Meat and our Digestion: Friend or Foe?

Earlier this year, I asked the question: is going vegan the answer to IBD? After looking at the evidence, the answer was mixed. One the one hand, many people with digestive issues, can find meat (Red meat in particular) difficult to digest-and there’s even more of us who can’t hand lactose, dairy and potentially egg. Those with low stomach acid can also find it exceptionally tricky to digest red meat.

In particularly, a study suggested meat eating could be linked to IBD at the diagnosis stage. It stated:  “greater consumption of meat and animal products is associated with the onset of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, whereas greater consumption of fruits and vegetables is typically associated with a lower incidence of these diseases. ….

and went on to argue: patients who consumed more eggs, meat (particularly red and processed meat), were more likely to experience a relapse of their disease than patients who consumed low levels of those items. 

You can read more about that on my ‘Can going vegan help IBD?’ post.

Read: Being Vegetarian with IBD: Meal Ideas


However, on the other hand. I would argue many of us with IBD or any digestion issue may need some types of meat-to help with things like anemia and lack of protein. I know personally, a meat-free diet, high fibre veggie diet has not necessarily worked for me. Instead, I concentrate largely on chicken and fish; with the occasional good-quality, grass-fed steak when I fancy it (and that’s my body’s usual way of letting me know I need it)

On the whole, I do definitely steer clear of more processed meats-I might have a sausage sandwich once in a blue moon but very rarely eat things like smoked meat, salami, bacon etc. Because of the way they’re made, I know things like nitrates and other preservatives are not great for our bowel-and in our health in general.

There’s a handy infographic from Hartmann Direct which  gives a bit of an overview of all the potential pitfalls of processed meat in particular (And saves me typing them all out!) I want to make clear everything is fine in moderation; so none of the above products (Sausages, bacon, ham etc) are going to give you cancer from one plate!

Also, some of us with IBD do NEED higher intake of salt to avoid dehydration and loss of electrolytes. But the key takeaways (you can click the link above to see it for yourself) are…

  • Cancer Research suggests there is a link between bowel cancer and intake of these processed meats in some cases (link NOT necessarily direct causation for all!)
  • Lots of nitrate-rich products might cause issues. We already know lots of processed meat can cause IBD relapses and this by the study I mentioned at the start.
  • Lots of preserved meat products contain high salt. Whilst those of us with IBD might need a higher salt intake, there’s probably better places in your diet to get it!

Whilst red meat does bring some health benefits, preserved meats bring very few-and I would avoid them where possible personally. I have seen some nitrate-free bacon in the supermarket recently, so it’s definitely an area that it people are becoming more aware of! However, as always, always do what works for you and see a dietitian before making any major diet changes!


This post is in collaboration with Hartmann direct-who asked me to share my own honest thoughts on eating meat with IBD along with sharing and promoting their new infographic 

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