly emotional. I’m kind of repulsed at this point by the hightened emotions which ruin people’s lives.
        I eat tons of fat – saturated fat. I don’t eat vegetable oils. I eat pemmican and tallow and fatty cuts of meat and eggs. Did you not notice? I don’t eat much carbs so I’d be kind of dying without a lot of fat.
      • I can’t find jackkuses.com…
  41. I loved this post. I have also been on a strict carnivore diet for several months, although not raw, for the same reasons as you. I even avoided all salicylates. I still avoid all fruits and nuts. However, I’m learning that many food allergies may have a cause behind them. Upstream of an inflamed GI tract, there’s also an inability to manufacture certain enzymes, and the root cause of these sorts of things could be a heavy metal issue. Hear me out!
    Do/did you have mercury fillings? Did your mother? Have you or your mother ever smoked cigarettes, been near a broken thermometer, a broken flourescent bulb, lived in a house with lead paint, played with lead toys, smoked out of a painted bong or hookah, etc?
    I recently had my amalgams removed, began taking many supportive supplements as described by Andy Cutler in his book, and I’m now slowly experimenting with food reintroductions, like milk and broccoli. It’s going extremely well. There is an inexpensive hair sample test you can get for under $100 that can tell you if you have heavy metal issues. If I was standing in front of you, I would plead for you to order Andy Cutler’s book “Amalgam Illness”, have a read, and just see for yourself. You’ve got nothing to lose. The book title is a bit misleading, as it covers any sort of heavy metal toxicity.
    • Jeremy,
      I have read a couple of books about heavy metal poisoning. Believe me, in all my searching for a cure I read plenty about heavy metal poisoning. And then I had my metals checked. I had no significant metals in my body. It was a big disappointment. I was really hoping to have all my problems solved by something as simple as chelation… Oh well.
      • A note from my own years of personal experience and research: you cannot judge your body’s toxic metal load strictly by the levels shown in common tests. If you have enzyme damage due to metal toxicity, then you likely also have damage to your detoxification pathways. This means that your body is not going to effectively remove the toxic metals from your body and your readings from certain tests (e.g., the hair test and others) are going to be low. Therefore, a test result showing abnormally LOW levels of toxic metals can be an indicator of poor detoxification not of low body burden.
        Some toxic metals get sequestered away and bound up so tight in certain areas of the body that there is no simple way to test for them other than to evaluate your symptoms and then start trying to remove the toxic elements through methods like chelation.
        • (I’m trying to reply to Tony’s post below, but it keeps moving my reply to here, so that may confuse some, just to clarify)
          That’s exactly as I understand it as well. This also applies to blood, urine, and stool tests. Andy Cutler covers this subject as well. Along with the hair test, they provide you with a blood mineral analysis, which can help to diagnose malfunctioning metabolic pathways, which may be malfuntioning due to heavy metals. Andy has written another book on interpreting these results, and the yahoo chelation groups have much experience in this area as well.
          Quite frequently, the person’s followup analysis do show the heavy metals after chelation once they are pryed from their hiding places. Symptoms improve concurrently. It’s all very interesting and repeated over and over by newcomers.
          • While toxic metals are one of many possible causes of all this extreme sensitivity (and I do agree it’s worth looking into further even though I’m about to sound like it’s not), there are a whole lot of other factors which are definitely responsible too. For example,
            1. I had undiagnosed celiac disease until I was 26 – my mineral levels got seriously unbalanced and low since childhood.
            2. I was a soy consuming vegetarian for 13 years – soy being known to destroy intestines and estrogen levels.
            3. I suffered very dramatic and extreme stress which depletes a body of essential nutrients, hormones, and the ability to make neurotransmitters.
            4. I was raised on shortening (transfats) and omega-6 oils and rarely ever saw any omega-3s.
            Growing up this way, there are many solid reasons why my body turned out the way it did
        • That’s pretty interesting Tony and Jeremy. So are you saying that we should just assume we have heavy metal poisoning then, since the tests aren’t accurate, and start chelation therapy?
          I mean, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if I did…
          Here’s the thing, though, I spent soooo many years believing everything I heard about health. I needed to believe at first. I didn’t know any better and I was desperate. I also spent a whole lot of money. I’m extremely skeptical these days and am not as likely as I used to be to read a book and go out and spend a ton of time and money chasing yet another solution that doesn’t apply to me.
          • No, I don’t recommend you begin chelating without reading Andy’s take on the subject. There are tests that exist, called ‘provocation challenges’ that can scrape the metals out into the blood, urine, and stool, but the large amounts used to conduct these tests are often damaging to the subject, and are highly recommended against by Cutler and his supporters.
            This is where the mineral analysis comes in. It may show you your mineral levels are completely out of whack with what you thought they were. It may be showing you are not absorbing or are quickly excreting essential minerals, even if you are supposedly ingesting ‘enough’ of them from real food. Thyroid and adrenal tests are also recommended in establishing your baseline.
            If you’re not sure it’s worth it to proceed, it’s important to ask yourself the questions I proposed above to try and get an idea of you’ve ever had significant exposures over your entire life, even in the womb. Heave metals are carried to the fetus before the placental wall is developed, and can also be in breastmilk. My mother had a ton of amalgams since childhood, and so have I. I’ve been tourettic, OCD, manic/depressive, you name it. A diet very similar to yours has mitigated much of it, but I think i’m now really getting to the bottom of it.
            It’s my opinion that those of us who have to take drastic measures such as salicylate/phenol avoidance to feel and function OK have more going on underneath than simple food allergies. We have enzymatic problems, and why are they screwed up? These are common subjects and symptoms that are addressed and resolved in Cutler’s world. You won’t be any worse off by simply reading his book.
  42. Forgot to mention, the subject is very googlable. There are a couple chelation yahoo groups that you will come across if you google for food intolerance or food allergy and heavy metals. The folks there have been there a long time, supporting a steady stream of newcomers, and have made significant strides in healing themselves and/or their childre. Looking forward to hearing from anyone here on this.
  43. Just curious-
    What is your daughter’s diet like?
    I’m currently breastfeeding a 6 month old who has yet to start eating solids (gonna hold off as long as I can! Why mess with a perfect food?). I’m certainly not going to feed her baby cereal, will probably do fruits and other normal baby mush, but my midwife/pediatrician said meats might give her too much protein early on.
    I know your daughter is much older than mine, but I’d love to hear your thoughts and experience feeding her.
    for me, I love love love dairy. Lots of raw milk mixed with heavy cream (or just a swig of cream when I’m feeling peckish), kefir, cheeses, butter (I eat grass fed butter straight from the block. Yum). I even eliminated all dairy when I thought my daughter might be sensitive for about 6 weeks, missed it terribly, and felt great when I added it back in. Maybe my northern European heritage helps . . . ? Still not sure what I’ll do for daughter with dairy.
    Anyway, thanks!
    • Your Ped is right. You don’t want to feed babies a whole lot of protein. High fat is the most important thing. My daughter was the happiest little thing in town because her diet was so high in fat.
      She ate things like avocado, raw liver, banana and raw egg yolk, vegetables blended with lots of butter (you could use tallow), raw fish, and home made chicken and beef soups made with bones, coconut oil.
  44. Actually, Vulcans are vegetarian. :)
    • I didn’t realize that. Hmm. They must eat some kind of vegetarian food from Vulcan then because vegetarian earth food would start an emotional roller coaster for sure. Oh damn, after the destruction of the planet Vulcan, they must have all gone crazy!
  45. I want to start eating liver and was wondering how much to eat. A tablespoon a day? I love your blog and the topics you cover!
  46. Just discovered this blog from Marks Daily Apple. Seriously love it. I have spent hours going over all of your posts. Your willpower and determination to get healthy is AMAZING. I switched to a loosely paleo diet about 6 months ago and have been eating low carb for almost a year. I feel great, and the more research I do the more and more I want to tell the world about the wonders of living a primitive lifestyle. I think I must sell it well because all of my friends have tried and my boyfriend is a good 70% on board. My family is extremely supportive. I went from being a good 25 pounds over weight to in the best shape of my life, complete with abs and all! Keep writing, I just love your blog! I plan on raising all of my children (once I have them, we want 5! holy moly..lol) paleo, and can’t imagine why anyone would do anything different!
    You are an inspiration! I look forward to following your blog!
  47. Hey Peggy. My body reacts remarkably similar to yours, from what I read, when consuming any vegetables/fruits/grains. At one point in this article, you said you were eating a diet of raw meat/seafood/eggs for a year and felt great. It seems you don’t necessarily eat raw anymore, or do you eat a mix of raw/cooked animal foods? Does it make a difference for you when it comes to eating raw or cooked animal foods? Thanks so much for sharing you story!
    • I admit, I felt best when I ate all my food raw. When I eat raw beef for breakfast as opposed to cooked I feel immediately full of energy. I digest it so easily and my digestion loves the extra bacteria. My skin is utterly perfect when I eat raw. There is a catch to eating a totally raw diet, though, and that is that you just can’t eat very much compared to cooked (and it is so much blander than cooked food).
      Eating a diet like mine of meats and fats keeps me extremely lean but eating just raw food makes me even leaner (if that’s even possible). There’s a trade off for everything. Eat more and feel sated or eat less and feel like a trillion bucks.
      • Hi Peggy. I hope I didn’t miss it somewhere, but I was wondering if you can point me to somewhere that talks about how long raw foods can be safely kept frozen and refrigerated for maximum nutrient retention. I will begin eating raw (after reading through all of your posts and comments again), but just not sure how often I should be buying meats (ground beef and beef liver mostly). Thanks!
        • Hi there. From what I understand there is little change in nutrient value after freezing and frozen foods can be frozen indefinitely.
          • Thanks Peggy. Do you know whether there’s a loss of nutrients if I cook meat, like liver, versus eating raw? If it is more nutritious raw, can you point me to a book or website that I can check out to learn more about it? Thank you!!
            I just tried some raw, and I’m not quite sure if I will be able to stomach it. I haven’t tried the swallow holding my nose method yet, but I will if it’s more nutritious raw.
  48. Hi Peggy,
    You say you think you may have fructose intolerance. This made me start to question if I may have it too. My only question is, in your diet you show some days when you consume sugar in your yogurt and also in your limeaid. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought sugar(sucrose)is made up of glucose and fructose. Do you have any bad reactions with having sugar? Wouldn’t the sugar cause you problems too if you were fructose intolerant or would it have more to do with the dose so to speak? I am just curious as I only consume fruits and veggies as my source of sugar, but am now wondering if plain old sugar would cause me the same problem. I am now wondering if my problem has more to do with the fiber particularly in the veggies. Would love to get your thoughts on this as I would love to weed out any foods that may be causing my digestive problem. Thank you so much,Peggy!
    • It’s a good thing you point that out about sugar. I didn’t even think to include an explanation for this. Yes sugar is made up of both a glucose and fructose molecule, but the glucose molecule actually leads the fructose molecule through the process of digestion. So when a person has fructose malabsoption, they cannot digest fructose all by itself, but a tiny bit with glucose will safely make it through. If ever you accidentally ate a tiny bit of honey or maple syrup, you could actually take a glucose tablet to prevent the malabsorption. This doesn’t work, however, if you were to eat a large amount of fructose, like a whole piece of fruit or something. This website is extremely useful on the subject. http://avthompson.wordpress.com/what-is-fructose-malabsorption-disorder/
  49. So happy I found you…I too have a lot of random allergies, unfortunately I have eggs and chicken on my list. My diet includes fruits though is mostly a carnivore diet. I am thrilled to see you talking about this because I find it hard to be the ‘only one’ who is actually acting on my allergies and taking responsibility for my health sometimes. I am not diagnosed celiac though am diagnosed Multiple Sclerosis. I found, like you, that changing my diet is HUGELY helpful. I am amazed when people say things like “I can’t stop eating bread” and whatnot. I haven’t tried so much raw meat, mostly just oysters. I am curious about where you find yours and wonder if you buy it from the site you link to so much?
    • Kristin, I know! What do you mean “you can’t stop eating bread?” Your health and happiness depend on it!!! Allergies do create some chemical dependencies in the brain, so I understand it’s hard, but come on, we CAN do anything we put our minds to.
      Oysters? I eat them at restaurants often and I get them from whole foods too. I don’t think it really matters which raw foods you eat, just as long as you do eat some. So, oysters are fine.
      I buy from US Wellness about once a month these days. I eat pemmican just about every day and they are the only place to get it. (I could make it myself…) Plus, I add their tallow to just about everything I eat. I eat a whole lot of fat, that’s what keeps me kickin. I also like to buy my beef bones from them – soup bones and marrow bones. I buy my steaks and ground beef from a local 100% grass fed and finished farm.
  50. Hi Peggy, I have followed a Zero Carb diet for the last year. I have lost over 100 pounds. The first 20 on VLC and the rest on ZC. I just eat. I don’t exercise at all. I eat all kinds of meat, but my main staple is Fatty Beef Brisket. I have started to eat eggs these last few months and some natural lactose free cheese. I drink plain black coffee. I went from 280 lbs to a current weight of 176.6 lbs and still losing. I have had a blood lipid screening 4 time and they are all great. My LDL was a little high so I did the VAP test that actually measures the LDL particle size and the result was “A”. So I will never ever go back to SAD. I am glad to read about others that have benefited from this WOE. I know we don’t eat exactly the same way, but it is very close. Keep the Faith and Always Battle On!!!
    • Thanks for sharing! What an inspiration. It is nice o hear of others eating similar since it is so weird and all… but so effective ;)
      • Right? Weird indeed! I tell you what: I feel great, I have tons of energy and my spirits and inner being has never been better. I give all this to ZC. If you want to actually see the results so far I welcome you to visit my Zero Carb Blog “The Chronicles of David”. I have a photo tab that shows my before and in progress pictures. I have also achieved my journey almost everyday for the last year. Lately I have only been updating weekly more or less. Fight the Good Fight and Battle On!!!
        • I believe you Dave. I’ve been on and off with VLC and ZC for many years and report the exact same findings. It’s absolutely wonderful how redeeming it has been for me. And for you too! I saw your photos; you have lost sooo much weight and you look so good now! Your amazing effort has paid off. You look very happy in your pictures too. It appears this is the way to go for you.
  51. I do best on almost all meat/eggs too. If I just eat these I am good to go for hours. I do eat fibrous veggies tho and soooooooome fruit. I believe cheese or yogurt makes me hungrier than meat now that you mention ur intolerance for it and I even eat fullfat dairy.
    I really believe I need to eat carbs tho, so I am following a lowcarb, timed/portioned program…usually lol. Just eating meat with some fibrous veggies would probably be ideal for me!
    • I can’t even touch cheese. It makes me ravenously hungry! It’s not even one of my bad allergies but there is something in it that makes me sooo hungry. The same is true for grains though and anything processed for that matter…
  52. I noticed you mentioned gut issues with starches, and joint pain. You might be interested to read about ankylosing spondylitis, a type of autoimmune arthritis which can be helped by a low starch diet to control Klebsiella in the gut. I am celiac and also have mild AS, and my story is very similar to yours. I’ve found I get depressed on very low carb, and have found a tsp of liquid glucose between meals keeps my mood up without upsetting my gut and joints like starches do.
    A couple of links: http://www.kickas.org/londondiet.shtml
    I discovered starches were the issue for me through playing around with my paleo diet, going low carb and then adding “safe starches” back in because of low mood. I was baffled until someone told me about AS and the low starch diet.
  53. Hi Peggy,
    Thanks for your. Awesome post! I have just posted a long question on paleohacks about my digestive issues as I think I have little choice but to give the carnivore thing a go. My post is: http://paleohacks.com/questions/60708/help-food-intolerances-ibs-sibo-do-i-go-zero-carb#axzz1VzrxbpDg
  54. Peggy, at first I want to tell you that it is great that you “keep that blog alive” and continue the discussion from older posts! For you it makes totally sense to eat such a radical diet and your healthy and vibrant looks are proof enough that it is exactly what you need. However, I am a bit troubled by a post at “The Perfect Health Diet”. I like the articles there for they are in general very well researched (as well as yours). The article is about that very low carb diets might lead to thyroid dysfunction (and there is a link that they possibly promote stomach cancer). Here is the link: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/
    Paul recommends to have at leat 400 kcal from carbs (100 from rfuit, 300 from starches). I enjoy an occassional sweet potatoe but I find white rice boring and adding it to my diet is something I can do without causing me health issues but I do not enjoy it a lot. As I am an athlete Paul would recommend probably more in my case..I am scared to provoke health issues especially as I found it convincing that vegetables do not count as a carb source as the sugar content is digested by gut bacteria…I still feel I haven`t found my own path nutrition wise…I would love to hear your opinion! It would be also great if you could recommend some sample menues for those who include more vegetables/starch than you do for I like your approach of simplicity but I need more plant stuff! Would you mind sharing how many calories you usually eat and how much (if any) you added when pregnant?
    Thank you so much and please keep on blogging!
    • Ahhh! I totally forgot to reply to this comment! Sorry about that. I was just reading part two to the article you mentioned this morning and remembered your question. I think that article was wonderful. I had no idea there was a thyroid link to glucose deficiency. In fact, I really didn’t even know anything about glucose deficiency other than through experience. I can ALWAYS feel it when I’m in need of glucose and in that case I just eat it. I have been discussing the theory a little with others and don’t personally believe that a person who eats ample protein and is low carb (not zero carb) will ever face this issue. I can see how zero carb might be playing with fire, sitting right on the edge of glucose deficiency, but low carb with ample protein doesn’t seem too likely to me. His carbohydrate recommendations seem quite high to me as well. I don’t see why people would need 100 grams of carbs per day, unless their livers didn’t convert protein properly or they were athletes. But again, in this case you would feel it. You’d get tired. Your brain would be slow. It is good to know about the seriousness of the risk though. People who feel unrelenting fatigue on a low carb diet might just want to up their protein intake and carbohydrates a bit. Anyway, I’m going to get back over there and finish reading part two!
    • Sonnenblume, I left a comment on the Perfect Health blog dealing with VLC and T3 — I’ve also made a similar post over on Gnolls.org dealing with the argument that carbs are needed for serotonin production. I’m going to link to both of my comments so you can see them :
      I hope those links help :)
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  56. Peggy, I am very late to this party, but found my way via Primal Toad…
    I am curious if you found your ideal diet strictly through trial & error, or if you at any point consulted w/naturopath or nutritionist? Any references you found helpful? I appreciate hearing about your experience.
    (Hey, I’d love to be Vulcan too – live long & prosper!)
  57. Hi Peggy,
    I just happened on your site through MDC and I have to say that it is intriguing! The idea of eating raw meat sounds interesting to me, though it is not within our means at the moment, as we cannot afford grassfed beef.
    My question is this: when I was in college my A & P professor scoffed at all-meat diets because he claimed that a person would develop fatal ketoacidosis. How does one prevent such a condition from occuring? Have you ever come across someone claiming this? As you can see, I don’t remember all the details about ketoacidosis :) . Is it the high percentage of calories from fat that would prevent the metabolizing of proteins as the main energy source? Biologists, help me out here :D .
    Clearly, at least a few pre-industrial cultures ate minimal to no plant matter and remained healthy.
    • Hi Lisa,
      Your professor was mistaking ketoacidosis for ketosis – a common but careless confusion. From Wikipedia,
      “Ketoacidosis is a pathological metabolic state marked by extreme and uncontrolled ketosis. (Normal ketosis, by contrast, is a functional aspect of fat-based energy metabolism, induced by prolonged fasting or a low-carbohydrate diet.) In ketoacidosis, the body fails to adequately regulate ketone production causing such a severe accumulation of keto acids that the pH of the blood is substantially decreased. In extreme cases ketoacidosis can be fatal.”
      Ketoacidosis is a dangerous condition that often happens to people with type 1 diabetes.
  58. Ahh, thanks. So ketoacidosis can occur in someone with a metabolic disease and can’t manage the normal condition of ketosis.
    I wonder what a biologically appropriate diet would be for someone with Type 1 Diabetes, who didn’t produce insulin.
  59. I have been primal for quite some time now. Also diagnosed celiac/hypothryoid. I still have “things” going on that probably aren’t quite right but I guess I don’t know where to start with eliminating things. I am off grains, beans, dairy and most sugar. I do eat some fruit and vegetables. I have added butter lately and am broke out again. But I also added organic regular coffee with coconut milk. I eat nuts sometimes but I always soak them really well. I mostly just feel full all the time. I do get leg swelling and cellulite worsens at times. I have had such severe constipation problems…like wouldn’t go for week or longer at a time. am going now..in morning after coffee…but am also chubbier…weird. I eat a lot of great fats and meats….I don’t know….I am very impressed with your ability to hone in on what exactly you needed to do for yourself. inspiring…
    • Hey Jami. It took a long time. I was determined to stop feeling like crap. You know, when everyone you know feels better than you and you have the healthiest diet? I just couldn’t take it emotionally anymore. So I got methodical and crazy. I wouldn’t go along with typical wisdom anymore because it wasn’t helping me. Just keep trying and realize that when everybody elses prescription isn’t working for you, you’ve got to try something else.
      • Yes, I know exactly what you mean! I’ve often been embarrassed of myself because I am actually as a profession a “health coach”. I will keep on keepin on! thank you
  60. Pingback: Primal With A Side Of FABULOUS | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page 9
  61. Different Lindsey from above! Thank you for your posts. I have found since going primal that I have lost interest in most vegetables and like you tend to eat mainly meat or food appertaining to meat (eg eggs). I feel perfectly well eating like this but was a bit concerned that I may not be getting all the nutrients required. What you wrote convinced me that I wasn’t doing myself too much harm :) I must say though that I personally have no interest in sugar whatsoever. Each to his own!
    Take care!
    • That’s great Lindsey! I don’t exactly have an interest in sugar though, I have never had much of a sweet tooth. I have a fat tooth actually. The sugar is just for practical purposes but I don’t crave it or anything. Now if I were to eat grains or fruit, that would be a different story. I would crave those like mad.
      • I wonder why that is. I think fruit, and I know grains for sure, but also sweet potatoes ….make me want to eat them even more. I’m pretty much a meat and veg gal, but even lately the only veg I’ve wanted is jicama. I guess for the cooling hydration during summer. But, even with that said, I am not symptom free yet so still have some experimenting to do. I feel depressed without caffeine or sugar….but maybe I just haven’t given it long enough. I just want to feel alive and vibrant and happy…..
  62. Pingback: Living off animal foods, avoiding vegetables. need sugestions, answers, etc | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page 2
  63. Your blog is SO interesting! Thanks for all the work you put into it and all the informative articles! I am new to all of this though. What do you tell people who claim red meat causes cancer and that it sits in your stomach for five days? I admit again that I am pretty new to this, so I apologize if you have already addressed this.
  64. Sonnenblume, I left a comment on the Perfect Health blog dealing with VLC and T3 — I’ve also made a similar post over on Gnolls.org dealing with the argument that carbs are needed for serotonin production. I’m going to link to both of my comments so you can see them :
    I hope those links help :)
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    • Arbo, thank you very much for the link. Actually, I am more interested in the stomach cancer issue that you briefly adresse in your links: As I have Hashimoto`s (and I am doing fine, never had weight problems or anything) I have my thyroid checked VERY regularly so I can monitor whether I need to change things for my thyroid health. I thought I understood the stomach cancer risk as a problem that was very pronounced among the “optimal dieters” as opposed to the rest of the Polish people (even considering that Poland might have high numbers in general) so it would be great to learn more about this! However, I have found that I do great in averaging 100 g carbs/day and sometimes 150 g but I think this is different for everyone and we have to figure out through trail and error…
  65. Dr. Kurt Harris has also just blogged about the benefit of some starch in your diet:
    and Paul Jaminet deals with the issue concerning cancer treatment (the idea of deficient glycosation in cancer patients is interesting)
  66. That might be high fat by % but very low in calories considering how active you are. Seems like you only eat 1300-1500 calories per day (unless you use gigantic amounts of tallow)?
    • Your estimate is probably right some days. Eating a lot doesn’t make me feel good, plus I’m not hungry as often or for as huge portions since eliminating fiber. I do, however, eat more fat than you probably realize. Some days the amount of fat in my diet kicks the calories well over 2000.
      • I am so happy that I found your site and this thread. I know now I am not alone. I have been limited to eating mostly meat. I cant have gluten and just cant digest fruits and vegies. For years I have been forcing myself to eat vegies. Since all you hear is you wont be healthy if you dont. But I have now listened to my body and it feels better on meat. 95 % of the symptoms I was feeling are gone. The stomach issues the muscle aches and feeling of brain fog and weakness have vanished . I am 42 I am in better shape physiically and mentally then I was all through my 30s.
      • Hi Peggy, I’ve seen your comments a few times on MDA, and decided to check out your site. Really great material for me. I have info galore, but putting primal into practice has been up’s and down’s (25 years of bad habits to erase), so it’s nice to see how you’ve really simplified (more so) the whole idea.
        I recently found myself full after eating only 1300-1700 cal per day (after switching to MAINLY meats, fats, stock and eggs). Maybe the TYPE of calorie has much more to do with satiety than total amt.
        Thanks again, and happy holidays from Boston!
        • Alex, carbohydrates definitely stimulate the appetite. I never eat a whole lot when I don’t eat much carbs, which is most of the time. I used to worry about my weight because I’m definitely thinner than most, but I’m also super strong and energetic and gain muscle with ease. So I don’t worry about it.
          Happy holidays to you too! One of my brothers used to live in Boston. :) He loved it there but now he’s a world traveler with a backpack and no home. Funny guy.
          • My problem’s ALWAYS been the opposite.. thick since I was 3, husky since 12, obese in HS, now starting to get things under control.. aiming to hit 175 this year.
            Since going primal though, I make my own lard and tallow, butter and eggs almost daily, making coconut milk a few times a year, along with batches of sauerkraut.. and feet nd old bones for my weekly stocks! Odd transformation :) I’m trying raw beef (ground) tonight for the first time, and looking forward to it.
            Technically I’ve eaten raw pork before in Germany when I lived there, but topped in with salt and onion and served on a roll.
            All the best!
  67. Pingback: 10/28/11 | Heathen Come Home
  68. Pingback: ~pjgh » Blog Archive » Entering the Mesolithic?
  69. There is also calcium in leafy greens…can you eat those? My kids like seaweed in soup and kale ;-)
    • Sorry this didn’t post right…it WA in response to the mom asking about calcium for kids…feel free to delete since it posted in the wrong place ( I’m on my iPhone..)
  70. Pingback: School Lunches, Part 2 | The Primal Parent
  71. Hi Peggy,
    You mentioned herbs/spices in your raw meat post. Can you elaborate a little more on which ones you can tolerate? And does it make a difference if they are dried as opposed to fresh?
    I have such a hard time with plant matter, and often I think I am reacting to even small amounts of herbs and spices (bloating, cravings, burping…oh the list is endless it feels!.
    But it is so hard to know for sure. Sometimes a bit of parsley or chilli or cilantro or mint ‘seems’ to be okay but then other times I seem to get horrid bloat and distress and they seem to sit in my gut for enormous lengths of time. At least it feels like they do because I have yucky buprs where I can still ‘taste’ them 10-12 hours later!!
    Vegetables are a nightmare for me, I’ve had no ‘testing’ done but can’t find any so far that don’t wreak havoc on my body and my mind. Fruit is easier, it seems, for me to digest and I ‘could’ eat it if the only factor to consider were GI response, but it leads to other physical issues plus massive cravings, brain fog and mood disturbances which then cause horrid bingeing, so that’s out too.
    Anyway, I won’t go on about my long and miserable history with plants, but it does ease the heart and loose the tongue when you find others who understand the same suffering! Thank you for the time and effort you have put into making this info available for others.
    • Circe,
      I feel you. Spices do the same to me. If I eat bacon or sausage made with spices (which is most of them), I will burp spices all day. It’s so lame. This is the case with pretty much everything that grows in the ground. Most herbs are also bad for me. My daughter is the one who is such a lover of herbs. I use them occasionally but most of the time not. Parsley is the best herb for me in small amounts. I don’t really care about herbs and spices anymore. I’ve gotten used to life without them. I too like hearing comments from others who can’t tolerate vegetables. When I first figured it out, I thought I was the only one on earth like me. It was kind of scary. Thanks for commenting. :)
  72. holy moly! this is fascinating! i really hear that some peeps are living well-healthy, full of energy, happy…-with no veggies.
    my confusion is this…was there a time evolutionarily when all we ate was raw meat and butter and dairy and no vegetables or fruits? i thought our main diet, pre-agriculture, included plenty of plant matter…well, more plant matter the closer to teh equator, more animal foods the closer to the poles.
    anyhoo, very curious. as a human with a brain. and as a human who has health issues.
    much appreciation everyone for your willingness to experiment and make change.
  73. Hey I’m also in Denver…just wondering where you get your meat that you trust it enough to eat raw/semi raw? Thanks for this blog!
    • Also, not sure if you’re drinking broth, but if so do where do you get good bones (marrow, etc) for broth? I just can’t let myself pay so much for them at whole foods…makes for quite expensive broth.
      I’m doing a meat only trial for a few weeks (previously on GAPS intro for a few months) to see if I can’t get some of my digestive issues under control. Honestly, I’m hoping I don’t have to maintain meat only long term, but I’ll do pretty much anything to feel better at this point : ) I’ll probably never go back to grains though. I’m only on my second day…definitely feel pretty crappy but that expected.
      • I get my bones from US Wellness. Whole foods doesn’t have bones from pasture raised animals. Good luck on your journey!
        • Thanks Peggy. I did end up seeing all of your references to US Wellness after reading more of you blog. I’m super interested in trying their pemmican…sounds awesome..but I’m not sure I can fund a $75 purchase right now. I’ll keep them in mind though for the future.
  74. Pingback: All Meat Diet- Long Term Effects? | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page
  75. Hey Peggy,
    I was wondering if you would address the issues of primal living, the Vulcan state of mind and Art. As a musician and a Vulcan how do the two poles work together in your life? Does being a Vulcan remove the emotion from your art?
    My experience is as follows: I’m a filmmaker. Film is an art form whose closest sibling is music. As filmmakers/musicians we must know the difference between a wink and a blink, be aware and anticipate a beat, a colour or a composition. But more specifically, artists must know about the emotion called desire. Desire is film’s stock and trade, it is the main theme for all great films. In fact until the advent of abstract expressionism almost all great art was about desire…and I must report my own personal desire is currently having a dirt nap.
    My primal lifestyle is as hardcore as it comes, for the past four years I have eaten nothing but bison, elk, (mostly raw…like tartare) sockeye salmon, low or no glycemic veggies, kimchee and my own mix of supplements. I also do 5×5’s four times a week and sprints twice a week. I went from a rotund 196 to a Spiderman like (the comic not the movie) 155. Waist from 36/37 to 27 (it’s hard to buy jeans now because I also have 36 inch legs). In short, I look and feel fantastic. The flip side to this lifestyle is my desire, empathy and emotion is like my carb intake…like near zero.
    My strength as a filmmaker came from my ability to identify a emotion, no matter how small, amplify it and pay it like a violin. I used to get emotional over the most trite matters…tempests in a teacup. Those days are gone. These days I walk though people like a lion meandering through a field of three legged antelope. People look up to me these days. However, the other side of this situation is now I’m looking down at them. This is disastrous for a person in my field. I can still function in my profession because I have a good handle on my craft…I define craft as grab bag of tricks an artist uses to get through various situations. But, craft is no substitute for inspiration, desire or empathy. These days my work seems like a mechanical construct and that’s Ok, but I’m astute enough to see an essential missing element…an element I no longer possess.
    In my primal mind emotional meanings have changed for me. Empathy at one moment long ago felt like compassion, now it gives off the foul stench of weakness and desire has changed from the urge to strive to a faint echo of the perverse. I’ve believe I have become a self-contained system in a world full of emotional vampires. As you can imagine, I’m not interacting well with my arts community. Truly, I feel like a Vulcan from the constellation Rigel Five, placed here on earth to observe and report. The same holds true for sex, the emotion and the heightened desire is gone, it has become a pleasant bodily function. I’m not the rational sexual Vulcan that St Augustine envisioned Adam in the Garden of Eden to be…but I’m close.
    It seems to me we can play our bodies through the food we eat the same way we can play or choose a musical instrument. And with every choice comes a tradeoff. In my case the tradeoff is health or art.
    I’m seriously mulling over the kabbalahic contention that wheat not the apple was the forbidden substance in the Garden of Eden in that it removed humans from state of immortality but gave them knowledge of good and evil…and I’m reaching here…emotional art.
    As an aside I can see how primal or “barbaric” peoples were so hard to conquer.
    Will I give up my primal lifestyle for art? Absolutely not. But I’m curious how other artists have coped and created art with a reduced emotional palette. Maybe, it’s time for me to drop this art form and move on, there are a lot of things to do in this life…I’m not married to directing. Anyway, I’m looking forward to your response Peggy.
    P.S I just checked out your music. I’m betting the Primal life has impacted your style…Hey, maybe we should create or formulate a Primal aesthetic.
    • What an amazing comment! One of the best I’ve seen yet in the primal community! Such an interesting thing to think about. I find that in my daily living I have ZERO tolerance for whiny and bs. My main art is aerial work, right now aerial tissue. I find the primal aesthetic only has helped here, as literally, I am above the crowd. I’m short and build muscle quickly…it’s easy for me to look kind of squat and bulky. Now I have more of ballerina’s body…I feel length in my muscles that aids in long lines. I do feel “colder” in a way, but it’s served me for this art form. Sort of “untouchable”. I also write music but haven’t written in the past year…I hadn’t thought about it till your comment…I’m not very inspired, similar to what you are saying. Small emotions used to feed my lyrics and now to me, it just sounds like whining.
      But all of this ties into what I’m calling the spiritual aspect of Primal…I feel eating this way has completely eliminated my ego chatter. I feel very “one with universe” and see our true nature. Which makes everything we do seem somewhat useless. I’m choosing to take that feeling and go with “if everything is useless, I’m open to doing anything that feeds my soul”.
      Anyway, that my contribution…I’m going to be thinking about this from now on. Really, really interesting!
    • Thanks for taking the time to write that. This is a real issue for many of us. I have addressed it to a couple of people in emails already. Now that you bring it up I will write more about it in a post. I would like to use your comment in the post. I think there is a lot here that people might relate to. Even if they don’t realize it at first. For some people, it takes time to recognize that things might be different about them. Like Jamie, I don’t write poetry anymore. It takes a kind of whininess that I simply don’t have anymore to do it. I can still write lyrics out of necessity but I don’t just sit around and write poems out of pain and suffering. It’s just not there anymore.
    • Directm,
      I hope you don’t mind me chiming in and I say this with much respect, but I hope you don’t give up what you love to do if you in fact really love it. I did the low carb paleo diet for a few years and I just found out this past year that I’m hypoglycemic so I had to stop eating that way. I now eat a pretty high carb whole foods diet and I’m finally seeing the emotional roller coaster completely gone and I now have nothing but a calm state about me. I Just wanted to point that out as I think for a lot of people low sugars can be a major culprit and to many people go undiagnosed because the standard tests for it aren’t catching it.
      I know we all have a different way of eating that works for us so I respect how you eat and I respect Peggy so that is why I still frequent her blog. I’m not trying to sound all emotional when I say this, but I would hate for you to give up something that seems to have given you such joy in the past, just for a 27 inch waste and an invincible Spiderman like feeling.
      You write so beautifully and you must inspire those around you who look up to you not for your grand stature, but for your true passion for your art. The greatest thing we can do for ourselves is to be true to who we are and do what we love. I know I’m always inspired and in awe when I’m in the presence of someone who is in his/her element and being true to themselves. That’s when we are at our best! Some never truly figure out what makes them tick, but you seem to have and that is definitely more valuable than the food you eat.
      What would we be without emotion? I for one never want to be in a world where, for example, the sight of a my baby being born or the passing of a loved one, doesn’t bring a tear to my eye. It is not weakness, but love and my wish for you is that you find what makes you love to the fullest! Then and only then, will you truly be on top of the world. Compassion just means you can relate to others around you, simply because you yourself have lived! Do what makes you feel alive! :-) I wish you all the best Directm!
  76. Pingback: Being Primal and Artistic Desire – What is Art to Your New Level Headed Self? | The Primal Parent
  77. Recently I have been able to handle less and less carbs. I can often go a day with my only plant matter be one fruit or a couple of bites of the veggies I prepare for my dh’s dinner, and sometimes no plants at all. If my condition continues I believe I will have to give up carbs altogether. If not for this post I would think something was horribly wrong with me and I that I was doing wrong by skipping my daily veggies. Instead, I know that if I continue filling myself up with the right foods, I’ll be fine. I want to tested for gastroparesis (just to have it in my file), but it isn’t an emergency. Paleo vlc/nc is taking care of it better than any drug or treatment possibly could. And since constantly tweaking my paleo diet to be more like yours for the past few months, I am finally off depression meds for the first time in 3 years. This is a huge big deal for me.
    Thank you so much!
    • Wow that is so great to hear! That’s how it was for me too when I first started eating this way. It was a real godsend. Now, quite some time later, I am not as sensitive to everything that grows and have been able to expand my menu a bit. Good luck to you in your recovery!
  78. do you cook your food? you said you didn’t have a stove. and what do you mean you added blood to your diet? i am brand new and am interested in the paleo diet. i don’t have food in-tolerances to your extent!
    thanks! kelli
  79. This is the single most interesting thing I’ve read in a very long time. Thank-you for writing and posting! I have struggled for over 10 years with auto-immune and IBS-ish issues. The worst I think was the insomnia which was all because of the foods I was eating! Who would’ve thunk!! As soon as I cut out lactose and refined sugar I felt about %80 better.
    I’m so impressed that you stick with a diet like this. I try very hard, but end up binging (something I never used to do) on junk that makes me feel like junk. I want to stop so badly…was binging ever an issue for you? Being on such a restricted diet?
    Also, whenever I cut out fruit and high starch veg and go ultra low carb (which makes me feel amazing btw) I can’t sleep. Until I eat a banana and then fall asleep like a baby. Do you know why this would be?
    • I had trouble with binging too Heather I think because of the severe restrictions. Maybe it took time to build up the discipline or maybe it took some time to figure out what I really liked but eventually I got it. I have to admit though, it was easiest before my boyfriend and I moved in together and while my daughter was younger and ate much like I did. For me, it took eating really high fat to stay satisfied and keep my mind off of other types of foods. Nevertheless, I have found that the easiest diet for me to follow is one that includes a little carbohydrate and vegetables. Thankfully, at this point, I am back on veggies and the diet is once again effortless.
  80. Pingback: Interview With Me At Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb! | The Primal Parent
  81. Hi Peggy,
    Thank you so much for this blog and for sharing your experience. You are a truly beautiful person from inside and outside, and a great inspiration for me. I wanted to ask you how long did it take you to get clear of acne, after you started your paleo diet (or better say “Meat only diet”). I have major problem with acne on my face right now and I started a total elimination diet with just grass fed beef, sauerkraut, spinach, green beans, and zucchini+ olive oil and ghee (they seem to be ok for me). i hope to last for 3 or 4 weeks before adding anything if my condition improves. But I know it will be difficult, cause I work and breastfeed (although only a couple times a day) my 21-month old daughter. I would really appreciate if you could share your experience with acne. and also – is it safe to continue breastfeeding with so few carbs? Many thanks in advance, and sorry if this was too long.
    • Val, thank you for the kind words. Acne has come and gone with me. If I eat foods I’m sensitive to for a while, it comes back. But without fail, when my digestion in order, my acne is gone. In fact, if I eat foods that are bad for me (cheese, fruit, etc), the acne can come back just as bad as ever but then within a few days of eliminating it’s gone. It was never like this until I nailed the culprits. Having good nutritional status and a strong immune system helps to fend off attacks in general, but if I fall off the wagon, it returns.
  82. I loved reading your story with experimenting to see what really works for you, and also simply deciding if you want something even if you know it doesn’t sit well with you. I do that too with some things.. is it worth it to me? Most of the time it isn’t, but sometimes it is :) only I make that decision. Anyway, the first thing I thought of when you said you added sugar to your diet and it made you feel less vulcan was that in this book I’m reading “Healing with Whole Foods” talks about how sweet tastes can sweeten our emotions and are beneficial for those who are feeling down or stern. On a Vulcan related note… I was thinking about it when I was running today actually. The idea of “willpower” and how I don’t feel the need to tap into it to do things because I just do them. I think that Vulcan feeling also comes from your very realized sense of responsibility to yourself, you know what I mean? I find that people who are like this really live their lives in such a pronounced way with strong principles. Glad I stumbled on to your blog!
    p.s. I’m with you on the food at the movies… I don’t find the popcorn there to be remotely palatable
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  84. Hi
    I am an adoptee who was raised exclusively on formula prior to the introduction of solids. I have a university background in the human sciences, have been researching EXTENSIVELY over the past two years and could literally go on for hours about the problems that formula feeding creates for infants; however, I will choose to address your comment about feeling like a Vulcan when obzerving a primarily meat-based diet. I too have experienced the same phenomenon. In addition I have experienced as a result this style of diet. The thing is when animals are killed (and prior to it due to crowding and other stresses, if they are battery “farmed”) there are a flood of chemicals (adrenaline, etc…) that enter their tissues, essentially poisoning the meat. Ingesting these by-products will certainly affect one’s mind/body. I have to avoid most foods in general as I didn’t get the start (i.e. breast milk) that nature intended. I have, however, had the opportunity to witness calves frolicking and playing like puppies (creeps me out when I think about the meat I have eaten – honestly, not trying to be manipulative). There is a social reality to be witnessed with mowt animals if one looks closely. White rice and green beans (and the odd carrot) are my go-to foods. Dark chocolate and plain potato chips are my recreational foods. I react (and always have) to pretty much anything I ingest as I posses little more than an innate immune system (THEY call it ADHD). If you haven’t already, look into the “Failsafe” diet. It helps those with salicylate/mold/yeast/amine/histamine intolerance. Though if you are also sensitive to wheat/dairy/egg/meat/fish/nut, etc…, things may get a little restrictive. For me the choices are: a.) abandon my diet in the interest of entertaining my palate, or; b.) listen to my body in the hopes of relating to others and not winding up in an alley muttering to myself. Pretty cut and dry, unfortunately. I have learned that the effects build up in my system as time passes and the “bucket” overflows.
    • Hi.
      My third sentence should read: In addition I have experienced depression/aggression as a result this style of diet.
      P.S. most is a word… mowt is not (too my knowledge)}
  85. I think it makes sense to ask some serious questions about food and emotions and the conventional logic of vegetables and fruit as a dietary staples. The Masai tribe members eat a diet very similar to what Peggy ate and are by no means unwell. However I find the link between emotion and food to be fascinating as I eat a similar diet carnivorous diet myself and have always had difficulty understanding extreme ranges of emotion. It would be interesting to see some studies on that front.
  86. Pingback: Kalli's Leptin Reset Experiment - Page 7 | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page 7
  87. Thank you so much for this blog. I went Primal a month and a half ago, and I feel amazing…but the longer I eat this way, the more I have an aversion to vegetables! That went against everything I’ve been taught, so it’s nice to know that there are people out there meeting their nutrional needs in different ways. I would love to have the energy you talk about.
  88. I think we’re opportunistic carnivores. Meat and fat are out primary sources of energy. Fruits and honey are kinda like deserts in my opinion. When they are available, they are beneficial, but they are not sustainable. The same with certain plants, not sustainable. Most plants are not even edible. We are carnivores.
  89. Oh My gosh! I can’t believe I found you! i have been eating only seafood and grass fed meat for 5 months now, and in the last month I have gone completely raw. I any organ, meat, and fish every meal of the day. No veggies, no fruit, no sugar, no dairy…etc. I do do coconut (raw) oil and animal fat. What resources or book did you love the best! So cool to meet you :)
  90. Peggy,
    I have to ask before I try this all animal ( no veggie) lifestyle- how are your stools on this diet? Do you have them comfortablely, are they smaller than the average veg. eater, does it only occur every several days…???
    I’m sorry but I have to ask b/c that is the reason I want to try this.
    I have a History of constipation and spastic colon that i have not resolved. Now i have internal hemorrhoids to show for this problem while using the vegan diet :-/
    I’ve been vegan for 20 yrs thinking tweaking within the vegan diet (ive even done 100%raw for 10 yrs) will solve this, it has not so maybe this is the answer?
    Any tips I will gladly try them out :-)
    • Hey Ali,
      Have you read the fiber menace? Google it if not and check out his website. He’s probably got the answer to many of your questions. I cannot realistically say what your stools will look like. Our bodies and history is totally different. You should definitely experiment though.
      • Thank you Peggy.
        I have read it and I don’t remember him ever suggesting no produce, just no suppliment fiber. that is why I was asking your personal experience with this approach. Just so I know what to expect ” in general”
        Don’t worry, I’m not asking for visuals (no more pictures of toilets ;)
  91. Peggy :-)
    Have another question to ask you in addition to the one above. How are you getting all the vitamins and minerals without veg. And fruits? Is this safe longer term?
    • Ali, I usually do green juices, though there have been times when I haven’t because I didn’t have a juicer. Also, organ meats supply just about every vitamin and mineral you could need, even vitamin c. Add to that fish and shellfish and you’ve got it covered.