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Is red meat hard to digest?

by (209)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:34 PM
Created November 28, 2011 at 11:38 PM

I heard someone say that, is it true and why?

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10768 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

I think your point about 'gut flora you've cultured' is a very important one. +1. Whennn we eat groups of food regularly over time, we adjust to digesting those groups... And so do our gut flora!

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3443 · May 31, 2013 at 8:11 AM

Proteins are broken down by enzymes and HCl in the stomach primarily. Carbohydrates are digested in the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine, primarily.

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19120 · May 08, 2013 at 9:23 PM

The blood type diet is big woo - i.e it's not science at all. Furthermore, it does not follow logically that while people may have different level of enzymes, somehow blood type effects one's diet.

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1634 · December 21, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Thanks for the support, but try not to clutter the answers with comments about them. Instead comment on the answers. *(I didn't give you the down vote since your new here, but figured you deserved an explanation for whoever did)*.

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4124 · November 29, 2011 at 7:23 PM

Keli, that is super. Thanks very much for posting of your success.

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5629 · November 29, 2011 at 6:05 PM

I also eat a VERY low-fiber diet, and I never have trouble with elimination. There will be days where I'm meat only, and when I wake up the next day, like clockwork, it's off to the bathroom with me.

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11142 · November 29, 2011 at 3:00 PM

My n=1: Having had food poisoning back in April, I was so hungry afterwards that I foolishly ate a huge baked sweet potato and steak. That next morning, I wound up puking up the sweet potato (it hadn't even digested--ugh), but there was not a trace of meat in the vomit. I have no doubt that if I'd just eaten the steak I would have been perfectly fine.

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11986 · November 29, 2011 at 12:46 AM

Mmm...don't know about "needing" fiber. A bunch of us zero-carbers (people who don't eat plants) seem to do just fine without fiber. Fat is what seems to help with motility.

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15226 · November 29, 2011 at 12:36 AM

"....you'd be pooping out chunks of meat". I actually lol'd

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11142 · November 29, 2011 at 12:01 AM

I think it traces back to some vegan doctor who claimed that meat "rots in our intestines" or some such nonsense.

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11142 · November 29, 2011 at 12:00 AM

I think it traces back to some vegan doctor or who claimed that meat "rots in our intestines" or some such nonsense.

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11683 · November 28, 2011 at 11:52 PM

I'd also like to know what's the rationale behind this. I have IBS so I avoided red meat for over a decade because i was told it's hard to digest. Turns out, I don't find it hard at all - a lot easier than gassy vegs and grains!

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11683 · November 28, 2011 at 11:52 PM

I'd also like to know as well what is the rationale behind this. I have IBS so I avoided red meat for over a decade because i was told it's hard to digest. Turns out, I don't find it hard at all - a lot easy than gassy vegs and grains!

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23 Answers

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11142 · November 28, 2011 at 11:59 PM

No, that's just vegetarian propaganda at work. We have this stuff in our stomachs called HCI (hydrochloric acid) which begins breaking down food after we chew and swallow it. It can dissolve metals, and our entire digestive system, from saliva to colon, is geared to digest meat as well as plants, not one or the other exclusively.

If meat were "hard to digest", you'd be pooping out chunks of meat and have massive stomach cramping and all sorts of issues. Alas, meat is completely digestable, and what your poop is really comprised of is insoluble fiber (from plants, no less!), dead bacteria, mucus, and any remaining undigested food (short transit time).

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89
3443 · May 31, 2013 at 8:11 AM

Proteins are broken down by enzymes and HCl in the stomach primarily. Carbohydrates are digested in the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine, primarily.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e
11142 · November 29, 2011 at 3:00 PM

My n=1: Having had food poisoning back in April, I was so hungry afterwards that I foolishly ate a huge baked sweet potato and steak. That next morning, I wound up puking up the sweet potato (it hadn't even digested--ugh), but there was not a trace of meat in the vomit. I have no doubt that if I'd just eaten the steak I would have been perfectly fine.

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661
15226 · November 29, 2011 at 12:36 AM

"....you'd be pooping out chunks of meat". I actually lol'd

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2565 · November 29, 2011 at 1:24 AM

It all depends on the condition of your health. If you're deficient in hcl acid and pancreatic enzymes and have dysbiosis/leaky gut, it'll be harder for you to digest. If you have a properly functioning digestive system it's not hard to digest, it just has a longer transit time than carbs do through the gut, which isn't a bad thing if you're trying to eat less since it keeps you fuller longer. As someone else mentioned, our gut is designed by evolution to eat both meat and plants, the problem is many people nowadays do things to their body that it wasn't designed to handle, causing an inability to function the way it's supposed to. The red meat/saturated fat myth has been thoroughly debunked, check out other posts about that. Of course if you listen to anyone in the media or conventional medicine they'll tell you the opposite, but they just believed what they were taught without doing any research on their own.

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15385 · November 29, 2011 at 4:41 AM

Speaking for myself, red meat actually settles my stomach. It is easy for me to digest, in fact it helps me to digest other things too. This is not as true if it is cooked well done, only if it is rare. I understand that not everyone has the same experience, but clearly something about my system is well adapted to red meat.

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5135 · November 29, 2011 at 1:58 AM

I've seen plenty of undigested food come out in my stool; corn, spinach, thai noodles (sorry for TMI). I've never seen undigested meat in there. The whole "meat rots in your colon" thing is straight up vegan propaganda and shows what we're up against in the effort to get the paleo viewpoint out in the world.

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6418 · November 29, 2011 at 12:29 AM

There is a huge, ingrained bias against red meat. Various camps and motives are behind this.

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115 · November 29, 2011 at 3:43 PM

I cured my IBS after eliminating grains, veggies and fiber. Red meat is the staple of my diet now and digestion is great.

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4124 · November 29, 2011 at 7:23 PM

Keli, that is super. Thanks very much for posting of your success.

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1548 · November 29, 2011 at 5:04 AM

I find red meat easy to digest.

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37177 · November 29, 2011 at 12:20 AM

Honestly, the answer depends on your genetics and the gut flora you've cultured. Some people absolutely thrive on meat but I've heard from some people coming off vegetarian regimes that they had to start small and affect a slow transition.

Red meat is the only major nutrient that has NEVER caused me problems--no bloating, etc. I had gallbladder surgery about 7 years ago but even fatty beef gives me no issues. I don't believe my gallstone came from meat, either, but from what I now know is a strong intolerance for wheat. In fact, the only meat that has been a bit much was goose. If I eat a large meal of goose I take bile salts to avoid overload.

Others start with seafood and tiny amounts of meat daily, gradually increasing as their comfort grows.

B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded
10768 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

I think your point about 'gut flora you've cultured' is a very important one. +1. Whennn we eat groups of food regularly over time, we adjust to digesting those groups... And so do our gut flora!

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10 · July 17, 2013 at 11:59 PM

Eat a cob of corn & a steak then look at your poop to see which one made it through whole.

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605 · November 29, 2011 at 3:23 PM

IIRC, animal products are they only (or almost only) foods that the our body actually digests on its own, via enzymes. Everything else sits in your gut while it is digested by bacteria. That doesn't mean that non-animal products are bad, but the idea that meat is hard to digest is completely false. Meat is easily digested by the human body.

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11111 · November 29, 2011 at 2:35 PM

I actually eat a lot of raw meat now, I find it very easy to digest, it does not feel heavy in my gut like cooked meat can at times, elimination is good too. I had my gallbladder removes over 20 years ago and do not have any issues digesting fats or meat at all. I am LC-VLC and that evolved naturally for my body.

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877 · July 28, 2013 at 2:21 AM

Everyone processes food differently. My body LOVES red meat! However I know some people who get sick when they eat red meat. I truly believe it has something to do with our blood types. Blood type O like me can digest meat quite well, where type A... Not so much.

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0 · July 27, 2013 at 4:36 PM

Red meat is very hard for me digest, I have gone up to 3 weeks constipated, and doctors have found I am unable to digest meats. I tried a chicken and fish diet (allergic to pork products) for a while and had normal bowel movements, but when I tried adding red meats such as sirloin steaks or even hamburgers (no cheese) I would be backup for days. After much research mainly online I read I wasn't the only who had trouble digesting red-meats. While white processed grains are not healthy, even in the vegetarian diet in fact most vegetarians will tell you to avoid pastas, breads, grains,potatoes, etc. In the end the vegetarians lifestyle was not for me (defiantly had no problems with bowel movements) I am not so sure red meats being hard to digest is myth, but dependent on genetics.

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0 · May 31, 2013 at 6:44 AM

Yes for some people it is hard to digest, you'll know if you feel stomach pain afterward. If you don't then you don't have that problem.

Those who claim it being hard to digest is purely propaganda are full of propaganda themselves, it's how they can so easily dismiss other people's actual felt physical experiences of how food interacts with thier bodies, based on abstract nutritional dogma.

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542 · May 08, 2013 at 7:14 PM

I'm a little late on the jump here, but in my experience, a meal that includes meat, sugary foods, processed sh-t, and grains is hard to digest. I have no way to know if the meat is the culprit. If I eat meat in a meal that has no sugary food, no processed crap and no grains I always feel fine. Logic and experience is telling me something here: don't eat sugary food, processed sh-t and grains and experience good digestion. I think they call it Paleo or something.

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-4 · May 08, 2013 at 6:45 PM

A good litmus test :) IF you're anything like me, MOST food has the ability to make you sick. I am sick, bloated and crampy from milk, bread, certain fruits and veggies. Sugar and fatty junk food give me horrific heart burn. So does processed food.

When i feel sick like this, I order up a fine-ass, juicy steak. No sauce (or just a pepper glaze) and see how it makes me feel. 9 times out of 10, the steak settles me right down and decreases my bloating.

This means i require more red meat. Some people get bloated and crampy from eating lots of red meat and it means they need less red meat. Too much red meat in some can lead to heart disease, for others, too little leads to serious health defects.

I will never get heart disease from eating the meat i require. I have the body chemistry that needs it. others may not.

This is not rocket science. You need to listen to your body and do what it tells you to. If your stomach hurts after you eat something, THERE IS A REASON FOR THIS. It's not random digestion pain. It's due to you eating something that disagrees with you. SO STOP EATING IT.

If you feel good after eating something, try increasing its frequency in your diet.

Also the time of day you eat things is important. If you're loading up on calories late at night, NOTHING will feel good. You'll be bloated, gain weight easily and put a horrific strain on your heart (which should be doing repairs at night, not aiding in digestion)

Learn about your body and listen to it. Just be observant.

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8 · December 20, 2011 at 7:14 AM

keep up the good answers. got more info. from you all then people with all there degree making it sound complicated. Thanks

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1634 · December 21, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Thanks for the support, but try not to clutter the answers with comments about them. Instead comment on the answers. *(I didn't give you the down vote since your new here, but figured you deserved an explanation for whoever did)*.

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3742 · November 30, 2011 at 9:31 PM

I guess it depends on what your definition of difficult is. The one I'd use is how quickly it empties from the stomach. Liquids and liquid-like solids like eggs empty the quickest, in about 30min in a healthy person. Grains also empty quickly but not quite as quickly. Fiber and meat sit the longest because it has to be broken down by churning, acid, and enzymes before the intestines can do anything with it. The emptying time for those are up to 4 hours. So, yes, by this definition it is difficult to digest. You can make it easier by pre-digesting it: marinate in something acidic and/or enzymes like papaya, tenderize with a mallet or with holes or grind it, and cook it.

Difficult is not necessarily bad btw. We are designed to consume difficult to digest foods, though we've been pushing the barrier down over time. Still, slowing down digestion allows us to maintain constant energy levels between meals and is very necessary. Energy spikes have to be actively moderated, which as we all know leads to other problems.

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4111 · November 29, 2011 at 5:45 PM

I gotten headaches from turkey during thanksgiving. Not sure why that is unless its too much tryptophan. I've never had any issues digesting red meat, and I have chrohns, an IBD.

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1607 · November 29, 2011 at 3:36 PM

I was a vegetarian for 15+ years, and developed all sorts of digestive issues over the last 5 years. I dove RIGHT back into meat eating a few months ago, and had no digestive issues whatsoever from the sudden reintroduction of all kinds of meat. Beef has been no problem for me. What DOES give me fits (gas, bloating, icky-feeling guts in general) is too much raw vegetables/fruit. I've also cheated once and had some hummus and carrots. I felt horrible for 3 days with gut issues, so NO beans. Your stomach has to churn it around a bit more (it is protein after all), but it doesn't have trouble doing it.

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17005 · November 29, 2011 at 3:07 PM

I've had more trouble digesting the thanksgiving turkey than I ever had digesting beef or bison. Heck, I've been known to eat several pounds of beef in one meal and have no trouble digesting it.. (I avoid that now since it's far too much protein and I want to lean out those last few 10-15lbs.)

I suspect the turkey thing had to do with either it's protein profile, or more likely it's too lean, and it's something I don't eat often enough to be used to.

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258 · November 29, 2011 at 12:16 AM

It's not hard to digest. It just needs help going through the whole process of elimination. It needs the fiber of the veggies to help eliminate waste.

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5629 · November 29, 2011 at 6:05 PM

I also eat a VERY low-fiber diet, and I never have trouble with elimination. There will be days where I'm meat only, and when I wake up the next day, like clockwork, it's off to the bathroom with me.

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11986 · November 29, 2011 at 12:46 AM

Mmm...don't know about "needing" fiber. A bunch of us zero-carbers (people who don't eat plants) seem to do just fine without fiber. Fat is what seems to help with motility.

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-4 · May 08, 2013 at 6:38 PM

Actually, for some people, red meat is hard to digest. It really depends on a few factors, including blood type.

I need A LOT of red meat to maintain my diet. I am blood type O. Which means i also need a lot of red FOODS. Red grapes are a better choice for me than green. Fruit is a better choice for me than veggies, though I DO eat both but the darker leaf veggies are a better choice.

Some people find rice and bread settle their stomachs nicely (dry toast when you have the flu etc..) I cannot eat bread. It causes major stomach cramps. Rice is ok in small doses.

It is very much an individual thing. Some people have the enzymes to digest and thrive on red meat. Others lack the enzymes to manage red meat (my mother is one of these people)

Bodies and blood types are different. To say that anyone who doesn't have the enzyme capabilities to digest red meat is "spewing propaganda" is ridiculous, ill-informed and a sign of a very poor understanding of the diversity of human nutrition needs.

I however am a ravenous carnivore. I REQUIRE at least two slabs of red meat a week and fish every day to maintain my energy levels and keep my stomach settled.

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19120 · May 08, 2013 at 9:23 PM

The blood type diet is big woo - i.e it's not science at all. Furthermore, it does not follow logically that while people may have different level of enzymes, somehow blood type effects one's diet.

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