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Why to Not Eat Organ Meats is also an article about why I personally stopped eating organ meats after many years, and how my health was affected by organ meats.
Because different organs have different nutrients, this article does not assume that all organ meats are unhealthy in the same ways. While one organ may be quite high in vitamin A, another one isn’t; but it may be high in copper.
Overall, this article espouses that most organ meats are not healthy, and looks at why.
Why organ meat is recommended
Organ meat is recommended by many health gurus because it is nutrient-dense in certain respects: iron, B vitamins as well as other vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fats (brain meat).
If some researchers have misunderstood the components in organ meats, they are also full of vitamins and compounds that are dangerous when eaten in large amounts: vitamins A, D, E, the mineral copper and purines.
Organ meats eaten in other countries
Which countries have the longest life spans in recent history? Hong Kong. Japan. Macao. Switzerland. Singapore. Italy. Some individuals in these cultures occasionally eat organ meats, but they are not staples of the diet.
What these countries’ diets have in common are actually restful mealtimes, plenty of clean protein, especially fish, refined grains (white rice and bread made without processed ingredients) and zero emphasis on “super-foods”. (These countries also have many lifestyle choices in common.)
Native cultures are often cited as being a good model for eating organ meats, but there is no evidence that they ate a lot of organ meat — that helped them live longer or without disease.
American doctors are not authorities on the subject of nutrition
The fact is: Americans are not healthy. (We rank 46th for life span.)
U.S. doctors should not be defining what is healthy, partially because we are too arrogant. We create diets for healing, and instead of calling them theories, we call them fact. The people who follow these diets are guinea pigs in an experiment that isn’t rightly defined as such.
There is no scientific data for “eating the rainbow” and lots of organ meat, how this affects patients long term … except for the fact that low oxalate and low vitamin A groups are full of people who became toxic eating this kind of “traditional” diet.
Countries like Finland, in contrast, have recommended their citizens avoid eating liver and other high sources of vitamin A to avoid the related health risks.
Most organ meats do not taste good
If most of these body parts do not taste like delicious food to most people, perhaps we have one more clue that most organ meats aren’t food.
Organs are now marketed to us in capsules, not only for convenience, but also because they are unpalatable for most people.
Why to Not Eat Organ Meats: My story
As someone who enjoys a mostly Ancestral diet — meaning no processed foods or refined sugars, whole foods grown without
pesticides, pastured meats, raw dairy and predigestion of certain ingredients — I started out eating organ meats and saw some energy benefits from the high dose of B vitamins.
Dangers of eating liver
Some of the symptoms I experienced are common side effects of organ meat toxicity.
Other dangers include liver damage, diarrhea, mental confusion, irritability, nausea, vomiting, inflammation, leg pain, blisters, hair and weight loss, skin peeling, reduced semen quality, headaches, obesity, growth retardation and orange tint to the skin. (sources 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
My main source of organ meats was liver pills. I took 3 to 6 pills a day for years. I stopped noticing any benefit from them energy-wise, but I continued because we’re told they’re: a great source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids — essentially the food form of a multivitamin.
Let’s look at dosage recommendations and what levels cause toxicity!
What dose of organ meat causes toxicity
As a study of 41 cases of vitamin A toxicity concluded, “The data also indicate that prolonged and continuous consumption of doses in the low ‘therapeutic’ range can result in life-threatening liver damage.”
Many wellness diets espouse eating large amounts of regular organ meat. What do we mean when we say large amounts? The surprising fact here is that individuals have varying tolerances. But certainly repeated doses over the course of weeks and years is toxic.
Standard recommendations have patients eating 3 grams of desiccated liver daily, which contains just under 1000 IUs of vitamin A, or 1 ounce of fresh liver.
Some sources recommend 20 grams of fresh organ meat daily.
Organ meat math
At the recommended dose, it only takes 22 days to eat a pound of liver. That means it only takes about 1/3 of a year to eat an entire 5 pound liver — the size of a small moose liver, which is known to be highly toxic.
The liver can not detox excess vitamin A fast enough to prevent toxicity — whether eaten all at once or taken in high supplemental doses over time.
Eating an entire liver causes acute vitamin A toxicity, can cause death, or require years of recovery.
Therefore, organ meat math says: it only takes about 4 months to consume toxic amounts of vitamin A as a regular daily supplement.
If you’ve eaten organ meat or supplemented for 4 months, it sounds to me like your liver is full of it and needs to detox. What happens if you don’t? The body continues to store vitamin A, but in new and surrounding tissues to protect you from it.
But eventually this consumption catches up with us.
Vitamin A toxicity
Let’s look more closely at the concept of chronic vitamin A toxicity.
I was taking the best organ meat supplements — not just liver, but also kidney, marrow and brain, to name a few. All from two great companies who source their animals well.
What I didn’t put together at the time is that just like someone can suffer from acute vitamin A toxicity, from eating too much liver all at once, a well-documented occurrence, chronic vitamin A toxicity is also a real and common danger. That might sound dramatic, but our liver is only so big, and it stores vitamin A. Once it’s full, the toxicity spills over to our other tissues.
Similarly, in order for the liver to “process” vitamin A, it actually detoxes it through the same means it detoxes glyphosate and other poisons. But it can only process it so quickly. If more is coming in than what’s able to be ushered out, you have toxicity.
As WebMD says,
It is possible, and even dangerous, to consume too much vitamin A. Eating large amounts of liver can lead to symptoms of vitamin A toxicity. Your own liver cannot process the excess vitamin A quickly enough, so eating a significant amount of liver regularly might lead to hypervitaminosis A.
The original rat studies on vitamin A showing it was important for wellness were based on one test poorly designed by scientists who didn’t understand the precursors of vitamin A. The rats were poisoned with high doses of vitamin A through precursors of it, and it was concluded they died from a lack of the vitamin instead of toxicity.
What happens to the body on the a low vitamin A diet
You can read more about the Vitamin A detox diet and the concept in general here.
I have spent the last three years detoxing vitamin A, and far from being dead like the rats, I am in my best health since having children — with renewed strength and all of my autoimmune diseases in remission (I’ve had 5, not to mention an incurable bladder disease, also in remission).
Interestingly, there are hundreds like me in low vitamin A support groups. These groups are full of people who became toxic from vitamin A while doing the Wahls Protocol, a Weston A. Price style traditional diet, the Carnivore diet with organ meats included, the GAPS diet, while taking Accutane (topical vitamin A medication for acne) or otherwise “eating the rainbow“.
Reduced thyroid function with long term organ meat intake
For me, one of the wonders of going on a low vitamin A diet was no longer needing thyroid medication.
Due to reduced stress and intentional living, I had already been in the process of putting Hashimoto’s into remission. But my doctor wanted me on small amounts of thyroid intermittently, especially during winter months. After starting the low A diet, my energy and mood increased, and I no longer needed the supplement at all.
Of course, this is in contrast to most people’s thinking, that vitamin A boosts the thyroid.
While organ meats may provide a temporary boost in energy, due to their high levels of B vitamins, minerals and/or iron, I would observe that vitamin A catches up with those strides — and ends up dragging energy levels back down.
Read more here about how and why vitamin A reduces thyroid function — and thus: organ meat reduces thyroid function.
Purines and uric acid from organ meats
It’s no longer popular in wellness circles to oppose the consumption of organ meats. They’re just so highly esteemed in the current paradigm for what are considered nutrient-dense foods.
That’s why when a functional medical doctor reluctantly advises cutting out organ meats, we ought to hear why.
Dr. David Perlmutter is a neurologist who now specializes in uric acid and its negative effects on the body. He zeroes in on alcohol, fructose and purines as the culprits. Purines are a food compound that raise uric acid in the body. His suggestion is to isolate foods that deliver a lot of purines and limit these foods:
… organ foods, organ meats like liver and kidney … (source)
Wellness advisors are very good at focussing on the benefits of organ meats, but they do not honestly look at the other compounds found in these tissues. So here we have one: purines, which can lead to high levels of uric acid.
Not enough wellness practitioners have yet admitted this controversy: their recommendation to increase organ meats contradicts the existence of purines and the damage they cause. Purines from organ meat can’t be disputed, so no one should eat them regularly.
How I discovered this concept was through a swollen, painful toe joint. I researched the cause of what some call arthritis and others call gout, and found that elevated uric acid is one culprit.
Elevated uric acid is now linked to these conditions: PCOS, blood sugar problems and diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.
So then, why would we knowingly eat a food rich in purines, organ meat, when we can find plenty of B vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in good tasting, definitely safe foods? We do not need organ meats to get well, and in fact, I believe they are making us sicker.
Purines are one more reason why.
Liver, heart, kidney and brains are high in copper.
Copper is one controversial mineral. I won’t get into arguing with certain wellness practitioners who claim copper is needed for optimum health.
I will say that zinc is a copper antagonist: zinc balances copper. But when you have too much copper, it can undermine your zinc levels:
Unlike zinc, copper can readily accumulate in the body into toxic concentrations. In order to maintain adequate zinc levels, a higher dose of zinc compared to copper is required daily … proper intake of copper to zinc should be a 1:8 ratio. When properly concentrated in the right balance, zinc behaves like the bigger brother blocking copper in food and in the body from being absorbed. (source)
Zinc is incredibly important to the body, much like Magnesium. No one’s going to argue about taking these two minerals; they’re essential and for many people should be supplemented. (source)
So to keep the point simple: too much copper throws off one’s zinc levels = not good.
Eating a lot of organ meat — liver, heart or kidney — will raise copper levels in the body and throw off that 1:8 ratio.
Vitamins D and E in organ meats
Organ meats are high in vitamin D
The best way to get vitamin D is from the sun. The body knows how to convert sunlight into this nutrient so it is usable by the body.
When consumed through food or supplement, it raises levels of vitamin D in the blood. This signals the body to balance vitamin D levels with calcium. So calcium is pulled from bones to compensate. Foods high in vitamin D do not necessarily allow the body to assimilate the vitamin. (source)
While small amounts of vitamin D from foods is normal and fine, organ meats high in vitamin D may create weaker bones and an imbalance of vitamins and minerals in the body over time.
Organ meats are high in vitamin E
- Vitamin E may protect the body from vitamin A toxicity by causing its storage in the liver (and so reducing its blood levels and symptoms temporarily).
- The body produces antibodies (a toxin response) to vitamin E used in shots. (source)
- Vitamin E depletes vitamin K. (source)
- This so called vitamin is detoxed and excreted through the same pathways as chemical toxins. It is treated as a toxin by the body. (source)
- Pectin, a known binder of toxins, grabs onto not only vitamin A, but also vitamin E, reducing levels in the body. (source)
Supplementing with vitamin E is much more serious, but eating regular amounts of foods that are high in vitamin E doesn’t seem advisable. Organ meats are touted as being an excellent source of vitamin E.
Eating a lot of organ meats = high vitamin E intake.
Why are organ meats bad for you
In conclusion, while organ meats do offer a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals and protein, they also contain concentrated amounts of compounds that are dangerous when eaten in large volumes:
- purines — Known to cause gout, purines in organ meats increase uric acid, endangering blood sugar levels, neurological and cardiovascular health and causing inflammation.
- vitamin A — Pulling out this one food compound from my diet allowed me to overcome depression, MCAS (extreme histamine intolerance), endometriosis and to fully put my Hashimoto’s into remission. Since going on a low vitamin A diet, my body has been able to restore itself. Excess vitamin A causes problems with skin, kidney, thyroid, mental health and more.
- copper — Too much copper is toxic to the body and reduces zinc levels. Zinc is needed for over 300 functions in the body.
- vitamins D and E — Consuming vitamin D hormone throws off calcium levels in the bones and may also cause potassium wasting. It is possible that vitamin E is a toxin, and the body treats it as such. Eating foods high in vitamin E may not be advisable.
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