I have always loved experimenting with diets, so when my husband suggested that we start a 30-day carnivore diet challenge the day after the wedding to see if it well help my PCOS symptoms, I knew I was marrying the right man. We became interested in the carnivore diet after hearing Shawn Baker and Jordan Peterson talk about it on Joe Rogan’s podcast, the Joe Rogan Experience. As the universe often has perfect timing, Mikhaila Peterson was on the podcast the day before our wedding, and we listened to it on the way to our honeymoon.
I found this particularly motivating, seeing as she has arthritis and various other health problems that she’s been able to manage through switching to a strictly beef, salt, and water diet that contains zero carbs. As I have anxiety, I struggle with PCOS acne, and I had my period for a year and a half straight until recently (which I’ll explain in more detail shortly) thanks to the fact that I have PCOS, and am estrogen dominant.
It’s safe to say that there are quite a few PCOS-related symptoms that I am busy trying to address, which is especially frustrating if you are as passionate about health as I am. I have done a lot of health research throughout my life, but I just have not learned everything I need to control my PCOS symptoms. Although I did not expect it to solve all of my problems, main concern being acme, the carnivore diet challenge did help me figure out a lot though.
Mikhaila’s story gave me a lot of hope, and I wanted to do the carnivore diet challenge for a month as an elimination diet, so that I could reintroduce foods one by one after the diet in order to see if there are some foods that affect me negatively, and make my PCOS symptoms worse.
The fact that the carnivore diet is also a zero-carb diet, it really sparked my interest, as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is linked with insulin sensitivity, and reducing carbohydrate consumption has helped many women with the condition to fall pregnant and manage some of their symptoms. As I was already on a ketogenic (low-carb, high-fat) diet for a year before I tried the carnivore diet, I want to see if going on a zero-carb diet would reduce my anxiety and PCOS symptoms even further.
The Carnivore Diet Challenge As an Elimination Diet for PCOS Symptoms
While there are people who prefer to be on the carnivore diet permanently, and it does seem to take away Jordan and Mikhaila Peterson’s symptoms, I would not do it long-term. The carnivore diet, where you only eat meat, salt, and water, is a great way to cut out all foods that you might be sensitive to, but never realised were making your symptoms worse. This diet is probably one of the easiest elimination diets you can follow, and you can learn about what is making your symptoms or even anxiety worse by cutting out different variables in your diet.
After a month, you can reintroduce different foods back into you diet at two-day intervals. By taking two days for each food, you can see which foods might be making your symptoms worse.
By going on a zero-carb diet, you also reduce your carbohydrate consumption to practically zero carbs (the most I consumed during the carnivore challenge was 2g of carbs a day), and when your body does not have access to glucose, which it gets from carbs, it will burn stored fat for energy, as long as you are fat adapted.
Your body converts the fat into ketone bodies, which can then be used for energy. A lot of women see big improvements in their PCOS symptoms when they go on a low-carb diet.
I like to think of the carnivore diet as one of the best ways to reset your system, figure out what is worsening your symptoms, and to train your body to rely on fat for fuel.
What I Learned During the Carnivore Diet Challenge, and How it Affected my PCOS Symptoms
I know it’s vain, but my acne is the thing that bothers me most about PCOS. I can handle bleeding for 18 months, but I am struggling to deal with my acne . I was hoping that my acne would clear up, and it did not. I was too optimistic anyway. PCOS is the main cause of my acne, as it increases your androgen levels (male hormones), which trigger the production of excess sebum, which can trap pores, and cause acne. However, it did help me figure out some of the reasons why my acne will not clear up.
Before we did the carnivore diet challenge, I started wondering whether the fact that I was eating too much saturated fat on my ketogenic diet was making my acne and other symptoms worse, which was confirmed on the carnivore diet for me. Whenever I had days that included meat with a lot of fat on it, like pork belly, my acne would get worse. When I realised this halfway through the challenge, I started eating more lean cuts of meat, and had the fatty meat as a small side dish (you do need some saturated fat at least). Doing this made quite a difference.
I also realised that overeating was a big acne trigger, and it also made my anxiety worse (probably because I was stressed about the calories). When you eat a lot more calories than you burn, your body goes into an anabolic state, and your testosterone levels increase. Saturated fat is also used to make testosterone, and seeing as I already have a problem with excess male hormones, it makes a lot of sense that overeating and eating too much saturated fat makes my acne and other symptoms worse. Who knew that all of those years of binge eating made my acne a lot worse than it needed to be.
The great news is that during the carnivore diet challenge, I actually had three separate three-day breaks from my period. For my body, not bleeding for three days is a major victory. A week after the carnivore diet ended, my period stopped for a week and a half! When you basically have chronic PMS, this feels like Christmas. I cried a lot less during the carnivore diet, which could be a sign that my hormones started changing for the better.
I Did the Carnivore Diet Challenge to Help Me with My Relationship with Food
There is also another reason why I wanted to do the Carnivore diet. I am a food addict, which sounds fun, and it is, but not always. I wanted to use the Carnivore diet to help me break up with food in some way. I heard Chris Kresser (also on the Joe Rogan Experience) explain how the potato diet, where you only eat potatoes for a while, helped people lose weight and deal with their food issues. The idea is that eating the same foods over and over again should help take the excitement out of eating, and help you go from living to eat, to eating to live.
I wanted to distance myself from the foods that I tend to binge on. As it turns out, all foods are trigger foods for me. And meat is too delicious for that trick to work on me. In the middle of my carnivore diet challenge, I went through a two-week period where I took “eat as much meat as you want” a little too seriously, and I gained a bit of weight. I am South African after all, and we love meat.
I am very good at gaining weight. I’s safe to say that my experiment of using the Carnivore diet to help me stop binge eating failed. Perhaps I should pick a more boring food if I want to try the same approach again.
At least learning that excess calories makes acne worse has helped me a lot. I have been sticking to a maintenance calorie diet, where I aim to eat as many calories as I burn in a day. My acne has been a lot better since, and I find that the possibility of beautiful skin that is free of acne is a lot more motivating that getting a flat stomach.
One of the most surprising things that I experienced during the carnivore diet challenge was that I basically had no cravings, except for the two minutes that I craved chocolate after watching Monica from Friends make desserts with mockolate in the episode named, “The One with The List”, and the fact that I craved eggs for the last week on the carnivore diet. Many people still include eggs and dairy on the carnivore diet, but as we wanted this to be a strict meat, salt, and water elimination diet, we decided not to include eggs.
After the Carnivore Diet Challenge
Every two days, I get to introduce a new food. So far, I have added almonds, broccoli, eggs (finally), cacao, 100% dark chocolate, coconut oil, and kale. In a moment of weakness, I consumed too much coconut oil, which cause acne, and it felt as though my entire body rejected the kale. Who knew that I’d react badly to kale? It gave me stomach cramps, I was nauseated for days, and my acne flared up. Luckily, kale is not a vegetable that is difficult to part with.
Jonathan, my husband, has extended his carnivore diet. He broke his elbow during the challenge, and had to get an operation to replace the radial head on his elbow. He was given so much medication in the hospital that he wanted to carry on with the carnivore diet to help flush the medicine from his system, so that when he starts reintroducing foods, he can have a clean start.
How to Do the Carnivore Elimination Diet Challenge for Anxiety, Acne, and PCOS
If you want to try the zero-carb carnivore diet as an experiment, and as an elimination diet that can help you identify food sensitivities that could be making things like anxiety worse, I recommend that you try it for at least 30 days, but you can extend it if you feel that it’s necessary. Make sure that you eat fatty cuts of meat, which will help keep you satisfied and keep hunger at bay.
Doing a ketogenic diet before you try the carnivore diet is also a great idea, as it will help your body transition into eating zero carbs. If you go from a standard diet that is high in carbohydrates (and processed food) straight to a diet that contains zero carbs, it will be even more difficult, and your body might react strongly to the withdrawal. It can be done, but it will be a lot harder.
When you do start reintroducing foods, try to stay away from sugar and processed foods. There are quite a few foods that I’d still have on occasion before the carnivore diet challenge that I doubt I’ll ever eat again. Gluten, dairy, soy, trans fats, and sugar are all things that affect me negatively, and they really are not worth the acne and PMS.
Track your symptoms after each new food in a diary or on your phone, as it can be hard to identify trigger foods otherwise.
The Carnivore Diet for PCOS Symptoms, Acne, Anxiety.
My goal is to clear my acne, lower my anxiety, and improve my PCOS symptoms, but in order to do so, I need to get rid of things that are holding me back. This includes foods that make my symptoms worse. The carnivore diet challenge has helped me find a few answers that will help me get closer to managing my anxiety, PCOS symptoms, and acne.
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- What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)? – The Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
- PCOS and The Keto Diet: Choosing a Low-Carb, High-Fat Lifestyle