Does Grass-Fed Beef Upset Your Stomach? The Truth Behind This Common Concern

Hey friends! I’m back with another post about everyone’s favorite topic – meat! Specifically, today we’re diving into a question I get asked a lot – can grass-fed beef cause an upset stomach?

I totally get why this is such a common concern. As someone who eats a mostly carnivore diet, I rely on nutrient-dense red meat as a staple food. But we’ve all been there – one minute you’re happily chowing down on a grass-fed burger the next you’re making friends with the toilet. No bueno.

So what gives? Is grass-fed beef secretly irritating for our digestive systems? Should we be sticking to conventional beef instead? I did a deep-dive on this topic, and have some insights to share with you all. Let’s get into it!

Why Grass-Fed Beef is Often Touted as More Digestible

First, let’s talk about why grass-fed beef has a reputation for being easier on digestion. The difference comes down to two key factors:

1. Omega-3 content

Grass-fed cows get their naturally high levels of omega-3 fatty acids straight from the grass in their diet. Omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, which is thought to help promote gentle digestion.

Grain-fed factory farmed cows, on the other hand, live on a diet primarily consisting of corn and soy. Their meat is higher in omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory.

2. CLAs

Grass-fed beef also contains high levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLAs). CLAs are healthy fatty acids again derived from the grass cows eat in pasture.

Some research indicates CLAs may help support digestive health by maintaining gut barrier integrity and reducing intestinal inflammation.

So in theory, the omega-3s and CLAs in grass-fed beef make it the gentler option for our bellies. But is that truly the case? Let’s explore further.

Why Grass-Fed Beef May Still Cause Digestive Upset

Here are a few reasons grass-fed beef may still lead to gastrointestinal distress for some folks:

1. Fat content

Grass-fed beef is typically lower in overall fat than grain-fed, but it still contains a hefty amount of saturated fat. For people sensitive to high-fat foods, this can spell disaster pants.

2. Bile production

Saturated fat in meat requires significant bile release to properly digest. Some people may not produce enough bile, especially when starting a high fat diet like carnivore. Insufficient bile can leave that fatty beef just sitting around in your intestines, causing misery.

Supplementing with bile salts or ox bile can help mitigate this issue if it’s occurring.

3. Histamine intolerance

Some individuals have a sensitivity to histamines, which are inflammatory compounds found in food. Grass-fed beef contains higher histamine levels than conventional beef.

For histamine intolerant folks, grass-fed meat may be more likely to cause systemic inflammation, gut irritation, diarrhea and other unpleasant reactions.

4. Meat allergies

It’s possible to be allergic to beef itself, regardless of whether it’s grass or grain-fed. An actual meat allergy causes the immune system to overreact to beef proteins.

Symptoms usually come on fast, and may include hives, vomiting, and digestive woes. If you suspect a beef allergy, consider getting tested.

5. Microbial content

Raw or undercooked meat contains a higher concentration of bacteria and naturally occurring food microbes. Some of these compounds, like lipopolysaccharide (LPS), can irritate the gut lining.

Cooking meat thoroughly reduces LPS content, making it gentler on digestion.

Tips to Maximize Digestive Tolerance to Grass-Fed Beef

Okay, so grass-fed beef isn’t guaranteed to be easier to digest. But there are still things you can do to maximize your chance of tolerating it well!

Choose lean cuts

Stick to leaner cuts like sirloin tip, top round, and 95% lean ground beef to limit fat content. Go for ground beef with the least fat percentage you can find.

Cook thoroughly

Make sure to cook grass-fed beef all the way through to kill off potentially irritating bacteria. With ground beef, avoid eating it rare.

Limit portion size

Start with just 4-6 oz of beef per meal, and slowly increase from there. Too much at once can overwhelm digestive capacity.


The FODMAP diet minimizes short-chain carbohydrates that can ferment in the gut. Combining grass-fed beef with low-FODMAP sides may help.

Take digestive enzymes

Enzyme supplements provide extra digestive firepower to fully break down beef. Lipase, in particular, helps digest fat.

Try bone broth

Sipping some bone broth with meals can support gentle digestion. It contains glycine to calm inflammation, and gelatin to seal up gut permeability.

Eat fermented foods

Natural probiotics from fermented foods help normalize gut bacteria. Try sauerkraut, kimchi, or kefir. Start with just a spoon or two.

Manage stress levels

Chronic stress can exacerbate digestive issues. Try relaxing practices like meditation, yoga, strength training, or hanging with friends.

Try digestive teas

Soothing herbal teas like chamomile, fennel, peppermint, ginger, and marshmallow root can ease gut woes.

Should I Just Avoid Grass-Fed Beef Altogether?

Despite the potential for digestive upset, I don’t think most people need to avoid grass-fed beef entirely. Here’s my take on who might want to steer clear:

  • Those with a confirmed meat allergy or severe intolerance
  • People who’ve tried most of the above tips without improvement in symptoms
  • Anyone who experiences painful inflammatory flares, vomiting, or dangerous symptoms when eating grass-fed beef

For everyone else, try the strategies listed above to optimize digestion. Be sure to chew meat very thoroughly, eat slowly, and stay hydrated with water between meals. Pay attention to how different cuts, portion sizes and cooking times affect your belly.

It may also help to limit beef intake to 2-3x a week instead of daily, and rotate between different proteins like fish, eggs, and chicken. This gives your gut a break while still benefitting from red meat nutrition.

The most important thing is listening

Red Meat Causing Inflammation in Some People (Research Proven) 2024


Is grass-fed beef hard to digest?

Is grass-fed beef harder to digest? A primary difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef is that grass-fed beef may be easier for some people to digest.

Why do I have stomach issues after eating beef?

Meat products are one of the most difficult foods for the human body to digest because the protein contained in meat (especially red meat) is harder for us to break down, and this can cause bloating. Large amounts of fatty foods like meat make your stomach empty slower, which also causes bloating or discomfort.

What are the problems with grass-fed beef?

Downsides of Grass-Fed Beef Eating too much meat has been associated with certain cancers. 9 Although less than grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef does contain some saturated fat. In excess, saturated fat can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. 10 Therefore, eating in moderation is key.

Is grass-fed beef good for your gut?

Grass-Fed Beef Contains Higher Levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a type of fat that is predominately found in grass-fed beef. Studies have shown that consuming CLA can help reduce inflammation in the gut and improve overall gut health.

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