How The Carnivore Diet Sent Me To The Emergency Room

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Wild Lumens Hospital

Not too long ago I set a goal and committed to the Carnivore Diet.  I wanted to try it out and see if there would be any benefit to my body and mind.  It was recommended on a website to try a 30-day trial to feel it out and to hopefully be able to adapt, as your body and digestive track does go through many changes and a healing process.

For those new to the idea of a Carnivore Diet, it’s pretty simple.  Replace your standard diet with nothing but meat, salt, and water.  For a very comprehensive guide check out this post: Carnivore Diet 101: A Meaty Resource.

The good news is that I made it through the 10 weeks with minimal problems and due to my success I wanted to keep going.

On week 12 I ended up in the Emergency Room with extreme stomach pain, we are talking a 9 out of 10 on the pain scale which is pretty painful.

I believe my pain tolerance to be fairly decent as I have experienced a number of athletic injuries and other health challenges in the past.

So what happened?  Let’s dive into the 10-week experience and see if we can find out.

Meat on a skillet for carnivore diet

Week 1-2

Starting out was very easy as I’m already a fan of meat and downing steaks and burgers is no problem.  I like to get all my meal prep done on Sundays but I wanted to find out the true cost and make this new diet as affordable as possible.

I ended up exploring the prices and qualities of meats at all the closest locations.  I went from Trader Joes to Whole Foods, Ralphs, and then to my local butcher Belcampos.  Some people say grass-fed and grass-finished meat is way better which I tend to agree with so I stuck to that for the most part.  

The higher quality meat is a tad bit more pricey but what I did was split up buying between the before mentioned stores basing the decision on weekly sales and then eventually figuring out that my local butcher was very competitive with the big chain stores so a majority of meat is bought from them.

Check out this comprehensive breakdown of carnivore diet costs called “How to Save Money on the Carnivore Diet.”

It took me a good week to figure out how to cook efficiently and cut times down and I was able to get better and better.   I ended up waking up earlier in the morning to prep a days worth of meat.

Basically burgers and eggs for breakfast, more burgers for lunch and then burgers and some bacon for dinner or vice versa.  I had a system down that would take me 20-30 minutes to prep all the foods.

Since then I made this post to help you out, “How to Meal Prep for the Carnivore Diet.”

Further on in the week, I did notice some keto flu-like symptoms but nothing too crazy.  Just some general low energy issues and I didn’t sleep that well as I was waking up 2-3 times a night.

Looking back I think I should have increased my salt intake.  I was supplementing Magnesium, 1 teaspoon in the morning and 1 at night and also 1/2 a teaspoon before working out.

This is my go-to for Magnesium:

However, I have now learned that these pre-mixed electrolyte powders by Redmond Real Salt called Re-Lyte are perfect.  In fact, they have 3 different flavors but the unflavored one is best for us carnivores.

Just a heads up if you take too much magnesium you will end up with disaster pants if you know what I mean.  Experiment to find your happy place.

Meat for the carnivore diet.

Week 3-10

Everything is cruising along just fine.  I have cooking steaks down to a science.  I’ve become more efficient with my meal prep and noticed that 80% of my diet is grass-fed burgers, both because I like them and also because they are the quickest and easiest item to cook.

For bacon, I cook multi-packs at once on a cookie sheet to save time as well.

Check out, “How To Meal Prep For The Carnivore Diet.”

My body is adjusting and sleep has improved.  My motivation to work out has increased and I feel like I am able to go harder.  On Sundays, for some reason, I get an extra amount of motivation and usually do an intense full-body workout.

Sleep has improved.  I now wake up 1 time per night.  Waking up in the morning is a little easier but then again if I get to bed say 30 minutes later than normal I still feel the difference and wake up a little groggy.

I’ve decided to continue the diet as the repetition of eating is simple and I have a hunch that the benefits of the diet will start to kick in even more.

Wild Lumens Hospital

Week 12 The Drama Kicks In

On Sunday I trained as usual.  Went hard with a full-body workout and finished with 3 sets of pull-ups.  On Tuesday I started feeling a pain on my left side underneath my rib in the stomach area.

Just figured it was something to do with acidity as I had taken some apple cider vinegar that day with a friend had at work.

The next day, Wednesday, the discomfort was still present and I was still assuming it was something to do with my stomach.  I decided to skip butter coffee and just fast for the day which can sometimes help with my stomach issues.  It didn’t really help this time.

Around 3 in the afternoon I broke the fast and headed to Belcampos for some of their Bone Broth figuring maybe the high density of nutrients could possibly heal my stomach.

I sipped and finished about a mason jars worth the rest of the day.

The following day, Thursday, the pain is getting worse and it hurts to breathe, now my mind starts to go negative.

With the worsening of the pain, I start to think that this diet isn’t for me and perhaps my stomach wasn’t able to adapt.  I’m thinking there is too much acid in my system.  Totally unscientific thoughts and my mind goes down into a darkness.

That day at work the pain seemed to increase by the hour and toward 4 in the afternoon I was having problems with taking full breathes.  Due to the inability to take deep breaths and the negative thinking of assuming I may be having a heart attack, (yep my mind went there), I left work early and went to an urgent care.

Arriving at the urgent care I was seen by a doctor and told her I was having pain under my ribs near my stomach and I also mentioned my new diet.

She asked if I felt nauseous or had thrown up or had any stomach bug type symptoms, diarrhea, etc.,  all of which was no.  It was just localized pain in that same area.  We took a chest X-ray and it came back fine, no issues.

Chest X Ray from Carnivore Diet

Next, they took my blood but due to my dislike and fear of blood and needles, I ended up passing out.  Great!  The second time in my life this has happened.

I woke up not knowing where I was and embarrassed I tried to get up quickly.  (The getting up quickly is a key point of the story.)

They give me some water and a lollipop thinking my blood sugar is low. The doc is unable to pinpoint my issue and they said they would have my blood work back the following day and would give me a call to go over it and see if there is any issues.

I was told to take some Advil when I got home for the pain.  I ditched the lollipop and headed home.  Lollipops ain’t carnivore!

On the drive home I notice the pain is getting worse and at a quicker pace. When home I refrain from the Advil as I’m thinking it’s going to mess up all the good progress I’ve made with the diet and the healing that my digestive track has and is going through.

For those that don’t know Advil over time can do a significant amount of damage to your digestive tract and I’ve taken plenty in my lifetime.  Didn’t want to add to that fire.

Now I’m home and unable to get comfortable as the pain is getting very intense.  I can only take short breaths and that seems to be getting worse.

All I want to do is fall asleep and wake up the next day feeling fine but I can’t even get comfortable to do that.  More hours pass as I’m hunched over on the couch just trying to deal with the pain.  By now my mind is going even more negative and I’ve entertained the idea of needing to go the emergency room.

Que that song by the Ghetto Boys called, “My Minds Playing Tricks on Me.”

I send out a warning call to my older brother and mention that I may need a ride over to Cedar Sinai, the closest ER Hospital to me.  He was ready to help out if need be.

It’s now 12:30 at night and I am unable to fall asleep or even lay down.  I call my brother and soon we are headed to the dreadful ER.  This is a clear indication of the amount of pain I was in as that is the last place I would consider going to.

Inner-city ERs lives up to their poor reputation and Cedars is no exception. We arrive and of course there is a line.  Registration was done and I’m on the list.  My brother and I find the least dirty couch to sit on.

Everything about this place sucks, the fluorescent lights suck, the energy sucks and my discomfort sucks.  Due to the late-night timing of my little incident, we were graced with some disturbing entertainment of other patients walking in from the streets.

One kid came in complaining he had been awake for a week due to taking too much meth, he needed a security escort due to his crazy behavior.  

Other people had drug-related challenges as well and every now and then you would see a more casual patient needing something like stitches or a cast for a broken bone.

It’s now 3:30 AM and I am still in the lobby waiting to be seen.  This is really starting to suck.  My brother, God bless him, is still with me and now sleeping on the dirty floor.  I would do anything to be able to do that.

An hour later a nurse comes out calling my name and we are let into the back rooms of the ER.  She asks some questions and pokes my arm with an IV and takes my blood for analysis.  I’m all set up in a gurney and I’m told a doctor will be in shortly.

Unfortunately, the IV didn’t have any pain meds yet so I’m still sitting there in major discomfort.

Waiting and more waiting.

Finally, at 6:00 AM, the doctor is able to pay me a visit.  I give her the low down on my symptoms and briefly mention my carnivore diet experiment and my hypothesis that my stomach has an overflow of acid or I’m having a heart attack.

All this waiting has increased my negative imagination.

After revealing my new diet I can clearly see that she thinks I’m crazy and immediately I get scolded by her for attempting this way to eat.

She dives in with her explanation of why we need a balanced diet of fruits, veggies, and less meat.  I’m starting to believe her and feel the guilt in my ego start to take hold.  Why did I put my body through this?

After our talk, she hooks some kind of pain med through my IV and gives me some prescription-strength Peptobismal style liquid to drink.  A few minutes later the pain meds kick in and I’m able to sit up with a lot less pain, thank God.

I told her I took chest X-Rays the day before and that they didn’t find anything wrong so she ordered a sonogram.

About an hour later I’m carted away to get my insides sonogrammed.  The tech lubed up my stomach and went to town.  I learned a bit about the process and found out she does about 8 of these a day.

After the sonogram, I’m carted back to the ER.  I’m told to wait for the doc once again so that she can go over the results of both the blood work and the sonogram.  It’s now 9:30 AM and she walks in.

We go over the sonogram results first, the great news is that my organs look to be just fine, no abnormalities.

We then go over the blood work and once again nothing is wrong except for some fatty liver issue but the liver is not where I am experiencing pain.  I later learn that blood panels are all over the place.

Basically she is unable to diagnose me with anything and can only recommend I see a Gastrol Intestinal doc as soon as possible.  She gives me a recommendation and writes me a prescription for the chalky liquid and also some other stomach acid type pills.

It’s 10:00 AM when I’m discharged and my brother is still hanging in like a champ.  We head to the pharmacy and I get my meds.  Holy crap they were expensive.  Just dropped a little over a hundred bucks for chalk water.

I finally make it home and end up in my bed.  Sleep has arrived.

Waking up later in the afternoon I notice that the pain meds have worn off and the pain is creeping back in.  Not knowing what is wrong with me is starting to get frustrating.

The negative loop keeps running in my mind and no matter how hard I try I can’t stay positive.

Moving forward I book an appointment with a GI doc set for Tuesday.

Naively assuming my Carnivore Diet created this mess I start to eat only veggie-based foods.  I picked up soups and even veggie broths from the store.

Eating became a mental challenge because I’m thinking no matter what I put in my stomach it’s going to do damage.  That night my pain creeps back up to a 7 or 8 on the pain scale and sleeping is not a possibility.  Another wide awake night and frustration.

Not knowing what to do at this point I have my younger brother drive me to a different Urgent Care.  I’m seen by a doctor quickly and they do another blood test and advise I do another chest X-Ray.

I mentioned to the doc all that I had been through and brought up my diet experiment.  He didn’t think the diet was an issue, (and I didn’t get scolded.)  We get the chest X-Rays back and unfortunately, they did find something on my left lung, the side where I’m having all the pain.

The doc tells me it could be one of three things, infection (pneumonia), partial collapsed lung, or cancer.  We end up leaning on the collapsed lung idea as my inability to take complete breaths may have caused the issue.  

He gets me a prescription for the pain and recommends I get a new chest X-Ray in a few weeks to see if there is any improvement.

Now heading back from the pharmacy once again I take my new pain meds and by the time I get home I’m finally feeling a little better and the drowsiness kicks in.

I pretty much slept the rest of the day.

The next two days the pain in my stomach has become manageable and the pain meds seem to be doing their thing.  In order to sleep, I have to use three pillows and sit almost fully upright, anything less than that still hurts too much to get comfortable.  Sleeping was definitely a challenge.

The negative thinking of my mind continues to torment me, I’m definitely hypochondriac at this point.  I mean one second I’m thinking my stomach has too much acid in it and is burning a hole through the lining and the next second I’m thinking maybe I have a tumor in my lung and somehow it’s creating all the pain.

However, the one hypothesis I was pretty much set on was that my digestive system just couldn’t handle the all-meat diet and this was my body’s way of saying stop.

So I stopped and stocked up on soups and nasty veggie broth again.

Finally, Tuesday rolls around, the day I get to see the Gastrointestinal doctor.  My younger brother drives me to the appointment, I check-in and wait about an hour to see this guy.

Finally, in the examining room, I let the doc know what’s going on and mention the unfortunate adventure of the Cedars Emergency Room fiasco.

I give him the low down on my new diet experiment, let him know I took a shot of Apple Cider Vinegar the day the pain started, mentioned that I worked out really heavy two days prior to the beginning of the pain and also that maybe my lung had an infection due to cleaning my shower’s infestation of mildew.  Basically trying to throw him all the ideas I had.

He asks me to take off my shirt and lay on the examining bed.  I take as many deep breaths as possible and he takes his pen to try and pinpoint all the locations of my stomach and rib cage area.

He helps me get back up and casually lets me know that it’s not my stomach or anything to do with my organs.  The diagnosis is costochondritis which is inflammation of the cartilage in the rib cage.

Holy crap, really?  And what causes this?  Heavy lifting and working out.

One part of me is relieved knowing that nothing major is wrong with me and the other part is like dude, you just went through a bunch of Urgent Care and Emergency Room shenanigans over some inflammation in your rib cage.

The doc finished up by saying I could stop taking whatever crap I was prescribed and that I should be back to normal in a week or two.

Life is always dropping lessons on us and this was a good one.  I think my biggest take away is that you really need to look at your self-talk.  All the pain and discomfort can take you to a dark place and immediately you begin to think of worst-case scenarios.

The other take away is that the Carnivore diet didn’t really almost kill me, the only thing it did was make me want to work out too hard and that’s most likely what caused the inflammation.

My younger brother thinks it was the pull-ups.  Basically I shouldn’t be doing pull-ups because I have a surgically altered should and not enough mobility to do them properly.

Since then I’ve donated my veggies and veggie broth to my veggie eating friends and I’m now back on an extremely carnivorous diet.

My advice to you is that if you do this diet and you get that urge to kill it in the gym perhaps maybe take it down a notch as you too could face a little flare-up of your rib cages cartilage.

Oh yeah chalk this up as an expensive learning lesson as well, I have insurance but the ER visit still cost me over $2200.  Ridiculous.

Updates

Since this little adventure, I have become a carnivore diet coach with Dr. Shawn Baker’s group MeatRX.  Check out MeatRX for some amazing testimonials and book me for an affordable one on one coaching session!  Book me here.

And speaking of Dr. Shawn Baker pick up a copy of his book, “The Carnivore Diet.”

Other Useful Links

We have a fun and exciting YouTube channel that has plenty of motivation and carnivore diet recipes. Wild Lumens YouTube!

In fact, we highlight some amazing carnivore recipes from Jessica Haggard’s book, “The Carnivore Cookbook.”  This book is crucial for a carnivore diet as it exposes you to all sorts of meaty dishes that you would otherwise never know about.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. Consult with and ask your doctor about any diet or medical-related questions. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition.

Andy Storey

Artist, Designer, Sportsman, Athlete and Carnivore Diet Coach at MeatRX. Sharing my adventures in life, health, and wellness one post at a time.

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