Diarrhea is not a topic that most people like to discuss. However, it is a topic that comes up normally on many diet forums like Facebook’s Keto/Carnivore Diet group. The Carnivore meal plan – an animal-based, elimination diet – is healing to the body with many positive changes. However, a healing crisis for some new Carnivores can occur within the first several weeks which may exhibit gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea.
Though diarrhea usually goes away within the first week of the Carnivore diet, there is a very small percentage of Carnivores who do suffer from prolonged diarrhea. The inability to hold the bowels and running to the toilet throughout the day can discourage one from continuing on this diet. However, a little patience with the right protocol can relieve the runs. Learn about the risks, causes, and solutions.
Who Gets Diarrhea on the Carnivore Diet?
Diarrhea is not a typical, lasting symptom for most Carnivores. In fact, the majority of Carnivores have no gastrointestinal problems whatsoever. A large poll taken in early December 2018 amongst 17,155 members, of the Facebook group mentioned earlier, showed 40.4 percent do not have any bowel complications, and cases of diarrhea are usually temporary with the majority lasting four to seven days. See below for the following percentages of diarrhea incidents.
- Days 1 to 3 = 0.6%
- Days 4 to 7 = 14.5%
- Week 1 to 2 = 2.4%
- Week 3+ = 3.6%
However, new Carnivores at risk for diarrhea are those coming from a low protein/fat, high carbohydrate, or junk food diet. The ratio of protein, fat, and carbohydrates within these diets are completely different from the Carnivore diet which is made up of moderate protein, high fat, and virtually little to no carbohydrate intake. With the increased protein and fat intake, the body may not be ready to handle them immediately. To determine your specific cause for diarrhea, please keep reading this article as the sources of this problem are explained further.
Proteins Require Specific Enzymes & Ratio
Protein is a critical nutritional building block and is required for many biological reasons. It keeps your blood’s pH levels balanced, maintains proper hormone levels, and regulates proper fluid balance. Your immune system also relies on protein for proper functioning. Even more, protein is beneficial for weight loss as it is extremely thermogenic, increases glucagon, preserves bone and muscle, and regulates a number of other physiological and mental issues. You can obtain protein from beef, wild game, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, and dairy on the Carnivore diet. However, protein can be the cause of diarrhea for beginner Carnivores for a variety of reasons.
Hydrochloric Acid & Proteases are Needed
Digestion of protein food sources begin with chewing. Once the protein sources reach your stomach, hydrochloric acid and enzymes called proteases break them down into smaller chains called amino acids. Once the amino acid chains move into your small intestine, your pancreas releases more enzymes and a bicarbonate buffer to reduce the acidity of digested foods which allows even more enzymes to break the amino acid chains into individual amino acids. If your body lacks any of these enzymes, the proteins you eat may not get digested the way they should and the result is most likely diarrhea.
Protein Ratio is Too High
If you were eating less protein prior to the Carnivore diet, your body may lack the enzymes to digest it properly as there just wasn’t a need for them. Though the higher amounts of protein eaten can contribute to digestives issues, the type of protein may also play a role. A one year study that consisted of only meat and water reported that a high protein intake (more than 40%), as well as lean meat, sometimes produced digestive disturbances including the development of diarrhea. When the protein ratio was reduced and fat was added to the diet, a full recovery was made within two days with bowels regulated.
Dairy Proteins Contribute to Digestive Sensitivities
Though high amounts of lean meat may contribute to diarrhea on the Carnivore diet, food sensitivities may also be a cause. In fact, dairy products such as milk, whey, cream, and cheese are among the common culprits of intolerance and the leading cause of diarrhea. Unfortunately, many people lack the digestive enzymes needed to digest the proteins lactose and casein.
Fats Can Lead to Higher Bile Acid Malabsorption
Natural dietary fats are an important energy source and also play a role in the formation of your cell membranes, brain, and nervous system. They are also important for balancing hormones, keeping inflammation low, and promoting a healthy immune system. Fats are categorized into saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. All are equally important for the body to function properly, and the Carnivore menu plan includes all of them. However, entering the Carnivore world coming from a low-fat diet may cause your digestive tract to work harder.
High Amounts of Fat Result in Extra Bile Acids
The fat ratio on the Carnivore diet is quite high compared to other diets. It can range upwards of 50 percent or more, depending on the types of foods you’re eating. Fat help stimulate the flow of bile which increases the absorption of them.
Bile is a yellow-green fluid that is comprised of many substances such as water, electrolytes, bile acids, and cholesterol. It is manufactured in your liver and stored in your gallbladder until it is ready to be used for digestion. On a daily basis, your body produces more than two cups of bile. Bile doesn’t digest the fat but emulsifies it. This makes it more accessible to digestive enzymes, specifically lipase, that help break down the fat into fatty acids.
When you eat a high fat food such as bacon, a hormone called cholecystokinin located in your small intestine, alerts your gallbladder that bile is needed to help digest the fat. Though dietary fat improves bile flow, suddenly eating high amounts of it can result in extra bile acids in your intestines. This can lead to intense watery diarrhea.
Intestinal Microbiota Changes with a High Fat Diet
Your intestinal flora composition is important for health. In fact, it is key to a healthy immune system. Therefore, diet plays a critical role in the colonization, maturation, and stability of your intestinal flora. Studies have proven that dietary change will significantly alter the composition of your microbiota. In fact, a diet change that includes high saturated fat will alter intestinal flora within four days. This may be why the majority of diarrhea cases on the Carnivore diet are within the first week.
*** NOTE: You may want to read Protecting Your Microbiome for Better Gut Health.
Artificial Sweeteners Aren’t Digested
Because carbohydrate foods are eliminated from the Carnivore diet, artificial sweeteners are often used. Though they may provide a sweet taste with substantially less calories than sugar, they are synthetic additives. Unfortunately, these chemical sweeteners negatively alter the microbiome, killing off good gut bacteria which can lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea.
Artificial sweeteners include acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, and sucralose. You may know them better as Sunett, Equal or NutraSweet, Newtame, Sweet “N Low, and Splenda. Erythritol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol are also artificial sweeteners that are basically sugar alcohols and can be found naturally in fermented foods, vegetables, and fruits. However, most on the market are man-made from substances such as cornstarch. Studies have reported regular use of sugar alcohols pull water into the intestine and get fermented by gut bacteria which lead to gas, bloat, and diarrhea. In fact, sugar alcohols have a laxative effect.
How to Reduce Diarrhea Risk while on the Carnivore Diet
As a beginner Carnivore, you may need to approach your new diet carefully, especially if you’re coming from a diet of low protein/fat, high carbohydrates, or junk food. Instead of jumping in 100 percent the first day, you may want to consider the following:
- Build proteins and fats while reducing carbohydrates slowly.
- Don’t eat more than 40% protein.
- Stick to only Carnivore-approved foods once fully established.
- Take a high quality digestive enzyme that includes lipase.
- Keep activated charcoal on-hand (just in case).
- Eliminate artificial sweeteners (stick to pure Stevia or monk fruit).
Emergency Relief for Intense Watery Diarrhea
Diarrhea is an inconvenience, but remember that it usually doesn’t last for long in most beginner Carnivores. The majority who get it have it for less than a week, and it doesn’t usually interrupt their lives too much. However, in rare instances, intense or uncontrollable diarrhea can be overwhelming and sometimes keep one home and toilet bound. If you’re affected by this, you may do the following.
Take activated charcoal. Every three hours, take 2-3 grams until the diarrhea subsides. Protocol for Life Balance® Activated Charcoal is made from non-GMO coconut shells.
Stop taking magnesium. If you’re taking a magnesium supplement, specifically the citrate form, you may want to temporarily stop until the diarrhea eases as it has a laxative effect. As an alternative, you may opt for Magnesium Glycinate as it won’t contribute to the diarrhea problem.
Eat more polyunsaturated fats. If you’re eating meats higher in fat, such as beef and pork, you may want to trade them out temporarily with cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, or sardines that are higher in polyunsaturated fats.
Add salt to your foods. Diarrhea causes dehydration; therefore, you may want to eat foods higher in sodium or add Himalayan pink salt to your foods and beverages to help you retain water.
Take a digestive enzyme. Be sure the digestive enzyme you choose includes protease to help digest proteins, as well as lipase to aid fat digestion. My recommendation is Pure Encapsulations® Digestive Enzymes Ultra.
Take a probiotic. You may restore and improve your gut flora by taking a probiotic supplement. This will help replenish good bacteria in your gut. I suggest Advanced Naturals™ Ultimate FloraMax™ 50 Billion.
*** NOTE: I’d be happy to offer you my Friends & Family discount of 20% for professional supplements that are NSF® certified, but you must be a member of the Facebook Carnivore/Keto Diet group. Just private message me there, and I’ll set you up with my dispensary.
If you’re contemplating the Carnivore meal plan, be sure to take your previous diet into consideration before starting. If you’ve already begun the Carnivore diet and are now having digestive issues that include diarrhea, you may want to try some of my recommendations for emergency relief. Just don’t be discouraged as you’ll reap many health rewards by becoming a full-fledged Carnivore. Also, be sure to follow our channel, as well as like, share, and comment. You may also download our interactive and useful app to stay tuned with the Carnivore Wellness channel.
*** NOTE: If you suffer from constipation, a new article will be coming soon to help.