How I solved my Gallstone attacks cold by adopting a carnivore diet.
“You have a large gallstone embedded in your gallbladder,” my doctor said. “Luckily, it’s too large to get stuck in your biliary tract.”
I’ve never really had any health issues before. Now, all of a sudden I was getting pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, and now a gallstone diagnosis. Something in the back of my mind was saying that these were somehow all related.
In addition, I was just about to embark upon a journey through South America, and afterwards to Southeast Asia. How could I continue given these health issues?
“It’s possible to live your entire life with a gallstone, in fact, many people do, and do not have any symptoms,” my doctor continued.
She said she’d schedule a talk with a gallstone surgeon the next week.
The surgeon looked straight out of central casting — silver grey hair, looked fit and trim. Explained everything clearly, not domineering or forceful in any way. Must be how you get when you do five to fifteen surgeries at $5,000 per surgery per day, I thought. A mansion and a couple porsches go a long way to allay the boredom one must feel in doing the same damn lucrative surgery day in, and day out.
“Gallbladder removal is the gold standard solution to gallstone pain,” he said.
How about alternative treatments?
“Not recommended, as gallstones tend to come back.”
Would you recommend this surgery to a loved one if they had gallstones?
“I no longer answer that question, because everyone’s situation is different.”
Gee, for such a straightforward seeming surgery, you’re kind of dodging this question for a reason, I’m thinking.
“…and we won’t know for sure that the gallstone is even the issue for your pain until we remove it.”
Greeeaaat, I thought. The expert is telling me even with the ultrasound, and tests, and my under the right ribcage pain, that he doesn’t know squat.
Might be a gallstone, might be something altogether different.
I left thinking: there’s no f*cking way I was going through with this. I needed to see if there was a dietary solution.
Gallstones were made from cholesterol crystalizing from the bile. It seemed to happen when not enough fat is eaten, leaving the excess bile to stay collected in the gallbladder, solidifying into a gallstone.
I had just started intermittent fasting, doing a version called OMAD, or One Meal A Day, eating as much food in one sitting as I wanted, fasting the remaining 23 hours before eating again. This solved my pre-diabetes/Type 2 diabetes. Not eating for extended periods of time lowers your blood sugar, as well as your insulin resistance, effectively “curing” a condition many people believe is incurable.
Now, extended fasting has been linked to the formation of gallstones, again mainly from bile just sitting in the gallbladder waiting for some fat to come by so they can release the extra bile to emulsify it. When there’s no fat in the diet (fasting) it just sits and calcifies into a stone.
Fasting might have been a contributor to my gallstones, and if this was the case then eating (or non-eating) got me into this, then diet could get me out.
Despite the occasional pain, I decided to go travel the world anyway. During that time, I experienced attacks every 4–6 months or so. The pain would usually hit me right after I tried to sleep, keeping me awake for 2–3 hours, before subsiding enough to allow me to sleep. Deep-fried foods seemed to be a factor. I once had an entire blender full of an avocado shake in Peru that also set it off. Extreme amounts of fat seem to do it.
But, if low or no fat creates gallstones, why is fat triggering attacks?
After returning from my travels, I went back to Colorado where my parents, strict vegans, lived.
After a couple weeks I started having attacks. After the agony of staying awake for 5 hours from midnight to 5am, the next day I would examine what I ate the day before and tried to figure out what hit me. Fish and chips do it. Fritos in canned cheesy sauce caused me pain. What I found curious, though, was that the couple of times I went camping, I ate a ton of meat — rack of ribs one time, burgers another — no issues.
Again, every 2–3 days I would again get attacks. Something about the vegan diet I was eating at my parent’s home was triggering attacks. I kept trying to figure out the cause.
Pinpointing the Cause
The one thing I could point to was that on a restrictive vegan diet, the staple was grains. Sandwiches with grain. Meat substitutes made from grains — wheat gluten and also from legumes like soy beans. It was essentially a high grain, low fat, low protein diet. Also, low vitamin and minerals.
I needed a cure. The last attack lasted 10 hours. My doctor told me if an attack lasted over 5 hours then I had best get to a hospital. And their “gold standard” solution that I knew would be recommended was: surgery.
Outpatient, routine, send you home right after minor surgery. And then a lifetime without a non-essential organ.
“Non-essential?” I’ll make that call, thank you very little!
I needed to continue to research and experiment.
I tried the forums and what they told me was to drink a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. The infamous “Gallstone flush.” I rejected that so-called “solution”— there was no evidence that it worked, and the “stones” once tested, turned out to be solidified olive oil — not gallstones.
ACV, or Apple Cider Vinegar, a Tablespoon or 2 with water was supposed to stop attacks in 15 minutes, and dissolve stones all by themselves. I drank this religiously, but it didn’t make a dent. When you are already in the throes of an attack, drinking a vinegar flavored glass of water is a literal insult to injury.
I had a little success with something called “Stone Breaker” — Chanca Piedra (in Spanish I assume). But, even while taking them I had an attack that the capsules only took the edge off.
Then, I found some research that made me think I may have found a solution.
“In this 12 year prospective cohort study among men, we found that a high intake of carbohydrate was positively associated with the risk of symptomatic gall stone disease.”
And another…Gallstone formation during weight-reduction dieting, from a National Institute of Health study:
51 men in Low fat low calorie diet — 13 formed gallstones. Over 1 in 4 got gallstones.
“Eleven of the 13 patients with gallstones were followed up for 6 months after discontinuation of the diet. Besides the 3 undergoing cholecystectomy, 4 subjects had gallstones on follow-up ultrasound examination, while sonographically detectable gallstones had disappeared in 4 subjects. We conclude that this form of weight-reduction dieting predisposes to the development of gallstones and that gallstone formation is a risk of this type of prolonged calorie restriction. Dissolution or evacuation of gallstones may occur with resumption of a normal diet.”
Holy guacamole Batman! So, as part of this study, in order to be included you had to be tested for the absence of gallstones. The study doesn’t list the particulars of the diet plan, but I’m assuming a low fat, low calorie diet. The reason I say this is because of the studies that did result in gallstones low fat low calorie was the type of diet that led to a high incidence of gallstones.
What is not mentioned is that resuming a “normal diet” would presumably be opposite of the conditions that induced the stones, or: higher in fat, higher in calories.
Another study through neujm.org tested if the use of aspirin or ursodeoxycholic acid could prevent the formation of gallstones. They studied 19 overweight people, tested to be clear of stones. Using an extremely low fat, low calorie diet they induced gallstones. After 16 weeks, five people (again 1 in 4) developed gallstones.
In another NIH study, a low fat diet induced gallstones in 6 of 11 people in the study, over one in two.
“Twenty-two (69%) subjects concluded the study, eleven in each group, and a significant weight loss was achieved by all subjects. Gallstones (asymptomatic) developed in 6/11 (54.5%) (P < 0.01) of subjects following the lower fat diet, but in none with the higher fat regimen.”
Those that ate higher fat did not develop gallstones.
Finally, in Sweden, 145 people with gallstones, after following a LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) diet, 68% said their gallstones completely disappeared.
The Possible Cure
Knowing a cause (Low Calorie, Low Fat), and a presumable cure (Low Carb, High Fat), I had in my mind an experiment that I could embark upon. But, to give you a better idea of my state of mind, I had been suffering about a month of attacks every 2–3 days. Around 10 attacks in a single month, the last one lasting over ten hours. I was ready to do anything short of murder to solve this. That, or go under the knife myself.
And then I saw a video of Mikhaila Petersen, daughter of the psychology professor Jordan Petersen, who, after suffering from multiple physical issues: arthritic symptoms at 16 months, juvenile RA, wheelchair bound, chronic depression, itchy skin, fatigue, hip and ankle replaced as a teen, hypomanic, and on and on. Here, watch it yourself:
Her cure? A carnivore diet. Meat and water (in her case, beef specifically). Not just helped her, it cured her.
An all meat diet? Extreme? Maybe. Was I desperate? Yes.
Remember, I was looking for a full stop to this whole thing. Carbs looked to be a cause of the formation of gallstones, and I figured it could also be inducing attacks through a mechanism I didn’t quite understand. An all meat diet would also be the ultimate elimination diet. In case it was a certain food, or class of foods (like dairy), with an all meat diet I would start with not just a single type of food: meat, and just do a single type of meat: beef.
And so the next day, I went completely beef. And the result?
No attack that night. And no attacks for the next 30 days.
Around the two week mark I started experimenting with other types of meats: chicken, ham, eggs. And then heavy whipping cream. Then olives and avocados.
No more attacks.
Frankly, I’ve been hesitant to go beyond these parameters. To have a sandwich with bread and then to have an attack just doesn’t seem to be worth the test. I know avoiding carbs by being 90% meat based solved for the attacks. I could feel the inflammation go down, and hope return.
And then I saw the Amazon Prime documentary The Perfect Human Diet, which convinced me, at least for now, that a meat based diet is the proper human diet. The one we were born and bred to eat. The one most natural to the human species. The evidence being millions of years in the historic record.
In the past, I was a vegetarian for 13 years. Within those 13 years I was a strict vegan for 5. I know what it’s like to eat for moral, and environmental reasons. But when pain is part of the equation, pain then becomes the thin red line between agony and the blissful state of no-pain. Short of surgery I was willing to do anything. Short of cannibalism I would do it.
And I would do it without a quantum of regret.
For more, you can read my update after 3 months following the carnivore diet: https://medium.com/@patricksingson/gallstone-attacks-solved-through-carnivore-diet-ae16d568aefa
Hopefully, my story helps you, the ones suffering. My disclaimer in this increasingly litigious society: I am not a health professional. This diet helped me, but may not help you. Do so at your own risk. That being said, the result was nigh well miraculous to me, and if you suffer as well then maybe this will help you too. In a few months to a year I will do another ultrasound to see if I was able to dissolve my gallstone. Until then, I wish you good health, and good luck!