Guest blogger Nicole Tinkham shares her knowledge & experience healing from SIBO on the carnivore diet. Read on for what SIBO is, treatment options for SIBO, how the Carnivore Diet helped with her symptoms, how to start a carnivore diet, carnivore diet meal plan ideas, FAQs, and much more.
Please note, this is a blog post depicting Nicole's personal experience healing from SIBO and success on the carnivore diet. Always consult your chosen medical professional when making significant dietary changes.
Nicole: I’ve suffered with SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) symptoms (which included constipation, bloating, fatigue and embarrassing gas), for at least 5 years before I saw a doctor about it. I didn’t realize these symptoms were abnormal. I mean, how can you casually ask your friend, “how many times a day do you fart”? I thought everyone felt as uncomfortable as I did but they just didn’t want to talk about it.
I finally got my butt to a Gastroenterologist but surprisingly, I didn’t find out I had SIBO until much later. My first diagnosis after several rounds of bloodwork and an endoscopy, was gastritis and esophagitis (both autoimmune diseases which I’ll explain later in this post). To treat these, I was put on the Autoimmune Protocol diet, designed to eliminate common food sensitivities. It helped with my symptoms at first but eventually, they got much worse. That’s when I found out I had SIBO.
Flash forward to today and I am beyond grateful that I no longer live with the “6-month pregnant belly” that I frequently got due to the bloating I experienced. If you’ve experienced this, you know how frustrating it is to pour everything you’ve got into your workouts and “healthy” eating with nothing to show for it. I’m also glad that the trick to healing my symptoms was entirely nutrition without long-term medication. I must admit, it’s been quite a journey getting to this point and I’m still learning my way through it. However, I’ve learned quite a bit that I wish I had known from the very beginning.
Read on for what SIBO is, treatment options, how the Carnivore Diet helped with my symptoms, how to start this way of eating, meal plan ideas, and much more.
What is SIBO?
SIBO stands for “Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth” and is exactly what it sounds like, an abundance of bacteria in the small intestine. Basically, the good bacteria in the gut can get overthrown by the harmful bacteria (when food isn’t moved along the digestive track well enough), causing the bad bacteria to multiply too quickly. It’s normal to have bacteria in the gut but when things get out of balance, it causes chaos. This overgrowth of bacteria can cause numerous issues including leaky gut, poor digestion with the inability to properly absorb nutrients, food allergies/sensitivities and autoimmune diseases.
How do you get SIBO?
SIBO is actually very common but, how one gets it is a little complex. Some factors include:
Heavily drinking alcohol
Low stomach acid
Multiple rounds of antibiotics
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
You may not ever determine what has caused your SIBO (I still don’t know exactly what caused mine) but the important thing is figuring out whether or not you have it (I’ll talk about the breath test later) and then treating it effectively.
Symptoms of SIBO
Before we get into SIBO symptoms, I want to explain the difference between hydrogen-producing and methane-producing SIBO (yes, there are two different types!), as their symptoms differ.
Hydrogen-Producing SIBO: This is when the carbohydrates from food that have not been absorbed ferment before they break down. This fermentation creates hydrogen gas.
Methane-Producing SIBO: Our bodies have organisms, called archaea, that feed on the hydrogen. This then produces methane.
So how can YOU tell the different between the two?
Methane = Constipation Hydrogen = Diarrhea
Constipation and diarrhea differentiate between the two types but with either one, you may experience the following symptoms:
Testing for SIBO
If you suspect you have SIBO, you can either jump right into treatment, which I discuss in detail later in this blog, or you can get tested to see if you do in fact have it. I recommend doing the test just so you know for sure that it’s SIBO you’re dealing with. I know personally, I like knowing.
Luckily, testing is super easy. I had to talk to my doctor to get a breath test mailed to my house. It’s a long process but, you can do the entire test right from home (you can learn about the entire process here). Keep in mind that your primary care physician may not know a whole lot about SIBO. Mine wasn’t too familiar with it, but I was already working with my Gastroenterologist who ordered the test for me.
Basically, testing for SIBO involves breathing into test tubes and sending them back to the testing company. There are some things you need to do before taking the test, including a special diet to follow so be sure to read over all the instructions. My health insurance didn’t cover the test, so I ended up paying about $170 for it. Since it’s led me to treating this thing and feeling much better, I’d say the money was well spent.
Connection Between Autoimmune Disease and SIBO
In the beginning, I shared my experience in determining where my gut issues were coming from and I mentioned two autoimmune diseases I discovered before doing the SIBO testing. This has me wondering, is SIBO an autoimmune disease? Is it caused by an autoimmune disease? Or does it cause the autoimmune disease?
I’m not sure that there’s a definitive answer to this. As we know, bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine happens when food isn’t moving through the digestive track properly. My guess is that autoimmune diseases effect the digestive track, therefore disrupting this flow, as there is good research indicating that autoimmune disease and poor gut health are highly correlated.
What I do know is that many people, like myself, have both SIBO and an autoimmune disease (likely more than one). Finding the root cause of your autoimmune disease can be a little tricky, but I’ve found that stress is a common trigger for many people, myself included. Even after kicking my SIBO symptoms to the curb, I can still experience the symptoms (though not as bad) when I’m under a lot of stress.
How To Treat SIBO
My doctor started me off with two herbal antibiotics (FC-Cidal and Dysbiocide) that I was able to purchase on Amazon for about $70 for both. Please note, when it comes to the two different types of SIBO, the treatment plan is a little different as far as antibiotics go. When you’re dealing with hydrogen-producing SIBO, typically only one antibiotic is used whereas with methane-producing, you need the combo.
The other option here are prescription antibiotics. However, I was assured by my doctor that the herbal options were just as effective. Plus, prescription antibiotics are expensive (could run you into the thousands) and health insurance rarely covers it. Not to mention, you may need to complete several rounds of antibiotics (regardless of herbal or prescription) before your SIBO symptoms go away. Even then, there’s no saying if or when your SIBO symptoms can return.
I started to feel better with my first round of herbal antibiotics, until I neared the end. Surprisingly, my symptoms had gotten much worse. I tried another round and only continued to feel worse off. I concluded that the antibiotics weren’t working for me, and I didn’t want to waste any more money on them. This may not be the case for you, but it is something to keep in mind - I will discuss later on in this blog post how I ended up managing the nagging symptoms.
2. The Elemental Diet
The Elemental Diet includes all the nutrients your body needs in a powder form. You mix this with water and sip it throughout the day, consuming no solid food. Correction: I have heard of a partial Elemental Diets where you can eat some very specific food along with the liquid diet but typically, you want to stick with the powder formula only. The Elemental Diet is said to be highly effective as it gives your digestive track a break, since what you’re consuming has already been digested. This gives the gut time to heal.
The downfalls to the Elemental Diet (from what I hear) is that it’s very challenging to stick to. The drink isn’t very appetizing, you may not feel very well while doing it and it’s best to do it over the course of several weeks. Plus, you can’t just go back to eating normal food when you’ve finished it. You would have to ease back into eating solid food again.
After my two rounds of antibiotics didn’t work, I thought for sure the next step would be the Elemental Diet. However, my doctor skipped right over that and sent me in the direction of what ended up helping me the most with an all-meat diet. I’ll get into that later but first I want to talk about another form of elimination diet...
3. The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)
The AIP diet eliminates all food that’s a common sensitivity or allergy. The idea is to eliminate these foods for at least 30 days and then slowly reintroduce them back into your diet which can help you determine which foods you’re sensitive to.
This was the very first treatment plan that my doctor recommended to treat my gut symptoms, before knowing I had SIBO. I felt much better in the beginning and was ecstatic to feel healthy again. However, a few months in, I made the mistake of eating an onion (a food within the protocol) and things went downhill from there. I started feeling extremely bloated, constipated and gassy again. I stopped eating onions but found these symptoms worsening with other foods, as well. It felt like anything I ate was now triggering my symptoms.
Why the AIP diet doesn’t help with SIBO
There’s a food group known as “high FODMAPS”. If you’re a scientific person and want to know what this stands for, it’s “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols” (a mouth full). Basically, these foods are high in fermentable carbs and cause the symptoms we discussed earlier with SIBO.
Some high FODMAP foods include:
The reason why the Autoimmune Protocol does not work to treat SIBO is because many of these high FODMAP foods are on the protocol list as “OK to eat”. I’m not sure the reason why the AIP Diet did help me in the beginning but as time went on, I became more and more sensitive to food I was fine eating previously. It’s this reason why one nutrition plan doesn’t work for everyone.
4. The Carnivore Diet
I remember my doctor explaining that the next step to treating my SIBO was a more intense elimination diet. I was terrified. I thought the Autoimmune Protocol was difficult enough. I was also nervous that trying yet another diet was sure to fail again and end up being a big waste of time.
My doctor said he wanted me to eat an all-meat diet for two weeks. I was shocked. Didn’t I need vegetables to function? This couldn’t possibly be healthy. How would this even help my SIBO? In combination of talking to my doctor, doing my own research, talking to fellow meat eaters on social media and reading The Carnivore Code by Paul Saladino, I’ve learned a lot about this way of eating, known as “Carnivore”. Let’s first start with the basics.
What is the Carnivore Diet?
My doctor instructed me to eat meat seasoned with salt and drink water. He said I could eat seafood and eggs, however, I know from experience that I’m sensitive to eggs so I’ve been staying away from them. By the way, sensitivity to eggs isn’t a SIBO thing, it’s just a me thing. He also said I should avoid dairy. I had a ton of questions (which I’ll address in the FAQ section at the end of the blog) but I was excited that the recommended meat was ribeye steak. YUM!
There are many ways to follow a Carnivore Diet but for an elimination trial, you can keep it very simple. The point of this, like the AIP diet, is to eventually reintroduce food back into your diet to see what you’re sensitive to. The idea is to eventually have a well-rounded diet that you can rely on.
My doctor wanted me to do this carnivore thing for two weeks. However, I suggest doing this for an entire month before doing any sort of reintroduction. This gives your body a chance to get used to this way of eating and feel it’s best.
To give you an idea what this way of eating looks like, here’s a sample menu.
Breakfast: Bacon and eggs (if you tolerate them) Lunch: Chicken thigh and a burger patty Dinner: Ribeye steak and a piece of salmon
It is important to consume quality meat when you can. I know this can be difficult when you’re on a budget and I certainly don’t want you wasting your money on meat that is said to be the best option. You can learn more about false advertising, known as “greenwashing” over here.
Honestly, I wouldn’t stress over it too much when first starting out. I don’t think the cost of high-quality meat should keep you from trying this way of eating. Just do what you can with what you have. Over time, you can add more quality meat into your diet as you see the many benefits of doing so.
Why the Carnivore Diet Works to Heal SIBO
We grew up with the belief that veggies are good for us. I remember having to eat all the vegetables on my plate before I was able to leave the table as a kid. When I got older and decided to “diet”, again veggies were stressed as an important part of almost every nutrition plan.
I was always a volume eater so when it came to vegetables, I consumed a TON of them because I could do so without the guilt. But, are veggies good for us when dealing with gut issues like SIBO? Here are just a few categories of plants you may want to stay away from.
Nightshades: This category of food is known to cause inflammation. If you’re a Tom Brady fan as I am, you know that the man does not consume nightshades! Even if you aren’t a fan of his, we should follow his lead on this one if the following veggies from the nightshade family cause discomfort.
Potatoes (not sweet potatoes)
High FODMAP foods: We already talked about this one earlier. These can trigger your SIBO symptoms.
Lectins: The lectin family is also known to cause inflammation. If you weren’t aware by now, chronic inflammation is something we want to avoid. It’s the cause of most autoimmune diseases. Lectin is essentially the defense mechanism to discourage the consumption of the plant. Since plants can’t run away, they need some type of defense to avoid being eaten. Here’s a list of common lectins to watch out for:
Nuts and seeds
Nightshades (already talked about that)
As you can see, this long list of plant food can do more harm than good when trying to heal SIBO. Now, not all these foods will cause your SIBO to flare up but there’s something all of them have in common. They’re all carbohydrates. Bacteria feed on carbs. If you’re no longer consuming carbohydrates, the bacteria will die off and your SIBO symptoms should improve. You’re also reducing all that inflammation which helps with those autoimmune diseases we had talked about earlier.
Disclaimer: It’s not all about nutrition
I felt like I had to add this in here especially since I’ve recently had a minor setback with my SIBO symptoms. While the Carnivore Diet has helped my symptoms vanish in just weeks, there is a chance your symptoms can return, especially if the root cause of your SIBO is stress. I find that eating a Carnivore Diet helps manage my stress (I’ll talk about all the benefits of this way of eating later). However, my stress levels can still get out of hand.
Currently, the world is going through a pandemic and everything feels like chaos. Going through this difficult time has made my bloating, gas and constipation return but the good news is that it’s nowhere near as bad as it once was. Overall, I feel much better than I did before starting Carnivore.
Managing your stress is a loaded topic that’s best suited for a separate post but here are some quick things that have been helping me.
Continue a Carnivore lifestyle
Get plenty of sleep
Escape with a good book
Reduce social media time
Keep a gratitude journal
Starting a Carnivore Diet
I remember starting my Carnivore journey just days before Christmas. Most people wouldn’t start a new nutrition plan at this time - they want to enjoy all the goodies around the holidays before going into a strict elimination. However, I was desperate to feel better and figured I would go through an adjustment period (which I’ll explain) that I wanted to be in the comfort of my own home for. So, I gobbled up the last bit of rice and veggies I had leftover in the kitchen all in one night (which I wouldn’t recommend) and started the next day eating nothing but meat. Here’s exactly what I went through:
I was worried about variety, so all my meals in the beginning contained multiple sources of animal protein. For instance, a burger and chicken breast cooked in bacon fat versus just the chicken.
I quickly realized that chicken breast and turkey burgers didn’t fill me up as much as a nice steak did because they’re not as fatty. I felt like I was wasting money buying these lean meats because I could eat them endlessly.
I went through the “flu” often associated with a ketogenic diet. I’ve done a ketogenic diet in the past and was familiar with the symptoms. However, eliminating everything except meat took it to a whole new level. I know many people who are on a Keto diet, transitioning to Carnivore and even they struggle with the transition. I felt exhausted, run-down, achy and pretty much like I was coming down with something. Luckily, it only lasted a few days.
For the first few days, I felt like a bottomless pit. I was eating non-stop and started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to afford this way of eating if I kept consuming this much. Maybe it was just my body transitioning to Carnivore or maybe I wasn’t getting enough fat to feel satisfied. Either way, you’ll work it out and find a nice balance that works for you.
My cravings were also intense for the first few days! I hadn’t had many strong cravings since I’ve been on strict diets for so long. However, the beginning of my Carnivore Diet journey was a true struggle. The only thing that kept me going was thinking, “I don’t want to cave and have to start all over, feeling like crap again”. Once the cravings in the beginning pass, you probably won’t experience any major cravings again.
The transition period may feel like it’s in slow motion because you just want that “flu” to be done and over with. I only went through it for maybe three days, so it wasn’t too bad. Everyone is different and you could experience it for longer. Hang in there, though. Once you get through that stage, you’ll start feeling much better.
I would say my SIBO symptoms went away after about two weeks of eating Carnivore, as my doctor said they probably would. I told myself I would eat this way for a whole month before doing any sort of reintroductions and I recommend the same for you. Please note that everyone is different, and it may take longer for you to notice a change with your symptoms.
Be sure to read the FAQs at the end of this post for more helpful tips on starting a Carnivore Diet.
Reintroduction of Carbs
After my 30 day “trial” of the Carnivore Diet, it was time to think about reintroducing food.
Discovering my food sensitivities was the whole point in me doing this elimination diet. However, I was feeling so good with this way of eating and couldn’t even imagine going back to eating any other way. Why would I if it was working for me?
I talked to many other people in the Carnivore community about continuing long-term and they all felt strongly in favor of the idea. Since I’ve trusted my Gastroenterologist through this whole healing journey, I wanted to get his opinion on going Carnivore long-term, so we had a little chat about it.
I was surprised that he was on board with the idea! He did mention some “rules” that I’ll get into next but first, I want to explain how you can reintroduce food back into your diet if you choose to do so.
What to reintroduce: The first thing you must consider is what food you’ll reintroduce into your diet. My doctor has mentioned adding white rice back into my diet repeatedly. I’m still not quite sure why other than the fact it’s good for digestion. Other than that, there aren’t many nutrients that you need from white rice. I ended up doing what my doctor said with the white rice and I enjoy it on occasion. Other than that, I haven’t officially reintroduced anything else into my diet (other than the occasional coffee which I’ll talk about later).
When considering what to reintroduce, first you must take into consideration toxicity levels of the plants you’re consuming. As we’ve talked about, plants have a defense mechanism to get you to not eat them. Some plants will affect you more than others. A few safer* options to consider when adding them back into your diet include:
Squashes (no seeds, no skin) & root vegetables
Cucumber without the seeds
Milk (preferably raw)
Honey & honey comb (preferably raw)
*These carbs are lower in toxins, what we'd refer to as "benign"
The rules for reintroduction: Doing a massive reintroduction with all the foods listed above at the same time is a mistake. You must reintroduce one food at a time to determine if it triggers any of your symptoms. You must also give it a few days as it’s possible for symptoms to begin showing up delayed, not right after eating. So, I wouldn’t eat an avocado on Monday and then a sweet potato on Tuesday. I recommend going week by week and taking it slow. Have a little bit of the avocado and take a few days to see how you feel. Enjoy a little more avocado and see if you have any symptoms after a few days. Also, only reintroduce a new food if you’re feeling 100%. If you’re still feeling gassy a few days after that avocado, don’t rush into reintroducing the next food until you feel better.
Why reintroduce? Some people do reintroductions to provide more variety in their diet. It can make going out to a restaurant a little more easier having more options available. Keep in mind that everyone is different. Just because those avocados are on the less toxic list doesn’t mean they’ll work for you. Also, you may be able to tolerate a little bit of an avocado but not a whole lot of it. Just keep in mind how much you’re consuming. That makes a big difference!
Reintroductions are not cheat meals: So many people think once a diet “ends” (after 30 days of an elimination diet), they’re free to eat whatever they want. I’m sorry but pizza and brownies are not considered reintroduction foods! First off, eating junk food isn’t the point of an elimination diet and secondly, there are so many different ingredients in these foods that it would be impossible to determine which one is causing your symptoms. Think of this as a long-term nutrition plan. You’re slowly learning what works best for your body and you’ll use that knowledge for the rest of your life (or at least until your food sensitivities change).
Long-Term Carnivore: Is the Carnivore Diet Sustainable Long Term?
As mentioned, my doctor was on board with me going Carnivore long term. However, I had to follow some “rules” he gave me to ensure I get all the micronutrients my body needs. Here’s a list of those rules, straight from my doctor.
Eat liver and other organ meats weekly.
Get collagen (which you can get from bone broth)
Eat fish such as sardines and salmon.
Egg yolks (which I still don’t eat due to my sensitivity)
Try adding rice if able (there he goes with that rice again!) By the way, he’s referring to WHITE rice. That’s important.
Most of these things were new to me and some I have still yet to try. Don’t feel overwhelmed with the oddball things on the list like organ meat. You don’t have to start eating all these things at once. I encourage you to start simple, maybe with some bone broth that you can make yourself. I actually discovered The Strong Sistas through their bone broth vlog, you can find it here. A nice jiggly bone broth will give you that collagen mentioned on the list. Don’t worry, you can heat it up and drink it in liquid form if you prefer.
You’ll discover new food that you absolutely love and others that totally gross you out. It’s all part of the process, so try new things and have fun with this! Also, remember that you aren’t limited to these recommended foods from my doctor, they’re just in addition to what you’ve already been eating on Carnivore. Check out the sample meal plan below for an idea of how you can incorporate these nutrient-dense foods into your diet.
Breakfast: Warm cup of bone broth & steak Lunch: Organ meat burger patties (recipe here) Dinner: Salmon and 2 fried eggs
You can even take the Carnivore Diet to the next level and measure your macros (protein and fat ratio). For me personally, I find it easier to listen to my body and adjust as I go. If I don’t feel quite right, I may add in more fat or tone the fat down. I’ll get more into that in the FAQs. I also find that tracking macros stressed me out, but that’s just me. Some people like having the structure of tracking, and that's okay.
Please note: you have to consider your "context" (your lifestyle choices, current health state, age, activity levels, weight, etc.) when deterring whether you should be on ANY diet long term. We ALL have unique needs. Some of us, females especially, may require some carbohydrates in our diets to combat the rise in cortisol that results from long term low carb diets.
If this is the case for you, or you simply prefer to add carbs back into your diet, this is nothing to fear, even if you've once suffered from SIBO. Sarah and Ashley bot had SIBO before their carnivore journey, and have now both reintroduced carbs (the benign ones I mentioned above) in decent amounts in order to heal from hypothalamic amenorrhea.
This is just further proof that we are all different, that our guts CAN adapt and heal, and that you should do some experimenting to find what works for you, long term, both health & happiness wise!
Other benefits of a Carnivore Diet
This blog has been SIBO focused but I’ve seen other incredible benefits to the Carnivore Diet in addition to my SIBO symptoms vanishing. The list of benefits is never-ending but here’s what I’ve experienced:
Normalized weight (my weight was a little too low on the AIP diet and I was looking scrawny!)
More positive outlook
More empathy towards others
Better sex drive
Some things on the list, like having more empathy towards others, you may think, “that has nothing to do with diet!”. I would think the same thing, however, I’ve heard from many other carnivores who have mentioned the same thing. It’s mind-blowing how much nutrition effects your life.
It’s also worth mentioning that this way of eating makes life easier. At one point in my life, I spent entire Sunday’s meal prepping my lunches for the week. I no longer to that with the Carnivore Diet. I may cook up some steaks or burgers for dinner and throw the leftovers in a container and enjoy it for lunch the next day. Cooking dinner is a breeze. It’s normally a matter of either throwing meat on my cast iron grill pan, slow cooking a roast in the crock pot, or roasting chicken thighs in the oven. I never have to worry about making side dishes (unless it’s for my husband). We don’t even go to the grocery store anymore. Instead, we stop by our butcher shop for meat and order paper products and soap online. See, life is good on the Carnivore Diet!
Carnivore Diet FAQs
Many of these questions are the exact ones I had when first starting this way of eating. One thing to realize is that this whole journey is a learning experience. So, you picked up store bought bone broth that had a bunch of veggies in it and you didn’t realize until you consumed all of it. No big deal, this is an opportunity for you to learn how to make your own.
Just because you don’t do this thing perfectly doesn’t mean you’re a failure. I hope these answer a lot of the question you have about the Carnivore Diet but if something else is on your mind, please reach out to either Sarah and Ash or myself. We would be more than happy to help you on this journey!
1. Can I exercise on Carnivore?
You can do any sort of exercise on a Carnivore Diet. When I started Carnivore, I did three weeks of yoga to allow my SIBO to heal. Previously, I was doing a combination of weightlifting and cardio as well as long distance running. My doctor seemed to think that my exercise routine wouldn’t affect healing my SIBO. However, I felt like I needed to take it easy. Your body goes through many changes with an elimination diet like this. In the beginning, you may not have much energy for high-intensity workouts. Listen to your body and do what feels right for you. Lately, I’ve been weightlifting just because I’m enjoying it more than cardio right now.
2. Should I intermittent fast?
I stopped intermittent fasting when starting Carnivore until I got used to the change. If you’ve never intermittent fasted before, I would recommend holding off on starting. Sometimes trying too many new things, like the Carnivore Diet AND intermittent fasting, at the same time can become too overwhelming. Take it slow and get used to the Carnivore Diet first. Once you find your groove with it, you can certainly add intermittent fasting into the mix, but you don’t have too. Now, I intermittent fast just about every day. I love the extra mental clarity it gives me plus it’s one less meal I need to worry about.
Note: some people may not thrive while fasting. You really have to check in with yourself and your current health status and goals. We highly recommend females reconsider regular fasting if dealing with reproductive issues.
3. I don’t tolerate meat well. What should I do?
I don’t tolerate every type of meat well either. Everyone is different and you must find the right balance for you. If I eat too much protein, I feel slightly bloated. If I eat too much fat, I feel nauseated. Surprisingly, I also feel nauseated when I cook a roast slowly in my Dutch oven and I’m not quite sure why (although, I know other people with the same issue!). I also don’t do well with dairy or eggs. Try different types of meat and cooking methods to find what works best for you. I find it helpful getting new inspiration for meals through other people. You may discover new ways to enjoy animal products that you never thought of before. If your body doesn’t tolerate something, make note of it and move onto the next thing. Sometimes it’s helpful keeping a food diary with what you tried and how it made you feel. This is especially helpful when doing a reintroduction.
4. Is it healthy to only eat meat?
Yes, you can obtain all the nutrients your body needs without plants. If you think back to our ancestors, they thrived on animal products, only eating plants when necessary. Even then, they didn’t overconsume plants as many people do now. I urge you to try the Carnivore Diet for at least 30 days and see how you feel. From there, you can determine if you want to continue.
When it comes to cholesterol, I was a little worried myself. Despite my years of “healthy” eating and exercise, I still had high cholesterol. I found out about my high cholesterol about the same time I was diagnosed with SIBO and before I began any type of treatment for it. Could SIBO have caused my high cholesterol? I suppose it’s a possibility but there’s not enough evidence of this as of right now.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t checked my cholesterol since starting the Carnivore Diet yet since I’m feeling so good with this way of eating. How could this be bad for me when it’s helped me feel human again after many years of miserable gut issues?
I’m not a doctor or even a dietitian. So, for more in-depth information about the Carnivore Diet and cholesterol, I recommend checking out this video with Shawn Baker and Dr. Paul Saladino.
5. What kind of spices and oil can I cook with?
Start with salt as your only seasoning. I promise it won’t be as boring as you probably think! I find that seasoning with salt enhances the flavor of the meat more than when using a bunch of other seasonings. I don’t think I have much of a sensitivity to herbs and seasoning (although, I haven’t had any in over 4 months) but I do know from experience that garlic and onion made me feel miserable in the past. Until you get to your reintroduction stage (if that’s your plan), stick with just salt. If interest, read this post where Ash and Sarah discuss benign seasoning options and which spices tend to be more troublesome for sensitive populations.
Since I don’t do well with dairy, I started the carnivore diet cooking everything in olive oil. I knew this wasn’t Carnivore friendly, but I was just starting out and didn’t know much about my options. Remember in the beginning of this post I said it was OK to make mistakes and learn as you go? I made a bunch of slip ups like this in the beginning. If you don’t tolerate grass fed butter well, you can try ghee, which is a clarified butter. It’s supposed to be a good option for those with sensitivities or who are lactose intolerant. However, the hubby (who is lactose intolerant) and I found that ghee made us feel worse! (More proof we're all different).
If you’re struggling with butter and ghee, you can always use lard or, my favorite, fat from cooking pork belly. I always save pork belly fat to use later and I find that it gives whatever I’m cooking in it a good flavor.
6. What do you do for variety?
Mix and match your “platta” (as Sarah and Ash would say)! Your meal doesn’t just have a to be a steak. You can have a steak with a chicken thigh. Or salmon and a burger. Or liver, bacon and eggs. When I first started, variety was important to me. I tried to mix and match different meat and textures. When you’re used to having a well-balanced plate with a protein, greens and baked potato, it’s difficult to adjust to a plate with only meat. You can have your main meat and your “sides” could be something small like shrimp or a side of bacon. Get creative and have fun with it.
Also, there are many different cuts of meat and different ways to prepare it. For instance, chuck can either be slow roasted, grilled, or ground. If you’re making ground chuck, you can turn it into burger patties, a meatloaf, meatballs, or a taco bowl (seasoned with salt). You have many options if you think outside the box.
7. What can I drink?
Water. Keep it simple! Standard rule of thumb is at least half your body weight in ounces and more if you’re exercising or live in a hot climate. I recommend against sparkling water when healing SIBO because carbonated drinks can cause gas. I know it can be difficult drinking only water if you’re used to other beverages, but I promise you will get used to it. One thing you can do is play with the temperature of your water. Some people prefer ice cold water and others like it at room temperature.
8. Can I drink coffee?
I’m sorry to burst your bubble but coffee does not come from an animal and is therefore not Carnivore friendly. You should stay away from coffee in the beginning especially if you’re trying to heal your gut issues because coffee can greatly affect your digestion!
The one thing I missed most when doing both the AIP diet and Carnivore diet was coffee. I missed everything about it, even the smell. Months went by without coffee and I still craved it. I decided to add it back into my diet for a while, but only once a week and only decaf. FYI, even decaf coffee has some caffeine so if you haven’t had any caffeine in a long time, be careful. Even the smallest amount in a decaf coffee can make you feel wired! As much as I love Dunkin Donuts, they tend to have the strongest coffee, even their decaf tends to have more caffeine.
Anyway, I think it’s OK to add coffee back into your diet after your elimination phase if that’s what you choose to do. I believe in making any nutrition plan work for you no matter what plan you’re following. If coffee makes you feel human, you can make the choice to include it into your diet if you do well with it. That really goes for anything. Never tell yourself you “can’t” have something. Instead, remember why you choose not to have certain foods.
9. When can I have a cheat meal?
I went several months on a somewhat strict Carnivore diet (minus the addition of coffee and rice). I went several YEARS without having a “cheat meal”. I have always been an all or nothing kind of person due to past struggles with food. I’ve done all the other diets out there, many of which were restricting and not satisfying at all. Thankfully, the fat I’m consuming with the Carnivore Diet keeps my cravings away. In the past, I went through the common cycle of restrictive dieting, binge eating then hating myself for it, that many of us have experienced. This is not healthy, and if carnivore leads you to experience this, you should reanalyze WHY you are "dieting" in the first place. It's much better to look at your eating habits as a way of life, instead.
I was doing well with Carnivore. I didn’t have any of those cravings that I had in the past. However, I craved eating like a “normal” person. What I mean by that is being able to enjoy the cake at a birthday party like everyone else without worrying about it being off my plan. So, I made the decision to improve my relationship with food and the way I thought of these off-plan treats. My goal was to enjoy a brownie when I wanted to and be able to go right back to Carnivore the next day without any guilt. I was successful with my little trial and have decided to enjoy treats on occasion when I really want them. We absolutely recommend finding a sustainable approach to this lifestyle. If that means remaining "animal-based" while incorporating other things you enjoy and can tolerate, more power to you!
This is completely different from a scheduled cheat meal, though. I don’t suggest planning a weekly cheat day. I also don’t recommend straying far from a healthy Carnivore or Carnivore-ish diet if you’re unable to get right back on track. So much of nutrition is mental and if you’re not in a good place mentally, it’s not the time to be considering cheat meals. Your regular nutrition should not require a cheat meal, it should be sustainable and enjoyable for you.
If you’re just starting Carnivore and are still in the process of healing your SIBO, these “cheats” shouldn’t even be on your radar. Remember, you want to do at least 30 days of elimination and slowly reintroduce the foods listed earlier in this blog before trying anything drastic.
10. Can I ever eat at restaurants?
Carnivore is easy to follow when out at a restaurant and I find that many restaurants are becoming more accommodating. However, I always remind myself when going out to eat, my meal may not be perfectly on plan. It’s recommended to ask a lot of questions at a restaurant to ensure your food is prepared exactly how you want it (for example: requesting food be cooked in butter instead of vegetable oils). But, if I’m not the one preparing it myself, I don’t have much control over what I’m consuming.
I still think you should enjoy meals out with your friends and family, though! The best places to go include steak houses (Brazilian Steakhouses are the best for carnivores), seafood restaurants and burger joints. Try to eat locally from places that source from local farms, if possible! You may want to stay away from Mexican restaurants and Italian as it’s more difficult to find a Carnivore-safe dish on the menu. Many entrees come with a side of veggies, but you can usually substitute it for grilled shrimp or bacon at an extra cost. Don’t stress about the extra cost for these things. Your health is worth it.
What's been your experience healing on the carnivore diet? Do you struggle with SIBO? Comment below any questions!
Who is the author of this lovely blog post? Meet Nicole Tinkham!
Nicole Tinkham is the blogger for nicoletinkham.com and works full-time in the healthcare industry as a front desk receptionist. With a passion for helping others, Nicole shares her journey of healing her gut through nutrition alone. Blogging for over 5 years, she also shares life hacks she's learned along the way in regards to time management and goal setting. Nicole shares her daily habits and healthy routine on Instagram: @nicoletinkham