Ever felt that you don’t tolerate meat anymore? Especially red meat? It’s a comment I hear frequently in clinic – and not just from my most senior clients! Usually its something along the lines of “oh, I’m vegetarian, because I don’t tolerate meat anymore, it doesn’t agree with me.” It can feel like a mystery, especially if you’ve had no problem with foods before. But its ok, I’ve got your back, with some info to help you gain more understanding of your body and what’s going on. You don’t need to put up with it, or feeling rubbish after eating in general. Getting older isn’t a reason to put up with feeling rubbish either. You’ll hear that it’s normal, but while it’s common, that doesn’t make it normal.
Maybe there’s some other foods, besides meat, you don’t tolerate anymore. You’ll find this info relevant too, because often times they have a similar root cause. It is really important to find that cause, rather than just suppressing the symptom, or avoiding the trigger (meat or other foods). You need to enjoy a wide variety of foods to get the nutrients your body needs to thrive and for your hormones to be balanced.
So what’s going on?
People may feel nauseous after eating when they don’t tolerate meat, or feel like it sits like a brick in their chest or stomach. They get bloated, often gassy. Fart city! Windier than the resident teens and dogs. (How many times can you blame it on the dog, really?!)
The medical term for food feeling like a brick in your chest is dyspepsia, or indigestion.
What are the signs and symptoms when you don’t tolerate meat?
- Feeling discomfort in your gastrointestinal system
- Pressure or heaviness after eating
- A sense of fullness that lasts for a long time after eating
- Getting full really quickly when you eat (eg after a few mouthfuls)
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Abdominal pains or cramps
You’re most likely the burper of the house, probably the farty pants too. Maybe you feel sick after taking supplements?
Are there Functional issues involved?
There’s a few different reasons why you might not tolerate meat anymore. There could be a functional reason. There are many muscles around the tube that is your intestines, and in the stomach, designed to move food along the intestines. This movement is called peristalsis. When there’s a functional issue, it may mean that the stomach and intestines aren’t moving food through as they should be.
Other functional issues can include decreases digestvie secretions like hydrochloric acid (stomach acid), and the enzymes that break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Your digestive secretion production naturally decreases with age, so this can often be why you may notice a change in your food tolerance as you age. But it isn’t always age. Stress and diet are big factors in digestive secretions. I’ll talk more about that in a minute.
When there’s reduced secretions, it’s harder for your body to breakdown food, absorb and assimilate nutrients. This makes for a vicious cycle, because with less nutrients available, there’s less secretions available.
But why does it happen most after eating meat?
When you take some bites of protein-rich foods like meats, it stimulates secretion of the enzymes needed for protein digestion. There’s another cycle that you can get stuck in when you have reduced digestive secretions (perhaps from stress, or another reason), you are less able to break that protein down. Over time you eat less of the food that didn’t sit well with you. This then feeds back to the body and the less (animal) protein foods that you eat, the less enzymes you produce over time. So if you go back to eating animal protein, you might notice some discomfort. I’ll leave some tips at the end for how to support digestion here, but you can also find more in this blog.
Sugar and your digestive function
Eating meals that are high in simple sugars and low in fibre causes peristalsis to slow down. Your body is an amazing machine, designed to protect itself and maintain balance. By slowing peristalsis when you eat high sugar foods (including high refined carbohydrate), your body is protecting blood glucose levels. It’s stopping your blood glucose levels from sky rocketing. (And stops you from feeling awful!)
Stress decreases digestion
There’s two arms to your autonomic nervous system – the sympathetic and parafympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system makes sure you’re ready to ‘fight, flee or freeze’ when your brain perceives danger. The parasympathetic nervous system is focused on ‘rest and digest’. Only one of the arms is dominant at a time.
This means that when you’re feeling stressed (the brain perceives this as danger), your sympathetic nervous sytem is in charge. (If you’d like to know more about what your body perceives as stress, check out this blog.) Your body is ready to run away quickly – with blood focused on the limbs, muscles, brain and heart, and less on the digestive system.
So there’s naturally less digestive secretions and peristalsis happening. Food sits too long in the stomach and small intestine, fermenting and giving many of the symptoms of bloating, burping, a sense of fullness, early satiety. End result – you don’t tolerate meat.
Oh, and eating on the run or in a rush = less digestive secretions too, because it puts you in fight or flight mode. You’re hypervigilant about eating and driving, or rushing to get to the meeting in time, or kids to an activity… or whatever the reason. Please just don’t do it. Wait until you get where you’re going, or allow yourself some time to sit down and eat before you go.
Reduced digestive secretions also have implications for the health of your microbiome.
Your microbiome + menopause
So hopefully you know by now that stress alters your microbiome. (If not, go read some of my gut health blogs please!) But did you know that decreasing progesterone and oestrogen also alter the function and efficiency of your gut? There’s so much that science doesn’t know about what oestrogen does in the body. Menopausal women can usually give them a good idea though! They just need to figure out how or why it has these effects.
Anyway, oestrogen and oestrogen-like compounds prevent the loss of your friendly microbes, while also helping them grow and proliferate. This is important because it helps you maintain a diverse range of friendly microbes. Research tells us that a high diversity is associated with long-term health and vitality.
When there’s lower numbers of the good guys, then there’s room for the ‘baddies’ to take over the joint (you)! You don’t want that, trust me.
Dysbiosis + digestive function
Sometimes people get an overgrowth of microbes (good or bad) in their small intestine. Ideally, you don’t have any bacteria in the small intestines! But sometimes they come up from the large intestine to say hi. This could be because there’s an imbalance or overgrowth in the large intestine, but not always.
Changes in the microbiome, particularly in the small intestine, can reduce the number of villi (small, finger-like projections on the intestinal cells). The villi secrete the enzymes that break down food and support nutrient absorption.
An imbalance in the microbiome is called ‘dysbiosis’ and it alters many things in the gut and the body. This is because it reduces intestinal integrity and function. Triggers the inflammatory response and therefore the immune system. This may then contribute to development of chronic diseases (eg cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes), auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, rosacea, eczema, and immune dysfunction like allergies, asthma, hayfever, hives, itching and rashes.
Now you know why you don’t tolerate meat
So what can you do about it?
- Regulate peristalsis
- Enhance digestion and secretions
- Soothe and tone intestinal cell function
- Support microbiome health
What does this look like?
- Reducing stress, or increasing stress resilience using herbs and nutrients. Please talk with a herbalist to have your herbs prescribed safely and with you and your symptoms in mind.
- Mindful eating
- Bitter foods & drinks just before or during your meal to stimulate digestive secretions. I love Iberogast for this as it also helps support #5. A 50mL bottle fits easily in your bag to take out and about with you. Let me know if you need some of this herbie magic in your life.
- Digestive enzymes may be useful, however I prefer to use bitter herbs and foods. This then stimulates your body to make more of what it needs. When you use enzymes, it tells your body that it’s making the right amount, and you can then be reliant on supplementation long-term.
- Herbal teas to support peristalsis and intestinal function, like chamomile, lemon balm, fennel, cinnamon, ginger. (Don’t forget Iberogast will help with this too.)
Don’t tolerate meat or is it something else?
If you’ve gotten to this point and you’re thinking maybe one or more of these issues is, well, your issue, then please reach out and let’s have a chat about how Naturopathy and I can support you and your digestive system. Digestive problems are really common as people age, but they don’t have to be normal! Please remember that, even if you don’t remember anything else!
Common doesn’t = normal.
Your gut and digestive health has a big impact on your hormones, especially in your 40s when the road to menopause begins for many women. Enhancing your intestinal and digestive health may help reduce your symptoms and improve your experience of perimenopuase.
I help women in their 40s navigate chaotic mood-swings and changing hormones, so they can feel calm, balanced and in control – to make it through perimenopause without ruining their lives!
Sound like you? Please book a free 15-minute discovery call to see how I may help you reclaim your health and feel more like you did before kids.