The Carnivore Diet Wreaks Havoc on Your Gut Health – Best Life

It’s tempting to want to try the latest nutrition trends. Keto, intermittent fasting, high-protein, low-carb—all tout themselves as the solution to more energy and better health. But with so many options available (and so little time to research them all), it can be difficult to know which diets are good for you and which are best avoided. Now, a gut health expert is warning of the dangers of following a popular diet trend. Read on to find out why such a diet wreaks havoc on your gut and what it can mean for your health.

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Various fruits and vegetables
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Gut health is much more than just digestion. In fact, your gut microbiome plays an important role in your overall health and your risk of developing chronic diseases like metabolic diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, and colon cancer. Your metabolism, immune system, hormone balance, brain function, and mood are all linked to the health of your gut.

Eating certain foods helps healthy gut bacteria to thrive. A healthy gut can prevent—and in some cases reverse—chronic disease. In addition, a healthy gut provides the energy and mental stability you need to live your best life. On the other hand, foods harboring harmful bacteria will wreak havoc in your gut microbiome, leading to chronic disease, inflammation, sluggish energy levels, and mood swings.

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Plate with different meats, eggs and a jug of milk
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A recent diet trend is the “carnivore diet,” which consists almost entirely of meat, eggs, and dairy products. Proponents of this diet cite its health benefits, such as weight loss, blood sugar control, reduced inflammation, and improved mental focus. That sounds great—until you discover how carnivore diets affect your gut microbiome.

“The carnivore diet is bad for your gut, [and] Your gut is responsible for so many key elements of health… [including] Your immune system, your mood, your hormone balance, your metabolism and your brain function”, Julia ZumpanoRD, LD, a Registered Dietitian with Center for Cleveland Clinic for Human Nutrition, narrates best life. “Carnivore diets can also lead to elevated cholesterol and blood pressure due to their very high levels of saturated fat and sodium.”

In a 2014 study published in NatureThe researchers observed changes in the microbiome in healthy participants over a five-day period on a whole plant-based diet compared to five days on a diet consisting entirely of animal products (now known as the carnivore diet). After just five days, the gut microbiomes of the carnivore dieters began replacing “good” inflammatory bacteria with “bad” inflammatory bacteria. Significant changes in gut microbiota were detected less than 24 hours after the start of the diet.

Various high-fiber foods
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A major problem with carnivore diets is that they lack fiber – and when it comes to gut health, fiber is key. Fiber is only found in plants, so the more variety of plants you eat, the greater the variety of good bacteria you’re bringing to your gut. Since the carnivore diet is devoid of plant diversity and high in inflammatory bacteria, it’s no wonder that eating only animal products can do serious damage to your gut.

“Carnivore diets tend to be very low in fiber or completely fiber-free,” says Zumpano. “Fiber is essential for digestion and elimination. Prebiotic fiber is food for your good bacteria, so it can increase the growth or production of good gut bacteria,” she explains.

When the beneficial microbes feed on fiber, they release short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that help optimize immune health, lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and heal the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome. They also protect against heart disease, stroke and cancer.

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Plant based diet
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That Nature Study researchers observed that participants who ate a meat-eating diet experienced rapid growth of “bad” inflammatory bacteria (Alistipes, Bacteroides, Bilophila) and reduced growth of “good” anti-inflammatory bacteria (Eubacterium rectale, Roseburia, Ruminococcus bromii). Bilophila in particular, it is strongly associated with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

It was also found that these participants had significantly lower levels of SCFA and increased antibiotic resistance in their gut microbiome, putting them at increased risk of infection and disease. Eating only animal products has also been found to produce more secondary bile salts in the gut, known causes of colon and liver cancer.

Would you like to strengthen your intestinal health? “Increase your fiber and plant diversity,” advises Zumpano. “Try to eat plant-based foods from every color of the rainbow every day…this includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans. Increase probiotic foods like natto, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, miso, apple cider vinegar, kefir, pickles, and sauerkraut,” she recommends.

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