Fiber

Fiber Myths and Truths: Do We Really Need Fiber?

The myth that fiber is universally healthy and necessary is one of the most persistent in mainstream nutrition.

A more accurate understanding of fiber can be seen in the instance when Parks and Rec’s Ron Swanson was once served a plate of vegetables in place of his normal meaty meal.

“Excuse me,” he told the waiter. “There’s been a mistake. You’ve accidentally given me the food that my food eats.”

While this statement was meant to be funny — and it is— it also conveys a biological truth. Ron Swanson’s food of choice–beef–digests those veggies way better than he could ever hope to. Ruminant animals like cows are able to ferment all that plant fiber into fatty acids (in essence, they’re eating keto). 

But we humans run off of a different digestive “operating system.” Our bodies are designed to chew, ingest, and process a diet primarily composed of animal products–meats, organs, marrow etc.

In fact, recent research suggests that humans evolved as hyper-carnivorous apex predators for nearly 2 million years!  

This view that we humans don’t have the physiological system to healthfully digest lots of fibrous plant foods runs contrary to everything that common sense tells us. 

But as Albert Einstein once said, “Common sense is nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down in the mind before you reach eighteen.” When it comes to fiber this could not be truer. 

The Fiber Myth

For decades we’ve been told the fiber myth that our bodies can’t run right without plants. Plants, the thinking goes, contain fiber. And fiber is a natural pipe cleaner that prevents colon problems, constipation, high cholesterol, heart attacks, and more.

The Institute of Medicine recommends daily fiber intake of  38 grams for men,  and 25 grams of fiber a day for women.

But is fiber actually good us? Do we really need it? Not really. 

Newer, more objective research is showing that dietary fiber is often unnecessary. And it might even be harmful.  

What is fiber? 

According to the Institute of Medicine, dietary fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate that can come from either natural or synthetic sources. Common types of dietary fiber include:

  • cellulose
  • psyllium husk, 
  • chitin, 
  • fructooligosaccharides, 
  • dextrin.

Fiber is commonly found in fruits and vegetables.

Fiber: grains and vegetables

Image from helpguide.org

Fiber is placed into one of two categories depending on how your body processes it:

  • soluble
  • insoluble 

Insoluble fiber

Fiber is by definition mostly indigestible. Insoluble fiber is completely indigestible, meaning it passes through your entire digestive tract untouched.  According to conventional wisdom, insoluble fiber is good for us because it speeds digestion up.

Insoluble fiber’s physical properties tell a different story, however. It doesn’t dissolve in water or stomach acid. It’s abrasive to the large intestine, and pretty much incompatible with our entire digestive tract.

Soluble fiber

Soluble fiber distinguishes itself from insoluble fiber by being slightly digestible. 

According to conventional wisdom, this type of fiber slows down digestion by absorbing water and keeping the entire GI tract well-hydrated. Soluble fiber gives the intestines a gel-like coating that some experts believe is beneficial.

But there’s a problem — bacteria thrive in this gel coating, too. New research has shown that soluble fiber can make it easier for harmful bacteria to proliferate, potentially leading to conditions like small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

Do you need fiber?

As it turns out, humans do not need fiber to survive or thrive. 

Then where did the fiber myth come from?

Turns out, its origins were more of a supply chain solution than a scientific breakthrough. In the late 1800s, grain processors learned how to efficiently separate the bran from the grain, creating ultra-fine, ultra-refined products in the process.

Fiber-free grains and flours quickly became popular throughout the West. People loved their smooth, chewy mouthfeel. 

Sooner or later, though, epidemiologists began to notice that countries with higher refined wheat consumption tended to be sicker. On the other hand, countries or areas that didn’t have access to these new grains remained relatively free from modern diseases.

People assumed that the newly missing fiber was responsible for this difference. And grain processors were happy to make some extra money off their waste products by remarketing husks as fiber supplements. 

In other words, these early epidemiologists mistook correlation with causation and drew the wrong conclusion. A lack of fiber wasn’t the factor making modern diets harmful at all! 

The real culprit was a lack of fat-soluble vitamins, as Dr. Weston A. Price would later show.

The relationship between fiber and cholesterol

Fiber’s apparent utility can be seen in its ability to lower cholesterol levels. 

One review found that plant-based, high-fiber diets reduced LDL cholesterol (”bad” cholesterol) by up to one third.

This quality, however, isn’t as beneficial as it may seem. Many substances that are known to be toxic reduce cholesterol. High cholesterol isn’t usually a problem — and even when it is a problem, it usually indicates that some deeper underlying issue is going on.

Read our article on cholesterol and health if you’d like to learn more about this nuanced topic.  

The relationship between fiber and blood sugar

Fiber can also reduce the glycemic index of certain foods and help keep your blood sugar stable. Studies show that fiber’s ability to slow digestion can reduce blood sugar spikes by between 10 and 20%.

This benefit, however, is also limited by its context — most people eat far too many high-glycemic foods anyway. Fiber’s glycemic moderation becomes completely unnecessary when you eat a low carb  keto/carnivore diet.

What about fiber intake and weight loss?

The research on the link between dietary fiber with weight loss has also been unimpressive. Most studies so far have provided mixed results, and even the studies that do appear to show benefits have been poorly designed.

Even mainstream, pro-fiber researchers find that, “The limited number of clinical trials comparing high-fiber foods with low-fiber foods have not provided consistent data indicating that these diets are more efficacious for weight loss than low-fiber control diets.”

Far from the myth about fiber being beneficial, certain types of fiber can cause enough bloating and pain to interfere with weight loss. A popular fiber supplement and food additive called guar gum has been connected with abdominal pain, flatulence, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and more. 

A 2001 analysis looking at guar gum for weight loss found that “Guar gum is not efficacious for reducing body weight. Considering the adverse events associated with its use, the risks of taking guar gum outweigh its benefits for this indication. Therefore, guar gum cannot be recommended as a treatment for lowering body weight.” Again we see the fiber myth debunked. 

What does fiber do for your body?

While our bodies themselves can’t digest fiber, the bacteria in our large intestine can. These bacteria ferment fiber and create gases like hydrogen and methane.  The exothermic (heat-producing) reaction can also damage local organs and tissues. 

Fiber intake may even impair fertility. One study found that women who consumed large amounts of fiber were less fertile. And it can cause tremendous flatulence, to boot.  

As your fiber consumption goes up, so does your risk of developing diverticular diseases. One study found that people who ate more fiber and had more bowel movements also had a higher likelihood of colon disease.

Indeed when we take a closer look at the health=fiber myth, we see that fiber may actually be a junk food. One 2007 editorial about fiber and a colorectal disease called insoluble fiber “the ultimate junk food”, as it’s “neither digestible nor absorbable and therefore devoid of nutrition.”  

Another 2007 study found no relief from bowel polyps when study participants were placed on a high-fiber, low-fat diet.

What the new science says about dietary fiber 

Newer studies have further affirmed the view that many types of fiber are junk. 

A 2012 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology looked at fiber’s effects on constipation and concluded that “the previous strongly-held belief that the application of dietary fiber to help constipation is but a myth. Our study shows a very strong correlation between improving constipation and its associated symptoms after stopping dietary fiber intake.”

Research has also revealed that excess insoluble fiber can bind to minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium and prevent the absorption of these nutrients. Excess insoluble fibers can also inhibit enzyme activity enough to impair protein absorption, essentially acting as an antinutrient

The last bastion of fiber’s health benefits lies in its ability to boost the production of certain types of fatty acids. A percentage of soluble fiber gets fermented by gut bacteria into short-chain fatty acids like butyrate and proportionate. These fatty acids, in turn, can fight against neurodegeneration, cancer, and obesity.

Butyrate-fed rodent study

Butyrate-fed rodents appear resistant to weight gain. Image from Pubmed.ncbi

The fiber-butyrate pathway has led some gut health experts to continue recommending high fiber diets. 

What these experts miss, however, is that butyrate and other gut-friendly fatty acids can be obtained in much simpler and safer ways. Butter, yogurt, milk, cream, and other dairy products are all rich in anti-inflammatory butyrate — and, unlike fiber, they don’t cause gut irritation.  

Why fiber gets added to food

If fiber is so unhelpful, then why does it still get added to food?

Largely because official guidelines perpetuating the fiber myth lag behind the latest research.

Functional fiber continues to be added to processed foods as a way to increase fiber content and satisfy consumers who wish to meet these official guidelines. 

According to NPR, the demand for fortified foods is still there. Many health-conscious consumers still buy products that contain added synthetic fiber. Grain-based, high-fiber food products continue to be highly popular. 

The downsides of going fiber-free

If you’re ready to try out a low/no-fiber diet, there are a few things you should know. 

Making the shift may result in temporary changes to your bowel patterns. Many people who begin a carnivore diet find that their digestion slows down. This is normal and natural, but it might still take some getting used to. If you begin to experience carnivore diet constipation, ensuring adequate water and electrolyte intake can help. 

Another thing to keep in mind: some experts feel that following a VLC (very low carb) diet can harm both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ gut bacteria. So while beneficial in the short term as a way to reduce overgrowth of unhealthy gut bacteria, in the long term, a fiber-free VLC diet may be unhealthy. 

The theory follows that a VLC diet for long periods of time might harm the gut’s normal gel lining. Studies looking at Poland’s low-carb “optimal dieters” have unusually high rates of colon cancer. (Note that research does not support the idea that this link is anything but correlative.)

If you’re young, active, and happy with your body composition, you may want to experiment with adding small portions of raw  honey or fruit to your diet. Only a small amount of carbohydrates is needed to keep the digestive tract well ‘lubricated.’ If you’re trying to lose excess weight or maximize your natural fertility, feel free to ditch the carbs/fiber entirely for at least a few months. 

The fiber in low-carb berries may also boost your body’s production of short-chain fatty acids. Butyrate, in turn, can help maintain the integrity of your gut lining and keep your metabolic rate high.

Reducing fiber: what to expect

Better research leads us to a better solution for having healthy digestion than eating bunches of fibrous plant matter: focus on general health, and let bowel frequency take care of itself. 

Many people experience better digestion when they reduce their fiber intake — much to their initial surprise. You might experience easier bowel movements and reduced bloating/gas as you make the switch.  

One randomized controlled trial looking at the fiber myth followed 60 people with chronic constipation and IBS. It found that going fiber-free for just two weeks greatly reduced symptoms. Six months after the diet ended, 41 of the study participants had chosen to stay fiber-free and were still doing well. The ~20 participants who’d gone back to eating fiber regained their IBS symptoms.

Effects of Reducing Dietary Fiber

Image from Dr. Paul Mason

So what does this mean for our own consumption of fiber?

Looking back over the sum of the research, it’s clear that dietary fiber has been greatly overrated. Fiber isn’t usually beneficial — and large amounts of fiber can quickly become harmful. 

For these reasons, Dr. Kiltz recommends a no-fiber or low-fiber approach. Cut your insoluble fiber intake to a minimum. And if you do eat fiber, make sure it’s a soluble fiber from whole-food sources: 

  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Fruits (especially low-carb berries)
  • Mushrooms

Small amounts of the above foods may keep your digestive tract well ‘lubricated’ and boost your body’s production of beneficial short-chain fats. Especially if you slather them in plenty of tallow or butyrate-rich butter.

If you don’t enjoy fruits and veggies, on the other hand, then don’t feel obligated to eat them. The research is clear that humans evolved to do best with a hypercarnivore diet centered around animal products. You can take a deeper dive into the human-carnivore question here

Animals, after all, have digestive tracts specifically designed to process plant fibers and convert them into more usable energy. Turns out Ron Swanson was both funny and right. 

Carnivore Diet Benefits

9 Carnivore Diet Benefits and How to Get Them

The carnivore diet and its potentially powerful benefits are relatively new to the arena of diet trends. Ironically, carnivore diet enthusiasts view this newfangled all-meat diet as, in fact, ancient. A bevy of recent research supports this view that hyper-carnivorism is the way humans ate for nearly 2 million years.  

But can returning to a prehistoric way of eating be beneficial to your health? 

Let’s take a closer look at what this diet is, and 9 of the most important carnivore diet benefits, 

What is the Carnivore Diet? 

The carnivore diet is pretty simple, it means eating 100% animal foods. There are no fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, or seeds. 

Eggs generally make the cut. Honey is accepted by some carnivore dieters. But dairy, though controversial, is generally eliminated. 

Origins of The Carnivore Diet

The theory behind this way of eating goes like this: Before the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago, plant foods were scarce and seasonal, while hunting was difficult and not always successful. 

So while humans are indisputably omnivores, meaning we can eat plants and animals, we had to specialize in scavenging and hunting the most nutrient-dense foods we could. In other words, we needed a big caloric return on our energy investment. And we got the highest return from meat.

Calorific Return Rate of Different Foods Per Hour Spent Trying to Obtain Food Source

But the story of human carnivory goes even further back, to the Pleistocene some 2 million to 85,000 years ago. During this vast period, many more large animals like mastodons and wooly mammoths roamed the earth. With this abundance of large prey, some researchers suggest and offer compelling evidence, that we simply wouldn’t focus on eating anything else.  

Taking these perspectives, we can see human carnivory (or specialized omnivory) as a result of two evolutionary forces:

  1. The abundance of large animals for most of the 2 million years of pre-human and human evolution 
  2. The scarcity of nutrient-dense food sources in the roughly 100,000 years leading up to the agricultural revolution

what did cavemen eat for Brain development

 

 

So now that we know what the carnivore diet is, and where it came from, let’s explore the positive impacts that it can have on your health.

Carnivore Diet Benefits: Fast Facts

As a diet that is both new and prehistoric, there hasn’t been much clinical research looking specifically at how the carnivore diet affects our health. 

But the anecdotal evidence of thousands of carnivore dieters, along with what we know about its close cousin, the keto diet, suggests that if done correctly, a carnivore diet may offer a number of powerful benefits including: 

  • Eliminating plant toxins and antinutrients
  • Weight loss
  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Improved gut health
  • Improved heart health
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased testosterone and libido
  • Increased mental clarity
  • Simplified Dieting

These benefits can be linked to the impact of returning to a way of eating aligned with the way our metabolism evolved over eons, while at the same time:

  • removing processed foods packed with irritating additives like gums, dies, preservatives, trans fats. 
  • eliminating grains, legumes, starches which contain many plant toxins and antinutrients
  • reducing excess fiber that actually causes constipation and bowel issues like diverticulitis 
  • removing inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) from seed oils and replacing them with healthy monounsaturated and saturated fats
  • increasing your intake of nutrient-dense superfoods like liver, fish roe, and other organ meats

Before diving deep into each of these carnivore diet benefits let’s take a closer look at the origins of the carnivore diet. Knowing where it came from can help you understand why it may be beneficial. 

Carnivore Diet Benefits

1. Eliminates Plant Toxins and Antinutrients

Plants, like humans, have one primary goal, and that’s to survive and reproduce. To achieve this goal they’ve evolved an arsenal of chemicals including naturally occurring pesticides, mineral chelators, antibiotics, along with phytoestrogens that interfere with human reproductive hormones. 

Many of these plant toxins and antinutrients are linked to inflammation, bowel issues, allergies, fertility issues, and vitamin deficiencies. 

For instance, the phytic acid found in many grains and legumes can prevent you from absorbing important nutrients including calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper, while inhibiting the enzymes you need for digestion. 

Foods high in phytoestrogens like soy have been associated with decreased fertility in both men and women.    Researchers theorize that plants contain these fertility-decreasing substances to drive down the population of animals that would otherwise eat them.

A well-formulated carnivore diet completely eliminates your exposure to these possibly harmful chemicals while replacing them with nutrient-rich animal-based superfoods

Common-Plant-Chemicals-and-their-Effect-1

2. Weight Loss

The carnivore diet can be an effective way to lose weight. Carnivore diet weight loss factors include:

  • Increased satiation: Calories you get from protein and fat take longer for your body to break down. This makes you fuller for longer, reducing food cravings. In fact, eating carbs does the opposite of making you full–it increases hunger hormones!
  • Reduced hormonal fluctuations: When your body relies on carbs you experience perpetual spikes and crashes in blood sugar and insulin levels. Insulin fluctuations lead to trigger imbalances in leptin, ghrelin, and HGH, all hormones associated with hunger, fat storage, and weight loss
  • Increased metabolism of body fat: By eating lots of animal fats while cutting out carbs you will enter ketosis, the metabolic state where your body uses the fat you eat, and the fat stored on your body for fuel. And even if you are not in a constant state of ketosis, your body becomes primed to use fat for fuel. 

In fact, one of the prominent studies referenced as evidence that keto is better for weight loss than low-fat diets actually uses the Aitkins diet. The Aitkins diet is loaded with red meat and protein but it’s not really about high fat intake like a standard keto diet.   So this study may be saying more about the weight-loss advantages of a carnivore diet than a true keto diet. 

3. Increased Insulin Sensitivity

Eating a carnivore diet eliminates the root cause of insulin resistance–eating too many carbs. But with a caveat; increased insulin sensitivity only occurs during the weight-loss period. In the long term, a zero-carb carnivore diet may increase “physiological” insulin resistance. 

This is how it works: When you eat lots of carbs most of it enters your bloodstream as glucose. Your body then secretes the hormone insulin, responsible for moving glucose from your bloodstream into your cells where it’s either used as energy or stored as fat.

When you’re eating a standard American diet, loaded with carbs and sugar, your insulin levels are constantly high. Insulin resistance occurs when eventually your cells stop responding to insulin and blood sugar remains chronically high. This can lead to a cascade of health issues stemming from hormonal imbalances and chronic inflammation.

Numerous weight loss studies show that when participants are losing weight, very low carb diets like the carnivore diet, can improve insulin sensitivity:

  • A study looking at overweight women showed that a diet with less than 10% of calories from carbs improved insulin sensitivity.
  • Another study looking at obese, insulin-resistant women, showed that both high-fat and high-protein low-carb diets reduced insulin resistance.
  • A 2007 study of obese kids showed that a very low carb diet (VLCD) reduced insulin resistance along with bodyweight and body fat.

However, when not in the weight loss phase of a diet, getting 10% or less of your calories from carbs can cause physiological insulin resistance. This adaptation to low/no-carb diets occurs because about 20% of your brain cells still need glucose. 

When you adapt to eating a no-carb diet the body learns to anticipate that no carbs are coming. That’s when physiological insulin resistance occurs in order to prevent your muscles from using the little bit of glucose in your blood. This glucose is prioritized for your brain, which retains its insulin sensitivity. 

Physiological insulin resistance is a necessary, safe, and sustainable adaptation to very low-carb eating. To increase glycogen uptake by your muscles (increase insulin sensitivity) on a low-carb carnivore diet, you can simply increase your activity levels with a brisk walk, yoga session, swim, or other low impact activity. 

4. Improved Gut Health

When it comes to your gut health there are two key factors:

  1. The integrity of the lining of your gut. In a healthy gut, this lining is a tight barrier. When it’s compromised, molecules can “leak” into your bloodstream.
  2. Your microbiome: the billions-strong ecosystem of microorganisms that break down food and factor in numerous neurotransmitters that influence your mood and energy levels. 

Gluten & Gut Health

A well-formulated carnivore diet is loaded with gut-healthy compounds like glutamine, collagen, and omega-3 fatty acids that help strengthen and repair your gut lining. 

Additionally, by cutting out plant foods you’re removing the abrasive and fermentable fiber, and plant toxins like gluten that can cause irritation, inflammation, and overgrowth of harmful bacteria. 

A 2012 study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology investigated how reducing fiber affected people with chronic constipation. Contrary to mainstream nutritional dogma, the study found that for six months participants who ate high fiber reported no change in their condition. But participants who completely cut out fiber showed a significant reduction in gas, bloating, and straining while increasing their frequency of bowel movements!

Though to date there haven’t been clinical studies looking at carnivore diet for gut health, we can infer its possible effects from studies looking at keto. 

One 2020 study published in Cell, found that a keto diet positively affects gut health. It showed that the effects stemmed from healthy changes to the gut microbiota that led to reduced inflammation. The researchers suggest that a keto diet could be used as a therapy for autoimmune disorders of the gut.  

5. Reduced Inflammation

Like other low-carb diets, one of the key carnivore diet benefits is its potential to significantly reduce markers of systemic inflammation like C-reactive protein and IL-6. These benefits are likely due to factors including:

  • Removing irritating plant-toxins
  • Reducing insulin levels 
  • Increasing intake of anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Supporting gut health which plays a crucial role in mitigating inflammation

Numerous studies show that low-carb diets (and it doesn’t get lower than

The carnivore diet) have the ability to decrease inflammation.

A 2013 study in the journal Metabolism compared a high-fat, low-carb diet to low-fat, high-carb diet. The study revealed that after 12 weeks, high-fat dieters had lower markers of systemic inflammation. The study’s authors concluded that high-fat eating could be more beneficial to heart health.

6. Improved Heart Health

After decades of misinformation by mainstream nutritionists, the idea that eating nothing but meat is good for your heart can be hard to stomach. 

But how is this possible?

The short answer is early studies dating back to the 1950’s were biased against red meat. And they were low-quality observational studies that didn’t properly control for variables like exercise, smoking, and other lifestyle factors that have way more to do with heart health than red meat. And new studies are better.

In light of many of recent findings, a  2020 paper published in the prestigious Journal of the American College of Cardiology, concluded that “Whole-fat dairy, unprocessed meat, eggs, and dark chocolate are SFA-rich foods with a complex matrix that are not associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The totality of available evidence does not support further limiting the intake of such foods.” [28]

Ok, so if it doesn’t hurt the heart, how does a carnivore diet help the heart?

Though we don’t have studies looking specifically at the effects of a carnivore diet on markers of heart health, we can infer from studies looking at a keto diet. A well-formulated carnivore diet with a 3-1 fat to protein ratio is essentially keto. These studies generally find that keto increases heart-healthy HDL cholesterol when compared to standard high-carb diets. Decrease LDL particle concentration (LDL-P), and increase LDL particle size cholesterol, while decreasing dangerous VLDL. All good things for cardiovascular health.

And there’s the added bonus of getting loads of heart-healthy vitamin K2 from liver.

7. Enhanced Testosterone and Libido

The standard American diet and lifestyle can send your testosterone and libido into a nosedive. 

Lots of sugar and vegetable oils, combined with low activity levels, and extra body fat creates a feedback loop that depletes testosterone, while sapping strength, energy, and libido.

A carnivore diet benefits testosterone and libido thanks to the abundance of nutrients like cholesterol, protein, carnosine, carnitine,vitamin K and D found in high levels in meat. All these compounds are essential to producing and maintaining healthy testosterone levels.  

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men who followed a high-fat, low-fiber diet for only 10 weeks resulted in 13% higher total testosterone than men eating a low-fat high-fiber diet.

8. Increased Mental Clarity

Systemic inflammation affects a complex system of neurotransmitters circulating from the microbiome in your gut to your brain. The resulting brain fog and decreased cognitive ability can contribute to depression, anxiety, and many other markers of impaired mental health. 

A carnivore diet promotes mental clarity by improving gut health, cutting out inflammatory foods like sugar, and seed oils. Additionally, a well-formulated carnivore diet complete with organ meats is loaded with brain-boosting nutrients like:

  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Iron
  • DHA

As with keto, the brain-boosting effects and mental clarity of a carnivore diet can set in quickly. But for some people, adapting to the carnivore diet can cause a temporary period of brain fog and low energy. Luckily these low-carb side effects are temporary. And there are easy steps you can take to reduce their time and severity, like drinking more water and adding more salt to your diet. A ketogenic carnivore diet can also offer the same neuroprotective effects of a standard keto diet including protection against neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s’.

9. Simplified Dieting

Though the carnivore diet is controversial in some circles, there’s one thing that can’t be argued; it’s as simple as a diet gets

If you’re hungry you eat animal foods. There’s no need to count calories.

However, it is critical that you eat fatty meats. Organ meats and bone marrow may also be necessary to obtain proper micronutrients including vitamin C.

How to Avoid Protein Poisoning on a Carnivore Diet

If you eat only lean meats you will be depriving your body of fat, which is essential to sustaining life. Furthermore, getting more than 35% of your calories from protein can lead to a dangerous syndrome called protein poisoning (rabbit starvation). It’s due to the inability of the liver to upregulate urea synthesis needed to process high amounts of protein. Symptoms of protein poisoning include hyperaminoacidemia, hyperammonemia, hyperinsulinemia nausea, diarrhea, and rare cases, death.

One way to ensure you get all the benefits of the carnivore diet while avoiding possible nutrient deficiencies and protein poisoning is to eat 3 parts fat to 1 part protein.

We get this ratio from the godfather of the carnivore diet in the west, the Harvard-trained anthropologist, and arctic explorer, Whilhelm Stefansson.

After living with the Inuit and eating only caribou, salmon, seal, and eggs, getting 99% of his calories from meat, Stefansson returned to American to promote his carnivore diet. This was in the early 1900’s but already there was a mainstream recommendation for eating more veggies and less meat. So like carnivore dieters of today, he was met with hostile disbelief.

To prove the “experts” wrong, Stefansson, along with a friend set out to eat nothing but meat for a year while under the observation of doctors at New York’s Bellevue Hospital. The two men fell ill only once, and only after they were encouraged to eat only lean meat.

Describing this miserable experience of protein poisoning, Stefansson said it inflicted, “diarrhea and a feeling of general baffling discomfort.”

The good news is that Stefansson and his friend were immediately cured by eating a single fat-packed meal of sirloin steak and brains fried in bacon fat. This led the experimenters to discover the ideal ratio of 3 parts fat to 1 part lean meat.

Interestingly, scurvy and other nutrient deficiencies never occurred. Stefansson and his friend received a sterling bill of health. Researchers believe this is due to the men practicing nose-to-tail eating where they consumed vitamin-rich parts like bone marrow, brains, liver, pancreas, and kidneys.

To Get All the Carnivore Diet Benefits Eat Organ Meats

We can see the experience of Wilhelm Steffanson reflected in the observations of another seminal carnivore diet researcher, Weston A. Price.

In the bellwether book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Price observed Indians living in the Northern Canadian Rockies, “putting great emphasis upon the eating of the organs of the animals, including parts of the digestive tract. Much of the muscle meat of the animals was fed to the dogs. … The skeletal remains are found as piles of finely broken bone chips or splinters that have been cracked up to obtain as much as possible of the marrow and nutritive qualities of the bones.” Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 6th Edition, page 260.

Once you get used to the flavor of organ meats, the reward (other than robust health) is that they’re the cheapest meats in the deli. And with all meats, chose grass-fed, free-range, heirloom, and pasture-raised varieties whenever possible.

Happy feasting!

 

 

 

Circadian Rhythm Fasting

Circadian Rhythm Fasting: Everything you Need to Know

Circadian fasting is a strategy for timing your meals to align with your body’s internal clock. It’s based on the idea that our metabolism works differently during each phase of the day. 

Researchers are exploring how aligning what we eat with when we eat can increase weight loss, lower blood pressure, improve endurance, and reduce the risk of numerous diseases. 

Keep reading to learn about circadian rhythm fasting and how it can improve your health.

What Is the Circadian Rhythm?

The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour internal clock that regulates many bodily functions including sleep, metabolism, digestion, hormone secretion, immunity, cognition, and neurobehavior.

This clock synchronizes your bodily functions with the rise and fall of the sun. Other factors such as your eating schedule can also influence the timing of your circadian rhythm. Over a period of millions of years, our bodies evolved to anticipate regular environmental changes and developed daily rhythms to function optimally.

Remarkably, almost every cell in your body follows a 24-hour clock. And nearly 80% of your genes function in a light-dark cycle.

These genes, known as “clock genes”, regulate the timing of essential bodily functions to align with wakefulness and sleep.

The control center for hundreds of different clock genes is called your suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN is a group of nerve cells in the hypothalamus that act as the master clock.

The SCN and cellular clocks receive and respond to internal and external signals to maintain your daily rhythms. But when these signals alter from their normal patterns, it can have negative consequences for your health and wellbeing.

Sleep and Health: Circadian rhythm

Circadian Rhythm Disorders

Your circadian rhythm easily adapts to changes in lighting and nutrient intake. During our hunting and gathering days, this allowed our bodies to adjust accordingly to different seasons. However, in today’s modern society, the constant availability of electrical lighting and food can override the natural light-dark cycle and disrupt our sleep-wake patterns.

Common causes of circadian rhythm disruptions include night shift work, jet lag, prolonged light exposure, and altered sleep schedules.

Short-term circadian rhythm disruptions may result in impaired wellness, fatigue, and loss of concentration.

Unfortunately, long-term disruptions of your internal clock are associated with numerous disorders including:

  • Mental illness
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Schizophrenia
  • Metabolic disorders
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Obesity
  • Sleep disorders
  • Cancer
  • Immune system disorders
  • Premature mortality

Thankfully, it is possible to reset your circadian rhythm at a rate of 1-2 hours per day. It may take one week or more to return to a natural circadian rhythm if you completely reverse your schedule from night to day.

What Is Circadian Rhythm Fasting?

Fasting

Circadian rhythm fasting, also known as the circadian rhythm diet, is a time-restricted eating plan that corresponds with your internal body clock. 

A circadian diet involves eating during the daylight hours when our bodily functions like digestion and metabolism are most active. It also involves fasting after 7 pm when these internal processes slow down.

A typical day of circadian rhythm fasting may start with eating a large breakfast at 7 am soon after waking up. If your eating window is 12 hours, you would then eat your last meal by 7 pm.

Typically, your last meal of the day is smaller and lighter, which helps you avoid blood sugar spikes and weight gain due to your insulin response and metabolism winding down. You would then fast for the rest of the night until breakfast the next morning. 

Benefits of Circadian Rhythm Fasting

Circadian rhythm fasting supports optimal circadian function and overall health. Below, we’ll outline the benefits of circadian rhythm fasting. 

Fast Metabolism

Practicing a circadian rhythm diet can speed up your metabolism by helping restore your sleep-wake cycle. This enables you to achieve REM sleep.

REM sleep raises your basal metabolic rate to its highest level during sleep by increasing your body temperature and energy expenditure in the brain.

Improved Metabolic Health

Early meal timing on a circadian diet can also improve your metabolic health and reduce your risk of diabetes. 

Research shows that your insulin response is better in the beginning of the day compared to later in the day. If you eat identical meals at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, your glucose levels will be the lowest after breakfast and the highest after dinner. In fact, researchers found that glucose levels after dinner are almost twice as high compared to breakfast.

Chronically high blood sugar levels are associated with many markers of metabolic disease and pre-diabetes such as insulin resistance, fatty liver and fatty-pancreas disease, and obesity. Excess blood sugar can also damage the blood vessel in the heart, leading to heart disease.

Weight Loss 

On a circadian rhythm diet, timing your meals earlier in the day may help you lose weight. This is because meal timing affects the “thermal effect of food”, which is the energy needed to digest a meal.

One study found that the thermal effect of food is 44% higher in the morning than in the evening. Following a circadian diet can increase the calories burned after a meal, resulting in negative energy balance and weight loss over time. ]

In turn, avoiding eating in the evening hours is associated with lower body fat percentage and body mass index.

Undisturbed Sleep

Circadian fasting builds a stronger circadian rhythm, which helps you sleep more deeply and for longer. 

Routinely eating in alignment with the natural light-dark schedule finely tunes your SCN–your internal nervous system maser clock. The SCN communicates with systems in the brain that control sleep such as the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the pineal gland.  The HPA axis lowers cortisol levels in the body at night, which makes you feel sleepy. At night, the pineal gland produces melatonin in response to darkness, which promotes sleep. It then raises cortisol levels in the morning to cause wakefulness.

A study looking at the effects of circadian fasting during Ramadan found that it reduces nighttime awakenings and decreases leg movements.

Improved Digestion

A circadian diet can also jumpstart a sluggish digestive system. Research shows that the rate of intestinal motility and gastric emptying is higher in the beginning of the day than at night time. 

Following a circadian rhythm diet may also improve digestive symptoms associated with circadian disturbances such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

Better Gut Health

A circadian rhythm diet may also have beneficial effects for your gut health. Research suggests that stabilizing your circadian rhythm may prevent inflammation and increased intestinal permeability.

Restoring your circadian rhythm to its natural state can also reduce your risk of intestinal dysbiosis. This condition occurs when the bad bacteria in your gut outnumber the good bacteria.

Robust Immune System

Early meal timing may also enhance your immune system and reduce your risk of health problems.

One study found that fasting later in the day when your melatonin levels are high, improves immune cell recovery, specifically B cell recovery. B cells are a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies that signal your immune system to destroy pathogens like bacteria and viruses.

Circadian Rhythm Fasting Vs Intermittent Fasting

Circadian rhythm fasting and intermittent fasting are similar. However, the circadian diet is more specialized than intermittent fasting alone because it times your meals to align with your internal body clock. 

On a circadian diet, it’s encouraged that you time your meals early in the day, beginning as early as 7 am. On the other hand, intermittent fasting allows you to choose your own eating window. Most people who intermittent fast eat their first meal of the day at lunch.

Both circadian rhythm fasting and intermittent fasting entail an extended fasting period. Typically, circadian rhythm fasting involves fasting from 7 pm to 7 am whereas the most popular form of intermittent fasting involves fasting for 16 hours a day. This is known as the 16:8 method.

It’s also important to note that for women there are specific and more effective strategies for IF that you can learn about here

How to Start Circadian Rhythm Fasting

Follow these 5 steps to successfully stick to a circadian rhythm diet.

1. Eat Your Meals Earlier in the Day

Timing your meals earlier in the day will allow you to reap the benefits of circadian rhythm fasting. Start by eating your first meal as close to daybreak as possible. 

For example, you may time your eating to windows from 7 am to 3 pm, 9 am to 5 pm, or 7 am to 7 pm. You can also extend your fasting window as long as you want as long as it fits within the light-dark cycle. 

2. Limit Sugars and Refined Grains 

Eating sugary foods and refined grains can spike your blood sugar levels after meals. If your diet consists mainly of these foods, it can increase your risk of diabetes. Eating a meal high in carbs before bed can also cause poor sleep.

Limit your intake of carb-heavy foods like white flour, rice, bread, cereal, crackers, and desserts. If you want to enjoy some of these foods, do so early in the day when your insulin response is most sensitive.

The optimal diet for circadian fasting consists of high-quality protein and nutrient-packed organ meats, healthy fats, and low-carb fruit and vegetables.  

3. Avoid Eating at Night

Snacking or eating meals during the evening or night can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Avoid eating during your fasting window to allow your body to rest and recover. 

Staying up late and eating at night can also slow down melatonin production and make it harder for you to fall asleep.

4. Follow a Consistent Daily Schedule

To stabilize and strengthen your circadian rhythm, it’s best to get up and go to bed at the same time every day. 

5. Get Plenty of Light During the Day — Not at Night

Light exposure is essential to maintaining your circadian rhythm. Light enters your retina and sends a signal directly to your SCN–the control center for your circadian rhythm. This sets off a cascade of biological actions that make you feel awake and energized.

Avoiding light exposure in the evening can stimulate melatonin production and improve your ability to fall asleep. This also means limiting the use of electronic screens close to bed. 

Circadian Rhythm Fasting: The Takeaway

Your circadian rhythm is best known for regulating sleep and wakefulness. But it also plays an important role in metabolism, digestion, hormone secretion, immunity, cognition, and neurobehavior.

Timing your meals early in the day when your body is most active can improve your circadian function and overall health.

Anyone can follow a circadian rhythm diet, no matter the food you eat. If you’re looking to boost your health, circadian rhythm fasting is a relatively easy adjustment that yields powerful health benefits. 

ketosis explained

Ketosis Explained: What It Is, Benefits, And How To Achieve It

If you’ve heard about the ketogenic (keto) diet, you’ve probably come across the word “ketosis” and wondered what it means. 

In this article we’ll dive deep into ketosis, exploring what it is, while offering tips for how to safely achieve and maintain ketosis.

What is Ketosis?

From a scientific perspective, ketosis is a metabolic state defined by a high level of molecules called ketone bodies in your urine. 

Our bodies use these molecules to fuel our cells in the absence of sufficient blood sugar (glucose), and when the sugar (glycogen) stored in your liver and muscles has been depleted. 

How Do We Get into Ketosis? 

We get into ketosis by restricting carbs to less than 50 grams per day, and by fasting. 

Carb restriction and fasting triggers our bodies to switch from using glucose, to using ketones to fuel our cells. 

It works like this: Our bodies have two sources from which they can provide energy to our cells: 

  • Sugar (glucose) that we get from the carbohydrates we eat, the glycogen we store in our liver and muscles, and from the breakdown of protein.
  • Fats, stored as fatty acids on our bodies, and from the fat we eat. 

Though our bodies prioritize carbs, the ability of the bodies to store carbohydrates is limited.  We only have about a teaspoon of glucose in our blood at any time. Blood sugar, along with the small amounts of glycogen in our muscles and liver gets depleted in a day or two. Once depleted, blood sugar and insulin levels plummet. 

Though our liver will continue to synthesize some glucose out of amino acids from proteins through a process called gluconeogenesis, it’s not enough to keep us alive. 

That’s when our bodies start breaking down our most robust energy stores–the fat on our bodies. 

Ever wonder why most of us have a tendency to carry around a spare tire or a plump behind? These physical features are the human version of the humps on a camel’s back, which, surprise, aren’t filled with water, but with fat!

This process where the body breaks down fats into ketone bodies is called ketogenesis. These newly released fatty acids flow into the bloodstream and accumulate. The metabolic state when ketogenesis is providing the primary fuel source is called ketosis.

Ketosis explained

What are Ketone Bodies?

Ketone bodies are energy molecules produced in the liver from the breakdown of fatty acids. Many people use the terms “ketones” and “ketone bodies” interchangeably. However, while all ketone bodies are ketones, not all ketones are ketone bodies. The ketones (or ketone bodies) produced in the body are:

  • Acetoacetate
  • Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)
  • Acetone

All three types can be used as energy sources. 

Glucose (Carb) Energy  3-Hydroxybutyrate Ketone (Fat) 
8.7 kg of ATP per 100g 10.5 kg ATP per 100g

Ketosis compounds
Getting into ketosis is totally normal and natural. In fact, it’s a state that humans evolved to easily enter during the 2 million years when our ancestors ate a hyper-carnivorous diet. Why do we Enter Ketosis: Evolutionary Origins

Very long story short, for most of human history humans hunted and ate large animals. There used to be a whole lot more of them roaming around like wooly mammoths and even 2000lb chinchillas. 

But hunting is hard, and during lean periods when our ancestors either couldn’t find these animals or failed at their hunt, their bodies needed a way to stay fueled. That’s where ketosis comes in. 

Eating large animals with lots of fat in combination with having to endure fasting periods where they didn’t eat much at all, selected for the body’s ability to use stored fat, and fat from food for fuel.

Ketosis in Modernity

We modern humans have very different eating habits than our stone-age ancestors. When’s the last time you got 100% of your daily calories from fresh mastodon liver? 

Instead of fatty meats, eating a standard American or Western diet means consuming a constant stream of high-carb foods. Eating habits like these make it impossible to enter ketosis without dramatic dietary changes. 

These changes include either, or a combination of, fasting and restricting carbohydrates. 

Signs That You Are in Ketosis

When fasting and restricting carbs, you are officially in ketosis if your blood ketone level is 0.5 mmol/L or higher. But if your goal is to use ketosis to lose weight, reduce inflammation, kick your carb addiction, and improve your overall health, for most people it’s not necessary to routinely check your ketone levels. 

Instead, simply pay attention to these signs to see if you’re on the right track:

  • “Keto breath”
  • Increased thirst and frequent urination
  • Initial fatigue, followed by increased focus and energy
  • Reduced appetite and food intake
  • Short-term decreases in performance
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Increased ketones in the blood
  • Increased mental clarity
  • Absence of sugar cravings

“Keto Breath”

Unlike your high school math teacher’s bad breath, keto breath is at least somewhat desirable.

Many people describe keto breath as smelling fruity or like nail polish remover. It can also taste metallic or fruity, or both. 

Though your body produces small amounts of ketones even when you’re not in ketosis, when you make the switch to a keto diet, your liver can sometimes produce too many ketones. When there is an excessive amount of ketones, they are released through your breath or urine.

Acetone is an ingredient in nail polish remover, so “nail polish breath” makes sense. 

Tips to Overcome Keto Breath

To overcome keto breath, try the following:

  • Drink lots of water:  When you first go into ketosis, your body releases lots of fluids, so it’s easy to become dehydrated. Besides rehydration, water can wash away the ketones on your breath. So increase your water intake, but don’t forget to replenish your electrolytes as well.
  • Check your protein intake: When your body breaks down proteins, it naturally produces ammonia. Having too much protein in your diet can lead to the overproduction of ammonia. Like acetone, ammonia gets released through your urine and breath. Try to stick to the recommended 15% to 30% calories from protein.  

Some people may never experience keto breath. And if you’re hesitating to start the keto diet because you don’t want keto breath, don’t worry — it’s temporary. After a few days, to a few weeks, as you become keto-adapted you’ll stop producing excess ketones.

Measuring Ketones

If you’re satiated, losing weight, and urinating a lot, you’re probably transitioning into ketosis. But if you want confirmation, there are a few ways to measure your ketones.

  • Urine strips: The simplest and cheapest way to measure ketone levels. When a strip is dipped in urine, the degree of color change will show whether you’re in ketosis. Unfortunately, this method is not very reliable. They might be useful at the beginning of your keto diet journey. Long-term keto dieters may see a lower amount since their bodies are used to creating and using a balance of ketones. 
  • Breath-ketone analyzers: When you breathe into a breath-ketone analyzer, it gives you the approximate number of ketones in your breath.  Though more accurate than urine strips, breath-ketone analyzers are also more expensive and only measure acetone levels.
  • Blood-ketone testing: This is the most accurate and reliable method of measuring ketosis. The downside of blood-ketone meters is that they require pricking the finger to draw blood. They can also be quite expensive.

Benefits of Ketosis

There are numerous benefits to ketosis. The ketone BHB, in particular, has been found to possess a range of signaling functions that have powerful therapeutic effects against metabolic diseases.

Let’s look at some of the other benefits of ketosis.

Reversal of Insulin Resistance

Insulin is a hormone that regulates the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. When you eat a meal, blood glucose levels increase. The pancreas responds by releasing insulin into the blood, which allows fat, liver, and muscle cells to absorb the glucose. This process reduces blood glucose levels.

Unfortunately, when people eat a constant stream of high-carbs (all carbs are broken down into sugar), the body stops responding to insulin. This inhibits the absorption of glucose from the bloodstream into fat, liver, and muscle cells. Blood sugar remains elevated, and to compensate, the pancreas is forced to produce more and more insulin.

This continuous overproduction of insulin is incredibly taxing on the pancreas. Eventually the pancreas “burns out” and can no longer produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar in check. Uncontrolled high blood glucose levels can lead to diabetes, prediabetes, fatty liver disease, and other metabolic health conditions.

Being in ketosis can reverse this process by cutting out the root cause of insulin resistance–the carbs in our diet. 

In one study, patients with type 2 diabetes consumed a high-fat keto diet for 2 weeks. Researchers noted a whopping 75% improvement in the patients’ insulin sensitivity.

Another study sought to compare the effects of a keto diet and a low-fat diet on insulin resistance. Although patients in both groups had favorable changes in body weight and triglyceride levels, the keto diet group had more pronounced changes. This group also had lower serum retinol binding protein 4 levels, which has been linked to insulin resistance.

Perhaps the most dramatic reversal came in a 2011 pilot study looking at the effectiveness of the Mediterranean keto diet for obese men. After 12 weeks the metabolic disease (of which insulin resistance is a key factor) in all participants was completely cured.

Reversal of Diabetes and Prediabetes

Improved insulin sensitivity is welcome news for people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. 

A recent study looking at the role of ketone bodies in metabolic regulation found that BHB functions as a stress response molecule and helps maintain homeostasis through its antioxidant activities. This function may reduce and reverses metabolic diseases including type 2 diabetes.   

Ketosis has also been shown to reduce blood glucose, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce inflammation.

Since these are all hallmarks of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, nutritional ketosis can be a highly effective method for reversing these conditions.

Increased Focus and Energy

When starting a keto diet, some people report experiencing brain fog and feeling tired. This is because 20% of your brain cells rely on glucose, yet the brain doesn’t store much glycogen — only about 5-minutes’ worth of normal function.  

Interestingly, this lack of glycogen, coupled with our ability to rapidly enter ketosis, is viewed as evidence that humans evolved to eat a diet high in fat.3 For modern humans not adapted to keto, rapid drops in blood glucose levels can cause cognitive performance decline, confusion, and in severe cases, coma.

But when you are in ketosis, ketone bodies can cross the blood-brain barrier and provide potent energy to your brain.[10 In one animal study, young and old rats fed a keto diet displayed higher cognitive performance than those fed a normal diet.

Available data also suggests that ketosis may be beneficial for people with neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, and concussions.

It should come as no surprise, then, that long-term keto dieters often experience improved focus, memory, and mood.

Rapid Weight Loss

One of the first things many keto dieters notice when they’re in ketosis is rapid weight loss. Though some of this is water weight that’s shed as your body burns through glycogen stores. much of it is fat that your body breaks down into fuel. 

Appetite Suppression

When in ketosis, ketones can also suppress appetite, causing us to eat fewer calories. In particular, BHB and acetoacetate can lower your body’s hunger hormone, ghrelin. As long as ketosis is maintained, ghrelin levels appear to remain stable.

On the other hand, high-carb foods stimulate appetite. Insulin spikes and drops can lead to cravings for more carbs.

Certain carbohydrates can also limit weight loss. High-carb diets can increase fat deposition in your body and reduce levels of metabolic fuels (glucose and lipids). This results in increased hunger and slower metabolism.

Despite losing weight, many people on a keto diet report feeling less hungry and having a reduced desire to eat.

Reduces Seizures

The keto diet may have experienced a renaissance in recent years, but it’s been used medically for about 100 years to treat drug-resistant epilepsy.

Though researchers are still trying to determine why and how the keto diet is so effective, some believe that its influence in rebalancing gut microbiota may play a role.

Ketosis Side Effects

Though safe and beneficial, the transition into ketosis can come with some uncomfortable side effects. Taken together these symptoms like fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and sugar cravings are often called the “keto flu.” 

These symptoms can last a few hours to a couple of weeks as you become keto-adapted. The good news is that they’re temporary, and there are ways to avoid them or drastically reduce their severity. 

Technique for alleviating keto flu include:

  • Staying hydrated: Always drink when you’re thirsty but try to sip water throughout the day so you can avoid dehydration.
  • Replenish electrolytes: When you lose water weight, you also lose electrolytes.  You can replenish them by increasing your intake of sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Taking an electrolyte supplement can help.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise: You may not feel like exercising much while your body adapts to new fuel sources, but light activities like yoga and walking can improve symptoms.
  • Get plenty of sleep: Treat yourself to more rest and sleep during your transition. Fatigue and irritability can increase your stress level, making your symptoms worse.
  • Get enough fat: Since you’re cutting most carbs from your diet, you’ll need to make sure you’re getting the same amount of calories from keto-friendly fats.

Ketosis is Not Ketoacidosis

Despite the similarity in their names, ketosis and ketoacidosis are not the same.

Ketosis is a normal metabolic process with numerous benefits. On the other hand, ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition that mainly affects people with diabetes.

Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when insulin levels are so low that it can’t drive glucose into cells to be used as a fuel source. If glucose can’t get into cells, it builds up in the blood, resulting in toxically high blood sugar levels.

When your cells don’t get enough glucose, they begin to break down fat for energy, creating ketones. In ketoacidosis, this process happens too rapidly for the body to handle. When ketones build up in the blood, they disturb the acid-base balance, making it dangerously acidic.

Diabetic ketoacidosis usually requires hospitalization to lower blood sugar safely with intravenous fluids and insulin.

Ketoacidosis can happen to anyone with diabetes. However, it is much more common and more severe in people with type 1 diabetes. It can also occur in individuals with chronic alcohol abuse (alcoholic ketoacidosis) or those with eating disorders (starvation ketoacidosis).

Optimal Ketosis

Now that you know more about ketosis, you may be wondering: what is the optimal ketone level?

The answer depends on what your goals are. The ketone levels for someone who wants to lose weight might be different from those who wants to treat an illness. The numbers may also depend on whether you have diabetes.

When discussing ketone levels, people often cite the book The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Drs. Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek. Below is a visual presentation of the different degrees of ketosis and ketoacidosis.

The chart suggests that:

  • Nutritional ketosis ranges from 0.5 to 3 mmol/L. Even in “light nutritional ketosis,” or 0.5 to 1.5 mmol/L, you will start seeing improvements in your body weight.
  • A so-called “optimal” ketone zone is between 1.5 to 3 mmol/L. But if your goal is weight loss, there is little evidence to support that this range provides substantial improvements over the 0.5 to 1.5 mmol/L range.
  • Blood ketone levels higher than 3.0 mmol/L are unnecessary for most healthy people. If your ketone levels are this high, it could mean you’re not getting enough food (“starvation ketosis”). However, some people following the keto diet for therapeutic benefits like fighting cancer or neurodegenerative disease may aim for ketone levels in the 3.0 to 5.0 mmol/L range. In people with type 1 diabetes, ketone levels higher than 3.0 mmol/L could indicate ketoacidosis.

How to Achieve Ketosis

Despite the widespread popularity of the keto diet in recent years, there is still some confusion about how to get into ketosis. Below are some ways you can safely get into nutritional ketosis and stay there.

Limit Your Daily Net Carb Intake to Less Than 20 Grams

As we mentioned earlier, you’ll need to drastically reduce your carb intake on the keto diet.

The ideal daily carb intake varies from person to person. Some people may get into ketosis by limiting their carb intake to 50 grams, while others kick themselves out of ketosis with anything higher than 20 grams.

To ensure that you get into ketosis, we recommend that beginners stick to 20 grams of net carbs per day. This pretty much guarantees that you’ll achieve ketosis. 

Try Intermittent Fasting

Many of us are accustomed to eating every few hours. But for most of human history, we went extended periods of time without eating. 

Periodic breaks from eating are known as intermittent fasting. While there are many different techniques of intermittent fasting (IF), advocates believe that putting cells under mild stress enhances their ability to resist disease. IF has been shown to improve weight loss, reduce inflammation, increase insulin sensitivity, a slow disease process in the brain, among other benefits.

Intermittent fasting can also ease your path into ketosis. In fact, the keto diet was developed to mimic the physiological changes seen in extended fasting. When you don’t eat for 10 to 16 hours, your body taps into its fat stores for energy, releasing ketones.  

IF is as easy as skipping breakfast or dinner. Since the keto diet helps suppress your appetite, skipping one meal will likely feel very natural.

Eat More Fat

We’ve all been warned; beware of fatty foods if you want to lose weight.

But on keto, there’s no need to fear fat. In fact, eating lots of fat is a necessity. Underestimating the amount of daily fat intake is one of the most common mistakes people make when starting out on keto. 

Roughly 70% to 80% of your calories need to come from fat. Doing this will make your transition to ketosis easier and reduce negative side effects.

Increase Your Physical Activity Level

When first starting the keto diet, you may not have enough energy for vigorous exercise. Your body normally uses up glycogen for energy and needs time to adjust to a different fuel source.

If you can avoid loading up on carbs before a workout, you may experience post-exercise ketosis.  You can also opt for low-impact workouts like swimming, stretching, yoga, or brisk walking.

Take Exogenous Ketone Supplements

Endogenous ketones are produced naturally by your liver as a result of ketosis. And as the name implies, exogenous ketones come from outside of your body.

Exogenous ketones come in two main forms — ketone salts and ketone esters. Both increase the number of ketones in your blood, mimicking what happens in ketosis.

Supplementation might be beneficial for people who wish to reduce the time it takes to achieve ketosis and possibly lessen the unpleasant side effects. However, they are not necessary to be successful. Also, whether the supplements significantly reduce the symptoms of keto flu is still unclear.

Cook with Coconut or MCT Oil

If you prefer to avoid exogenous ketone supplements, you can try cooking with coconut oil or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil.

MCTs are rapidly turned into ketones by the liver. MCT may also help decrease the time it takes to reach nutritional ketosis and reduce the associated side effects.

Coconut oil is a rich source of MCTs, though it contains a lower proportion of ketogenic MCTs than MCT oil. However, coconut oil may be a better option for cooking.

Is Ketosis for Everyone?

For most people, yes, keto is safe and healthy. 

However, individuals with the following medical conditions should only follow the keto diet under close medical supervision:

  • Diabetes (type 1 and type 2)
  • Kidney damage
  • Pre-existing liver or pancreatic conditions
  • Irregular menses
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive disorder
  • History of gastric bypass surgery
  • Pregnancy

Ketosis should be avoided altogether in the following individuals:

  • Breastfeeding women
  • People with rare metabolic disorders such as primary carnitine deficiency and beta-oxidation defects. These disorders interfere with the body’s ability to use certain fats for energy.

What is Ketosis? The Bottom Line

Ketosis is a natural metabolic state that is safe for most people and has been shown to have a positive impact on many health outcomes. 

From weight loss to neuroprotection, the benefits of ketosis are wide-ranging, and researchers are still exploring the potentials. 

Entering ketosis is as simple as fasting or restricting carbs. Though there may be some uncomfortable side effects, these are almost always temporary.  And there are a number of strategies for making the transition quick and comfortable. 

 

Young couple doing Mindfulness Exercises

3 Guided Mindfulness Activities to Improve Your Life

If you’ve heard or read about mindfulness, you may be curious about how to practice it. These 3 mindfulness activities offer a foundation for a strong mindfulness practice of your own and the many benefits that come with it. 

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What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a type of meditation where you intentionally bring your awareness to the things you’re experiencing in the moment. Depending on the specific mindfulness exercise these might include your breath, the image of someone you care about, sounds in your environment, and sensations in your body. 

A key part of the practice no matter what you bring your awareness to is to remain non-judgemental. This may sound easy at first, but for most of us, self-judgment, a desire to problem-solve, and a tendency to daydream, are deeply rooted habits. 

All of these habits can be understood as ways we’ve learned to avoid uncomfortable and shameful feelings. These Mindfulness meditation activities are about disrupting these avoidance patterns. 

When you learn how to be with all of your experience, the pleasant and the unpleasant, without judgment, you build resilience and tolerance. 

Aversions fears and judgments no longer call the shots in your life. You are rewarded with greater choice, and you can be more present to the world around you. This process leads to many well-researched benefits which we’ll take a brief look at next. 

What are the benefits of Mindfulness Activities?

How to meditate? Benefits of meditation

Mindfulness is the most researched type of meditation, with over 1000 clinical studies today. These studies show that mindfulness activities can offer powerful positive benefits in many areas of your life. Some of these include: 

  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced anxiety levels.
  • Less depression
  • Increased awareness of your habitual ways of thinking and an ability to build more constructive habits.
  • Greater creativity in problem-solving skills.
  • Elevated attention and memory.
  • Improves age-related memory loss.
  • Increases in attention, memory, and mental quickness in older people.
  • More compassion toward yourself and others.
  • Increased control over food cravings.
  • Increased control over alcohol cravings, and alcohol use.
  • Improves sleep.
  • Reduction in physical pain.  
  • Reduced blood pressure.
  • Reduced inflammation.
  • Reduced severity of numerous disorders and diseases including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia.

3 Mindfulness Meditation Activities: Getting Started

When you’re just starting out on the journey of meditation, the word ‘mindfulness’ can be a little misleading. The ‘mind’ part doesn’t just mean the brain. “Mind” encompasses all of your experience–thoughts, emotions, sensations. So it’s not surprising that there are different types of mindfulness meditation exercises that bring your awareness to different parts of your experience.

Here are 3 mindfulness activities that you can do anywhere—at home, at work, when commuting. 

However, while establishing your practice, it can be helpful to find a place that is relatively free from distractions. 

If you live with others, let them know that you don’t want to be disturbed for the time you’ve carved out to practice. 

With each of these activities, you can begin by setting aside as little as 5 minutes a day, then gradually increasing by 5 minutes each week until you get to sessions of 20-30 minutes. If you’re feeling motivated to create the most effective practice as quickly as possible, set a timer and dive in for 20-30 minutes at a time.

5 Step Awareness of Breath Mindfulness Activity  

Step 1

Find a comfortable seated position, or you can lie down if that’s easier. 

Gently shift your weight from side to side.

Feel the sensation of your body meeting the surface beneath you.

Feel the pressure of gravity gently holding you to the earth.

Feel the earth pressing back up against your body, holding you.

Bring your awareness to the sensation of your breath in your nostrils.

Count ten breaths–each inhale and exhale are a single breath.

Continue noticing your breath in your nostrils without counting.

Step 2

Notice any thoughts. 

When you notice a thought, label it by silently saying the word “thinking.”

Notice how thoughts arise, change, pass away.

Gently and lovingly turn your awareness back to the sensation of your breath in your nostrils.

Notice how each inhale and each exhale are different from the last.

Notice how each breath arises and passes, just like your thoughts. 

Bring your awareness to your breath rising and falling in your chest.

Count ten breaths. 

Step 3

When thoughts arise, gently and lovingly shift your awareness back to the sensation of your breath rising and falling in your chest.

Check-in with your eyes—is there any tension there? If so, simply notice the tension.

Gently shift your awareness back to your breath in your chest.

Now bring your awareness to your breath in your abdomen. The rise and fall of your stomach.

Each inhale and each exhale is different from the last. Your body is constantly adjusting your oxygen levels. And you’re just noticing the change. Noticing the rise and fall of your belly.

When thoughts arise, simply notice that you are thinking.

Notice how thoughts arise and pass away constantly, just as each breath arises and passes away. Constantly changing.

Step 4

Bring your awareness back to your breath rising and falling in your belly.

You are not chasing after or anticipating your thoughts, not pushing them away. They’re simply constantly arising into the space of consciousness. 

Gently shift your awareness back to the sensation of your breath rising and falling in your belly.

Now see if you can notice the rise and fall of your entire body.

Your breath is feeding every cell with oxygen.

It’s a subtle sensation, but it’s there.

Step 5

Notice any tension in your jaw- it’s natural for the jaw to get a little tighter as we concentrate.

Simply notice it. Be with it, without trying to change or relieve it. 

Gently return your awareness to your breath filling and emptying from your body.

If it’s helpful count 10 breaths, then start over again from one. 

If you’re finding it relatively easy to stay tuned into the breath, you don’t need to count, just notice for as long as you’d like. 

If your alarm goes off, or if you’re simply ready to end your session, wiggle your toes.

Wiggle your fingers.

Open your eyes (if you’ve closed them)

And return into the field of interaction with the rest of life, calm, refreshed, centered.

Lovingkindness (Metta) Meditation Script

Find a comfortable seated position, or you can lie down if that’s easier. 

Gently shift your weight from side to side.

Feel the sensation of your body meeting the surface beneath you.

Feel the pressure of gravity gently holding you to the earth.

Feel the earth pressing back up against your body, supporting you, holding you.

Close your eyes.

Guest #1 Someone who loves you

Think of someone who wishes you well, who loves you unconditionally, who wants to see you thrive. 

Maybe it’s your mother, or your father, a teacher, or dear friend.

In your imagination, invite the loving person to sit before you, facing you.

Feel their love and care washing over you. 

Can you see this care flowing over and into you as white light?

As you exhale, imagine this white light flowing from you back over the person.

Say to yourself, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from harm.”

Repeat this cycle with each inhale: Accept the white light flowing from them and saturating you.

With each exhale, see the white light flowing from you back to them.

Repeat, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from harm.”

When you’re ready to move on to your next guest, thank them for coming, let them go, and i

Guest #2 Someone you have neutral feelings for

Invite someone in your life toward whom you feel neutral. It could be someone you see often but never acknowledge, maybe its your gardener, your bus driver, your barista or check-out person at the supermarket.

Offer them this white light of compassion and wellbeing.

With each inhale, feel the light grow inside you. With each exhale, watch the light wash over your guest.

Say to them, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from harm.”

When you’re ready to move on, thank them for coming then let them go.

Guest #5 Someone you have complicated feelings for

Think of someone with whom you have a complicated or fraught relationship. There’s love and care, but it’s not always clear because there may also be frustration and anger.

Invite this person before you. See them there, facing you. Thank them for coming.

With each inhale feel the light build within you. With each exhale watch the light wash over your guest.

Say to them, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from harm.”

At first, offering them this unconditional wish for wellbeing might be difficult. See if you can stick with it for six cycles.

Notice any tension in your body. Notice any release. 

Return to the vision of white light flowing from you to them.

When you’re ready to move on to the next stage, thank them for coming and let them go.

If offering lovingkindness to this person was challenging enough, skip to step #7. But if you’re feeling powerfully compassionate, invite in guest #6

Guest #6 Someone who you feel anger or rage towards

Think of someone who you feel anger or antipathy towards, maybe even hatred.

Invite them into this space of compassion and wellbeing.

With each inhale, feel the light of lovingkindness build within you.

With each exhale, watch the light wash over your guest.

Say to them, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from harm.”

Stick with it. Notice how the power of lovingkindness in you is not affected by their presence. 

Notice them softening, getting clearer, releasing their guard, opening up to understanding.

When you feel ready to let them go, thank them for coming and watch them dissolve.

Guest #7 You

Now bring into your mind a picture of yourself seated in front of you. 

With each inhale, feel the light of loving-kindness grow in you.

With each exhale, watch the light wash over you.

Say to yourself, “May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be from harm.”

Repeat this cycle of offering light and well-wishing for six cycles. 

When you’re ready, wiggle your toes, wiggle your fingers, slowly open your eyes, and return to the world filled with your light and compassion.

Choiceless Awareness Activity 

Find a comfortable seated position, or you can lie down if that’s easier. 

Gently shift your weight from side to side.

Feel the sensation of your body meeting the surface beneath you.

Feel the pressure of gravity gently holding you to the earth.

Feel the earth pressing back up against your body, supporting you, holding you.

Pay attention to anything that comes into your awareness, whether thought, emotion, sound, or bodily sensation. 

Follow it until something else comes into your awareness, without trying to chase after or hold onto it.

When the next thing comes into your awareness, just pay attention to it until another thing comes along.

Notice how each aspect and each moment of reality is constantly arising, changing, and passing away.

There is nothing to grasp onto in the first place.

There is only the changing miracle of each and every moment.

Mindfulness Activities: The Outlook

To get the benefits of these three mindfulness activities, we recommend practicing every day–and these 7 strategies can help. Most clinical studies looking at the effects of mindfulness activities require an 8 week period. So have patience, and give yourself some time to see if these are for you.

When it comes to mindfulness activities, there’s strength in numbers. So consider combining these 3 mindfulness activities with mindful eating, yoga, vigorous walking, and mindful diets like the keto diet.

 

 

 

Beef Tallow

Beef Tallow: Why It Should Be a Kitchen Staple

A long time ago, in a kitchen far, far away, a rather unusual cooking fat could be found beside every oven: beef tallow. 

Long before olive oil, canola oil, or even coconut oil were in vogue, beef tallow was one of the first choices of cooks everywhere. 

Fast forward to the present day, and beef tallow is making a scientifically supported comeback. Here’s what you need to know about this special fat source. 

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What Is Beef Tallow? 

What is beef tallow? It’s simply rendered, or heat-processed, beef fat. 

The rendering process entails gently cooking and liquifying raw beef fat. Once liquified, it’s allowed to cool and harden.  This makes it shelf-stable, just like butter or coconut oil!

The highest-quality tallow comes from the fat around the kidneys. Also called suet or leaf fat, this fat is some of the most nutritious fat in the whole animal. However, any type of beef fat can be rendered and turned into tallow.

Our ancestors viewed tallow as a critical piece of the nutritional puzzle. They ate it liberally and were sure to preferentially give tallow to the young, the old, and the child-bearing. If only on an observational level, these cultures recognized that tallow was great for fertility, longevity, and skin/teeth health. 

Beef tallow’s popularity persisted until Ancel Keys and his diet-heart hypothesis frightened people away from saturated fat in the 1950s. Flip open any cookbook from the 1800s or 1900s and you’ll see many recipes that feature liberal amounts of tallow. Tallow was also loved by chefs; its high 400°+ F smoke point means it can be used for both baking and frying. 

Nutrition values

Beef tallow is a surprisingly nourishing food — especially if it’s sourced from a grass-fed animal

Let’s address tallow’s macronutrient profile first. It’s 100% fat by weight, with no carbohydrates or protein. Most of the fat is saturated. Here’s the fatty acid breakdown:

Macronutrient Per tablespoon Per 100 grams
Calories 115 calories 902 calories
Carbohydrates 0 grams 0 grams
Total fat 12.8 grams 100 grams
Saturated 6.4 grams 49.8 grams
Monounsaturated 5.4 grams 41.8 grams
Polyunsaturated 0.5 grams 4 grams
Omega 3 0.08 grams 0.6 grams
Omega 6 0.4 grams 3.1 grams
Protein 0 grams 0 grams

5 Health Benefits of Beef Tallow

Tallow has far more than 5 benefits — but here are the highlights. 

  1. Rich in healthy fats
  2. Rich in fat-soluble vitamins
  3. Promotes fat-burning
  4. Prevents oxidative damage
  5. Nourishes the skin

1. Rich in healthy fats

Beef tallow is rich in a wide variety of healthy fatty acids. These include monounsaturated fatty acids like palmitoleic acid, saturated fatty acids like palmitic acid and stearic acid, and natural trans fats like conjugated linoleic acid. 

Palmitoleic acid, an omega 7 fat, is one of our skin’s most elemental building blocks. While it’s not quite as essential as fats in the omega 3 series, palmitoleic acid still plays a vital role in maintaining heart health and insulin sensitivity.

It’s also great for your skin and hair. Omega 7’s like palmitoleic acid may counter the oxidative damage that occurs when your skin gets too much sun. Studies show that palmitoleic acid may also boost collagen and elastin production, in the process keeping you looking — and feeling — young.

Next up are tallow’s long-chain saturated fats. Palmitic acid, like palmitoleic acid, may improve skin health by strengthening the barrier function of your skin. Its other benefits include helping build the sphingolipid portion of cell membranes and playing a role as signaling molecules.

If you’re like most people, you’re probably surprised to discover that saturated fat can be extremely good for you. If you want to learn more about this misunderstood superfood, take a deep dive here.

2. Rich in fat-soluble vitamins

The fat found in tallow is home to all sorts of beneficial nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin K, and vitamin E and, more.

These nutrients are vital for virtually every aspect of cellular function. Some play a role in growth, while others play a role in immune support. Many fat-soluble vitamins also have a potent antioxidant effect.

Vitamin A in beef tallow

Grass-fed tallow is slightly higher in vitamin A than muscle meat. Vitamin A plays an essential role in cell production and differentiation, particularly in skin and eye cells.  

Vitamin D in beef tallow

Tallow is a modest source of vitamin D, with 100 grams containing 7% of your RDV. Considering vitamin D is both a hormone and an essential vitamin that 90% of Americans are deficient in, we’d encourage you not to neglect tallow.

Vitamin E in beef tallow

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that reduces the harmful byproducts of metabolizing certain types of fat. It also prevents LDL cholesterol from getting oxidized which can cause inflammation in our arteries.

Vitamin K in beef tallow

Once called by the mysterious name “activator X,” vitamin K is a nutrient that works to keep calcium in bones where it belongs — and out of arteries where it doesn’t. Vitamin K is also associated with improved cardiovascular health.  Grass-fed tallow contains small amounts of vitamin K2. 

3. Promotes fat-burning

The human body can adapt to almost anything. 

When given a naturally high-fat diet, it adapts by greatly upregulating fat burning. 

The fat you eat does not become the fat you wear — at least not on a ketogenic or carnivore diet. As long as your blood sugar and insulin stay relatively low, your body should be able to stay in fat-burning mode with ease.  

Some of beef tallow’s individual fatty acids can also help your body liberate fatty acids from fat stores and use them for fuel. Studies show that conjugated linoleic acid is associated with lower bodyweight and improved body composition.  Anecdotally, many people who switch over to tallow and suet as fuel sources notice the pounds simply melting off. 

4. Prevents oxidative damage

The saturated fats in beef tallow may also promote longevity. The more saturated fat you eat, the more saturated your body’s cell membranes tend to become. Higher levels of cell membrane saturation protect your cells from glycation, oxidation, endotoxin buildup, and other types of stress.

Rodent studies have found that a tallow-rich diet can suppress colon cancer.

 In Europe, saturated fat intake and heart disease rates have a perfectly inverse correlation.

Stearic acid formula

Stearic acid. When it comes to fatty acids, long-chain fats are generally healthier than short-chain ones. Image from Chiral Publishing Company.

5. Nourishes the skin

Tallow is extremely nourishing to your skin, whether it’s ingested or applied topically. 

Many people find that their complexion automatically improves when they up their consumption of tallow or other fatty animal products. And if you want to boost your skincare game, even more, you can also apply tallow directly onto your skin.

Tallow’s fatty acid profile — including the palmitoleic, palmitic, and stearic acids mentioned earlier — closely matches the makeup of our skin’s sebum oil. It’s no surprise that the word “sebum” means tallow in Latin.  

For extra benefits, you can infuse botanicals or antioxidants (like vitamin E) into your tallow to make a truly special DIY skincare product.

Tallow: a tasty cooking oil

If you’re looking for a nourishing, stable, and smoke-free cooking oil, look no further than beef tallow. Its 420° smoke point means tallow can be used for baking, sautéing, and frying. 

Speaking of frying, here’s a little-known fact: McDonald’s used to fry their french fries in 93% beef tallow. Even the fast food critics of yesteryear had a hard time denying that these original fries were simply delicious. 

McDonald’s finally caved to the saturated fat scaremongering in 1990 and switched over to so-called ‘heart-healthy’ vegetable oils flavored with MSG. Ironically, the original fries probably weren’t unhealthy — but the new ones are verifiably toxic.  

Beef tallow has a mild beef flavor that makes it a pleasant addition to many different types of dishes. If cooked alongside herbs or spices, it tends to complement their flavor without overpowering it. Tallow can also be added to keto meals if you need another fat source. 

And if you’re craving french fries, you’d probably do well to make them the old-fashioned, tallow-fried way.

How to make Beef Tallow at home

Preparing fat tallow

 

  1. Select a fatty cut of meat (grass-fed, if possible).
  2. Trim all fat off the meat.
  3. Cut the fat into 1-inch cubes.
  4. Place fat into a stainless steel or glass pot. The pot should be about half full.
  5.  Turn your stovetop to medium heat. Stir every 10 minutes so the heat stays evenly distributed. 
  6. The fat will slowly reduce as the chunks begin to melt. This should take about 30 minutes. 
  7. Remove leftover, unmelted chunks (don’t worry, you can eat them as snacks later),
  8. Pour the liquid into a large container.

Voilà — you’ve made tallow. Now the real fun begins. Try subbing out your other cooking oils/butter for tallow and see how you feel. You can also get creative with tallow-based skincare formations. 

* A final note: your tallow should be stable at room temperatures, but you can refrigerate it if you’d like. 

The bottom line on beef tallow

Just to recap, beef tallow is: 

  • Rich in healthy fats and fat-soluble vitamins
  • Fat-burning friendly
  • Protective against oxidation 
  • Great for your skin

Basically, beef tallow is equal parts delicious and nutritious. 

It’s also a true carnivore diet staple — so don’t be afraid to use it liberally for frying, baking, and other culinary occasions. 

Saturated Fat

What is Saturated Fat? Is it Good or Bad?

The question of whether saturated fat is good or bad for our health is undergoing a much-deserved re-evaluation. 

Since the 1950s saturated fat has been villainized as a leading cause of heart disease and cancer. Yet higher numbers of Americans are obese now than ever before. And heart disease and cancer are still killing over a million people every year. 

So does avoiding dietary saturated fat do anything to make humans healthier? 

And just as important, could it be that saturated fat is actually good for us? 

Let’s find out…

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What is Saturated Fat?

Saturated fats (SFAs) are fat molecules with stable chemical structures (more on this later). In our diets, these fats are found in abundance in red meat and full-fat dairy products. Conversely, the fats of plants and fish are generally unsaturated.

Saturated Fat Foods

Popular examples of foods rich in saturated fats include: 

  • fatty cuts of meat like ribeye and lamb chops 
  • heavy cream
  • beef tallow
  • butter
  • cheese
  • coconut oil
  • dark chocolate

Saturated Fat

 

Saturated Fats: Fast Facts

  • Saturated fats are found in many whole foods like animal meats, full-fat dairy, and tropical fruits like coconut and cacao. 
  • Biochemically speaking, these fats are called “saturated” because each carbon atom they’re composed of is saturated with hydrogen atoms. This, in turn, affects how they are processed in the body. It also makes them resistant to oxidation
  • Saturated fats are satiating, eating them reduces food cravings, especially for carbs
  • When reviewing the evidence, scientists have found no association between consuming saturated fats and heart disease.
  • Saturated fats are often high in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Higher intake of vitamin K is associated with reduced rates of heart disease
  • 60% of your brain is made of fat. 50% of the fat in your brain is saturated, and critical for cognitive function
  • Saturated fats are the building blocks of many key hormones
  • Cell membranes are 50% saturated fat
  • Medium-chain fatty acids have been shown to reduce “bad” LDL particles, reduce inflammation, and fight bacteria 
  • Saturated fats can increase HDL, the “good cholesterol”
  • Eating more saturated fat combined with reducing carbs can increase LDL particle size–a good thing for your heart 

What Defines a Saturated Fat?

The molecular makeup of saturated fats is important because it determines how our bodies process them. In turn, the way they’re processed determines how they affect our health. 

Biochemically speaking, saturated fats are defined as fat molecules (AKA fatty acids) with stable chemical structures.

These fatty acids feature single-bonded carbon molecules. It’s these single bonds that earn these fats their name; each carbon chain is “saturated” with hydrogen atoms. 

You can see an example of these saturated carbon molecules in the diagram below. 

Saturated fat, unsaturated fat

The fact that these fatty acids are saturated makes them “stable”, meaning that they’re less reactive to other molecules. 

In contrast, other types of fat like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have at least one double bond. See image above. 

This matters because the type and length of these bonds changes how your body processes each type of fat. This, in turn, affects our health. 

Many of the effects can be beneficial, while some can be negative–which we’ll get into shortly. 

Are Saturated Fats Triglycerides? 

Typically, both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids exist as triglycerides. A triglyceride is a molecule made of three fatty acids attached to a spine of glycerol. That’s why doctors refer to the fatty acids in your blood as your triglyceride levels. 

Triglycerides

from sciencedirect.com

Triglycerides are commonly referred to as “fatty acids” and “fats” because the fatty acid parts of the molecules are responsible for how your body processes triglycerides.

There are a number of different saturated fatty acids (triglycerides). Each type is categorized and named based on its number of carbon molecules. 

For example, a saturated fat found in coconut oil called palmitic oil has 16 single-bonded carbon atoms. Whereas capric acid, which is also found in coconut oil as well as breast milk, has 10 single-bonded carbon atoms.   

The Three Types of Saturated Fatty Acids

Capric and palmitic are two of many other specific saturated fatty acids. Every fatty acid is categorized into one of three main groups: 

  • short chain fatty acids
  • medium chain fatty acids
  • long chain fatty acids

Saturated fatty acids

Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) 

Short-chain fatty acids have only 2-5 carbon atoms. They’re produced in your body when beneficial gut bacteria ferments fiber in your colon.

These fatty acids including butyrate, propionate, and acetate, are a source of energy for the cells lining your colon.  Butyrate can also be found in small quantities in butter and full-fat dairy.

Examples of Short-chain Fatty Acids

  • Acetic acid: Created from the fermentation of soluble fiber in the gut, this saturated fat has been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties while playing a key role in digestion of glucose (blood sugar). For diabetics, ingesting acetic acid in vinegar has been shown to reduce insulin resistance.
  • Propionic acid: Another fatty acid produced by the fermentation of soluble fiber, this 3 carbon molecule is converted by the liver into glucose. Though often overlooked by researchers focusing on butyric acid, propionic acid has been shown to lower fatty acids in the liver and blood (i.e. triglycerides), reduce hunger and inflammation, and improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Butyric acid: Made up of four carbon atoms.Like other short-chain fatty acids butyrate is produced by fermentation in the gut, and is also found in butter and some animal meats. Butyrate has anti-inflammatory properties, increases insulin sensitivity, and may reduce neurodegenerative diseases. It has also been shown to to be helpful in treating colon diseases such as IBS, Crohn’s, and ulcerative colitis.

Medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) 

More popularly known as MCTs (for medium chain triglycerides), MCFAs are composed of 6-12 carbon atoms. Compared to most of the fat we consume, MCFAs are relatively small molecules. 

The small size of MCFAs allows them to be digested more easily in the liver where they are converted to ketones–the fuel molecules your body makes from fat.

Examples of Medium-chain Fatty Acids

  • Caprylic acid: With 8 carbons, it comprises 12% of the MCTs found in coconut oil. Caprylic acid is small enough to go directly to the liver where it’s converted to ketones. 
  • Lauric acid: A 12 carbon fatty acid makes up 42% of coconut oil. Lauric acid follows similar digestive pathways to long chain fatty acids, and like these larger molecules, it can increase both “good” HDL cholesterol, and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
  • Capric acid: At 10 carbon atoms, capric acid makes up 10% of MCTs in coconut oil. It’s small enough to travel directly to the liver where it can be converted into ketones.

Long chain fatty acids (LCFAs) 

Long chain fatty acids make up the majority of our fat intake. These fatty acids have 13 or more carbon atoms. In addition to most saturated fats, this category includes all monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. 

Examples of Long-chain Saturated Fatty Acids

Myristic acid 

A 14-carbon saturated fatty acid, myristic acid is found in small amounts in most animal and vegetable fats. Some of the most common sources include coconut, palm, and nutmeg oils, and butterfat.

When compared with palmitic acid or carbohydrates, myristic acid has been shown to cause a significant increase in total cholesterol and (bad) LDL cholesterol. It does not appear to affect HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Though coconut and palm kernel oil are relatively high in myristic acid, they also contain other fats that may offset myristic acid’s negative effects on cholesterol.

Stearic acid

As the second most common fat in the American diet, stearic acid is found in animal fat along with coconut and palm oil. Compared with carbs or other saturated fats, stearic acid slightly lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol, or has a neutral effect.  

Considered a healthy saturated fat, stearic acid shows no risk of raising your risk of heart disease.

Palmitic acid

This 16-carbon fatty acid is the most common saturated fat in animals and plants, accounting for ¼ of the fat in dairy and red meat. As such, it makes up over half the total saturated fat intake in the American diet.  It is also the most common SFA in the human body. 

When compared to eating carbs and unsaturated fatty acids, palmitic acid has been shown to raise cholesterol and LDL while not affecting HDL.  However, the greatest increase was seen in LDL with large particle sizes which are not a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Conversely, some research has shown that replacing long chain fatty acids with polyunsaturated vegetable oils high in omega-6’s can increase the most harmful type of LDL–small dense LDL particle levels.

It’s also important to note that in research where replacing saturated fat with linoleic acid lowers cholesterol levels, researchers conclude that this lowering “does not support the hypothesis that this translates to a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease or all causes.”

One of the reasons for this is that polyunsaturated fats have “unsaturated” chemical bonds, which makes them less stable, and therefore vulnerable to oxidation. Oxidized fats can become toxic, increasing inflammation and contributing to atherosclerotic plaque buildup.

Is Saturated Fat Good or Bad? Key Takeaway 

When looking at the available science, it becomes clear that saturated fats are not objectively unhealthy. And they certainly do not deserve to be vilified and avoided, as many mainstream nutrition “experts” would have it. 

So where did this unwarranted reputation come from? 

How Saturated Fat got a bad reputation

Our cultural belief in the dangers of saturated fat started in the 1950s, when a few powerful medical experts were able to convince health institutions and the media that saturated fat was the cause of heart disease.

At that time heart disease had been the leading cause of death in the United States since 1910. During the late 1940s, several factors had researchers looking at cholesterol as a cause for heart disease.

  • Heart disease mortality rates started trending back to previous levels after they had gone down during WWII.
  • The discovery of a rare genetic condition called hypercholesterolemia in the late 1930s that leads to high cholesterol in the blood.
  • The discovery that arterial plaques contained cholesterol in abundance

Back then scientists thought that the cholesterol we ate raised cholesterol blood levels. 

Then an influential scientist named Ancel Keys announced his research that this was not the case.

In 1952 keys presented his “diet-heart hypothesis”, which stated that dietary saturated fat was the true cause of heart disease.  His idea was that eating saturated fat increased blood cholesterol, which increased arteriosclerosis.

One of those physicians who took notice was Paul Dudley White–the nation’s top cardiologist. 

Keys’ ideas exploded into the mainstream after President Eisenhower had his first heart attack in 1955. Dr. White treated the President, and the very next day, he held a press conference. He declared on national TV that all Americans should stop smoking and reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol they ate.

It was the first time the press would publish the idea that heart attacks were caused by cholesterol and saturated fat. Even though the link between dietary and blood cholesterol had already been debunked!

White continued to beat this drum for Keys and supporting of the “diet-heart hypothesis”. And it worked. In January of 1961, Time Magazine put Keys on its cover and the idea that saturated fat is bad for the heart was cemented in the American psyche.

Diet-heart Dissenters

But not everyone was impressed with Keys hypothesis. Several physicians and researchers pointed out that there were countries and populations like France where saturated fat intake was high, but heart disease was low.

Others pointed out that sugar consumption in the US had gone up more than 800 percent since 1915.

The sugar industry responded to this revelation by paying some researchers to publish studies saying that saturated fat, not sugar was the cause of heart disease.

The Famous/Infamous Seven Countries Study

Nevertheless, the relationships that Keys had built with White and other members of the government helped him secure major funding for more research. 

In 1970, Keys published his Seven Countries epidemiological study. In this study, Keys chose 22 countries and looked at data comparing the consumption of saturated fat to blood cholesterol levels. 

He identified seven countries in which saturated fat and heart disease had some correlation. From these findings, Keyes claimed to have proven that there was a correlation between saturated fat consumption and deaths from heart disease.

What Keys neglected to mention was that the previous criticism of his data was still true. Data from sixteen other countries and populations contradicted his hypothesis. 

Despite the shortcomings of his analysis, his hypothesis prevailed in American culture. With the mainstream media’s help, a growing interest in cardiology research, and the aggressive, confident personality of Ancel Keys, the diet-heart hypothesis was billed as the cure for the American heart disease epidemic.

The Truth About Saturated Fat

But the truth is slowly coming to light. Dietary saturated fat is very different from the saturated fat our bodies make. More recent research is revealing that there is a big difference when it comes to health.

A 2014 study looked at data from the larger EPIC study assessing the levels of various saturated fats in blood plasma samples taken from over 16,000 people. The researchers looked at the correlation of the types of fat with new onset of type 2 diabetes in that same group  and found that odd-chain SFAs (meaning fatty acids that contain odd numbers of carbon atoms) were associated with a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, even-chain SFAs were associated with higher rates of type 2 diabetes. 

So what? You might be asking

These findings are important when you consider that odd-chain SFAs are mostly found in high-fat dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, while even-chain SFAs are strongly correlated with the consumption of carbohydrates such as soft drinks, desserts, and potatoes.

Along with alcohol, these high-carb foods increase de novo lipogenesis. This is the process where your liver turns excess carbohydrates into even-chained saturated fatty acids for storage on the body.

Additional research is revealing that these liver-generated even-chain SFAs are linked to higher LDL cholesterol and other markers of heart disease.

Setting the Record Straight on Saturated Fats

In light of many of these findings, a bellwether 2020 paper published in the prestigious Journal of the American College of Cardiology, concluded that “Whole-fat dairy, unprocessed meat, eggs, and dark chocolate are SFA-rich foods with a complex matrix that are not associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The totality of available evidence does not support further limiting the intake of such foods.”

That’s a remarkably powerful statement coming from one of the most well-respected medical journals. Especially considering that it flies in the face of 70 years of mainstream dietary advice.

So how did the researchers come to these conclusions? 

By looking at all the variables in past studies and comparing them to recent studies that control for things like: 

  • the amount and types of foods people were eating. 
  • the sources of saturated fat
  • how the rest of a person’s diet changes when they increase saturated fat

In earlier studies, saturated fat from a steak might be counted the same way as the saturated fat in processed low-nutrient junk foods like cookies and baked goods. Foods that are packed with sugar and all sorts of unnatural ingredients would drive de novo lipogenesis.

It’s also worth mentioning that there is a metabolically significant difference between saturated fats in meat and fats made from hydrogenated vegetable oils. 

There is also a major difference between eating saturated fat along with loads of sugar and eating saturated fats while cutting out carbs.

The Hong Kong Conundrum

For more evidence challenging the saturated fat and heart disease model, we need look no further (though pretty far from America) than Hong Kong. 

The average person in Hong Kong consumes 695 grams (1.5 lbs) of meat per day. And they consume the third-highest amount of red meat in the world. 

Based on popular misconceptions about saturated fat (and red meat more generally) you’d expect the people of Hong Kong to be dropping like flies from heart disease and cancer. 

But on the contrary, they have the longest life expectancy of any nation, at 84.5 years. 

Think Hong Kong is too small of a sample size. Let’s take a look at all the available data on all of Europe! 

The 2008 edition of the official European Cardiovascular Disease Statistics shows that saturated fat intake is negatively correlated to heart disease in Europe.

Why We Need Saturated Fat

So if saturated fat isn’t actually killing us, what does it do in our bodies? 

Let’s begin at the beginning: The fact that human breast milk is about 54% saturated fat is one indication that Nature thinks we need it. The list below details why we should agree with nature. 

  1.   Cardiovascular risk factor improvement: You may have heard that higher HDL cholesterol in your blood is a good thing. Physicians also check Lp(a) (low-density lipoprotein) levels. Having lower Lp(a) is generally healthier bc it’s a carrier for oxidized phospholipids in our blood plasma.

Oxidized lipids can embed themselves in your arterial walls creating atherosclerotic lesions–not a good thing. 

The good news is that consuming saturated fat reduces the levels of lipoprotein (a) in your bloodstream and increases “good” HDL cholesterol. The overall effect is improvement of our heart disease risk factors.

  1.     Liver protection: saturated fats protect the liver from the effects of alcohol and drugs. Combined with a low carb diet, consuming SFAs can alleviate fatty liver disease.
  2.   Healthy lungs: a phospholipid fat made up of saturated palmitic acid keeps the suface of the lungs supple and protects them from irritants.
  3.   Cell and Brain health: the phospholipids that make up all of our cellular membranes are composed in large part of saturated fatty acids. 

In some areas of the human brain, in more than 80 percent of the phospholipids, over half of the fatty acids are saturated fatty acids.

Myristic acid, a saturated fatty acid in milk products is essential for many cellular signaling pathways.

  1.   Human milk fat is about 50% fat, and about half of that is saturated fat. They provide plenty of energy for newborns, and spare protein for building little bodies. Children who are put on low-fat diets develop growth and other health problems.
  2.   Vitamin intake: saturated fats in various animal foods carry fat-soluble vitamins A and D into the body in forms that are more easily absorb and utilized. 

In countries where intake of animal foods such as eggs and butter are low, vitamin A deficiencies are a problem.

Is Saturated Fat Good or Bad for You: The Outlook

So is saturated fat good or bad for you? 

The totality of the evidence makes a strong case that yes, saturated fat, when consumed from natural whole foods, is healthy and may protect against heart disease and prolong life. 

However, eating a standard America diet high in added sugars and highly processed carbohydrate-rich foods can cause your body to produce unhealthy saturated fatty acids that can contribute to heart disease. 

SFAs can also be unhealthy in people who have one or more genetic variants that make them vulnerable to higher LDL. 

 

Human trophic level

What Did Cavemen Eat? Lots of Meat, New Study Reveals

Popular diet trends like paleo, ancestral, ketogenic, and carnivore diets are all inspired by different ideas about human dietary evolution. In other words, these diets each bill themselves as the answer to the question, what did cavemen eat? 

A comprehensive new paper by researchers at Tel Aviv University published in the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, brings together over 400 studies revealing a picture of our ancestors spending 2 million years as hyper-carnivorous “apex predators.” This means that for the vast majority of human history humans evolved by hunting and eating mostly large animals.

Hyper Carnivorous Ancestral Diet

This picture of a hyper-carnivorous ancestral diet proposed by Prof. Ran Barkai and other researchers is unprecedented in its inclusiveness and breadth, making for a bellwether moment in the conversation about what our cavemen ancestors actually ate. 

Fellow researcher Miki Ben-Dor explained, “So far, attempts to reconstruct the diet of stone-age humans were mostly based on comparisons to 20th-century hunter-gatherer societies. This comparison is futile, however, because two million years ago hunter-gatherer societies could hunt and consume elephants and other large animals – while today’s hunter-gatherers do not have access to such bounty.”

what did cavemen eat for Brain development

Humans Were Apex Predators for Nearly 2 Million Years

The argument of Ben-Dor and colleagues turns on the idea of the trophic level–or the position our human ancestors inhabited on the food chain. For decades there has been a debate about whether ancient humans were general omnivores that hunted and gathered food from various trophic levels, including small prey, tubers, fruits, and some vegetables. Or were we specialized apex predators that focused almost exclusively on hunting and eating large animals?

Though the ability to gather food from many sources might sound compelling–the dietary equivalent of a diversified investment portfolio–as apex predators in a world running wild with nutrient-dense mastodons and 2000 lb chinchillas, why would we choose to spend energy gathering and eating far less nutritious foods? 

This new study argues that we wouldn’t. 

What Did Cavemen Eat? 17 Scientific Insights

Here’s a summary of key insights from the study aimed at answering the controversial question, what did cavemen eat?

1. Bioenergetics

Humans needed a lot of energy relative to our body mass and had a short time of day to get it. We had a 10X return on energy spent hunting compared to acquiring plants.  Animals almost always specialize in the highest return on calories. 

Interestingly, that’s why we’re addicted to cheap processed foods–they’re loaded with calories and almost effortless to acquire. 

2. Diet quality

When we look at primates, the larger the brain, the more energy-dense the food they eat. Humans have the largest brain of all primates, and so it’s likely that we targeted the highest density food in our trophic level–animals loaded with fat and proteins. 

We also see that during the end of the Pleistocene era, brain size declined alongside the decline in megafauna. At the same time, isotope evidence shows that this is when humans began eating more plants. 

human trophic level

3. Higher Fat Reserves

Humans have much higher body fat reserves than other primates. And we can go into ketosis–the metabolic state where our bodies use fat rather than carbohydrates for fuel–more quickly than fellow facultative carnivores like wolves.  

This makes us unique in our ability to endure extended periods of fasting. Researchers believe we adapted these traits to overcome periods of fasting when we couldn’t find large prey to hunt. This supports the idea that we were apex predators at the highest trophic level. 

4. Genetic and Metabolic Adaptations to High Fat Diet

Compared with other primates we see that humans are genetically adapted to higher fat diets. The highest fat sources were certainly animal meats. 

Whereas chimpanzees have open regions of their genetic code to metabolize a high sugar diet, humans have closed parts of the genome to accommodate eating a high-fat diet. The authors theorize that it makes sense that we would be adapted to high fat when eating a carnivorous diet because we are limited in the amount of protein we can metabolize for energy.  

The study also points out that the human body prioritizes the storage of fat on our body for use as fuel–another sign of our adaptation to high-fat consumption. 

5. Late Adaptation to Tubers and Plant Foods 

When looking at recent groups of people that eat lots of tubers, we find specific genetic adaptations to deal with plant toxins and antinutrients. But we don’t see these adaptations in other groups of people. This suggests that in some groups there has been a gradual shift from apex to lower trophic levels. 

6. Stomach Acidity

Carnivores through the animal kingdom have high stomach acidity in order to protect against meat‐borne pathogens. The stomach acidity of humans’ is even higher than that of normal carnivores. In fact, it’s equal to the acidity of scavengers. Researchers suggest that this adaptation may have evolved to allow humans to eat large animals over a period of days and weeks even as pathogens accumulated in the meat. 

7. Insulin Resistance

Like other carnivores, humans have low insulin sensitivity. This adaptation allows the body to prioritize glucose for the few issues that are entirely or significantly dependent on glucose like the testes, central nervous system, and red blood cells while using fatty acids and ketosis to fuel muscles. This portioning of energy suggests a reliance on fatty animal meats among humans. 

8. Isotopes and Trace Elements

A compilation of 242 individuals from 49 sites shows that European hunter gatherer groups primarily pursued a carnivorous diet throughout the late stone age 

What did cavemen eat

9. Gut Morphology

The shape and size of human guts relative to chimpanzees and other apes are radically different. Humans have longer small intestines and shorter large intestines consistent with the guts of other carnivores. This limits our ability to ferment and get energy from plant fibers. The authors cite this finding as supporting the view that humans were/are omnivores specialized in eating meat, otherwise known as facultative carnivores. 

10. Mastication

When comparing the size of the masticatory system size already in Homo erectus, to early hominins (pre-human species), that ate mostly plant foods, we see a reduction in size. The jaw size and shape of humans is more compatible with eating meat and dairy. These findings point to an early shift in trophic levels from plant-eating omnivore to carnivorous apex predator. 

11. Skeletal Structure

When comparing early humans to our hominid ancestors we see adaptations for endurance running and shoulder bones adapted to spear throwing. Both signify key changes towards hunting. At the same time, we also see skeletal adaptations that limit the ability to climb trees. This suggests that we came down from the trees to eat the grass eater, not to eat the grass. 

Also, when looking at the fossil record you can see that the increase and decline of human body size tracks with the abundance and decline of large prey. 

12. Adipocyte Morphology

Adipocytes are cells specializing in the storage of fat. The human adipocyte system is similar to those in carnivores. These findings “suggest that the energy metabolism of humans is adapted to a diet in which lipids and proteins rather than carbohydrates, make a major contribution to the energy supply.” 

13. Age at Weaning

Humans, like carnivores, wean at a younger age than omnivores and herbivores.  According to the study, early weaning “highlights the emergence of carnivory as a process fundamentally determining human evolution” 

14. Longevity

Due to a long childhood for humans, a large part of early human groups dependent on experienced hunters to provide meat and train the youngsters. The hypothesis follows that we evolved longer lives to maximize the proficiency of hunting that peaks at age 40. Though women are often considered to have been gatherers, early human women could have assisted in the hunt by herding large animals towards awaiting men. 

What did cavemen eat? Large animals that they spent most of their long lives learning how to hunt. 

15. Higher Fat Reserves

Because large prey, even during the stone age, was less abundant than small prey, humans may have evolved fat reserves to support extended fasting for days and even weeks between successful encounters and hunts. 

Eating large fatty animals in combination with having to endure fasting periods selected for the body’s ability to easily use stored fat and fat from food for fuel. This is especially true for the brain, which is the most important tool that ancient humans had for hunting much stronger and larger prey. 

16. Paleontology

A decline in the highest trophic level of large prey carnivores that took place 1.5 million years ago can be interpreted as a result of humans entering the top of the food chain and out-carnivoring our competitors. Some researchers view humans as responsible for the extinction of large prey throughout the Pleistocene, supporting the view that humans focused on hunting and eating megafauna. Also, humans, like other large social carnivores hunt large prey.

What did Cavemen eat? The same large fauna as other apex predators. And we were so good at it, in fact, that we kicked our competitors out of our trophic level, and may have eaten our prey into extinction. 

17. Ethnography

Upper Paleolithic (later stone age) technologies are seen as an adaptation to hunting smaller prey. This means that humans were previously less adapted to hunting smaller prey. 

The advent of tools for processing plant foods also took place much later, suggesting that plant foods are a relatively recent addition to the human diet. 

What Did Cavemen Eat? The Takeaway

This massive study citing 25 lines of evidence from over 400 papers paints a comprehensive picture of our human ancestors as carnivore apex predators, who for around two million years focused on hunting and eating large prey. 

It wasn’t until the end of extinction of larger animals (megafauna) in many parts of the globe, along with a general decline of animal food sources toward the end of the stone age, that humans gradually increased the plant foods in their diets. 

Only 8500 years ago humans finally had to domesticate both plants and animals, settle down, and become farmers.

You can take a deeper dive into this complex study here

human trophic levels through the Pleistocene

Constipation

Carnivore Diet Constipation — And How to Fix It

Many people who go carnivore are concerned that their new diet might cause constipation. After all, the carnivore diet has almost no fiber, and everyone knows that fiber promotes regular bowel movements…right? 

The truth isn’t quite so simple. In fact, there are no studies that truly link fiber and bowel health — and some studies even suggest that excess fiber may be dangerous.

Yet some people still report having carnivore diet constipation. 

If this sounds like you, it’s important to remember that any major dietary change will require equally major changes to the way your body processes food and expels waste. So for most people, it’s just a matter of time before your body regains its digestive balance.

That said, there are certain things to watch out for on a carnivore diet. The good news is that they’re all easily addressed.

Let’s take a closer look at carnivore diet constipation, what might be the causes, and helpful tips for how to get your bowls back into action sooner than later.  

The Fiber Myth

Before getting into the heart of the matter, one especially persistent myth needs to be dispelled. A lack of fiber does not automatically lead to constipation. 

On the contrary, new research shows that fiber may be a leading cause of constipation. One 2012 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that “stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and its associated symptoms.” The study’s authors concluded that “the previous strongly-held belief that the application of dietary fiber to help constipation is but a myth.”

Far from showing that fiber may relieve constipation, the study “[showed] a very strong correlation between improving constipation […] after stopping dietary fiber intake.”

Another reason fiber isn’t so essential

Fiber’s nonessentiality is also evident based on the experience of millions of people who eat a mostly meat — or even all-meat carnivore — diet. The vast majority of these people do not have any problems with constipation. 

That’s because meat and animal fat are completely digestible. They don’t leave much residue behind, so they simply can’t be a direct cause of constipation. 

Unless you have unusual digestive issues or have had gastric bypass surgery, you probably won’t find undigested meat/fat exiting your body. 

The same can’t be said of fibrous plant foods! 

By definition, fiber is mostly or completely indigestible. The fiber we eat actually ferments within our bodies as it’s getting broken down by gut bacteria. This fermentation process produces aldehyde, alcohol, methane, gas, and heat. The heat generated by fiber can damage nearby organs, including the reproductive organs.

Here’s another poignant excerpt from the World Journal of Gastroenterology study mentioned earlier:

“A strong case cannot be made for a protective effect of dietary fiber against colorectal polyp or cancer. Neither has fiber been found to be useful in chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. […] we often choose to believe a lie, as a lie repeated often enough by enough people becomes accepted as the truth. We urge clinicians to keep an open mind. Myths about fiber must be debunked and truth installed.”

Effects of Reducing Dietary Fiber

What is Considered ‘Normal’ on the Carnivore Diet?

All of this fiber talk leads us to a practical conclusion:

It’s completely normal to poop less frequently on a fiber-free carnivore diet. 

This is because meat takes longer to digest and assimilate than plant foods do. As your body adapts to your new diet,  expect to experience a new pooping schedule. Your bowel movements will probably be pleasant, regular, predictable, yet less frequent. 

However, in the transitional period from a high carb plant and processed food diet, to a carnivore diet, you may experience constipation.  The good news is that we have some ideas that can help. 

Causes of Constipation On a Carnivore Diet

Some of the most common potential causes of carnivore diet constipation include:

  • Gut adaptation
  • Changes to gut bacteria
  • Stomach acidity
  • Bile production
  • Excessive protein
  • Dehydration
  • Inflammatory foods

Gut adaptation

Your gut goes through several types of changes when you first switch to the carnivore diet. It has to adapt to a drastically higher fat, reduced food volume, and higher protein intake. This adaptation phase can cause constipation, diarrhea, or other unusual bowel issues. 

Changes to gut bacteria

Your gut microbiome is home to trillions of bacteria. When you jump from a high carb, high fiber diet to a low carb carnivore diet, the makeup of these bacteria undergoes a revolution.

Bacteria that had been feeding on carbs will probably die out, while bacteria that feed on fats will probably proliferate.  This shift can temporarily slow transit time and cause constipation.

Stomach acidity

Protein is comprised of long chains of amino acids that your body breaks down using stomach acid and digestive enzymes. After getting broken down in the stomach, a protein’s amino acids enter the small intestine where they get absorbed.

This process is completely natural, but it might take some time for your body to ramp up stomach acidity in order to fully adjust to breaking down more meat. The higher your meat consumption, the more stomach acid your body will need.

When taking an evolutionary perspective, we see that humans have naturally high stomach acidity, which scientists point to as evidence supporting the perspective that indeed, we are made to eat lots of meat.   

Bile production

Bile is a digestive fluid that plays a pivotal role in fat digestion. Bile is released from your gallbladder and liver whenever you ingest enough fat to trigger a certain hormonal response.  Once released, bile emulsifies the fat you’ve eaten and helps your body break it down. 

Bile production, just like stomach acid production, can take some time to catch up to the increased demands of a carnivore diet. 

Excessive protein

Excessive protein is one of the most common — and most foundational — reasons some carnivores become constipated. Your body can only absorb so many amino acids each day. 

Eating over 3-4 pounds of meat may overload your system enough to cause carnivore diet diarrhea or constipation. To avoid eating too much protein, we recommend selecting fatty cuts of meat. Choosing fatty meats will also help you avoid gluconeogenesis, a process where your body converts protein to carbohydrates for fuel.  

When we look at how humans developed to store fat on our bodies and then break it down for fuel, combined with the strict biological limits for how much protein we can absorb, we see that for humans, being a carnivore means focusing on fat over protein.

Dehydration

One of the first positive things you might notice about the carnivore diet is its ability to promote quick weight loss. 

Though some of this initial weight is indeed fat, most of it is water weight that was previously being stored with glycogen (carbohydrates) in your liver and muscles.

When you eat less than 100 grams of carbs per day, your body breaks down this glycogen–and each glycogen molecule is attached to lots of water molecules, which you expel through urine. 

glycogen

This water loss comes with the potential for an accompanying loss of electrolytes, some of which have a natural laxative effect.

In other words, carnivore diet constipation can easily happen if you’re dehydrated and running low on electrolytes.

Nutrient deficiencies 

Preexisting nutrient deficiencies can also make it harder for your body to adapt to the carnivore diet. 

Adequate vitamin D and A levels, for example, are essential for regulating the bile acid production we mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, over 90% of Americans are currently deficient in vitamin D. 

The graph below shows just how dismally low most people’s vitamin and mineral levels have gotten:

How to Avoid Constipation on a Carnivore Diet

Avoiding or reversing carnivore diet constipation is as easy as doing the opposite of what’s seen with the problems above. Potential fixes include:

 

  1. Hydration
  2. Avoid inflammatory foods
  3. Balance electrolytes
  4. Supplement with ox bile/HCL
  5. Move more

 

1. Hydration

Ensuring adequate water intake is always important — and it becomes even more crucial when you go carnivore. Dehydration can pull water out of your colon and make it difficult for you to pass stool.

As we said earlier, when restricting carbs, you’ll probably drop a few lbs when your body sheds its glycogen stores. But don’t get too excited about the lost water weight. 

Instead, make a concerted effort to stay hydrated by drinking more water and eating more salt than normal–more on salt in the electrolytes section. 

How much water is enough? Many health experts recommend 2 liters of water per day, but it wouldn’t be unwise to go up to 2.5 liters as you transition to carnivore.  

Larger individuals may need to increase their water intake even more. Paying close attention to your urine color is an easy way to check for dehydration — it should be light yellow, not dark or bright yellow. 

Don’t be daunted if 2.5 liters of water a day sounds like a lot. Beverages like bone broth and coffee also count towards your daily fluid intake! While it was once thought that caffeinated drinks were dehydrating, newer research shows that coffee and tea are net hydrating.

Caffeinated beverages can help with carnivore diet constipation in another way, too. The caffeine stimulates colon intake enough to provide a natural laxative effect that’s 60% stronger than water’s.

2. Avoid inflammatory foods

Most people who try the carnivore diet find it powerfully anti-inflammatory. That’s no surprise — the carnivore diet eliminates lectins, phytates, processed sugar, processed seed oils, and all sorts of other toxin-rich and inflammatory foods

Yet certain carnivore foods can also trigger enough inflammation to cause constipation. Eggs and dairy are the major culprits. The inclusion of dairy in the carnivore diet is controversial anyway, and not really necessary. 

Consider removing these potentially inflammatory foods if you’re experiencing constipation. Or try switching to raw dairy, which some people find less allergenic.  Things will likely improve.

3. Balance Electrolytes

Electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, and potassium are essential factors when it comes to keeping your bowels moving. 

Magnesium 

helps your muscles, including the smooth muscles of the colon, which means it has a natural laxative effect. Magnesium also helps balance out high calcium levels which could otherwise lead to constipation.  

One study of 244 women struggling with constipation found that hydrating with magnesium-infused water helped much more than hydrating with ‘regular’ water.  

Drinking mineral water is a great way to up your magnesium intake. And if you choose to supplement, be sure to select magnesium glycinate or another bioavailable option.

Sodium

When you’re eating a low-carb carnivore diet it’s common to go into ketosis. In this state, your kidneys excrete lots of sodium into the urine. At the same time, you’re probably cutting out processed foods loaded with salt. 

It may be important for your digestion (and overall health), to rebalance electrolytes.  

Doctors familiar with low-carb eating recommend eating 12 grams (2 tsp) of salt per day in the first few days of adapting to a low-carb carnivore diet. Once you’re adapted we recommend consuming at least 5 grams (approx 1tsp) every day to avoid fatigue, headaches, and yes, constipation.

4. Supplement with ox bile and HCL

If you’ve gone keto-carnivore and you’re still struggling to upregulate bile production, supplementing with digestive boosters can help. 

Supplemental ox bile provides a convenient way to assist your own liver’s production of fat-digesting bile. Bile, in turn, can boost your body’s absorption of some of the most important fat-soluble vitamins.

Hydrochloric acid supplements like betaine HCL can also be used to make the transition to carnivore a little smoother.  The choline found in beef and chicken liver may also help with fat digestion.

5. Move more

Proper digestion isn’t just a chemical process. It’s also physical. 

Proper movement can help keep you regular. Going for a brief walk after each meal allows your abdominal muscles to contract and gets your bowels moving. 

Walking after a meal can also keep your blood sugar stable. Exercise can also reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can contribute to constipation. 

These benefits were well-known by ancient cultures, as one Asian proverb explains: “If you take 100 steps after each meal, you’ll live to 99.”

Carnivore Diet Constipation: The Takeaway

Carnivore diet constipation is a real thing. 

Thankfully, it’s usually temporary and reversible. By staying hydrated, avoiding inflammatory foods, balancing electrolytes, supplementing with ox bile/HCL, and moving more, you should be able to avoid constipation on the carnivore diet entirely. 

And remember, pooping less on a carnivore diet is normal. Animal meats and fats are completely digestible and produce less waste than a diet filled with plant fibers. 

Keto side effects: woman with nausea

17 Keto Side Effects and How to Manage Them

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already familiar with the keto diet and its many benefits. You’ve heard how keto can help you lose weight, reverse diabetes and metabolic disease, kick your carb addiction, and reduce chronic inflammation.  

And you’ve also probably heard that for some people, the keto way of life can have some less than desirable side effects. This can be especially true when you’re first adapting to keto. 

In this article we’ll take a closer look at 17 of the most common keto side effects — and what you can do to avoid them. 

Keto Diet Side Effect #1: Feeling hungry

Transitioning to the keto diet requires a complete metabolic transition. If you’re eating a  standard American diet you are burning carbohydrates for fuel — even at rest. That leaves unused fatty acids lingering in the bloodstream where they don’t belong. 

The keto diet, on the other hand, switches your body to breaking down fat into ketones for fuel.

But making the metabolic jump from carb-burning to fat-burning isn’t always easy. 

When first starting out you might experience strong hunger pangs as your body makes this major transition to fat metabolism. 

How to reduce keto hunger pangs

The solution for reducing hunger is simple and intuitive: eat more fat!

Many keto-eaters report that butter and tallow are especially satiating. Regardless of what fat sources you choose, don’t skimp on the fat. 

Exercise can also help force your body into a fat-burning ketogenic state more quickly. Low impact movement can be especially beneficial during the transition period, these include: 

If you’re still experiencing elevated hunger levels after several weeks on keto, consider talking to your doctor about supplementing with carnitine to boost your body’s fat metabolism.

Keto Diet Side Effect #2: Sugar cravings

Sugar feels addictive to many people who begin a keto diet for the first time. 

If your old diet featured sugary cereals for breakfast, sandwiches and chips for lunch, pasta for dinner, and ice cream for dessert, you might be in for a rude awakening — and plenty of sugar cravings along the way. 

Don’t be surprised if your body’s hunger hormones start acting up! These hormones, which include leptin and ghrelin, might direct you towards sugary foods to bring your blood sugar back up.  

These sugar cravings may also be fueled by candida overgrowth associated with a high-carb diet. Studies show that overgrowths in candida, a common yeast in our intestines is linked to high levels of blood glucose.

A 2014 review suggests that the microorganisms in our gut such as candida can influence our dietary choices–i.e. Make us crave sugar!

How to reduce sugar cravings 

As mentioned earlier, simply replacing the sugar you used to eat with keto-friendly fat can help reduce hunger pangs and cravings.

To combat candida overgrowth and associated sugar cravings, animal studies suggest that eating more coconut oil can help.

Another helpful strategy: get enough rest. Research shows that your body’s hunger hormones become more sensitive when you’re well-rested.  So consider dialing in your sleep habits at the same time you’re dialing in your new keto diet.  

Keto Diet Side Effect #3: Nausea

If you experience nausea when first beginning your keto diet, don’t panic. 

What’s probably happening is that your body’s just getting adjusted to the diet’s higher fat intake. Nausea can also be a symptom of low blood sugar or dehydration, both of which are sometimes seen when starting out on keto.

How to reduce keto nausea

Eating high protein meals may stabilize your blood sugar enough to prevent hypoglycemia-induced nausea. Upping your salt — a critical change for those new to keto — may also help.   

You may want to consider taking a digestive enzyme or ox-bile supplement, too. These products can help your body process dietary fat until you adapt to making enough of your own bile acids.  Give it a week or two. 

Keto Diet Side Effect #4: Diarrhea

Though rare, some people experience diarrhea when they begin a keto diet. 

More often than not, new food ingredients are to blame — not the ketogenic state itself. Sugar alcohols can cause irregular bowel movements since they aren’t really recognized by your body as a valid fuel source.

Oils rich in MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) can also cause diarrhea. They contain a natural laxative and get metabolized so quickly that they can overwhelm the digestive tract of someone who’s not used to them.

How to reduce keto diarrhea 

Eliminate sugar alcohols (found in many keto-friendly sweeteners) and MCT sources from your diet. 

If this doesn’t resolve the problem, consider removing all dairy products besides aged cheese, too. Some people find dairy lactose irritating enough to dysregulate regular bowel movements. Depending on your gut microbiome and your ancestors’ exposure to dairy products, you might find the same. 

Keto Diet Side Effect #5: Constipation

Your digestive system may take time to adjust to an HFLC or keto diet. For many people, this adjustment period can manifest as constipation. 

The good news is that constipation is temporary. It’s usually easy to alleviate just by drinking more water and adding extra salt to your food. 

The complex blend of fat and protein found in an animal-based diet can also increase your body’s transit time. But this can be easily adapted to as well — over time the stomach enzymes responsible for processing fat will upregulate and allow your body to digest fatty meals faster.

Another thing to remember: just because you’re pooping less often doesn’t mean you’re constipated. Keto and carnivore diet generate far less fibrous waste than your old way of eating did.  

Fibrous plant foods are often the real cause of constipation, not animal products. Reducing your consumption of these plant foods will likely lead to far better bowel motility and digestion over time. 

How to reduce keto constipation

Improving your transit time during keto is simple: Stay hydrated.  Hydration correlates directly to bowel motility. Both water and salt can help you stay hydrated.  Gentle exercises like walking may also help get your digestion working. 

Another effective approach is to supplement with 400 mg of magnesium citrate

If you’re still constipated, you’re likely eating too many hard-to-digest plant foods like nuts, low-starch vegetables, especially crucifers, along with full-fat dairy. On any diet these three foods can be constipating. 

Replace these fibers and hard-to-digest fats with more whole animal meats. 

Keto Diet Side Effect #6: Muscle cramps

Many people experience muscle cramps and spasms during the first week or two of their new keto diet. These cramps are caused when electrolyte imbalances make muscle cells fire in an uncoordinated fashion.  

Cramps tend to happen in large muscle groups — and they also tend to happen at the least convenient times. Cramps can be painful enough to disrupt sleep and prevent you from enjoying your workout routine. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to stop them. 

How to reduce keto muscle cramps

Reducing muscle cramps during your transition into ketosis requires a three-part approach. 

First, salt your foods and drinks liberally. Bone broth is one of the few beverages that gets tastier the more salt you add to it.

Next, drink plenty of water. Dr. Kiltz recommends drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day. A 200-pound person should aim for 100 ounces of water (close to a gallon) per day. 

Finally, consider supplementing with magnesium. Magnesium works in concert with all other electrolytes to maintain hydration status. It’s also a powerful muscle relaxant that many of us don’t get enough of today.  Magnesium supplementation is a great thing to discuss with your doctor or keto-aware dietician. 

Keto Diet Side Effect #7: Sleep Problems

Many people report struggling with sleep when first introduced to keto. Part of this problem can be traced back to low blood sugar. 

It’s also likely that keto initially triggers the production of stress hormones like cortisol, essentially placing your body into a ‘fight or flight’ mode that makes unwinding difficult. Sleep loss can then lead to a cycle of further cortisol overproduction.  

How to prevent keto insomnia

The magnesium supplementation we recommend for relaxing your muscles can also be used to relax your mind. One study found that magnesium improved many metrics of sleep, including “[Insomnia Severity Index] score, sleep efficiency, sleep time and sleep onset latency, [and] early morning awakening.”

Low-impact exercises like yoga postures that specifically support sleep, meditative practices, and breathing techniques to reduce anxiety, all have powerful sleep-enhancing benefits. 

Keto Diet Side Effect #8: Lower Energy levels

Transitioning from carb-burning to fat-burning can also result in temporarily low energy levels. 

Thankfully, this ‘side effect’ of keto flu doesn’t stick around long. It just indicates that your body is only beginning to produce enough ketones to fuel the metabolic processes it once used glucose for. 

How to improve low energy when you begin keto

The best way to increase your energy when beginning a keto diet is simply to get into ketosis as quickly as possible. 

Low-intensity exercise and an MCT-rich diet may both help with this. Exercise can deplete your body’s glycogen stores (i.e, stored carbs) and trigger ketone production, while MCT foods can provide a readily available carb replacement.  

Another thing that’s worth repeating: don’t be afraid of fat. Fat isn’t fattening in the context of a keto diet, so treat yourself! Drink heavy cream straight from the carton or dump it in your coffee. Fry your morning eggs in tablespoon upon tablespoon of butter. The hardest thing about beginning keto is just getting used to prioritizing and eating fat over everything else. 

Keto Diet Side Effect #9: Decreased Exercise Performance

Anyone can be negatively impacted by the low energy that comes with keto-adaptation, but athletes can have the greatest challenge. 

Our advice: hang in there. Once you are keto-adapted, you may experience higher, more stable energy levels than before. 

Fat metabolism, in fact, produces far more ATP (cellular energy) per calorie than carbohydrate metabolism — and this may mean keto provides athletes with far more usable energy.  

While some athletes feel that dietary fat is akin to ‘diesel fuel’ that’s incapable of supporting intense exercise, others have noted that even the most intense exercise can be fueled by fat after keto-adaptation. 

How to improve exercise on the keto diet

First, stick with moderate-intensity exercise for the first 1-2 weeks of your keto diet. Be sure to drink plenty of water, liberally salt your foods, and consider supplementing with magnesium. 

The timing of your keto transition matters, too. Competitive athletes may do best by beginning their keto diet in the offseason or preseason to give their bodies time to adjust.  

Keto Diet Side Effect #10: Bad Breath

Many people notice halitosis, or “keto breath,” once they’ve transitioned into ketosis. 

This change is a direct result of ketogenic metabolism. Acetone is a ketone that gets released in the breath — and it doesn’t smell all that great. 

“Nail polish breath” is often one of the first signs that your body has begun producing sufficient ketones for you to be in ketosis. That’s because acetone is one of the main ingredients in nail polish. 

As your body begins to process acetone and other ketones more efficiently, keto breath goes away.

How to reduce keto breath

Keeping your oral hygiene consistent is the best way to reduce keto breath. Regular brushing and flossing can help make halitosis far less noticeable.  

One word of caution: stay away from sugar-free gum. Dr. Kiltz has noticed that it can spike insulin levels and prevent ketone production, even in the absence of carbs.

Keto Diet Side Effect #11: Heart Palpitations

Some people notice that their heart beats faster than normal during their transition to the keto diet. Experts believe this temporary change is caused by electrolyte imbalances and/or elevated stress hormones.

How to reduce heart palpitations

Magnesium supplementation, not overdoing the caffeine, and getting plenty of rest may all help you avoid heart palpitations. Yoga, nature walks, and meditation may also reduce your stress hormone levels enough to help.

Keto Diet Side Effect #12: Hair Loss

First things first: the keto diet is very unlikely to cause hair loss. Keto/carnivore eaters have been aware of the diet’s ability to enhance hair growth for decades.

If you notice hair loss after beginning a ketogenic diet, it’s likely being caused by insufficient protein and/or calorie intake — not by ketosis itself.  

How to prevent hair loss during keto

Preventing keto-associated hair loss is as simple as eating enough and making sure your keto diet is well formulated. This means paying attention to the types of food you eat, not just the grams of fat you get each day. 

Add in these 5 keto superfoods and supplement with fresh organ meats to cover your micronutrient bases. 

Though rare, some people find that they need to eat more calories than usual on keto. So be sure not to skimp on the keto ice cream and butter. 

Keto Diet Side Effect #13: Kidney Stones

Doing the ketogenic diet incorrectly can raise your chance of developing kidney stones. This possibility was first seen in children following a very strict, ultra-low-carb ketogenic diet for epilepsy. Kidney stones can occur in both children and adults who begin keto and fail to drink enough water. 

How to prevent kidney stones

When doctors first developed the ketogenic diet protocol at All Children’s Hospital, they prescribed a buffering solution called Polycitra-K to all children who began the diet.  

This was in response to a study conducted at Johns Hopkins by Eric Kossoff and his team, who found that providing Polycitra-K reduced the incidence of kidney stones from 6% down to 0.9%.  Supplementation with potassium citrate may cause the same type of improvement. 

Consider drinking plenty of water or milk, too, as they can help flush uric acid out of your body. Finally, eating some keto-friendly fruits and veggies has a similarly protective effect because these foods can ‘buffer’ the pH of your blood and urine.

Keto Diet Side Effect #14: Increased Cholesterol Levels

The idea that keto leads to higher cholesterol is one of the diet’s most persistent, but misunderstood concerns. 

Most people have been fed the misinformation that high-cholesterol foods like eggs, bacon, and red meat raise blood cholesterol. But more recent and higher quality science shows that this is not the case. 2

While most people who begin a keto diet do start consuming more cholesterol, this doesn’t always translate to higher serum cholesterol levels. Long-term studies of high-carb vs. low-carb diets have found that the low-carb group often has better triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels.

Even if ketosis does raise your cholesterol levels, this change may not be as concerning as you might think. 

You can Learn more about how the keto diet affects cholesterol here. 

Keto Diet Side Effect #15: Reduced Alcohol Tolerance

Is decreased alcohol tolerance a good thing or a bad thing? 

That probably depends on who you ask. Regardless, many people who follow the keto diet notice that their alcohol tolerance becomes much lower, and that they can have more severe hangovers. 

People who needed two-three drinks to feel a buzz might only need one or two when on keto. Some experts believe that the liver loses its ability to process alcohol when it’s busy producing ketones — and/or loses its ability to produce ketones when it’s processing alcohol.

How to improve alcohol tolerance on keto

Since B vitamins are depleted during alcohol metabolism, supplementing with antioxidants and B vitamins (or keto superfoods) may allow you to enjoy alcohol hangover-free.

The increased severity of hangovers is likely a result of dehydration due to electrolyte imbalances. 

When you’re in ketosis you flush more fluids. To avoid hangovers, alternate your alcohol with drinking more water. You may also want to supplement with magnesium and potassium. 

Keto Diet Side Effect #16: Gout

The keto diet is usually also a high protein, high purine diet — and that means it can produce a transient rise in uric acid levels. 

Uric acid buildup, in turn, can lead to gout in people who are susceptible. 

In the long run, however, ketosis seems to have a favorable effect on gout. Over time your body will become more efficient at clearing ketones and allow for the simultaneous clearance of uric acid.

How to prevent gout

Gout’s root cause may be buildups of toxins within the gut, not uric acid itself.  In which case, a keto diet high in antibacterial fatty acids and low in fiber and antinutrients would actually be very helpful.  Talk to your doctor if gout is an ongoing concern. 

If you don’t have any history of gout, it’s very unlikely that you should have any concerns. 

Keto Diet Side Effect #17: ‘Keto Rash’

‘Keto rash’ is a type of dermatitis that some people experience when they go keto. It’s characterized by itchy, red-hued papules that show up mostly on the upper back and chest. Experts believe that keto rash can be caused by intolerance to histamine-rich keto foods or issues with blood sugar regulation.

How to prevent keto rashes

Those most susceptible to keto rash (i.e, Asian women) may want to moderately lower their carb intake over time, entering ketosis more gradually. 

Ensuring adequate carotenoid intake may also help prevent keto rash, at least in theory, since vitamin A is great for regulating skin cell proliferation. Some of the best keto-friendly vitamin A sources include beef liver and pastured dairy products.

Keto Side Effects: The Takeaway

Though keto has many proven benefits, making the change to keto can be challenging.

The good news is that each of the 17 keto side effects we looked at is either transient, influenced by underlying health conditions, or due to a poorly formulated keto diet. This means that for most people, with more awareness of your body’s needs, and a few tweaks to your diet, these side effects can be avoided or overcome. 

Of course, if you continue to find yourself experiencing adverse effects while on keto, we recommend seeking the advice of a healthcare professional with knowledge of the keto diet.