Before we start, I want to clarify that a significant change in dietary behavior should be monitored and tracked objectively. Two weeks into the Carnivore Diet, I sat down with a Dietician and told her I’ve essentially cut out all vegetables, have less than 50g of Carbohydrates a day, and eat primarily muscle and organ meat.
Fortunately for me, she was also curious on the impact this diet would have on my body composition and blood panel. I still track my progress today and will be discussing more about my results in the coming weeks.
You won’t know where you’ve gone unless you measured where you came from.
Over the past 90 days, I’ve essentially cut out all fiber (minus the occasional avocado). Long story short - I have glorious and regular bowel movements and suffer minimally from bloating or constipation. I also don’t have gas. Considering this was a chief complaint of my ex-wife, this is a radical change. (I’m really here to save marriages…)
“But Lance, isn’t fiber healthy?!?”
Take a moment and think about everything you’ve been told about fiber.. You can’t poop without it, you need it for a healthy gut, it reduces constipation, it helps with weight loss, you need 7-11 servings of whole grains everyday, etc…
It’s pretty clear that the people establishing these recommendations want you to consume fiber liberally.
These misconceptions date back to the 1970’s when Dr. Denis Burkitt hypothesized that rising rates of diverticulosis (pouching/inflamed colon disease that you don’t want)) in the Western populations were due to a lack of fiber in the diet. His observation was based on the rates of this condition being much lower in the high-fiber consuming peoples of rural Africa. His notion gained widespread acceptance in the medical community and is entrenched in many of the dietary recommendations you hear today.
When we talk about a healthy gut, there is no scientific consensus that we need plant fiber to establish a robust level of diversity in our microbiome. For some, fiber can actually promote the overgrowth of the wrong types of bacteria in the small intestine known as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This is often associated with constipation, gas, bloating, etc. The reality is that, just like deep sea, there is still so much that we don’t know about the gut – the jury is still out.
There is an observance of a lower microbial diversity in the western culture, but how much of this is from the ingestion of sugars, oxidized vegetable oils, and inflammatory food allergens like gluten? (almost exclusively from plant foods, by the way!)
But without fiber, I won’t poop…
But you will. Though studies with fiber have been shown to increase the frequency and size of your stool (just like late night taco bell), they do not show improvements in stool consistency, ease of passage, discomfort, or bleeding.1
Interestingly enough, the removal of plant fiber has been shown to improve constipation.
In an interventional study of 41 patients with constipation (I’m sure they all bonded over this fact), that were divided into three groups who ingested high-, low-, and zero-fiber diets. You can guess what I’m about to say next..
“..patients who completely stopped fiber intake had their bowel frequency increased from one motion in 3.75 d (+/- 1.59 d) to one motion in 1.0 d (+/- 0.00 d)…There was no change in the frequency of bowel movement for patients who continued with high dietary fiber intake.”2
The zero-fiber diet, NOT the high fiber diet, allowed these poor souls to get back to the joy of a daily bowel movement!
“In addition to frequency, symptoms of bloating and abdominal pain only improved in patients who stopped fiber completely while those who continued on a high-fiber diet did not show any improvement.”
What about glucose and metabolism?
180 men and women with diabetes and pre-diabetes were given either 15 grams of fiber with a high-fiber diet or a placebo with a standard diet for one year. A1c was taken throughout (measure of blood glucose over the past 90 days) and although the high fiber group measured a slightly lower A1c, there was no statistical significance leading to the conclusion: “no evidence for a beneficial effect of insoluble fiber on glucose metabolism.”3
We’ve just scratched the surface here and I understand these notions fly in the face of “common” knowledge and recommendations, but with any new information, I challenge you to adopt a scientific mindset. Seek the information, test the theory, and use objective results to measure the outcome.
The current nutrition recommendations for the general population are not made with optimizing performance in mind. Sadly, these are often more influenced by profit and politics than they are geared toward finding the truth.
We’ve got a lot of ground to cover but my goal is to is to educate as I share my experience. Hopefully you’ll take this opportunity to survey your dietary habits and potentially make a few changes along the way that could improve your quality of life!
1. Yang, Jing et al. “Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: a meta analysis.” World journal of gastroenterology vol. 18,48 (2012): 7378-83. doi:10.3748/wjg.v18.i48.7378
2. Ho, Kok-Sun et al. “Stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and its associated symptoms.” World journal of gastroenterology vol. 18,33 (2012): 4593-6. doi:10.3748/wjg.v18.i33.4593
3. Honsek, Caroline et al. “Fibre supplementation for the prevention of type 2 diabetes and improvement of glucose metabolism: the randomised controlled Optimal Fibre Trial (OptiFiT).” Diabetologia vol. 61,6 (2018): 1295-1305. doi:10.1007/s00125-018-4582-6