Exploring the carnivore diet: a gut health perspective

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By Tanzil Miah

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A newly popular diet

In recent years, the carnivore diet has gained popularity among health enthusiasts. At its core, the carnivore diet is remarkably simple: it’s all about consuming only animal products. This means your plate is filled exclusively with meat, fish, eggs, and some dairy products. But what does this mean for our gut health?

What is the carnivore diet?

A photo of a variety of foods labelled as a 'balanced diet' with all plant based foods crossed out with a red 'X'

The carnivore diet is a form of extreme elimination diet. By removing plant-based foods, advocates claim it can lead to weight loss, improved mental clarity, and reduced inflammation. However, it’s crucial to delve deeper into the science behind these claims, especially considering the pivotal role that a varied diet plays in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.

Gut health and diversity

Our gut is home to trillions of microbes, which thrive on diversity. A diet rich in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, provides an array of fibres that nourish these beneficial microbes. Research consistently shows that a diverse microbiome is associated with better health outcomes, including improved digestion, immunity, and even mood regulation.

The carnivore diet and the gut microbiome

A person holding a printed illustration of the small and large intestine surrounded by fruits and vegetablesWhen we switch to a carnivore diet, we drastically reduce our intake of dietary fibre. Fibre is the primary fuel for our gut bacteria, particularly those producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate, which are essential for gut health. A lack of fibre can lead to a decrease in microbial diversity and potentially have negative effects on the gut barrier, which protects us from harmful pathogens.

Potential Risks

  1. Nutrient Deficiencies: A carnivore diet excludes many nutrient-dense foods. This exclusion can lead to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, magnesium, and folate to name a few.
  2. Digestive Issues: The absence of fibre might initially reduce bloating and gas, but over time, it can cause constipation and other digestive issues.
  3. Long-Term Health: The long-term impact of a fibre-free diet on heart health, colon health, and overall well-being remains largely unexplored.

Balance and moderation

While some may experience short-term benefits on the carnivore diet, it’s essential to consider the long-term implications for overall health and gut microbiome diversity. Instead of completely eliminating plant-based foods, striving for a balanced diet that includes a variety of whole foods can offer the best of both worlds. This approach not only supports a healthy gut but also ensures you get a wide range of nutrients necessary for overall well-being.

Practical tips for a gut-friendly diet

  1. Variety is Key: Aim to include a rainbow of plant-based foods in your diet. Each colour represents different phytonutrients that benefit your gut and overall health.
  2. Fibre-Rich Foods: Incorporate high-fibre foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These feed your gut bacteria and promote a healthy microbiome.
  3. Probiotic Foods: Include fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi to introduce beneficial bacteria to your gut.
  4. Moderation with Meat: While meat can be part of a healthy diet, it’s beneficial to balance it with plenty of plant-based foods to ensure a diverse nutrient intake.
  5. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how different foods make you feel. Gut health is highly individual, so what works for one person might not work for another.
An illustration of a person next to a shopping basket full of vegetables


The carnivore diet may offer short-term benefits for some, but it’s important to consider its potential long-term effects on gut health. Embracing a diverse diet rich in both animal and plant-based foods can provide the nutrients needed for a healthy gut and overall well-being. Remember, the journey to optimal health is about balance and listening to your body’s needs.

By focusing on diversity and moderation, we can support our gut microbiome and enjoy a vibrant, healthy life.

This article was authored by Tanzil Miah, a gut, IBD and surgery conditions specialist dietitian. Do you need support with a symptom, condition or goal? You can book an appointment with Tanzil Miah or any member of our specialist team here.


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