Over a year ago I said that I *thought* I was curing my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) through a natural diet and lifestyle.
I haven’t posted about my IBS since then because I didn’t feel that I could go into detail about my “protocols” in good conscience after a number of major setbacks to my health.
But I have continued to research and evolve, and now, finally, after 29 years of suffering from my chronic illness, I’m 60 days into a new way of eating (WOE) that has completely alleviated every single one of my IBS symptoms – and then some.
What you’re about to read is going to break your brain. It goes against pretty much every single thing you’ve ever been told about nutrition, and I understand that you are going to feel confused, disbelieving, maybe even angry.
However, remember that I make no money from this website and that I’m not telling you to try this diet – this is just based on my personal experience and my own truth, nothing more.
Sick since birth
I was fed soy-based formula as a baby, followed by the Standard American Diet (SAD) – y’know, cereal with pasteurised-homogenised-semi-skimmed milk for breakfast, mass-produced bread with fake butter and frankenmeat for lunch, takeaways and “oven food” for dinner – and sweets, crisps, chocolate, cake, fizzy drinks etc. for puddings and snacks.
Basically, all those “goodies” that contain lashings of trans fats and hydrogenated oils, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, other forms of sugar, soy, preservatives, additives, artificial colours etc.
I had round after round of antibiotics throughout my life for various infections, had my tonsils and adenoids removed as a child and always used conventional products around the home and on my body.
Whole foods were few and far between – most often for roast dinner on a Sunday.
Here are just some of the ailments I’ve suffered with since infancy:
- Chronic constipation – I could only pass bowel movements once or twice a week. They would take up to an hour to pass because they were completely dry and, frankly, enormous, often tearing my skin
- Bloating – preggo belly after pasta, anyone?
- Wind – it’s a miracle I didn’t pop from the pressure
- Cramps that would have me doubled over in agony
- Deep, raging hunger – hollow, painful and sudden
- Frequent colds – I had two employers reduce my hours due to the amount of time I had to take off work
- 2-3 fevers per year that would have me bed-ridden for days, sometimes with hallucinations
- Lethargy, fatigue – not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, falling asleep in class or at work
- Easily bruised – my legs always had unexplained bruises on them
From my teens onwards I had also suffered from the following:
- Acne breakouts a week before my period that would take the rest of the month to heal
- Random spot breakouts just because screw you, Kayleigh
- Frequent urine infections – cystitis and thrush were a regular occurrence for me
- Foot and leg cramps not related to exercise
- Irritability, short temper, anger
- PMS – moments of rage the week before my cycle; sore breasts a couple of days before my cycle
- Migraines – the first of which at age 21 had me vomiting and bed-ridden for two weeks
- Rectal bleeding with absolutely no concern from my GP
- Regular pain in the lower left corner of my colon
- I also haven’t been able to run more than 50 metres since I was a child without an intense stitch-like feeling doubling me over in agony
Other little niggles that most of us think are down to our genes/hormones/”just how we are”:
- Morning breath
- “Furry” teeth
- Sleep in my eyes
- Body odour
- Weak, brittle, splitting nails
- Inability to tan
- Permanently blocked nose
- Scratchy throat
- Frequent mouth ulcers
- Poor memory
- Red, blotchy face
- Feeling lightheaded and dizzy when I stood up “too fast”
- Tinnitus (high-pitched ringing in my ears)
Medications prescribed to me by doctors have included laxatives (which aggravate the gut) and anti-spasmodics (which bring the gut to a halt) – looking back, neither sound like they’re designed to address the root cause of my digestive issues, but merely to mask the symptoms.
Other medications included anti-depressants on and off throughout a 6-year period, as well as a number of contraceptives which unbalanced my hormones.
As a teenager and as a young 20-something I had blood work done for diabetes, thyroid imbalance, coeliac etc. when I felt completely overwhelmed by my constant, lifestyle-debilitating ailments.
Both times my doctors expressed zero concern, and had no advice to offer except to avoid onions and garlic and to eat more fibre from lentils and flaxseed for my IBS.
In the last year, however, I started to alleviate most of these problems by going against the dietary norm, and my new WOE, albeit a fairly controversial one, is now eliminating them completely.
I’ll quickly explain how I got to where I am now.
7 years of cutting out problem foods
I started off by cutting gluten out around 2011. I had more energy within the first week and started getting fevers less often.
Tea and coffee
Soon after that I also realised that caffeine aggravated my stomach soon after drinking it, so I cut that out, too. Looking back, it would have also been the milk, but remember I didn’t know anything about lactose/sugar back then and continued to consume a lot of milk with gluten-free cereals.
Thanks to Graeme, I cut out fruit and vegetables high in FODMAPs after he started looking into why I was still ill so often.
I also cut out most processed foods, including gluten-free alternatives.
This was all great for avoiding IBS flare-ups from bloating and cramping, but I was still ill a lot, especially with constipation and skin breakouts.
Getting into natural health
I then started getting into my greener, cleaner living journey, having discovered no ‘poo and all these other cool natural alternatives to products that were curing my chronic headache, my permanently phlegmy throat, my dry lips, my dry, flaky skin, and making my periods lighter, shorter and more pleasant-smelling.
I’d also started only eating meat from our local butcher and fruit and vegetables from local farm shops – my migraines stopped, and my nails became rock hard.
With each change, I felt better than I had previously – but I was still suffering from a few symptoms, namely my constipation, rectal bleeding, energy crashes, spots and foot cramps.
Time for some butt flushin’
In December 2015 I started colonic hydrotherapy and surprise! I had a completely impacted bowel (that means, uh, full. Like, to the rafters, full).
I can’t even hazard a guess at how much dry matter had been stuck in my colon or for how long – although it finally answered the question “But you’re so skinny, where do you put all that food?!”
I’ve raved a lot about colonics, and they’ve been great for clearing my detox pathways and brightening up my skin a beauty.
However, no matter what I ate, treatments were always terribly painful for me and they never addressed the root cause of what was causing blockages in the first place.
Supplements and “superfoods” – expensive urine at best, IBS nemesis at worst
I also started trying different supplements and superfoods after reading articles like “Curcumin cures cancer!” and “Krill oil prevents dementia!”
I had a few really, really bad setbacks at the hands of supplements and superfoods, the worst of which was thanks to one particular “wellness” specialist who advised me to take aloe vera gel, L-Glutamine and Gamma Oryzanol (playing the IBS playbook step by step).
It took MONTHS for my gut to recover from the damage done by that little concoction.
I ended up just taking a high-quality probiotic every day in an attempt to feed the “good gut bacteria”. I didn’t have any problems with it, but again it just didn’t address the root cause of my IBS.
Other things I tried that didn’t work for me
- The alkaline diet
- High fibre foods like beans and lentils
- Fermented foods
Saturated fat FTW
Eventually I began reading into insulin resistance and, based on a lot of my other symptoms, decided to try a low-carb, high-fat WOE (also known as LCHF).
LCHF is kind of like the ketogenic WOE for anyone who’s heard of that, but with less macro counting. Because lazy.
There’s an adaption period when you go proper low-carb as your body is withdrawing from the lack of glucose. I got “keto flu” and craved sugar terribly, and for a while some symptoms got a lot worse, like my hanger and my irritability.
But within a couple of weeks of eating LCHF all of my ailments mostly disappeared, and I suddenly felt better than I ever had up until this point – my tummy went flat, my nails stayed strong, and my skin had actually started taking to a light tan.
People were asking me if I’d been on holiday – me! The “English Rose” (okay, pasty). Anyway whatever.
I was totally woke – carbs and sugar were the devil, even for skinny minis like me – shocker.
Always *better* but never cured
During the rest of 2016, I settled into a LCHF meal and probiotic routine, very rarely introduced new things, and tried to go longer and longer between colonic sessions like most people can.
But in winter 2016 my bowel movements unexpectedly ground to a halt and a lot of my symptoms returned.
Every single day I would be near tears from the pains in my colon, I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning without an iron supplement and my skin was breaking out.
I’d been eating a salad a day since the summer. I tried switching to seasonal winter vegetables in the form of soups, only for it to make things worse. I was eating very little meat and a lot of vegetables.
Have you figured out the root cause of my IBS yet?
The “diet” that is curing my Irritable Bowel Syndrome naturally
On Thursday 9th February 2017, a blog post landed in my inbox from a nutritionist that I enjoy following.
Here’s an excerpt from that wonderful, life-saving blog post:
Let’s get one thing out of the way: despite what has been pounded into your head for pretty much your entire life, vegetables are not actually required in the human diet. They’re just not. I’m sure that is quite shocking to some of you. (What about fiber?! What about feeding your gut bacteria? What about the phytochemicals?! Don’t we need quercetin, resveratrol, curcumin, sulphorophane, and other goodies we get from plants? Well, sure, they might be helpful in certain circumstances, but required? Nope.)
There are no essential nutrients—none—that you get from plant foods that you can’t get from animal products. You can, indeed, live on a “zero carb” or animal-only diet. (Kind of like the opposite of veganism.) You don’t even need the fiber. In fact, lots of people with IBS and other issues related to impaired digestion of plant material seem to do better on diets low in indigestible fiber.
I read this line like WHOA WHOA WHOA, you what? Tell me more.
So I clicked the links in that blog post and I went on to read half of Emsée La Fleur’s website, specifically how fruit and vegetables can be detrimental to some people’s health, and what to expect from the adaption process. I read through her many interviews with “Zero Carbers” who’ve been eating only meat for a year or more, talking about their weight and other non-scale victories.
I went on to read L. Amber O’Hearn’s recommendation to try a 30-day trial of this way of eating to see how you get on, along with her guidance on what to do and what mistakes to avoid. She busts the myths surrounding a ketogenic/meat-only/zero carb WOE (and she has a great post on Vitamin C in case you’re worried about scurvy).
Then I joined the Zeroing In On Health (ZIOH) group on Facebook and read posts by people who’ve been eating nothing but meat for more than a decade without any problems – if anything, they’re thriving and getting healthier by the day, regardless of whatever ailments they came to this WOE with.
One gentleman whose posts I found particularly helpful came to the meat-only WOE with ulcerative colitis and similar symptoms to mine, who’s getting better and better as time goes on. Another member with digestive issues has since shared a case report of a patient whose Crohn’s Disease was successfully treated by a meat-only version of the ketogenic diet.
With all the guidance from these resources I got myself through the first 30 days with relatively few problems (this post has been edited to include some of those “problems”, IMO adaption isn’t a problem but some people think I’m claiming I had it too easy, so for clarity I’ve added my detox symptoms below).
Anyway, I knew after two days that I was finally on the right path and now, 60 days in, I feel completely at peace with my WOE and my body (think 48 hours is too soon to see such great results? ZC started turning things around for another IBS sufferer in 72 hours).
The improvements to my health as a result of a meat-only diet
- Within 48 hours, my constipation cleared itself up with almost daily, pain-free movements ever since (pain-free on “exit” – I still had pains in my gut just before a bowel movement)
- The pain in my colon has completely vanished
- My teeth have become squeaky clean and my morning breath is negligible (although since I’ve had braces put on they’ve really screwed with my mouth)
- Bar a couple of detox spots, my skin has become the softest, clearest and most full of colour that it’s ever been
- My energy levels have kept up without my iron supplement – I’m up by 5 or 6 am most days and very rarely feel groggy (unless I’ve been eating cheese, which really messes with me)
- My brain fog has lifted, my memory is sharper and I have a renewed enthusiasm for my work
- My PMS has greatly reduced – I haven’t noticed any sudden anger and my breasts haven’t been sore 2 cycles in a row
- I haven’t felt lightheaded from standing up since switching to this WOE
- There are zero bruises on my legs at the moment, which I’m hoping keeps up (I still bruise from impacts, like when I moved house recently. Don’t expect total miracles from this WOE)
- The last colonic I had was completely pain-free, and I’m hopeful that I won’t *need* any more treatments going forward (edit: 5 months on and I haven’t had any more colonics – if I start to feel constipated from eating too lean or from eating cheese, I simply stop eating the cheese and I eat fattier cuts of meat, works every time)
And this is all on top of the benefits I’d already been enjoying on the LCHF WOE:
- No more fevers
- No more migraines
- No more UTIs
- No more blocked nose or scratchy throat
- No more leg cramps
- No more rectal bleeding
- My temperament has completely changed; I’m generally calmer and less emotional
- My nails are now rock hard
- No more tinnitus
Here’s how I eat every day:
- I only eat meat when I’m hungry; I eat until I’m full
- I eat whatever meat I want (mostly beef, pork and chicken) with maybe some butter or eggs
- I only drink water when I’m thirsty
- I don’t consume any plant foods
- I don’t take a single supplement
Edited to include problems/adaption symptoms
The first few days were weird because I didn’t know how much meat to make for myself, plus it felt really weird at first to eat that much meat and zero plants.
Everything tasted really metallic and at first I reacted to a few meats like I do to carbs, I guess because my body is/was so metabolically damaged.
Fresh pork made me feel a bit hypo, but I eat bacon and sausage meat every day without any problem. Zero Carb Zen have their own page about pork if you’re interested. I don’t really enjoy the taste of fresh pork anyway, so although I’m sure my tolerance to it would have changed over time, I’m just not bothered about trying it again.
I had a few detox symptoms; I had the usual keto breath for a couple of weeks, which is really sweet-smelling; and (TMI) I either had some weird detox diarrhoea or a tummy bug recently, which was… weird… but not painful.
The keto flu was manageable for me; I lacked energy after the first 10 days of ZC and this lasted a few months until I started eating more around the 4.5-month mark, but it’s not as if I couldn’t get out of bed.
The hardest part was when I lost my appetite and got an aversion to eating meat, which is completely normal – I just waited until I was starving hungry and then forced myself to eat meat. Mind over matter and all that.
I got a tiny keto rash for a grand total of one evening. So, maybe that was just from taking too hot a bath 😉
I also thought at one point that I was going to get thrush. Something something Candida die-off maybe, I dunno. I was itching like hell, but it disappeared after a couple of days.
The only thing I craved this time was gin and tonic – which is weird because I only drink a couple of times a year – so I bought a case of fizzy water to get me through those days.
It took around 50 days for my gut to really adjust – as in, I didn’t have any IBS flares, bloating or general cramping, but I did still get a slight cramping pain in my lower gut just before a bowel movement, and my bowel movements themselves could be really loose a lot of the time.
Minced beef is the only meat so far that actually gives me IBS symptoms – bloating, cramping and trapped wind, the lot. It’s so cost-effective however that I limit my intake to a couple of homemade burgers every week, and I think my tolerance is improving over time, but we’ll see.
Weirdly, plain beef patties from McDonald’s don’t affect me at all. Many ZCers eat them without problems so I tried them as a little experiment, and they don’t react with me providing I ask for them without seasoning, as pepper now gives me terrible acid reflux.
I do still get gas in general. People say “Your farts must stink eating so much meat!” and well, yes, for the first 4 months mine smelled absolutely rancid. I’m 5 months into ZC and the smell is virtually nonexistent now, but the wind is still there. Others with gut issues have claimed that their gas has gone away, so I’m still holding out hope that this will eventually be the case for me too.
The ZIOH group on Facebook really helped me through every single detox symptom – I just used the search function in the group for anything weird I was feeling and others had already asked about similar symptoms, so I read their stories, stopped panicking and just got on with life.
Plus, the longer I eat this way, the better I feel, and the more the little niggles disappear.
After 29 years of agony and embarrassment, I know that meat-only is healing my body and I can’t explain it any more simply than that.
I’m sure this is all really difficult to get your head around – especially if you haven’t clicked any of those links yet – but rest assured that I’ve done my research and now it’s time for you to do your own should you so wish.
I’ve read a lot of findings from biased and industry-funded studies, and I’ve tried a lot of the things you’re “supposed” to do for IBS and general good health.
But I accept that I alone am my own n=1 experiment and I alone can determine whether a WOE is working for me or against me.
It just happens that meat-only is the one WOE that’s ever made me feel like I’m thriving, not just surviving.
I’ll probably start posting updates on my meat-only journey every few months depending on how quickly my body changes, with blood work, before and after photos, and high-res photos of my skin.
I’ve actually started to wean myself off my skincare products, because I simply don’t need them most days – my skin is that good, now (edit: I decided to start wearing makeup again, which has affected the softness of my skin. Spots are still becoming rarer and rarer for me though, woohoo).
I have a few other gains that I’m hopeful will come about the longer I eat this way:
- I’m expecting to gain weight and muscle. At 126lbs and 5’9″ I’ve always been on the verge of being underweight for my height, so this would be a huge win for me. I’ve seen incredible before and after photos in the ZIOH Facebook group of people who started underweight and their body composition is now muscular and defined – errrm yes please
- Like J Stanton claims, I’m really hopeful that the dark circles under my eyes will disappear and that I start to tan
- I hope that I’ll also be less prone to prickly heat, and I’ve heard of others who no longer get bitten by mosquitoes
- I hope that my nails will straighten up – while they’re now long and strong, they grow in a downward curve at the moment
- I hope that my circulation will improve and that my hands and feet will become naturally warmer
- While I have no interest in running, I hope to be able to outrun the zombies when the apocalypse comes without getting that insane stitch in my gut
As always, I hope this has been a helpful post. Again, please remember that I’m not making a penny from this website, so ask yourself why else I would risk losing most of my current plant-based audience by publishing my truth.
In ZC zen,
• This website is mostly a journal of my n=1 experiences of seeking good health, after a lifetime of chronic illness.
• I am not medically trained. What you eat, think and do are your own responsibility.