4

votes

Vegetarian with major digestive distress on eating meat

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 03, 2011 at 2:39 PM

Hi,

My wife has tried to go Paleo after nearly 20 years as a vegetarian, in the hope that it would help with her autoimmune problems.

Unfortunately, eating meat has caused pretty serious digestive problems in the form of spectacular diarrhoea. We're not sure if it's the meat protein or the high fat, as she sometimes has this problem to a lesser degree with chips (we're in the UK, so read that as fries).

Has anybody experienced this and come out the other side, or tried anything like the Now Foods Super Enzyme that Robb Wolf often endorses?

She tried it for several weeks but the symptoms have been so bad she's given up meat again, and is trying for a vegetarian/paleo kind of compromise with an immediate improvement in her digestive distress.

D83e454e794d761ab524814c0ff8f838

(531)

on May 09, 2011
at 06:14 PM

Does she have any gallbladder issues with fat digestion?

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on May 09, 2011
at 05:43 PM

I think it's very normal/typical actually, when switching from a vegetarian diet to non-veg.

Medium avatar

(5136)

on May 09, 2011
at 05:11 PM

great answer! I was going to suggest meat/bone broth too.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on May 03, 2011
at 05:54 PM

@Matt: I don't know that it's not normal. Even meat-eaters who switch to zero-carb, all-meat diets have issues with diarrhea the first few weeks. It takes a while to adjust. I second the suggestions to take it slow.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on May 03, 2011
at 05:18 PM

yeah, happened to me too, and i agree with bree that i had to move really slowly. i started with fish, then poultry, then fattier stuff and last of all was beef. my first meat was meat sauce in a lasagna, and i was sick as a dog for two days.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on May 03, 2011
at 05:10 PM

I believe this is the most likely reason. She needs to seema GI doc who understands the leaky gut and it's implications

A480640a53eb5dc8966f49141942f705

on May 03, 2011
at 04:02 PM

whole hog! ha, ha.

9c215d66a663fbae3a16cf5515889d7f

(260)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:51 PM

I'll second this. I was also a vegetarian for 20 years. I ramped it up gradually as Bree did. My first was a lasagna made with real grass-fed meat instead of fake meat. No issues, so I moved on to salads with meat, tuna sandwiches, etc. After a couple of months I cut out the grains and legumes entirely. My only digestive issue was that I had to get used to pooping a lot less.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:50 PM

I take NOW Foods Super Enzymes. I prefer the capsules, but they are slightly more expensive than the tablets. Start with 2-3 and work your way up to 7 if necessary. You should get a nice warm sensation in your stomach. If not, add a pill at the next meal. I don't take probiotics so I can't help you there. Fermented foods are good, obviously. Also Melissa has recommended diluted raw, organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar at meal times. It may help.

C678bf33580271beecf36ab23424c3bb

(100)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:46 PM

You may well be right. I'm not sure that I'll be able to persuade her to try again, but she did go pretty much all-out and was eating a fair amount of various types of meat and/or fish with most meals. I've been looking at http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?p=215 and I think we'll try eliminating everything we can while sticking to a vegetarian base and then I'll see if I can persuade her to try very small amounts. Thanks for the input. What are your favourite probiotics and digestive supplements? I suspect she'd be squeamish about ox bile. What about Betaine and things that are fermented?

C678bf33580271beecf36ab23424c3bb

(100)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:40 PM

Unfortunately, I think they'd tell her "don't do that, then" as she's seen an awful lot of doctors as her medical issues are "complex".

C678bf33580271beecf36ab23424c3bb

(100)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:39 PM

I don't think so. She has some psychological issues with it, but no nausea or anything to make it look like a psychosomatic issue. Among the autoimmune issues she has, Crohn's has been suspected but never diagnosed (normal colonoscopy last time it was checked). It's most like SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythamatosus) but again, it's under active, but slow, investigation.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:05 PM

@Oranges13: you beat me to it. However, some long-term vegetarians have no problems eating a huge steak as their first meal back to the dark side.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:04 PM

I think this is good advice, and definitely try the digestive enzymes and perhaps probiotics and see if they help.

9aa2a816c61170cc0183a68be0386ba5

(1702)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:02 PM

This is a great suggestion. If she hasn't eaten meat in 20 years, her digestive system basically has no idea what to do with it. Eat gradually larger portions (starting with one bite and moving up to a few ounces at a time) until her gut has reformulated. Also try eating some probiotics to help out.

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11 Answers

best answer

9
Medium avatar

(12379)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:00 PM

How much meat has she started to eat? I found that when I switched from a veggie diet I had to go SLOW! I think that it has to do with her gut flora (bacteria) and that the colony in her tummy isn't geared towards helping to digest meat.

When I switched from veggie, the first thing I did was eat a whole steak - it was an epic FAIL - i had stomach cramps, sweats and the enevitable runs. It was really frustrating. At the suggestion of my mom, I slowly added meats into my diet instead of going whole hog.

For the first little while it was some chicken on a salad at lunch, then added a little bit of bacon, then a littel ground pork etc. etc, until I had worked my way up to a steak - and all was good.

Hope that you guys can figure this out!

9c215d66a663fbae3a16cf5515889d7f

(260)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:51 PM

I'll second this. I was also a vegetarian for 20 years. I ramped it up gradually as Bree did. My first was a lasagna made with real grass-fed meat instead of fake meat. No issues, so I moved on to salads with meat, tuna sandwiches, etc. After a couple of months I cut out the grains and legumes entirely. My only digestive issue was that I had to get used to pooping a lot less.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:50 PM

I take NOW Foods Super Enzymes. I prefer the capsules, but they are slightly more expensive than the tablets. Start with 2-3 and work your way up to 7 if necessary. You should get a nice warm sensation in your stomach. If not, add a pill at the next meal. I don't take probiotics so I can't help you there. Fermented foods are good, obviously. Also Melissa has recommended diluted raw, organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar at meal times. It may help.

A480640a53eb5dc8966f49141942f705

on May 03, 2011
at 04:02 PM

whole hog! ha, ha.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:05 PM

@Oranges13: you beat me to it. However, some long-term vegetarians have no problems eating a huge steak as their first meal back to the dark side.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:04 PM

I think this is good advice, and definitely try the digestive enzymes and perhaps probiotics and see if they help.

9aa2a816c61170cc0183a68be0386ba5

(1702)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:02 PM

This is a great suggestion. If she hasn't eaten meat in 20 years, her digestive system basically has no idea what to do with it. Eat gradually larger portions (starting with one bite and moving up to a few ounces at a time) until her gut has reformulated. Also try eating some probiotics to help out.

C678bf33580271beecf36ab23424c3bb

(100)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:46 PM

You may well be right. I'm not sure that I'll be able to persuade her to try again, but she did go pretty much all-out and was eating a fair amount of various types of meat and/or fish with most meals. I've been looking at http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?p=215 and I think we'll try eliminating everything we can while sticking to a vegetarian base and then I'll see if I can persuade her to try very small amounts. Thanks for the input. What are your favourite probiotics and digestive supplements? I suspect she'd be squeamish about ox bile. What about Betaine and things that are fermented?

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on May 03, 2011
at 05:18 PM

yeah, happened to me too, and i agree with bree that i had to move really slowly. i started with fish, then poultry, then fattier stuff and last of all was beef. my first meat was meat sauce in a lasagna, and i was sick as a dog for two days.

3
B3e7d1ab5aeb329fe24cca1de1a0b09c

(5242)

on May 17, 2011
at 07:05 AM

I think bone broths could be your Wife's friend.

Not only should they be easier to digest, they have some awesome gut healing properties, mostly due to the collagen that contains proteins essential to heal the gut. Since including them regularly into my diet I've never felt better.

Some excellent reading on the subject over at the WAPF site.

2
9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

on May 09, 2011
at 05:09 PM

A long time ago I was vegetarian for 3 years, and when I finally stopped, I went back to eating meat, and the first few weeks were uncomfortable. Not as bad as what you describe, but similar. It went away over time.

Your body develops eyzymes and bacteria to digest the foods that you eat every day. Long-time vegetarians would lack the capacity to digest meat. A friend of mine has been vegetarian for nearly 20 years, and he knows when he "accidentally" eats animal meat/fat (for example when beans or soup that the restaurant insists are vegetarian really aren't), because he has digestive problems for a few days.

The body needs to be "re-trained" to handle meat, which means introducing meat gradually (starting first with meat/bone broth, and working up to larger portions, etc) and consuming pro-biotics to help with the digestion (i.e. yogurt, kombucha, miso, fermented foods). Pairing the meat with fermented foods with live cultures will probably help with the digestion. Be sure it is a fermented food with live cultures (i.e. powdered miso mix or store-bought saurkraut are as dead as disco). Humans are built for consuming meat, so unless you have some specific allergy or intolerance, the symptoms should fade over time.

You could also try a pro-biotic supplement such as Culterelle which can make a huge difference in digestive "peace" and help to re-colonize your digestive tract with healthy and beneficial bacteria.

Aside from this, your wife might be consuming a lot more protein and/or fat than she was previously, which can also throw her system off. Even aside from all this, it is possible that she picked up an intestinal bug or might have introduced some food to which she is allergic or intolerant, I think several weeks of sustained distress might have some other cause.

Good luck!

Medium avatar

(5136)

on May 09, 2011
at 05:11 PM

great answer! I was going to suggest meat/bone broth too.

1
5f2b8e0a671b7eaae8a6bd97f0ded166

(120)

on May 18, 2011
at 05:12 AM

Protein digestion needs acid and most of us lack enough acid to digest protein. Black pepper and gelatin stimulates acid secretion. Gelatin and gelatinous broths are very easy to digest and it heals intestinal wall. I had huge improvement in my digestive issues when i started eating gelatinous broth. I use a lot of black pepper.It is different than cayenne pepper, which damages gut wall. But black pepper improves gut wall. Rashed Hasan

1
A480640a53eb5dc8966f49141942f705

on May 03, 2011
at 04:05 PM

also, this may be of tangential relevance:

3 major types of gut flora identified

http://www.embl.de/aboutus/communication_outreach/media_relations/2011/110420_Heidelberg/

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25472)

on May 03, 2011
at 05:10 PM

I believe this is the most likely reason. She needs to seema GI doc who understands the leaky gut and it's implications

1
47e1e207e9cd7df2a5adcf571f17f76f

(288)

on May 03, 2011
at 02:57 PM

Any chance it's psychosomatic? I know anxiety can trigger those kinds of horrible GI symptoms for me...

Does it happen when she eats lean meat as well? That would answer your question about the fat.

C678bf33580271beecf36ab23424c3bb

(100)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:39 PM

I don't think so. She has some psychological issues with it, but no nausea or anything to make it look like a psychosomatic issue. Among the autoimmune issues she has, Crohn's has been suspected but never diagnosed (normal colonoscopy last time it was checked). It's most like SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythamatosus) but again, it's under active, but slow, investigation.

0
6f97d1b544380ac1f2dbf95d11f25971

on May 16, 2011
at 11:16 PM

I think she should seek medical help. Twenty years is a long time to be without meat, to suddenly add it back in probably shocked her gut. I was a vegetarian for 4 years and went back to eating meat because my iron was way low and no amount of supplements could raise it. I ate small amounts of fish then worked up to small amounts of chicken and some lunch meats. It only took about a week for me, but the psychological part took a lot longer. When I went from SAD to Paleo, it was awful for me to get used to eating the fat (I had blamed that for all prior gut issues) it just bothered me on so many levels. I haven't gotten to the point of loving it but it is a process. I think if you can rule out any medical issues then go ahead with the regular paleo diet just give your wife some time and take it slow.

0
D8195c5ae6c967027a3133d74969d0e1

on May 09, 2011
at 07:43 PM

I was the opposite! Major digestive problems and multiple surgeries resulting from my pescatarian (mostly vegetarian) diet - after about 10 yrs of eating that way just 3 mos. ago I started paleo - took to it like a fish to water -can't get enough meat!! Making up for lost time! I threw out my RA meds, osteo-A meds, Barretts esophagus meds - wish I weren't on disability! After 5 yrs of being disabled - I will never return to vegetarianism! Whatever it takes I suggest doing paleo - I went direct to meat and had no effects whatsoever - hope she recovers! I know it takes a while to recover from diets!!!!

0
8a8129d053df7365c6529b0c2ac95efb

(284)

on May 09, 2011
at 04:48 PM

maybe try lean, grass fed meat at first, and then ease in to other things!!! i was a vegetarian too, and i did it this way, and it helped me!! good luck! :)

0
8a4ce6a9e1ab27616920b828df08b259

(354)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:13 PM

I'm thinking..lack of digestive enzymes, protease namely. I don't know the names of the other ones. :/ but yeah, digestive enzymes. (Eloquent, I know. You don't have to tell me.) :)

0
58a49b7e6356bd3eaaefed676445b720

on May 03, 2011
at 02:55 PM

That's not normal. She should probably go to a doctor.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on May 03, 2011
at 05:54 PM

@Matt: I don't know that it's not normal. Even meat-eaters who switch to zero-carb, all-meat diets have issues with diarrhea the first few weeks. It takes a while to adjust. I second the suggestions to take it slow.

C678bf33580271beecf36ab23424c3bb

(100)

on May 03, 2011
at 03:40 PM

Unfortunately, I think they'd tell her "don't do that, then" as she's seen an awful lot of doctors as her medical issues are "complex".

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on May 09, 2011
at 05:43 PM

I think it's very normal/typical actually, when switching from a vegetarian diet to non-veg.

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