Meat only diet
Meat-based elimination diets have been reported to cure or improve autoimmune disease. These diets tend to be controversial because they go against conventional dietary wisdom.
Meat-based diets include:
- The "carnivore" diet. This typically refers to meat, dairy, eggs, salt, and sometimes spices being allowed foods. Other diets are more strict about being only meat.
- The "lion" diet. Meat, salt, and water.
- The paleo-ketogenic diet. The strict version of Paleomedicina's diet allows for meat (preferably pasture-raised ruminant meat), a small amount of honey, and water. Eggs may be introduced at later stages of treatment.
Joe Rogan's podcast popularize the carnivore diet as multiple guests have discussed their carnivore diet or stricter versions of it. In episode #1164 with Mikhaila Peterson, Mikhaila talks about how her lion diet helped reverse her juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and depression.
The current data on the carnivore diet
One academic paper (https://doi.org/10.1093/cdn/nzab133) describes the results of an online survey of carnivore diet followers, with 2029 respondents meeting the survey's criteria. Because the survey recruited heavily from online carnivore groups and excluded people who did not follow the diet for at least 6 months, it is likely that the survey massively overrepresents people who respond well to the diet and excludes those who fared poorly on the diet. it is unlikely that the survey accurately reflects the success of diet as a treatment.
Almost all survey participants reported an improvement in their autoimmune condition, though only roughly a third reported that their autoimmune condition was resolved. This suggests that diet alone is insufficient to cure autoimmunity in most people.
- Of 369 participants reporting autoimmune disease, 36% resolved their autoimmunity with an additional 53% reporting improvement.
The carnivore diet is very commonly used by fairly healthy people looking to lose weight. Most people on the diet report improvements with their weight issues whether they are over or underweight.
- Of 928 participants with obesity, 52% resolved their obesity with an additional 41% reporting improvement. 0.2% reported new obesity.
- Of 100 participants who were underweight, 52% resolved their weight with an additional 28% reporting improvement. 1% reported a new underweight condition.
Carnivore dieters also commonly report no longer needing insulin for their diabetes. This may be a safety issue with the diet as insulin can be dangerous when given to people who do not need it. If you are currently on insulin or diabetes medication, please do additional research on the diet's safety and the safe discontinuation of insulin.
- Of 13 participants reporting insulin use for type 2 diabetes, all but 1 person reported discontinuing insulin use.
- 3 participants with type 1 diabetes report discontinuing insulin use.
Zsofia Clemens and Csaba Toth have published various case studies on their paleo-ketogenic diet reversing a long list of autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes. Zsofia Clemens' ResearchGate profile can be found at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Zsofia-Clemens
Dietary treatments of rheumatoid arthritis
For a scientific overview of diet-based treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, a good starting point would be L. Gail Darlington and N. W. Ramsey’s 1993 review, particularly the section on Dietary Elimination Therapy (page 3 in the PDF / pg 509). To summarize what we know:
- Elimination diets work for some people. According to Gail Darlington, her elimination diet protocol works in about 35-40% of RA patients. Her diet protocol involves a mix of meat and non-meat foods. (Source: the second page of her chapter on RA in Diet and Human Immune Function.) Other diet studies show similar levels of remission to no remission at all.
- The more eliminating diets tend to have higher remission rates. Various diets have been studied: elimination diets, vegan, raw vegan, starch-based vegan, vegetarian, elemental diets (engineered meal replacements), and the Mediterranean diet. Elimination diets have shown the highest remission rates. The science suggests that the strongest dietary factor is the elimination of problematic foods.
- Every patient is different. In the elimination diet approach, problematic foods differ from patient to patient.
Some of the key randomized controlled trials demonstrating the effectiveness of elimination diets are:
- Placebo-controlled, blind study of dietary manipulation therapy in rheumatoid arthritis. (Abstract, full paper.)
- This study by L. Gail Darlington (the same Gail Darlington discussed earlier), N. W. Ramsey, J. R. Mansfield was published in The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals. It found a significantly greater benefit from the elimination diet versus placebo. Among the 48 test subjects, 85% identified foods that made their symptoms worse.
- Hicklin JA, McEwen LM, Morgan JE. The effect of diet in rheumatoid arthritis. Clin Allergy 1980;10:463.
- This exclusion diet improved outcomes for 24 of 72 RA patients (33%).
Anecdotes relevant to long haul syndromes
Some long haulers report that the ‘carnivore diet’ helped them with their symptoms.
- Long COVID: https://www.reddit.com/r/covidlonghaulers/comments/pdwe1a/carnivore_diet_fixed_it_for_me/
- Long COVID: https://www.reddit.com/r/covidlonghaulers/comments/p0sjnd/neuro_symptoms_among_those_eating/
- Long COVID: https://www.reddit.com/r/covidlonghaulers/comments/oparpp/more_then_a_full_recovery/
- Vaccine injury: https://www.reddit.com/r/vaccinelonghaulers/comments/p47bdn/got_pericarditis_after_the_second_moderna_shot_my/hpwb36z/?context=3
Private Facebook groups such as “Neuro V Long-Haulers” (you must be a member to view) also contain various anecdotes. This post (you must be a member to view) links to a Google doc with a list of anecdotes. So far, there has been 4 positive reports and 1 person reporting that the diet is ineffective.
Conventional dietary wisdom
Many people do not believe that it is possible to survive on meat alone. However, such a diet seems to be nutritionally complete. The Bellevue study published in 1930 examined 2 men over 1 year and found that they survived on meat alone. See page 653-654 of PROLONGED MEAT DIETS WITH A STUDY OF KIDNEY FUNCTION AND KETOSIS.
While some believe that fiber is an essential component of a healthy diet, doctors commonly prescribe "low residue" diets prior to colonoscopy because less residue (fecal matter) makes it easier for a camera to move through the digestive tract. It is commonly understood that meat is a "low residue" food that produces very little fecal matter.
One study by Singaporean researchers (https://dx.doi.org/10.3748%2Fwjg.v18.i33.4593) found that reducing or stopping fiber intake can resolve idiopathic constipation (constipation of unknown cause). 41 patients remained on a no fiber diet, 16 on a reduced fiber diet, and 6 resumed their high fiber diet for religious or personal reasons. (It is not clear if some people resumed their former diet because they did not respond to a no-fiber diet.)
Meat-based diets tend to have low levels of vitamin C that may be below the recommended daily intake.
How meat is cooked will affect vitamin C content as cooking will reduce vitamin C content. A diet consisting of exclusively thoroughly-cooked meat could lead to a vitamin C deficiency.
Red meat causing cancer
Various observational studies have "found" that red meat is associated with higher rates of cancer. John Ioannidis, the world's most cited researchers, has various presentations available on Youtube (such as https://youtu.be/KTAbx4i8Dyg) where he explains how bias and data mining can cause an observational study to yield any desired result.
Meat causing weight gain
The survey of >6 month carnivores found that many respondents resolved their weight issues on a carnivore diet.
Well balanced diets, vegetables being healthy
The 1930 Bellevue study paper did not report any major health conditions in the 2 test subjects. Survey data strongly suggests that many people are able to improve their autoimmune condition through diet.
Reliability of dietary information
Mikhaila Peterson seems to have lingering health problems after she changed her diet. Her blog "Don't eat that" talks about her RA-related surgery, her fecal matter transplant, and her positive Lyme test. While she has said that her lion diet "reversed" her autoimmune condition, her characterization may not reflect the full picture of her health.
Mikhaila's appearances on The Agenda with Steve Paikin (before and after) clearly show that both her and her father lost weight after changing their diet. Both report that their new diet cured their depression.
Online communities tend to defend their diet and claim that foods that they don't eat are responsible for health problems. For example:
- Vegans will claim that red meat causes inflammation.
- Carnivores will claim that plants cause inflammation.
- Keto diet and low-carb followers may claim that carbs cause inflammation.
Most online communities tend to censor information critical of their diet or opposing viewpoints. There are also tendencies to blame diet failure on 'not doing the diet right'.
Possible mechanisms of action
Zsofia Clemens has measured the effect of her PKD diet on intestinal permeability or "leaky gut". In a presentation available online (https://youtu.be/yuaBLkQFXtQ?t=424), she discusses how the diet is effective in restoring intestinal permeability and allowing fewer molecules to leak into the body from the gut. Intestinal permeability has been linked to various autoimmune diseases.
The paper Translocation of a gut pathobiont drives autoimmunity in mice and humans (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29590047/) discusses how bacteria can enter the body through the gut and cause autoimmune disease.
Implementing a meat only diet
Meat-only diets likely have dangerous interactions with many common medications.
- Diabetes medication. Meat only diets tend to reverse diabetes. (There are many diets that reverse diabetes such as low/zero carb, keto, calorie restriction, etc. The scientific literature clearly embraces the idea that bariatric surgery reverses type 2 diabetes; diabetes reversal shouldn’t be considered a crazy idea.) Diabetes reversal is dangerous if you are on medications that lowers blood sugar.
- Blood pressure medication. These diets tend to restore normal blood pressure, potentially making medication dangerous.
- Psych meds. The diet likely affects the dosing of psych meds, increasing their effective dosage because the body doesn’t clear medications as quickly. While you might think that it would be a good idea to get off psych meds before changing your diet, doing so can be very dangerous. Learn about the dangers of discontinuing psych meds here: https://withdrawal.theinnercompass.org/
- Alcohol. Tolerance for alcohol will go down. Those trying the diet should drink less and take their time getting back into drinking alcohol.
- Medication in general. ???
If you are on any kind of medication, you need to do your research first.
The second issue is that you may have very little energy in the beginning as your body adapts to burning fat for energy. This may make driving a questionable activity. One approach is to eat only meat and fruit. Then, reduce fruit intake as much as possible until the diet is meat only. Slowly transitioning to a meat-only diet may be less unpleasant than adopting the diet without a transition period.
What type of meat to eat
Prefer fatty cuts over lean cuts. Eating too much lean meat may lead to protein poisoning or 'rabbit starvation', an acute form of malnutrition caused by a diet deficient in fat. Fattier cuts include ribeye, rib steak, chuck roll, blade, short ribs, ribs, etc.
There are debates in the carnivore communities regarding the need for:
- Higher quality meats that are not raised conventionally.
- Eating organs.
If you are starting the diet for the first time, it may be easier to get started and worry about tweaks to the diet later.
Histamine intolerance and meat allergies
Some people may respond poorly to beef, which is almost always aged a few days before it is sold at a supermarket. Trial and error with other types of meat may be necessary.
Meat allergies may resolve over time, but please consult an experienced professional before trying anything risky.
No gallbladder, J pouch, etc.
Some people with these conditions have been successfully eating a carnivore diet. Search the online communities for information on how these people are doing the diet without a gallbladder, parts of their intestine, etc.
Doctors, consultants, etc.
- Paleomedicina (Zsofia Clemens, Csaba Toth, etc.) - This Hungary-based clinic offers telemedicine consultations worldwide.
- Revero.com - Offers telemed and is US based.
- Virta Health - Does not prescribe meat-only diets. This company focuses on low carb and ketogenic diets for diabetes. Their services are likely covered by many US health insurance plans.
Support groups / online communities
These forums can be a useful resource on obscure health conditions (e.g. no gallbladder), tips on how to eat while travelling, cooking tips, information on where to buy meat, etc. etc.