Meat can be a really healthy, protein-packed staple in your diet, but it doesn't necessarily work for all body types and metabolisms. Knowing if there are signs your body doesn't digest meat well can help you eat smart and feel more comfortable. There are certain foods that trigger an intolerance or sensitivity, and unless recognized, you might experience irregular bowels, head pains, body aches, and other debilitating symptoms.
As a certified health coach, I learned that there's no one diet that fits all. Eating meat isn't a requisite for a healthy and happy lifestyle, and while someone might thrive when eating a meat heavy diet, another person might notice pains and abdominal discomfort. Anything that throws the body out of balance can cause problems, and food is a common trigger for such instability. If you find that you can't tolerate meat, it's not a diet buster, as you can still find protein and iron in plant-based sources and will probably feel a lot better. Here are 11 signs that your body can't process meat well, and you should avoid it as best as possible.
If you notice bloating after eating meat, it could be a sign of malabsorption and be representative of a failure to digest food properly. Abdominal distention and an overall feeling of fatigue after eating meat is a large enough reason to eliminate it and see if you feel better.
According to Rachna Govani, CEO and co-founder of Foodstand over email with Bustle, "nausea, heartburn, and indigestion" could be to blame for not digesting meat well, and these symptoms can prove to be incredibly uncomfortable. If you feel sick to your stomach during work, you'll have a harder time concentrating and being productive. Swap meat for a salad for lunch.
3. Excessive Portions
"One reason people may have trouble digesting meat is that portion sizes are usually much too large," explains Govani. "A portion of meat should be ~3 oz or the size of your palm. But if you've ever gone to a steak house (or literally any restaurant), the serving sizes are at least double. Consuming portions that are too large could be a culprit," Govani adds.
4. Poor Chewing
"People may not be able to digest meat if they are not chewing their food enough. It's harder for the stomach to break down meat than plant foods," explains Govani. "This is why we recommend people join our One Bite at a Time challenge, which will teach you to chew more, slow down, and eventually eat more appropriate portion sizes that could help control some of these painful experiences," adds Govani.
5. Occurrence Of Food-borne Illnesses
If you're not able to digest meat well, you might find yourself getting sick more often, especially with foodborne illnesses, such as Salmonella and E. Coli. If your immunity is decreasing, it could be due to eating meat and a failure to digest properly.
6. High Blood Pressure
"One important problem you may not feel – high blood pressure. High blood pressure can be silent, and still cause damage," says Neil Grimmer, founder of Habit over email with Bustle. "Eating more vegetables tends to lower blood pressure. But a vegetarian DASH diet is the best. If you are one of the millions of Americans with high blood pressure, this may be a good sign that you’d do better cutting back on meat," Grimmer adds.
"Every person has a unique digestive system that functions based not only on their genetics but also heavily on their dietary habits as well. I've found more and more clients complaining about indigestion and constipation post red meat consumption which may be related to a variety of factors," says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, over email with Bustle. "For instance, depending on the cut of meat, some are exceptionally high in fat. Fat takes longer to digest in the body so it may cause indigestion based on the other foods you are consuming during the meal. Constipation may be a result of the high iron typically found in red meats which can be constipating for some," Shaw explains.
8. Dark Circles Under The Eyes
Dark circles don't just come from a poor night's sleep. Apparently, not digesting meat properly can mess with your beauty regimen, too. "If you get dark cycles under your eyes after eating meat, especially the next day it's a sign the meat has not been digested properly," says nutritional expert and author of "The Earth Diet," and "10-Minute Recipes" published by Hay House, Liana Werner-Gray, over email with Bustle.
9. Bad Body Odors & Breath
"Bad breath and body odor are both signs that your body isn't digesting meat properly. If meat isn't digested properly, the smelly odor can go back into the digestive system which eventually makes its way to the skin and breath," explains Werner-Gray. "If this is the case try taking digestive enzymes to help break it down so it doesn't accumulate a bad smell in your gut," Werner-Gray recommends.
"If you feel really sluggish and tired after eating meat it's a sign your body doesn't properly digest meat. It's a sign that the meat is stuck in your bowels and actually draining energy from your body working it off to digest it," advises Werner-Gray. Furthermore, "if you feel like you have a brick in your gut for days after eating meat, it's a sign you are not digesting meat properly," Werner-Gray adds.
11. Muscle Loss
According to Dr. Partha Nandi M.D., F.A.C.P, creator and host of the Emmy-award winning medical lifestyle television show, “Ask Dr. Nandi” and Chief Health Editor at WXYZ-TV (ABC) Detroit, over email with Bustle, "signs that your body doesn't properly digest meat include nausea and vomiting and fatigue after eating meat. Also, you may experience loss of muscle, problems with your immune system and liver."
If you notice any of these symptoms after eating meat, it might be wise to alter your diet and try more plant-based foods to see if there's an improvement. It might seem scary to give up meat, but your healthy lifestyle won't suffer if you know how to eat right and fuel yourself.