Monday, January 24, 2011

My Intestinal Saga, Part 4: Gurus and Rotten Meat

Rotting meat in mason jars.
So there I was.  It was late summer 2006.  The sweltering Tucson sun beat down on the city relentlessly.  White tail doves could be heard flapping and cooing on rooftops and power lines, and the cicadas' symphony was in full swing.  I sat inside, bathing in the cool air of the swamp cooler, a plate of raw ground beef sitting in front of me.  I took a bite.  It went down easy.  I took another and my body screamed for more and more -- so I fed it.  I followed the meat with a few spoonfuls of raw, "unheated," honey and some raw butter.  I was satisfied like I hadn't felt in years.  And it was all thanks to a man by the odd name of Aajonus Vonderplanitz and his book, The Recipe For Living Without Disease.  In this book, Vonderplanitz outlined the key to optimal health and vitality through food, and it enthralled me.  Raw meat, unheated honey, raw dairy, raw vegetable juices -- these were the ingredients to becoming well again, and I had no problem eating all I wanted and enjoying the heck out of it.  My family and friends were somewhat worried about me at his point.  Salmonella, E. Coli, and countless other bacteria existed in raw food products -- how would this negatively affect my health, particularly my already stressed out gut?  Surely I would get food poisoning at the very least.  And straight butter?  Heart attack city!  Well, after several weeks of the eating all of the foods suggested by the quirky Aajonus, I was happy to report that I had absolutely no problems.  In fact, I had more energy than I could remember feeling in my whole life.  Then I thought, "Hmm.  I wonder if I could feel even healthier?"

Aajonus Vonderplanitz believed if raw meat was healthy, then rotten or "high" meat is probably even healthier.  The Inuit traditionally enjoyed rotted flesh as part of their diet, and so did many cultures around the world.  I was insanely curious about this.  Would it feel good in my body?  Or would I get really sick?  So I began making "high" meat -- filling mason jars with sliced up beef and airing them out every few days.  Oddly enough, the rotten smell that developed over a few weeks began to please my senses.  It smelled good, it looked good -- I couldn't wait to eat it.  Then the day came when it was ready.  So I took a jar filled with rotting, slimy meat outside, opened it, and reached in for my first taste of this supposed health elixir.  I loved it.  Weird, I know.  It just tasted way good for some reason.  Although the little white beads on the meat that had developed over the weeks somewhat disturbed me.  Were these some kind of worm eggs or something?  Was I ingesting parasites?  Well, even if I was, Mr. Vonderplanitz assured me in his book that they would merely detox my body and consume my unneeded intestinal wastes.  Win-win for me and my little worm buddies.  They get to eat and I get better!  Oh lord, I have done some interesting things in my life, and this one is up there on the list.

Again, much to my surprise, the most shocking thing that happened was -- well, that nothing happened.  I remained healthy and feeling quite good overall on my raw and rotten diet.  After a few months of this "primal diet," I encountered something even more alluring in my continual research: the raw paleo diet.  I joined a forum where there were a handful of folks experimenting with this diet -- consisting of nothing but raw meat and fat -- and experiencing great results.  (Apparently these folks still exist.)  Their stance on eating mostly organ meats made a lot of sense to me, as this was where the most nutrients exist, and if my goal was optimal health, well then I wanted all the nutrients I could get, gosh darn it!  I began the raw paleo diet with enthusiasm, picking up raw liver and raw beef fat from the butcher at a local organic foods store.  Damn, did that stuff taste good to me.  I swear, at the time, the liver tasted like chocolate and the beef fat tasted like ice cream.  Soon I was gorging on kidneys, spleens, tongues, and any other raw offal I could get my grubby little hands on.

Pretty soon I realized that zero-carb, raw paleo was the way to go (naturally, right?).  I felt great -- well, for the most part.  My back pain was pretty much gone at this point, but I seemed to have developed hard stools from the sudden transition to zero carbs + zero fiber.  Not only that, but I began to see fat chunks in my stool, which, at first I thought were gall stones until, ahem, closer inspection.  There also was this "heavy" feeling in my body at times, like I was walking underwater.  Also, another problem --chest pain -- came about when I started to try to eat only one large meal a day, as some folks on the raw paleo forum were suggesting as the optimal eating pattern.  It would sort of come and go and actually wasn't too bad ... until I tried to do some push-ups -- ouch.  I thought I was having a heart attack.  I calmed myself and decided that maybe it was just some kind of strain.  It hurt horribly for two days.

The Bear
During my raw paleo stint, I was also floating around the Active Low-Carber forum and talking with some zero-carb folks on there.  (You can probably still look up my posts; just search for my username, "rk900.")  We were a ragtag bunch of wandering souls.  There were people who swore that the only thing that kept their weight stable was absolutely no carbs -- not even too many eggs or liver.  Others were on the paleo bandwagon.  Still others were curious about the diet, but were not bought in due to fears of losing their cherished carbohydrates.  I felt proud to be one of the few who was practicing full-on paleo zero-carb, just as primitive humans had done for millions of years before me (or so I thought).  Then, all of the sudden a post appeared: "The real human diet is a totally carnivorous one."  The author of the post was a man simply known as "The Bear."  It began:

I have been eating the natural human dietary regime for over 47 years now. I do not eat anything whatsoever from vegetable sources. The only things veggie I use are spices. My diet is usually 60% fat and 40% protein by calories. I used to eat 80/20 when younger and about twice as much quantity of meat also, but that seems too much energy at my age, which is 71- even though I am very active. I think the body actually becomes more efficient with energy as you age, but I have no way of proving it true. Otherwise, my body today is very like it was at the age of 30. I figure most of what we call 'aging' is due to insulin damage to the collagen and other body structures. No carbs = no insulin. I don't heal quite as fast when injured as I did as a youngster, however. But I have few wrinkles, and my skin is still strong and elastic.

The guru had arrived.  Responses came pouring in.  The Bear had answers for everything.  His healthy 47 years of experience with the zero-carb "regime" proved that modern humans could live well on such a diet without problems.  There was a very strong divide on the forum: some loved him and others thought he was full of crap.  One guy even started a dedicated blog on the "Zero Carb Path."  The Bear validated everything I believed at the time, and I followed guru's advice on eating and living well.  I still had the aforementioned problems with my gut, but decided that I felt better than any other time in my life, so I continued on "the path."

The saga continues in Part 5, coming soon.


Anonymous said...

It's funny you should post this now as I just received Recipe for Living Without Disease in the mail today. Ever since the mad cow scare I have been paranoid about raw meat until very recently. The closest I've gotten so far is a raw egg and a seared steak.

Amy said...

I'm glad that you're writing about this in such an honest manner.

I remember when I did low-carb. I thought it was great, never felt better. But, the reality was my digestion suffered immensely. I'd overdose on magnesium just to keep things kind of moving.

I'd like to worry about eating a healthy diet that a group of people on the internet followed, but I've found I have to eat what works for my digestion. Being pain free is my biggest concern, now.

It's weird because now I can feel my intestines processing food. I used to think that it was normal to feel like a hot air balloon was trapped inside of me trying to rip my intestines a part.

I've had excellent success with low foodmap/fructose malabsorption. Even though what people who follow low foodmap can and can't eat varies significantly. It's not a very uniform group.

I hope you find or have found something that improves your back pain.

Ryan Koch @ Health Matters to Me said...


Good luck with that! It's certainly an interesting approach to diet and has no doubt aided people in getting healthier.


I completely relate to your situation, as I have had to find what works for me, as well. I really wish I could eat gobs of meat and fat, but the reality is that my body can only handle so much -- probably due to the compromised digestion I've had most of my life. Like you, I thought my bloating and pain was "normal" and that everybody dealt with these things. It was pretty amazing to realize otherwise!

As for my back pain, it's completely gone and has been ever since beginning the meat and fat experiment mentioned above. I'll post why I think this is in an upcoming blog entry.

Kei said...

It's great that you're writing about your experiences concerning your diet/digestion, whether positive or negative. Some other bloggers are not as open.

I experimented with a partial raw paleo diet for fun last year but stopped due to social reasons. I tried rotten meat too. I find the taste barely tolerable as long as I pinch my nose.

Gurus can offer insight but at the same time, pose a danger to followers who can not or are unwilling to take time to research, experiment, and think for themselves especially when the guru is hostile to other viewpoints supported by significant evidence.'The Bear' is no exception.

Cooking does not eliminate the prions that lead to mad cow disease. The health of the animals rather than the degree of cooking is the issue here. Healthy animals i.e. properly fed non-feedlot animals have a close to zero chance of having mad cow's disease.

Dr. L.I.F.E. said...

I know this is a late post, but I am currently reading "In Defense of Food" and in it the author, Michael Pollan makes a point that I agree with. He says we have to be careful about making claims about changes in diet without noting what else we have changed. I can believe that you introduced rotten "high" meat into your diet but what else did you continue to eat as well or did you also introduce with it? This is important to know what may have been interacting with the new variable. Thanks!