Can You Have a Beef Intolerance?

Once upon a time, beef was so popular in the UK that the French took to calling the Brits “les rosbifs”. Whilst more recent trends suggest that “les poulets” might be a more accurate term, Brits are still fond of their beef, eating around 84.2 kg per person a year.

Many enjoy it as a leisurely Sunday treat, others prefer a lean steak as a protein packed alternative to health drinks, but some may find that the meat leaves them feeling a little worse for wear. If you find that you feel ill time and time again after eating beef, then it could be the case that you have a beef intolerance. However, intolerances to beef are perhaps not widely heard of, so more often than not beef might not be considered as a trigger.

If there’s something in your roast that’s making you feel off, but you can’t quite pinpoint what, take a look at our guide below to see if beef might be the problem.

What is a beef intolerance?

Some people find that eating beef causes them to experience many symptoms such as digestive discomfort; these people may have a beef intolerance.

Like many intolerances, a beef intolerance is caused by the body incorrectly recognising certain proteins within beef as a harmful substance. This occurs most frequently during digestion, where small amounts of food are leaked through the lining of the gut into the bloodstream. The body recognises these particles as foreign bodies – even though they are harmless – leading to an immune system response, and the release of IgG antibodies. The release of these antibodies can trigger inflammation, which can result in the uncomfortable physical symptoms of intolerance.

How do I check if I have a beef intolerance?

As individuals, our reactions to foods and drinks vary a great deal. An ingredient which may cause problems for one person could be completely acceptable for another. At YorkTest, we like to refer to this as our personal ‘food fingerprint’. Discovering and understanding your own personal food and drink intolerances, and the effects they have on your health and wellbeing, is important to ensuring you make the best possible choices to balance your diet.

What are the symptoms of beef intolerance?

As with all intolerances, symptoms will differ from person to person in severity, variety, and duration. Some of the most common beef intolerance symptoms are outlined below.

  • Stomach pain
  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headache
  • Rashes

It can often take a while after the beef is eaten for symptoms to occur. For some people this could mean a few hours, for others a day or more. The fact that symptoms aren’t immediately shown can make it difficult for sufferers to identify beef as the cause, and instead another food that has been eaten more recently may be blamed.

Is beef intolerance just triggered by meat?

Depending on the severity of your intolerance, it’s not necessarily just the meat that can trigger symptoms. Ingredients derived from beef can crop up in a number of unexpected foods, making it even more difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that’s making you feel unwell.

To help out, we’ve pinpointed some common ingredients that may contain traces of beef, and the foods you’re likely to find them in, below.

  • Certain brands of chewing gum contain stearic acid or glycerine; ingredients that can be derived from beef fat.
  • Make sure to check ingredients lists for gelatine, a stabilizer and thickener produced from beef bones and collagen. Watch out for biscuits, marshmallows, chewy sweets, jelly, and even certain supplements, as gelatine is often a main ingredient in these. It’s also a good idea to check foods for Agar, a vegetarian thickener that most likely means there’s no beef in the product you’re eating.
  • Try skipping stock cubes and powders, as many shop bought stock products contain beef, even if this isn’t the main ingredient. Instead, make stock at home with leftover fish or poultry bones and vegetables like celery, carrots, and onions.
  • Wartime staple beef dripping is having a bit of a moment among chefs and nutritionists, so when eating out it’s a good idea to ask what fats are being used in the kitchen.
  • Hard sweets often contain calcium stearate, a stabilizer produced from animal fat. You might also find this written down as E470.
  • When you do remove beef from your diet due to an intolerance make sure to substitute the nutrients you would have received from the beef. For example, hunza apricots, leafy green vegetables, beetroot, lentils and brown rice are all examples of great iron sources.

What should I do if I think I have a beef intolerance?

If you’re experiencing digestive problems or wider symptoms and you think that beef could be to blame, it’s a good idea to book an appointment with your doctor. Whilst they might not be able to identify intolerance as the problem, they will be able to help you get a clearer understanding of your symptoms, and rule out any other potential factors that could be the source of your discomfort.

If after visiting a doctor you find that an underlying condition isn’t to blame, then a good next step would be to take a food intolerance test. With YorkTest’s Food&DrinkScan Programme, your reaction to 113 common foods will be tested, so you can see if it’s beef or another food that’s acting as your trigger.

Is beef intolerance permanent?

The good news is that if you do have a beef intolerance, you don’t necessarily have to cut beef out of your life forever. Many people find that after a period eliminating or reducing the amount of beef they eat, they’re able to head back to the herd without the symptoms experienced previously.

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