Why Do You Eat Your Meat Raw?

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Why Do You Eat Your Meat Raw?

It seems like almost every week that a new person who has stumbled into our Zero Carb Facebook group Principia Carnivora asks this question. Since it comes up so often, I have decided to take some time to articulate my personal reasons for choosing raw meat over cooked meat.

When I first started a Zero Carb diet 21 months ago on January 1, 2015, I began with a wide variety of animal foods: eggs, cheese, butter, cream, bone broth, chicken, pork, and beef. All of it cooked. I really struggled with Zero Carb in the beginning because I simply did not feel that good no matter what I ate. Removing all plant foods from my diet certainly helped, but I was still experiencing a lot of negative symptoms from the animal foods I was eating. The biggest symptom with the most impact on my quality of life is chronic migraine headaches.

About 6 months into my Zero Carb journey, I finally discovered that I am histamine intolerant. Histamines are in all aged and fermented foods, as well as eggs and any foods that are slow-cooked, and this is why I have continued to struggle with chronic migraine headaches on a Zero Carb diet. One-by-one, I removed everything from my diet except for beef. And even with the beef, I have to make sure that I get it as fresh as possible and use it immediately. The longer beef – or any meat – is aged, the more histamines it will contain. The longer a steak sits on the shelf after being cut off of a main primal piece by the butcher, the more histamines it will contain.

All last winter (2015-2016), I was eating very lightly pan-fried fatty beef chuck roast steaks. And when I say lightly, I mean 30-60 seconds per side, leaving the meat blue-rare inside. This was working to some extent, but I did not feel all that good. In fact, I got a terrible cold virus last winter that came back three separate times! I literally never get viruses, so to have the same one three times in just a few months was both very worrisome and very unpleasant. The last time I had a virus prior to this was in the winter of 1999-2000, when – incidentally – I was also eating a fair amount of cooked meat (one of my earlier attempts to escape veganism, LOL!).

So, I knew I should be eating my meat raw, but the cold, wet winter and the state of my mind at the time, were really making it difficult for me to do this. Once the weather warmed up a bit, however, I decided to give fresh raw ground beef another try. After a few weeks, I got used to it and then the taste of the cooked meat wasn’t all that enticing any more. Nevertheless, I continued to have a cooked meal here and there, very rarely. But each time I did this – I noticed that 1) I did not feel as well after eating the cooked meat as I did after eating the raw meat; 2) I did not digest the cooked meat as well as I digested the raw meat; and 3) I could tolerate much more fat when I ate it raw verses cooked.

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LEM Big Bite #12 All Stainless Steel Meat Grinder

One of the things I have personally found very helpful on my Zero Carb Journey is periodic fasts. I have completed three separate 16-day fasts (each were a combination of water and dry) over the past 21 months. Each of these fasts has helped me quite significantly. Histamines build up in the body over time and fasting is the single most effective method I have discovered to allow my body to eliminate them from “storage.” When the meat I can normally eat without issue begins to give me migraine headaches, then I know my histamine “bucket” is full so-to-speak and it is time for another fast.

I just completed my most recent 16-day fast a week ago. It went really well. But coming off the fast has been both challenging and enlightening. First, I decided to experiment with Fiji water and it gave me a migraine headache and caused me to feel generally crappy. This tells me that the company adds minerals to the Fiji water, which is implied but not directly stated on the label. I am 100% certain of this because I felt exactly the same way as I always feel after taking any supplements of any kind. They all make me very very very sick just like the Fiji water did.

After I recovered from the Fiji water debacle, I decided to try cooking my meat one night. I had broken my fast 6 days earlier and – up to that point – I had eaten only raw ground beef according to my usual custom. Although I am kind of unhappy with myself for choosing to cook my meat this night, I gained an enormous amount of clarity about what my body does and does not like due to this unhappy choice. So, ultimately, the experience was an extremely valuable one because of the new knowledge it brought me.

Needless to say, my body had a very negative response to the cooked meat. I started getting a migraine headache within a few hours of eating it and, 3-days later, I am still suffering the consequences. The next morning, lymph nodes throughout my body were incredibly painful. The effects from eating the cooked meat were so bad, that I actually had to go back on a short dry fast to give my body a chance to work through it. I tried eating my normal fresh raw ground beef the next day, but that just made the migraine headache and lymphatic inflammation worse.

This is one of the reasons I am such a huge advocate for both fasting and doing a bare bones version of the Zero Carb diet if you are new to this way of eating. There are so many potential variables when you eat any and all animal foods that there is really no way to tell how you are responding to them if you include them all indiscriminately. If you start with just fatty beef and water, then you have removed all of the most potentially problematic foods in one fell swoop. After you have eaten only beef and water for 30-days, you can then test other Zero Carb foods one at a time to see how you do with them.

Fasting takes this process one step further by eliminating all food for a period of time. This way when you add back a food, whether from a basic beef and water diet or from a fully fasted state, your body can give you a much clearer response to whatever food you are testing. This is what happened to me with this last fast I did. Being away from any cooked meat for a while prior to the fast, and then doing a long fast, made it considerably easier for my body to let me know that it really really really does not like cooked meat.

Prior to this, I was living in a fantasy world that I could sort of go back and forth between raw and occasional cooked – if and when I felt the desire for it – but this experience has shown me just how utterly delusional that idea was! From here on out, I am no longer seeing cooked meat as an option for myself. This was a very powerful transformative “a-ha” moment for me. I will never again choose to eat meat that has been cooked even the tiniest bit. Cooked meat is now in the same category as plant foods: it is no longer a “food” as far as I am concerned.

While some people might find this realization to be even more restrictive than what most would already perceive to be a very restrictive Zero Carb diet, I personally find it quite liberating to have finally reached a very definitive conclusion on this issue. There is no more doubt about it, and it is one less decision I need to make. It is all raw all the way for me!

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Lamb is My New Best Friend

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So, as I wrote in my previous post – My First 4 Months on Zero Carb – I have been eating a diet of only pork for almost 2 months. The reason is because it was the only meat I could find that was both affordable and low in histamines. However, a friend (thank you, you know who you are!) recently sent me a Precision Xtra Ketone and Blood Glucose Meter, so I could start testing myself and see how the Zero Carb diet was affecting me.

When I started testing my blood sugar, I was very surprised to discover that my fasting glucose level was running between 120-140, with a few post-prandial readings as high as 150! Optimum for people eating a carb-based diet is between 70-90. However, for people on a low-to-no carb diet, levels can be a little higher like 100-110 without it posing any threat to one’s health. In fact, this phenomenon is so common among Low and Zero Carb practitioners that Dr. Petro Dobromylskyj wrote a blog post explaining it titled Physiological Insulin Resistance.

Several others in the Zero Carb group I participate in Principia Carnivora who are Type 2 diabetics also noticed that pork seemed to cause their blood sugars to rise beyond the healthy range, between 150-200. Understandably, these kinds of numbers were making them a bit uncomfortable. One woman decided to do an elimination diet by eating only one kind of meat each day. This is how she pinpointed pork as the primary culprit in her higher than normal glucose readings. Chicken also raised her blood sugar someone higher, but nowhere near as high as pork. Beef seemed to be the best of all the meats she tested.

Because of its unusual effect on blood sugar, I decided to take a closer look at pork to see if I figure out why it might be doing this. I ended finding an interesting study done by the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) which showed that fresh pork in particular – as opposed to marinated or aged pork – caused the red blood blood cells of the person who ate it to agglutinate and stack together in an abnormal fashion.

I also learned from Dr. Peter D’Adamo that pork contains a lectin which is a known panhemaglutinan and will agglutinate all blood types on contact. This may account for the observations made in the WAPF study. I wrote a whole post explaining this in more detail titled Pork.

Interestingly, Dr. H. L. Newbold and Dr. James Salisbury – who both prescribed all-meat diets to their sick patients – found that pork was a less than optimal choice. Newbold reports that his patients simply felt less than well after eating pork, but he does not give much detail beyond this.

Salisbury, on the other hand, says that if one tries to live off of only pork for too long, they will develop what he called “meat dyspepsia.” As far as I can understand, meat dyspepsia involves a sort of reverse peristalsis, in which the meat would try to come up rather than go down like it was supposed to. Today, we might call this gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) or simply indigestion.

Salisbury’s understanding of this came from personal experience and clinic observation. He hired a group of young healthy men to eat only one food at a time with him for periods of up to 2 months in order to determine how it would affect the body. What he found was that all meats – except for beef and lamb – would eventually result in this meat dyspepsia if eaten exclusively for too long. He says,

Good fresh beef and mutton stand at the head of all the ailments as foods promotive of human health. Eggs, fish, pork, veal, chickens, turkeys, and game come merely as side dishes: they may be subsisted upon singly for a limited time without bad results. All of these, however, if subsisted upon alone for too long a time… may eventually produce meat dyspepsia… in meat dyspepsia there is more or less distress… about the stomach…

I found this extremely interesting because I seemed to be experiencing more digestive issues with pork the longer I ate it. I did not seem to have much trouble during the first few weeks, but then I started to have increasing trouble with nausea and burping beginning about 2 hours after eating. Because of my histamine sensitivity, I was thinking that my digestive issues were histamine-related.

The pork I was getting was being processed within three day of slaughter, but I was wondering if maybe that was still too many days. I also wondered if perhaps too many histamines were being formed in the meat after I put it in the freezer or while I was thawing it out before cooking. I was feeling confused and a bit overwhelmed by the whole situation to be quite honest.

But after reading the above excerpt from Salisbury’s book The Relation of Alimentation and Disease, I decided to to see if my awesome butchers at The Meat Shop could get me some lamb for comparison. Well, they came through for me once again and got me some fresh lamb that was processed and frozen within 3 days of being slaughtered. This was perfect because now I would be able to test whether or not my reaction to the pork was a histamine issue, or just an issue with the pork itself.

Well, you can imagine my delight when – several hours after eating the lamb – I felt no nausea or digestive distress whatsoever! WOOO-HOOO!!! I cannot tell you what a profoundly negative effect bad digestion can have on one’s mood and mental outlook. Okay, so now that I have clarified this – which is HUGE – I just need to figure out how to create the money I need to be able to afford the lamb on a regular basis.

I was equally delighted to find that after only 2 days of eating lamb, instead of pork, my fasting blood glucose levels have dropped to between 96-113 which is a significant improvement. My post-prandial blood sugar reading last night was was 117.

Based on what Drs. Newbold and Salisbury similarly observed with both themselves and their patients, I imagine that beef would work just as well as lamb for me… if I could find some that was processed within only a few days of being slaughtered and was low in histamines. While I have not yet located a source that fits this criteria, I am sure it is out there somewhere (Ask, and It is Given!), and it is something that I am definitely looking forward to enjoying in the future.

P.S. If you want to learn more about Dr. Salisbury and his Beef and Hot Water diet, I recommend reading Elma Stuart’s book What Must I Do to Get Well? It is a far better presentation of his diet and how to apply it in one’s life than Salisbury’s own laboriously scientific work.