All Disease Begins In The Gut
Hippocrates, a relatively well-known figure in medical circles, once said: ‘All disease begins in the gut’. For a comment made 2,500 years ago, it’s not landing far off base. Over the millennia following the Greek physician’s remark, we’ve accumulated the technology to peer a little closer at the digestive tract. What we found was a microverse teeming with symbiotic creatures, and an inextricable link between the health of those gut bugs, and the optimal functioning of the human macroverse.
There’s still plenty to uncover, which is a testament to how complicated and frustratingly mysterious our bodies can be. But we can certainly say that you’re best off arming yourself with a gut that’s free of inflammation and dysfunction. And nothing encapsulates that quite like the case of leaky gut, a condition that comes with insidious consequences.
‘Leaky gut’ isn’t the term you’ll get in medical textbooks, but it is the one that gets bandied about the most. So we’ll continue with that, rather than ‘intestinal permeability’. Either term should give you a rough idea of the plight you, or your friend, could be facing. The intestinal barrier, that precious wall that separates your insides from the outside world, gets compromised for whatever reason, allowing various food particles and microbes to sneak through into places they shouldn’t.
That opens you up for all kinds of inflammatory smoke, not least of which is the host of autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and eczema. Even if they aren’t specifically caused by leaky gut, they can certainly be antagonised by the appearance of unwanted visitors in the bloodstream.
Beyond autoimmune conditions, there are plenty of ways a leaky gut can create havoc across the system, which means that a myriad of symptoms could each be hinting at a frayed intestinal barrier.
- Chronic pain
- Sore joints
- Brain fog
- Food sensitivities
- Skin breakouts
- Hormone imbalances
- Vitamin deficiencies
Luckily, we don’t have to settle for preventing leaky gut. We can also patch it up if we’re already dealing with the aftermath, by treating it to a nutritional intervention. An intervention that’s been consistently touted on this website. And to understand why carnivore outperforms the other strategies, you just need to understand the potential causes and triggers of this yet-mysterious ailment.
Causes Of Leaky Gut
While there’s a long list of triggers to pick through, you can neatly arrange them into three groups when looking at the way they compromise the intestinal barrier.
1. Direct Assault
Your gut lining is an obvious weak spot for anyone wise enough and small enough to get to it. That’s where plant toxins come in. It’s worth reiterating that plants don’t generally want to be eaten, since they, like their human counterparts, have the need for survival coded into their DNA. If they didn’t have their ways of avoiding becoming someone’s dinner, they wouldn’t have made it this far. Animals can run, plants cannot. Plants, therefore, have defensive toxins, whereas animals tend to rely on other traits.
Lectins are a classic branch of phytotoxins that are widely known to the general public. In particular, gluten, the favourite of Big Food companies looking to make an easy buck. Gluten triggers the activation of zonulin, a protein that is designed to open up tight junctions, like the ones that line the intestinal barrier. This grants antigens the space they need to break through and cause havoc in your insides.
Other lectins can also bind to the epithelial layer that surrounds the gut, causing inflammation and damage to the layer.
The bacteria nestled away in your gut are big players in the apex lifestyle game, they actually outnumber our human cells. Intestinal dysbiosis is an unwanted state that comes about when these symbiotic guests reach an unhealthy composition, with the ‘bad bugs’ dominating the good ones. These bad bugs in turn release enterotoxins, which create episodes of diarrhea, and fuel intestinal inflammation, compromising the security of the gut lining.
So it goes without saying that you’ll want to keep your gut bugs in check, so you don’t necessarily want to be consuming foods that stick the bad bugs in grow mode. Foods like those high in sugar, which culls beneficial populations while fertilising the pro-inflammatory ones. Alcohol also does its fair share in fostering an unhealthy environment.
Fiber is generally implicated as a healthy gut modulator, but it’s not particularly specific in which populations get the boost. So if you’ve already been plunged into a state of intestinal dysbiosis, fiber could just be keeping the bad bugs alive.
The gut is perfectly adept at fixing itself in most cases of wear and tear. But it still needs the right environment, and the set of tools to do so. Ideally not a gut that’s wrapped in chronic inflammation, while running up nutrient deficiencies.
Such deficiencies aren’t just created by a lack of nutrient-dense foods, a crisis that’s easily averted by dosing up on prime steak and liver. Plenty of plant toxins achieve their defensive duties by impairing nutrient absorption. Not just the nutrients that are coming in those plant foods, but also whatever animal product you might be having alongside it.
Phytates, found in whole grains, legumes, and nuts, bind to several minerals and nutrients, impeding the body from absorbing them. Zinc, magnesium, calcium, and iron, form a non-exhaustive list. Oxalates, included in the kale-spinach smoothie package, depletes calcium and iron. Trypsin inhibitors curb protein absorption. Fiber itself can cause nutrient deficiencies.
All of which means, your nutty salad contains a cocktail of nutrient blockers that are capable of inducing glaring deficiencies. You can certainly attenuate the crisis by dosing up on ruminant meat, not so much by throwing in a sliver of chicken breast, a tactic favoured by the health-focused populace.
And once you’ve already opened up a deficiency, you’re best off providing an abundance of the lacking nutrients. Which requires both total nutrition, and the omission of nutrient thieves.
The signs continue to point to one ancient, battle-tested diet as the best fix for leaky gut. A diet that not only avoids the inflammation and antinutrients that sap the life out of your gut, but also lends a wealth of micronutrients that are both dense and diverse. In particular, it supplies an abundance of glutamine and collagen, which are critical for maintaining the intestinal lining.
Healing With Carnivore
You may have noticed the glaring omission of a food group that usually takes the throne on the gut health pantheon. So whatever is the deal with fiber?
As it happens, fiber is not an essential nutrient. For one, it may produce fuel for your gut bugs through the supply of butyrate, but the body can easily substitute in beta-hydroxybutyrate, the primary ketone. Nothing lost there.
As a second, fiber’s tendency to fertilize everything it comes across isn’t a great addition when you’re already in a state of dysbiosis. The gut bugs need a reset, not a feast.
Eating a large amount of fiber in one setting has a tendency to cause painful bloating and gas. Try the same with steak, and chances are you’ll get through without any discomfort. That’s a pretty good indication that we’re not equipped to be going crazy on plates of whole-grain pasta, lentils, and broccoli. The fact that our guts have shrunk dramatically across our evolution as a species, is another potential tell. Humans don’t need fiber to thrive. But we certainly need our fair share of steak.
Now that the causes have been laid out, the conclusion should look fairly straightforward. A leaky gut is a state of dysfunction that’s likely the consequence of replacing nutrient-dense and bioavailable foods with subpar plant alternatives. In addition to being inadequate sources of nutrition, they also target the intestinal lining, raise inflammation, disturb the balance of the microbiome, and impair the absorption of accompanying nutrients.
As it happens, these foods represent a drastic departure from the ancestral diet of the vast, sweeping Paleolithic period. Humans evolved around hypercarnivory, and as a result, we’re poorly adapted for thriving on a plant-based diet. Shovel in too much sugar, seed oils, plant toxins, and you’re risking a broken metabolism.
Carnivore, on the other hand, represents the safest human diet. It’s the lightest on toxins, and the richest in nutrition. And for the unfortunate folk looking to manage and repair a leaky gut, it represents the perfect environment for coaxing the body into healing itself.
Guidelines For Gut-Friendly Carnivore
There are only so many ways you can spin this diet, so the chances of going in blind and messing it up, are minute. But for best results, consider the following guidelines.
1. Time – Give the diet at least three solid months to work its magic before considering reintegrating plant foods. And even then, tread cautiously, only bringing back one ingredient at a time.
2. Nutrition – Include at least 2-3 ounces of liver per week, while prioritising ruminant meat.
3. Low Omega 6 – Moderate pork and poultry, which can have excessive levels of polyunsaturated Omega 6 fats.
4. Minimise Dairy – At least to begin with, since lactose and casein can both cause issues.
5. 1:1g Fat to Protein Ratio – Give the body the fats it needs to sustain ketosis and thereby provide the gut with a steady supply of fuel.
6. Digestive Aid – If you’re struggling to digest high fat meals, supplementing Betaine HCL can be a gamechanger for providing enough stomach acid to both break down those fats and detoxify the gut.
7. Probiotics – Feel free to experiment with probiotic supplements to assist in repopulating the gut, but don’t cross that bridge till the first month is up and the purge of bad bugs are complete.
For more tips on optimising the carnivore diet, check out The Ultimate Carnivore Cheat Sheet