As you may know if you are a frequent visitor, I am a strong advocate of eating meat and the Paleolithic diet. Many people coming to me for consultations, who previously gave up meat because they were conditioned to believe it wasn’t healthy for them, are coming to realize that meat is an essential component of a healthy diet. However, they often have difficulty reintroducing meat to the diet, especially if they have been without for a long time.
I get a lot of questions from vegetarians, or people who eat little meat, that are struggling for a variety of reasons to embrace their inner carnivore. So let’s discuss some ways to make this process smoother, by looking at the following questions submitted from a couple individuals going through this challenge.
This is a recent question from a site visitor, Charmaine,
“Hi, I appreciate your web site. I have tried to eat more meats, etc. in place of grains but I always end up feeling bloated and gross. I find I do best on an alkaline-oriented diet that’s mostly vegetarian with lots of greens. This corresponds to my blood type (A). Do you think the blood type diet has any merit? “~Charmaine
In the past I have received questions like this,
“Hi Cynthia, after being a vegetarian for many years and developing a severe Candida problem and a host of other issues, I’ve recently been trying to bring more meats into my diet… Problem is, they disgust me and make me feel bad. I feel nauseated, sluggish and have a hard time digesting them… Should I really be eating meat if my body is so resistant?”
“Cynthia, I know I need to eat more meat, but just the smell of it repulses me, what can I do?”
I hear these kinds of statements a lot from people who aren’t meat eaters. It seems that feeling nauseous, bloated, gross, repulsed, resistant and sluggish are pretty common when making this transition. There a variety of reasons that these experiences occur, but none of them are because you shouldn’t be eating meat.
Conditioning and/or Socialization
The first and most important aspect that must be addressed is conditioning or socialization. It has been pounded into our heads for years that meat is unhealthy and should be avoided. You constantly see messages everywhere that say “eat more grains and less meats.” These destructive and false beliefs are deeply ingrained in our society and therefore they get internalized. Once internalized, the beliefs influence our choices, behavior, feelings and thoughts on an unconscious level.
When people go against these messages they feel like they are engaging in unhealthy behaviors. If one has been a vegetarian for a long time, they may feel like they are violating their values or not being true to themselves.
In order to make any kind of significant change in our life, we must feel good psychologically about what we’re doing. With all these negative messages about meat, that is hard to do, even when one begins to see the necessity and importance.
So, you must break this conditioning by facing the facts and clearing up all the misinformation. Research into our ancestors diet tells us that human beings have been meat eaters for at least 2 million years and that it is meat that helped our species to thrive so abundantly; it is genetically coded into our being. We function more optimally on a diet that is rich in animal protein and low-starch vegetables — not grains, carbs and starches.
The studies that told us meat was bad for us were studies based on processed and grain-fed animals. Meat that is processed, pumped full of chemicals, additives, preservatives, pesticides, hormones, sugar, and derived from animals that is grain-fed does cause poor health, but it isn’t the meat that is the problem. It’s all those additives, chemical and grains.
You’ll notice that in the decades that meat has been removed and grains have been eaten in place of them that health has not improved at all. Quite, the contrary, we have epidemics in insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety, hyperactivity and more. We are now a society that is protein deficient.
Studies on animal protein that is grass-fed, free-range and organic, tell us that meat does not cause deterioration in health, in fact it promotes good mental and physical health by giving us the nutrients we need to form neurotransmitters and hormones, maintain a strong immune and cardiovascular system and for all organs and systems to run efficiently.
The myth that you should eat grains and less meat is perpetuated by the grain industry. Unfortunately, many health care providers buy into the myth and pass it along to their patients. I encourage you to learn the truth about meat by reading the work of people like Dr. Al Sears, Dr. Charles Gant, Mark Sisson, Professor Loren Cordain, Dr. Mercola, Dr. Michael Eades and Dr. Weston Price.
It is the lack of meat and the over consumption of carbohydrates that leads to heart disease, mental health disorders, obesity, type 2 diabetes etc. However, you should not be eating spam, bacon and other processed meats. Your meat should be unprocessed, grass-fed, free-range and organic.
In regard to the moral issue, eating meat is not immoral or unethical. It is part of the grand design of nature. We were born meat eaters. This is a biological fact that can’t be changed. Yes, it is unethical and immoral to abuse our meat supply or subject them to despicable living conditions, but when you buy grass-fed meats, you are buying meat that is treated humanely.
Keep in mind, that the loss of animal life (birds, insects, mice, rabbits, moles, and other small creatures) that occurs in crop growing and harvesting is much higher than that which occurs when butchering an animal. So being a vegetarian does not make you exempt from killing other animal life.
More pages to read for the truth about meat:
Understanding that eating meat is as natural, healthy and essential as breathing or exercise is important for inciting motivation to achieve the goal, so fill your brain with the facts. Now, once you are armed with the facts, you may still experience nausea, bloating, repulsion, etc., but you are ready to move forward.
Take it Slow
If you haven’t eaten meat in a while, it may take your system and your mind a little while to adjust. Don’t start out eating hamburgers, steaks or chicken breasts. Instead, put just a little grilled chicken cut into very small cubes or even shredded in your salad, or add a little ground beef or buffalo in your chili, or a little cubed chicken or turkey in your soup. Don’t go all out at first.
You may also find eating fish and eggs, instead of fleshy meat, at first to be more acceptable and easier on the GI tract. Take it slow — in baby steps. Later on you can bring in the whole steaks, breasts, chops, roasts etc.
Your taste buds must also adjust. Chemically altered food, foods high in starch like grains, potatoes etc. impair your ability to taste the deliciousness of real food. It takes time for them to reestablish normal function. Once they do, you will be awed by the flavor in natural food.
The biochemistry that we humans have today evolved directly from our ancient ancestors and we function most optimally by mimicking their eating and lifestyle patterns. Anthropological research tells us that all of our ancestors were meat eaters, however depending on heritage, the amount of meat to be eaten varies from person to person somewhat. For example, if your family lineage comes from areas closer to the equator, our ancestors from these groups ate more vegetables and less meat, thus you will be genetically wired to eat the same. Whereas someone with a family lineage from Alaska, who had very little access to vegetables, would have a much higher need for meat. Anthropological research also suggests that the amount of meat to be consumed typically ranges from 45 to 65 % of your total energy intake. However these are estimates, your body may not need that much or it may need more.
For example, in Charmaine’s question above, she states she feels best on a lot of vegetables. I would say that she falls in the 45% category, someone who needs more vegetables and less meat, but she still needs some meat.
So, Charmaine, I encourage you to follow the other advice on this page to help you bring some meat into your diet, but allow the vegetables to be your largest portion. Try fish and eggs at first. Eating leaner cuts may also help with the nausea, bloating etc. You can also try liver, hearts and kidneys, as organ meats feel and taste less “fleshy” are actually leaner and may produce less GI upset.
Just remember that vegetables should come in the non-starchy form. Corn is a grain, not a vegetable. Peas, potatoes and other starchy veggies should be avoided or at least restricted. Replace the grains with vegetables, nuts, seeds and low-sugar fruit like berries. You most likely need digestive enzymes and probiotics which I discuss further below.
In response to Charmaine’s question about the blood type diet, no I don’t think there is much merit to that diet, since it says that some people are meant to be vegetarians. I don’t believe any of us are vegetarians. Yes, some people can get by on a vegetarian diet, but it is not our natural diet and for most people it means they are lacking in many crucial nutrients.
Additionally, I am type A blood, which according to the blood type diet says I should be a vegetarian. I can’t function at all on a vegetarian diet, so I can’t see any truth in this approach. I share an in depth discussion about the blood type diet on my Should You Eat Right for Your Type post, you should take a look at that.
If you’ve been a vegetarian for a long time, not a short time, there can be some loss of production in digestive enzymes needed for protein. So some nausea, bloating, gas, sluggishness, etc. would be normal. However, this is not permanent and can be resolved with supplementation. Once your system realizes the need, it is likely to begin producing them again.
However, as we age, our levels of digestive enzymes decline. Exposure to heavy metals, alcohol, poor diet, other environmental toxins and unfriendly organisms in the GI tract all inhibit digestion, so if any of these are present there may be impaired digestive capacity, which results in nausea, gas, bloating, etc when meat is eaten. Many people, not just vegetarians, are lacking in adequate digestive enzymes.
A good digestive enzyme can assist in this problem regardless of what the cause. Try a good pancreatic digestive enzyme like Megazyme. The pancreatic enzyme needs to be 10x, anything under is not strong enough. One should determine whether they need HCL as well with an HCL challenge test.
Additionally, the gut flora is likely to be way out of balance if you’ve been eating a diet high in carbohydrates and low in meat, which can result in feelings of nausea, bloating, etc., so a probiotic may be helpful. However, do be aware, if you have SIBO a probiotic can make the problems worse.
Furthermore, legumes and grains interfere in the digestion of protein because they contain enzymes called protease inhibitors. This could lead to bloating, nausea, feeling sluggish or heavy, as well as protein sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies.
Sugar and carbohydrates like grains,(including whole grains) potatoes, legumes, or any high starch food are addictive. When you give them up and begin eating meat and vegetables, you go through withdrawal, just like a drug addict.
Additionally, these foods disrupt neurotransmitters that manage perception and mood, impair metabolism and the GI tract. When your metabolism is impaired and your in a state of addiction, you feel drawn towards things that aren’t good for you and repulsed by what is healthy.
Feeling sluggish, nausea, repulsed, resistant, bloated etc. when introducing the foods you should be eating is a common experience when coming off the carbs. It will pass in two or three weeks. Once you’ve been off the carbs a while, you’ll find you actually prefer the protein and low-starch vegetables. You’ll find new appreciation for foods that once seemed bland.
Nutritional Deficiencies or Imbalances
Most vegetarians have an abundance of deficiencies or imbalances in nutrients. Feeling repulsed by meat can be caused by one of these. For example, if you haven’t eaten meat for a long time, then you often become too high in copper and low in zinc, because a vegetarian diet is high in copper and low in zinc.
Dr. Lawrence Wilson tells us that when there is high copper and low zinc you may not be able to digest protein very well because zinc is needed to create digestive enzymes. You may crave carbohydrates and have an aversion for meat. Eating meat stimulates glandular activity, which in turn releases the excess copper which has been stored, which in turn causes many of the symptoms like nausea, bloating, repulsion, sluggishness etc. Although it seems to the individual that eating meat is the problem, the problem really lies in the fact that they need more meat. If meat is reintroduced into the diet, the symptoms will dissipate in time as the copper and zinc levels come into balance and the body adjusts.
Additionally, one may become attracted to a vegetarian diet and feel better on it initially because they have high copper and low zinc for other reasons. Copper toxicity can occur from copper plumbing, cookware, deficiencies in other nutrients like vitamin C and zinc, pesticides, herbicides or other xenoestrogens, dental materials, IUDs and diet. Then once on the vegetarian diet, this will perpetuate the imbalance and create more repulsion for meat.
So assessing one’s nutritional status, or at the very least, their copper and zinc levels would be prudent.
The important thing to keep in mind, is that you were not born thinking meat was gross, repulsive or disgusting. These are perceptions that have formed over the years in response to habit, socialization, disrupted metabolism, nutritional imbalances and neurotransmitters that result from poor diet and an impaired GI tract.
Meat eating is inherent in your biochemistry and thus your body will naturally gravitate towards it again, once these underlying issues are addressed. With time and effort, you’ll be able to embrace and celebrate your inner carnivore again.
Dr. Al Sears
Mark’s Daily Apple
The Paleo Diet, Professor Loren Cordain
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 71, No. 3, 682-692, March 2000
Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets.
Dr. Lawrence Wilson – Copper Toxicity