Hi there! My name is Esmée La Fleur, and this is my best friend and soulmate “Sasha” The German Shepherd Dog.
In 1986, at the age of 16, I decided to become a vegan for ethical reasons. I did not like the way commercial ranching operations treated the animals they were raising for food. I also did not like the idea of killing another living being to feed myself, especially if it wasn’t necessary for my own survival. Over the next 10 years, my health gradually deteriorated until I was forced to drop out of Mount Holyoke College where I was studying Medical Anthropology on a full academic scholarship. I was finally diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by Dr. Paul Cheney in 1996, at the age of 26.
Besides experiencing fatigue so extreme that taking a shower was a monumental effort, my main difficulties involved food. Pretty much every thing I ate made me feel terrible. I tried every conceivable way of eating from raw foods to macrobiotics to the paleolithic diet of modern hunter-gatherers. The only time I felt even half way decent was when I stopped eating all together and drank just water. As a result, I have done many water-only fasts over the past 20 years lasting anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks in length. By 2003, I hit a very low point both physically and mentally. I weighed only 87 lbs. and was pretty close to ending my earthly existence.
However, I was inspired to try Redwood Hill Farm’s goat milk yogurt and found that I could eat it without feeling like I wanted to kill myself. For the next two years, I ate only goat milk yogurt and raspberries. The raspberries were somewhat problematic, but I continued to eat them because they provided vitamin C and other nutrients considered to be essential for human health. I tried other fruits from time-to-time, but they all made me uncontrollably hungry. After two years on yogurt and raspberries, I had regained 20 lbs. and was feeling better. But, the yogurt just did not feel satisfying to me anymore. I ate every 2-3 hours, but I still felt hungry all the time.
At this point, I decided to try eating raw beef with olive oil or coconut oil. I did not think it was possible to get all the nutrients I needed only from the meat, so I also ate raw leafy greens. This diet worked well enough for me that I followed it for another two years. I still experienced unpleasant physical symptoms after eating and – over time – they gradually became more pronounced the longer I continued to eat this way. I was reacting to the olive oil and coconut oil, more than the beef or greens, but I thought the problem was “fat” in general rather than plant fats in particular. It never even occurred to me to try eating the meat with an animal fat like butter which I now regret. I tried eating the meat by itself without any add fat, but – since I was eating lean grassfed beef – that did not provide enough calories.
Frustrated, I went off in an entirely new dietary direction: fruitarianism. On one level this was a complete disaster, but on another level it was extremely clarifying. It helped me to realize just how bad fructose is for the liver, even when it comes from whole natural fruit. I discovered the works of Dr. Robert Lustig, Dr. Richard Johnson, and Dr. Frank Lyons II which helped me to understand why fruit made me feel so incredibly awful. I was out of ideas at this point, so I decided to return to the goat milk yogurt. It was not perfect, but better than any thing else I had tried up to that point.
After another year on yogurt and raspberries, I felt like my body again needed rest from food. However, certain responsibilities made it impossible for me to do a water-only fast, so I decided to do a juice fast using only celery and lettuce. In other words, no sweet vegetables or fruits. I ended up remaining on this juice fast for a total of 63 days. I felt fantastic the entire time. While I was on this juice fast, I stumbled upon Jimmy Moore‘s book Keto Clarity which summarizes all of the most important research to date on the therapeutic aspects of a well-formulated ketogenic diet. I then read and listened to everything I could find regarding the powerful benefits of nutritional ketosis and keto-adaption.
After ending my juice fast, I transitioned to a ketogenic diet. I started with just bone broth and butter, no solid food. I had a terrible migraine headache for the first 10 days. I have been having migraines with increasing frequency over the past few years, but never have I had one that lasted for 10 days. It felt to me like I was going through some kind of withdrawal. Once the headache was gone, I began experimenting with a variety of keto-compatible foods: cheese, eggs, meat, heavy cream, butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and low carbohydrate vegetables and leafy greens, as well as fermented foods like sauerkraut and sour cream.
Even though eating the allowed foods got me into a state of nutritional ketosis, I did not feel very good after eating any of them. Needless to say, this was discouraging – but I did not give up. I kept searching for answers. Eventually, I found a blog by a young woman named Amber who eats a diet of only meat and water. She arrived at her diet after spending a number years following a low-carb, ketogenic diet and experiencing only so-so results. When she finally made the decision to remove all plant foods from her diet, not only did she lose unwanted body fat, she also lost her Biopolar illness! It seems that something present in plant foods was actually causing her mental instability. Once she eliminated all plant foods, she no longer needed to take medication. She has shared her story on her blog Empirica: Part 1 and Part 2
As it turns out, there are many different chemical toxins that plants create to protect themselves from herbivorous predators. These chemicals change the way a plant tastes and discourage over-grazing. Salicylates are one such chemical toxin, and they are present – with few exceptions – in almost all plant foods to one degree or another. Interestingly, two vegetables with the lowest level of salicylates are celery and lettuce which I used for my juice fast. Olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado – foods traditionally included in a well-formulated ketogenic diet – all have very high levels of salicylates.
People with impaired mitochondrial function are unable to properly breakdown and detoxify salicylates from their body, resulting in what is known as salicylate intolerance. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome involves mitochondrial dysfunction. I finally found the common thread connecting all of my bizarre reactions to so many different foods. The only way for me to avoid salicylates is to remove all plant foods from my diet. I figured that if Amber has been successfully and safely eating a diet free of all plant foods for 5 years, it wouldn’t kill me to try it for a month.
So I quickly moved from a general very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet to what is known by some as a zero carbohydrate diet. However, zero carb is a bit of misnomer; it would really be more accurate to call is a zero plants diet. Zero carb-ers confine their food choices to the animal kingdom, while eschewing foods from the plant kingdom. They consider meat, eggs, cheese, cream, and butter to all be fair game. They do not drink milk because of it’s high sugar content. However, there is a subset of zero carb-er who eat only meat and eggs or even just meat, foregoing cheese and cream because they find it addictive and dislike the way it makes them feel.
For the first month on zero carb, I ate cheese. But I did not feel very good after eating it, and I also found it to be addictive. I always seemed to be left feeling unsatisfied and wanting more. Therefore, I removed it from my available choices. Matters were complicated by the fact that I did not feel all that well after eating meat either. I tried chicken, turkey, and beef, as well as whole eggs, but all of these foods produced negative symptoms. The only zero carb foods I could eat without too much trouble was raw egg yolks and cream. This was frustrating because I knew my body really wanted and needed meat. I found beef to be incredibly satisfying but – each time I tried it – it gave me a migraine headache and made me feel hungover.
Finally, thanks again to Amber, I discovered that some people also have a difficult time breaking down and detoxifying histamines. Histamines are present in aged and fermented foods, such as cheese, wine, meat, and sauerkraut, as well as in foods that have been cryovac’d in plastic. Most of the meats sold in the big supermarkets have been both aged and cryovac’d and – therefore – contain very high levels of histamines. Now I finally understood why the beef and other meats – as well as the cheese and sour cream – I tried were making me feel bad. Incidentally, I know from past experiments that wine and sauerkraut also affect me negatively. Finding fresh, unaged, non-cryovac’d meat is a bit of a challenge, and it took me several weeks to secure a local source.
I finally found some some unaged meat at a small independent butcher shop. However, it has been cryovac’d for shipping purposes. Nevertheless, I felt it was worth a try and the difference in how I felt after eating it – compared to it’s aged counterpart – was significant enough that I knew I discovered another piece to the puzzle of my strange food sensitivities. It turns out that healthy mitochondrial function is also needed to breakdown and detoxify the histamines present in aged and fermented foods.
Once I found a safe meat I could eat, I made the decision to follow the advice of Amber and several other long-term zero carb-ers to eat only meat and drink only water for 30 days. Essentially, it is the Zen version of the Paleolithic diet! By eliminating all other variables, it creates a clear baseline for comparison if you should decide to reintroduce dairy back into your diet. Most of those who have been practicing zero carb eating for a significant length of time say they feel best on a diet of only meat and water. Within a mere three days of making this decision, I knew there was no going back. This is not just a diet; it is a way of life.
Since I discovered the Facebook group Zeroing In On Health, founded by several long-term zero carb-ers, I have met numerous individuals who have been living entirely on meat and water for anywhere from 5 -18 years, and have even given birth to and raised children on this diet. You can read about Kelly’s personal journey on her blog My Zero Carb Life. Clearly, the importance of fruits and vegetables and even fiber in the diet has been highly over-rated. In fact, according to Dr. Georgia Ede, MEAT contains ALL of the nutrients that humans need for optimal well-being. This makes perfect sense when you remember that a diet of only meat and water is, after all, the Original Human Diet.
It has been a long and interesting journey, but it sure is nice to finally be home.