How do I know if I have meat intolerance?

Have you ever experienced vomiting or diarrhoea whenever you eat meat? Do you feel dizzy whenever you consume beef? If you answered in the affirmative, you may have meat intolerance. 

Meat Intolerance Explained

Meat intolerance refers to your body’s difficulty in digesting meat (beef, lamb, and pork) and experiencing adverse physical reactions to them. 

This condition, while not life-threatening, could be a sign of other issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease

Meat intolerance has several causes:

  • Inadequate chewing: If you don’t chew meat properly, your digestive system may have a hard time processing huge chunks of it. Try taking smaller bites of meat so you can digest it properly.
  • Insufficient fibre intake: You may experience meat intolerance if your diet is low in fibre, which is an invaluable digestion aid. Eating plenty of fibre-rich vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, spinach, and broccoli will help you tolerate meat better.
  • Large portion sizes: Eating huge portions of meat such as steak or ribs can cause meat intolerance. It can take your digestive system two days to digest meat because its fat and protein content contain complex molecules. Eating smaller portion sizes should help your body digest meat properly.  

Meat Intolerance vs Meat Allergy

Meat intolerance is not the same as meat allergy. The latter is an allergic reaction to red meat such as lamb, pork, and beef. It’s also known as alpha-gal syndrome, red meat allergy, or mammalian meat allergy (MMA). Unlike meat intolerance which is a digestive issue, meat allergy concerns your immune system and can be life-threatening. 

What are the Symptoms of Meat Intolerance?

Symptoms of meat intolerance include:

  • Bloating: Eating huge amounts of meat can slow down the elimination of waste from your stomach. This, in turn, may cause bloating
  • Nausea: This is one of the most common symptoms of meat intolerance. If your stomach feels uneasy after consuming meat, it could be a sign your body isn’t digesting it properly. 
  • Fatigue: Meat intolerance may cause your bowels to get stuck, giving you a heavy feeling in your gut which makes you feel tired. 
  • Weaker immunity: Red meat has a natural sugar known as Neu5Gc. Since the human body doesn’t produce it, it considers this sugar as a foreign invader. When your body cannot tolerate meat, you may experience a toxic immune reaction which weakens your immunity and makes you susceptible to various ailments. 
  • Bad breath/body odour: Improperly-digested meat has a foul odour that will eventually get released through your mouth and pores 
  • High blood pressure: Too much sodium in the meat you consume may result in hypertension which is a leading cause of heart attacks and strokes. 
  • Dark circles under the eyes: Your body will try to produce antibodies to expel meat particles in your bloodstream which it considers as foreign invaders. This defence mechanism may produce an unwanted side effect – dark circles under your eyes. 
  • Constant hunger pangs: Whenever you eat too much protein and not enough carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels decrease. The end result: you feel constant hunger.
  • Constipation: Red meat has high iron content. If your digestive system retains too much iron, you may feel constipated

How Do I Get Tested for Meat Intolerance?

If you suspect you have meat intolerance, seek professional help. Set an appointment with your doctor or dietitian. These specialists will ask you which meats you ate, the specific symptoms you felt, and how long it took for them to appear.

One way to test intolerance for a particular food such as meat is the trial elimination diet. If you suspect you have meat intolerance, your dietitian may ask you to exclude meat sources from your diet one at a time. He will then determine if your symptoms improve in the next two to six weeks. 

Your dietitian will ask you to consume meat again after that time frame to see if your symptoms reappear. This will help determine your specific threshold for meat. 

What Should I Do If I Have Meat Intolerance?

If your doctor or dietitian determines you have meat intolerance, you should avoid consuming the particular meat which triggered your symptoms. Take the necessary precautions when eating out. Cook your own food as often as possible. Not only is this a safer alternative, but it’s also cheaper.

Instead of eating beef, pork, or lamb, try consuming plant-based protein sources such as lentils, quinoa, kidney beans, chickpeas, eggs, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, and edamame. 

Using A Food Diary to Identify Your Meat Intolerance 

We recommend using a food diary to help you identify exactly which meat triggers your symptoms and how that particular food affects you. Your food diary will also help your doctor or dietitian develop the most suitable intervention plan for you. 

Need Our Help?

Do you want the help of an expert regarding your meat intolerance? Set an appointment with one of our accredited nutritionists or dietitians by phone on (07) 3071-7405 between 8am and 6pm on weekdays or send us an enquiry.