I stay open to changing my mind.
I plan to keep changing my mind and admitting I don’t know, especially when it comes to nutritional research and “diets.” I will not pretend to have the answers. However, I promise to have many ideas.
At this point, I’ve checked off every possible diet, from raw fruitarian to strict carnivore. I have ignored cues and cravings from my body to stick to highly restrictive “healing” diets, hoping they would clear up the issues in my gut. I’ve also learned to challenge and question the cravings that I know are counter to my long term goals (e.g. bread, beer, and broccoli.) In the process, I’ve had to weed out what the bacteria living inside me want to eat and therefore fool me into thinking I need (cookies! pizza! peanut butter!), versus what my cells actually need to function optimally (liver! egg yolks! gelatin! maple syrup!)
I now look back in gratitude and awe of what my body has endured. It has acted as a dietary lab rat that will, hopefully, help others desiring an adaptive body and resilient mind sort through the chaos. I’ve found that there is a somewhat stable ground to stand on if you’re open to experiment and forget everything you’ve learned this far about nutrition. It requires listening to your body while also honoring it’s physiological context.
As I continue swimming in the swampy realm of nutrition, the more I notice the absurdity of most nutritional claims, and the extreme corruption of the diet and supplement industry. It is up to us to question any notions likely funded by companies with ulterior motives, challenging them with logic, counter studies, self-experimentation, and even intuition. (Would your grandmother have recognized that as food? Do you really believe that $58 fish oil supplement will increase your cognitive function, heal your back pain, and cure your erectile dysfunction? How do YOU feel after eating your nut-based keto protein bar?)
After periods of thinking I’d found the perfect diet for all humankind, I have relaxed into a state of curiosity and experimentation. I digest any trendy research claims with an open mind and a willingness to test such theories on myself. If I feel better and it makes intuitive sense, I follow. If not, I put it on the back burner to come back to later.
As of recent, following a strict carnivore diet and shifting into ketosis served as a stabilizing, floatation device, enabling me to survive through debilitating GI disorders and mitochondrial dysfunction. My body went from being bed-ridden to functional in just a few weeks, allowing me to put on some much needed mass and regain a sense of vitality, and with it, a desire to live. The high amounts of fat–sometimes over 200 grams a day–even had a calming, sedating quality, leading to better emotional regulation and actually, quite wonderful sleep.
That being said, I am swept away by the work of Dr. Ray Peat. I have fallen in love with his lack of agenda and his emphasis on biochemistry. His extensive research exposes ideas so ridiculously counter to my previous views on what a “healthy” diet looks like. When I first heard about some of his work relating to white sugar, milk, and OJ for reversing osteoporosis, I quickly wrote him off as a quack. In my mind, white sugar was basically the devil, milk was a food for baby cows and definitely not suitable for humans, and OJ was just another form of liquid sugar that would rot my teeth.
However, my health had plateaued on a carnivore diet. I felt quite sluggish most days. The romantic foodie inside me kept having cravings for color and texture. I still had profound bloating in response to even just animal meat.
When fellow tigers and ex-carnivores were noticing improvements by testing some of Ray Peat’s theories, I eagerly joined in. With some tinkering and adding in previously blacklisted foods, I have glided into a new territory of feeling quite fabulous and happier than I thought possible. I am thrilled to be dissecting his research, testing his theories on myself, and to my disbelief, eating significant amounts of sugar (yes, white sugar), and foods not limited to just meat and fat.
Thanks to the work of Ray Peat, my body (and BRAIN) have begun healing rapidly in the last month. It feels like I now have energy, inspiration, and enthusiasm just seeping out of me as I go about the day. (I am channeling this newfound and recent surge of energy into writing, reconnecting with humans I love, trying things for the sake of pure fun, and setting the intention of having an impact beyond just caring for my physical body).
I feel better today than I did when I was 5 years old, running around naked in the woods of Maine. That statement alone carries massive weight, given just this winter, I was in the hospital, planning and desiring my funeral. Even two months ago, I thought I’d just have to eat fat, meat, and eggs for the rest of my life, given how dysfunctional and inflamed my intestines had become. (Lyme disease combined with parasites, mold, heavy metals, and limbic impairment is a tricky mix, so it seems).
Of all the foods I’ve added in, I am most excited about raw carrots. I use them daily as a functional food, specifically for their indigestible fiber. Thanks to these humble root veggies and continuing to avoid trendy vegetables that easily ferment (I’m looking at you, broccoli) my colon has been moving, squeezing, absorbing, and yes, forming bowel movements, for the first time in a year. This might seem like a small accomplishment, but try not pooping for a year straight, despite eating every possible superfood combination, soaked, steamed, and blended in every way imaginable.) I’ve noticed:
- less brain fog and flu-like reactions upon awakening
- greater sense of clarity, focus, and joy throughout the day
- profoundly less afternoon fatigue
- daily, sometimes multiple, bowel movements!
While I still question the necessity and even the safety of most vegetables for those with GI disorders (given their anti-nutrients, plant-toxins, and gut-irritating effects), the indigestible fiber in carrots has restored necessary function to my gut and have started balancing my hormonal disregulation by absorbing bacterial waste products and pulling them out of my system.
Let’s talk about endotoxins.
You’re likely wondering why a tiger, such as myself, went from eating only meat, to all of a sudden, playing around in a field of carrots? Aren’t raw carrots difficult to digest?
My journey began many years back when the petri-dish of my gut began causing such profound symptoms, but especially so when they worsened over the past several years after collecting some parasites overseas. As I’ve mentioned before in Becoming a Tiger, my gut dysbiosis had progressed so severely that literally any fiber I ate would either feed my bacterial overgrowths or ferment, causing profound flu-like reactions, known as endotoxemia.
Endotoxins are produced in the gut as a by-product of normal bacterial activity. While bacterial activity is expected in a normal, functioning body, the overgrowth of such bacteria can be especially problematic. The bacteria release by-products and toxins (which get absorbed through the intestines), increasing physiological stress, and then shifts the hormonal balance towards inflammation and therefore, increasing levels of stress hormones further. This deleterious shift exacerbates cellular chaos, leading to systemic impairments in function. A vicious cycle, to say the least!
To add to the storm, both constipation and anxiety decreases blood circulation within the intestine, which then increase the liver’s exposure to endotoxins and prolongs the circulation of inflammatory hormones, allowing them to wreak havoc as they will. The liver is forced to work over time, putting normal maintenance projects on hold to clean up the toxic mess.
As my gut slowed down and my hormones shifted towards those characteristic of stress (high cortisol and serotonin, specifically) my conditions worsened, the bacterial forest thickened, and my anxiety mounted greater. I experienced first hand the direct correlation between the state of my gut and the stability of my mind. The more active my bacteria, the larger my belly would swell, and in direct correlation, the more I felt panicked and consumed by rumination.
I struggled to live a life outside of the worry of my racing thoughts.
Ironically, the more superfoods I ate (e.g. kale! broccoli! mangos! chia seeds! sprouted quinoa!), the more dismal I felt, the more hi-jacked and jittery I became. I later learned from Ray Peat how, “endotoxin formed in the bowel can block respiration and cause hormone imbalances contributing to instability of the nerves.”
With my green smoothies and instragram-worthy power bowls, I was unknowingly feeding my bacteria and making myself sicker.
So, why carrots?
According to Ray Peat, the indigestible fiber helps to decrease the formation and absorption of toxins, increasing one’s adaptive capacity so that the body can focus on the important tasks of cellular respiration and repair. The unique fibers in carrots do not feed bacterial overgrowths in the same way other plant fibers do. “When endotoxin enters the bloodstream during any stress, a host of problems can result because of endotoxin’s systemic toxicity. Raw carrot (along with a good daily bowel movement, saturated fats in place of unsaturated, sufficient non-inflammatory protein, fresh fruits and other digestible foods) can help reduce your endotoxin burden.” I also noticed that after three months of just meat, carrots were one of the first plant-foods I started craving. (Perhaps, my body knew what it needed, all along!) Most salad vegetables, though, are likely to produce intestinal irritation, directly or as a result of bacterial decomposition.
To contrast, the fiber in carrots accelerates peristalsis and increases transit speed through the bowel, which therefore gives less time for the bacteria to feed and grow. After helping to disinfect the small intestines, the fiber then stimulates the large intestines, absorbing excess estrogen, toxins, and stress hormones in the process. By preventing the absorption of excess estrogen, serotonin, histamines and other endotoxins in the intestine, it then allows the liver to more effectively regulate metabolism, resulting in a better functioning system over all.
Thus, the raw carrots can help balance conditions related to estrogen dominance, low thyroid function, auto-immune and inflammatory conditions, bacterial overgrowth, constipation, liver issues, and the low-level wear and tear of living a stressful life. Regardless of your health condition, or even if you consider yourself to be extremely healthy already, it seems the fiber in carrots could benefit your body by shifting it towards a more supportive hormonal profile. Your cells will thank you!
By adding in mild germicides, such such as vinegar and coconut oil, a simple carrot salad “can improve the hormonal environment, while reducing the immunological burden.” I tend to eat this before lunch or in the afternoon or even before bed if the craving strikes (and yes, I do crave this daily!) According to Ray, the fiber delays digestion and reduces the absorption of other foods, so it is best to eat it between meals.
I’m eager to hear your thoughts, reactions, and experiences to adding in a daily carrot salad. This gentle snack is like an antibiotic that you can safely take every day.
1 Medium/large carrot, grated
1-2 tsp coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vinegar
Salt to taste
Mix, munch, enjoy.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I am a tiger. The information contained in this blog should not be used to treat or diagnose disease or health problems and is provided for your edification and delight only.