Meat-only diet for IBS: 9 month update

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I suffered with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and general poor health for the first 29 years of my life.

I’m now nine months into the ‘Zero Carb’ diet and feel better as each month passes.

Some people call ZC the Carnivore Diet, others call it the Animal Kingdom-Only Diet.

I describe what I currently eat as meat-only, sometimes using butter for cooking.

Sorry, you eat what?

I know, right? If you like, you can start with my first 60 days of Zero Carb for some background on why I eat this way and how my body adapted to this diet.

The two main places I would recommend to research this diet are the Zeroing In On Health Facebook Group and the Zero Carb Health website.

I also really like Empirica and My Zero Carb Life, among others.

In this post I thought I’d list the main health improvements and challenges that I’ve experienced over the last nine months.

As always, this is my n=1 experience. I run my blog free from ads, at a financial loss. Full disclosure: I am friends with one dairy farmer #mustbebackedbythebeefindustry

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

My lifelong, often debilitating IBS continues to improve day after day, so long as I stay strict to Zero Carb.

My symptoms have improved in the following ways:

Chronic constipation

I suffered from chronic constipation for the first 29 years of my life.

And yes, I did try [insert cockamamy remedy here], thanks for asking.

Within 48 hours of going meat-only, I had loose stools for the first time in my life.

That’s when I knew the diet was right for me.

In the last nine months, my gut has only become sluggish whenever I’ve consumed small amounts of seasoning – or too much cheese, which is allowed on Zero Carb but said to be ‘binding’.

Bloating

My bloating went away fairly quickly when I went meat-only, with a couple of exceptions.

My diet mostly consisted of chicken and ground pork around the 4-6 month mark, and I became bloated quite often.

Something something Omega-6 overload and resulting inflammation, possibly?

If you’re interested, Tucker Goodrich has an interesting theory about Omega-6 and its role in diseases. Nice guy on Twitter, too.

Anyway the bloating wasn’t painful, but that bloating has disappeared since I’ve switched to mostly beef.

In the first few months of Zero Carb I also experienced bloating from ground beef, but my tolerance to it has improved, and ground beef now makes up the majority of my diet.

Cramping

I managed to avoid IBS flare-ups by following a gluten-free, caffeine-free and low-FODMAP diet before going Zero Carb.

For the first six months of ZC I experienced a deep cramp in my abdomen before a bowel movement; the bowel movements themselves were not painful or difficult.

This has now eased to a gentle sense of needing to use the toilet, except for when I eat cheese, when the cramp can become a little sharper.

Flatulence

I suffered from painful, trapped wind before going Zero Carb. I don’t experience this at all anymore.

My wind absolutely stank for the first 4.5 months of Zero Carb, as one would expect from someone eating a lot of meat.

“ROTTING MEAT IN YOUR COLON!!!!”

I can literally hear you shrieking at your screen. Chill.

That delightful “aroma” is now either non-existent or that of a normal guff, k?

I still get gas, although many long-term Zero Carbers report not to (funnily enough, no – I don’t know whether they fart in their sleep…).

I’ve recently dropped cheese though, so perhaps I’ll stop “cutting the cheese” myself. Heuheuheuheuheu.

Stool consistency and regularity

Carnivores supposedly don’t go to the toilet as much as people who eat plants.

“THAT’S BECAUSE YOU DON’T EAT ANY FIBRE!!!!”

Seriously, cool yer tits.

The opposite has actually been true for me, which I guess isn’t difficult given my history of constipation.

I used to evacuate my bowels every 3-5 days before Zero Carb. They were always dry, large, painful and difficult to pass.

My bowel movements went the other way while I was eating mostly chicken and pork. The loose stools weren’t painful, but I needed to use the toilet daily during this time.

The consistency has greatly improved since switching to beef; it’s consistently much closer to a 4 on the Bristol Stool Chart these days, is completely painless, and generally I go every 1-2 days.

Weight and body composition

I’ve consistently weighed 9st / 126lbs / 57kg since I stopped growing at age 16, and I’ve effortlessly maintained a UK dress size 6-8 / US 2-4.

At 5’9″ (175cm), I was at the bottom end of ‘normal’ weight for my height, and no matter what or how much I ate, I never gained weight.

And believe me, I’d’ve eaten you under the table. I was also sedentary and most of my relatives are susceptible to weight gain, so…

Nine months into Zero Carb, my weight now fluctuates around the 9st 4-6lbs / 132-134lbs / 60-61kg mark, and I’m a more solid UK dress size 8.

After three months of ZC I noticed that my abdomen had become more solid with muscle. I’d always been soft and squishy before that.

Within six months of ZC my buttocks, thighs and calves had also become more solid with muscle. I’ve filled out all of my jeans really nicely and outgrown some of my smaller clothes.

My arms are pretty much the same as they were when I started. I’ve noticed minor improvements in my grip, but my arms are still very thin.

I eat around 1kg / 2lbs of meat a day, but I’m working on increasing my intake as my mood and sleep seem better if I eat more.

Mood and energy

My mood is generally pretty even, but I get raging hunger a lot since switching to beef and it makes me extremely irritable.

The more beef I eat, the better I feel. It was the opposite with the chicken and pork where I was never hungry and felt pretty bleh, so I figure it’s just my body demanding more of the good stuff.

Energy-wise, I wake up naturally after around 7 hours, I get out of bed more easily and I function well enough if there’s a task at hand.

As for exercise, I was never truly well enough to do very much before.

However, vanity and an interest in strength are inspiring me, so I’ve very recently started doing a little exercise in the evenings.

I’m a complete n00b, but I’m inspired by people on Twitter (like carnivore MD Shawn Baker, of course), and I’m lucky to be married to a man who’s always enjoyed exercise.

Immune system

Eating this way doesn’t make you invincible of course, but I’ve only had two colds since going Zero Carb, which is a huge improvement on the years before I started this diet.

Besides that I’ve had no fevers, infections or any other illnesses to report. My headaches and migraines continue to no longer be an issue.

I’d love to draw up a timeline of my medical history and attendance records to illustrate how often I was too ill to function…

Hair, skin and nails

My skin continues to improve. My spots are much smaller and much less often now, even around my period.

My skin is also much softer, so I’ve stopped using moisturiser 99% of the time.

Although eggs are allowed on Zero Carb, I avoid them because they make my skin a little red and blotchy.

The dark circles under my eyes are a little better than when I started Zero Carb, but nothing before-and-after-worthy so far.

My nails have remained rock hard since switching to Zero Carb, although some of my nails still curve downwards.

My hair was always thin but there was a lot of it, and now it’s thick in texture as well as the amount of it. I don’t pay attention to how quickly it grows.

I had a few greys before ZC, and I think I still have them now.

PMS

I had already made my period lighter, shorter and improved the aroma by switching to organic/reusable sanitary products.

Since going Zero Carb, the aroma has improved even further, and a few other things have happened:

Menstrual flow

Before, my flow was heavy during the first night, and slow and steady during the day. It turned browny-red halfway through my cycle.

My flow is a much more vibrant red now. It’s also extremely heavy during the first two days of my cycle before becoming dramatically lighter for the remaining days.

Menstrual cramps

My cramps gradually became much worse, and were lasting longer. I was taking sick days, they had become so bad.

I suspect this was due to the chicken and pork, as I’ve had two periods since switching to beef where I’ve had barely any pain at all, with only a couple of very minor twinges.

Cycle regularity

The length of my menstrual cycles has fluctuated since going Zero Carb.

In the last nine months my period has sometimes come up to three days early, and sometimes up to five days late.

Breast tenderness

Some months I don’t get any breast tenderness at all, other months I get it in the days leading up to my period – and one month I suffered from tender breasts for several weeks.

I’m not worried about my menstrual health, seeing as I only get a week each month to notice changes and I’ve not been on mostly beef for very long.

Libido

My libido is greatly improved. I’m no longer in too much pain and hating on my body to be “in the mood”, for starters.

My libido also seems to naturally build from the end of my period up until ovulation, where it peaks and then reduces until my next period.

Oral health

I can’t really say much about my mouth at the moment, because I had adult braces put on a few months after I went Zero Carb.

I get sores and ulcers occasionally, my mouth tastes like metal and everything just kind of hurts all the time.

I do, however, think my breath gets bad when I’m hungry, and I get phlegmy on the mornings after I eat cheese.

Sunburn

Many people who go Zero Carb note that they don’t burn as easily in the sun. My experience this summer was the opposite.

I couldn’t be out in the sun for longer than 5 minutes without getting burnt, and I currently have some sunburn scars.

Again, this could be down to all the chicken and pork I was eating (that article I linked to earlier is really rather interesting).

It’s now winter in the UK, so I’ll have to wait and see whether switching to beef helps me tolerate the sun better next summer.

TL;DR?

My IBS and general health are much better since going meat-only, but I have homework to do:

  • drop the cheese 100%
  • increase my meat intake and note any changes in sleep, mood and energy
  • get on the kettlebell *skadooooosh*

Here’s to nine months of relief, miracles – and patience!

Disclaimer

• This website is mostly a journal of my n=1 experiences of discovering good health, after suffering a lifetime of chronic illness.
• I am not medically trained. What you eat, think and do are your own responsibility.

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