How does a carnivore diet affect hormones?
The two biggest changes you’ll see are high levels of stress hormones and reduced thyroid function, both from eating zero carbohydrates. Your body will pump out more cortisol and catecholamines to keep blood glucose levels stable and the fatty acid supply from fat tissue rolling. However, this can harm bone and blood vessel health over the long-term.
As for thyroid, Insulin signaling facilitates the conversion of T4 to T3, so low-carbohydrate diets that cause adaptive insulin resistance impair thyroid conversion. Similarly, the high cortisol levels caused from eating carnivore impair thyroid signaling from the pituitary gland. So, not only is overall thyroid production potentially reduced, but conversion of storage thyroid (T4) to active thyroid (T3) is inhibited.
How does a carnivore diet affect the gut?
Quite simply: the complete removal of fibers from the diet facilitates the creation of a harmful microbiome in two ways: (1) bacteria feed on the carbohydrate-rich mucus of the intestinal wall, facilitating intestinal permeability (leaky gut), and (2) bacteria feed on peptides and amino acids from dietary protein that lead to the creation of harmful metabolites like phenols, ammonia, and thiols.
On top of all that, the bacteria that normally produce beneficial metabolites like short-chain fatty acids, particularly butyrate, die off. If the carnivore diet is followed for long enough, they’ll literally become extinct with no hope of returning.
So, your bloating, gas, and other annoying GI symptoms might resolve on this elimination diet, but you’re setting yourself up for long-term problems if you follow the diet indefinitely.
How can we avoid these problems?
The simple solution is to eat carnivore-approved sources of carbohydrate, like dairy products and honey, while also supplementing fermentable fibers and prebiotics, like partially hydrolyzed guar gum, soluble corn fiber, and resistant starch. This can help offset the negative effects on hormones and intestinal health by supplying you with carbohydrates and fiber.
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This is the second of a 3-part series on the carnivore diet. You can find the others here & here.
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