Updated: Aug 12
About 2 years ago, I started the carnivore diet in hopes of seeing improvements from severe chronic illness. I was very, very sick and had been diagnosed with ehlers-danlos syndrome, dysautonomia, chiari malformation, chronic fatigue and pain, etc (the list goes on).
The improvements I've seen from eating an animal-based diet have been numerous, but in this article, I'm going to focus on skin—as I don't discuss this very often and get lots of questions about it.
My skin used to be very stretchy, sensitive, and prone to severe bruising and sunburn. When I got little cuts or scrapes, it would take forever for them to heal. For a time, I broke out in hives all over my body nearly everyday due to mast cell reactions.
When I first started the carnivore diet, it certainly wasn't easy, but I was desperate for health improvements. In the first 6 months, I actually experienced what's called oxalate dumping. If you're unfamiliar with oxalates, I'd recommend checking out Dr. Sally Norton's work. I could literally see little oxalate crystals coming out of my skin on my arms and legs.
At times I even had small welts all over my legs from the oxalate dumping, but I was starting to see improvements in other areas, so I continued. I stopped getting hives from mast cell reactions after a few months of carnivore. Eventually, the oxalate dumping slowed down after about 6-12 months of doing the carnivore diet.
After the one year mark, I started to notice some gradual but significant changes and improvements in my skin. I wasn't getting sunburns, rashes, hives, or bruising nearly as frequently. Lately my husband made a comment that my skin is no longer as stretchy/translucent as it used to be.
I hadn't given a lot of thought to the skin improvements I've seen because those were not my most debilitating symptoms, but it truly is amazing. I'm so grateful!
I know many people in the EDS community are under the impression that dietary collagen can't help EDS patients, but I beg to differ. I had pretty darn severe EDS and have seen massive healing from foods like bone broth, meat stock, and cuts of meat rich in connective tissue. For a time, my body craved things like grass-fed chuck roast, ox tail, or bone broth because of their high amounts of collagen. I started noticing this about 8-10 months into doing the carnivore diet—so it didn't happen quickly. But I could tell my body needed it.
I'd highly recommend reading the books "Gut & Physiology Syndrome" by Dr. Natasha McBride and "Deep Nutrition" by Dr. Care Shanahan. Both books have excellent sections on connective tissue disorders and the importance of collagen in the diet. I'm not talking about collagen supplements, but collagen from home-cooked meals and broths (not to say that supplements can't help some people, but nothing can replace getting nutrients in from your diet).
Remember, hEDS is just a clinical diagnosis—it's essentially a collection of symptoms that doctors have labeled as an "incurable genetic disease". I believe its very damaging they tell patients this and truly believe healing and recovery is possible. This is not at all to invalidate someone's symptoms or experience with illness (trust me, I know how bad it can get).
I feel this message of hope is so important to share, but I am aware not everyone will agree with me, and that's okay. Take what I say with a grain of salt and make sure to do your own research/form your own opinions! But remember, it's okay to question what doctors say—they don't know everything, and its very evident they are failing most chronic illness patients.
Personally I believe EDS could have more of an autoimmune/inflammatory pattern than a true genetic pattern (again, this is just my opinion/theory). It's becoming so common so quickly. I love how the Spero Clinic describes EDS and like conditions (reference here). "Genes may determine predisposition, but they don't determine destiny". Our bodies were designed to heal!
I've gotten many messages from EDS patients that are seeing dramatic improvements with animal-based diets and nervous system regulation (ex. brain retraining), so I know I'm not the only one. Keep believing healing is possible, my friends! It can make all of the difference. I'm always rooting for you and cheering you on!