Preservatives in Meat

Patient Expert

Let me start this week's blog by admitting that I love pork - pork chops, pork roast, pork spare ribs, you name it if it's pork I like it. And since I haven't been able to eat beef (without big, bad repercussions) for nearly 10 years, pork helps to put some variety in my mainly chicken and fish diet. But, for the past few months I've been noticing that when I eat pork I tend to feel very bloated and gassy within an hour of eating it. Bloating and gas have never been problem symptoms for me with my IBD, so when this started I was surprised and confounded.

At first, I didn't connect my physical feelings with the pork. For a couple of months I played around with the other things I was eating like pasta, potatoes, wheat, nuts, and lentils. I even went so far as to cut-out from my diet all wheat products for a couple of weeks.

These measures seemed to help, a bit. If anything it made me realize that I was eating too many flour-based products in a 24-hour period. But some nights I felt just as bloated and horrible despite not having eaten any pasta or potatoes or bread. So, I went back to my "normal" diet and started to keep a food journal. I'd not done this in nearly eight years, but the pain and discomfort some nights was bad enough that I was willing to make the time to do this.

I listed everything I ate throughout my days and noted how I felt after each meal and snack. I had no problem with breakfast, no problems with lunch, and none of my snacks caused any of these symptoms. It was only after dinner that the gas and bloating would sometimes hit me. I began to wonder if maybe I was eating that last meal too late. Being self-employed, and without any children in the house, my husband and I can get onto some odd eating schedules. It's not out of the question to for us to eat dinner at 8:00 or 8:30 at night. Although my preference is to have dinner around 7:00ish but sometimes it just doesn't happen. But as I looked at my journal entries more closely, I realized that the time we ate didn't make a difference. I also saw that these symptoms weren't an every night thing.

What did become apparent by about week three of keeping my food journal is that I only felt bloated and gassy after eating pork. Pork Why? I wondered. I'd never had this problem before. And I'd not changed what I was buying or eating. On my next trip to the grocery store I hunted down the butcher and questioned him about the pork he was selling. I didn't want to stand there, with other customers milling about, and tell the guy that his pork was making me bloated and gassy. But, I did ask him what he knew about it, telling him that it seemed to be bothering my gut in the past few months. His first response was to tell me nothing had changed. Pork was pork. When prodded, he did admit that many meat producers are now injecting their meat with preservatives to extend its shelf life. Preservatives! Ha, ha, that had to be it!

I knew from the elimination diet I had conducted ten years ago that preservatives are a no-no for my gut. They do nothing more than cause my gut issues, usually diarrhea. So, for the next two weeks I stayed clear of eating pork, mainly because the grocery store closest to my home didn't have any organic pork, but also because my symptoms were gone. A few days ago, though, we were near a Whole Foods store and decided to pick up some of their organic pork ribs - they were on sale and we've been having some beautiful fall weather which was making my husband itch to fire up the Bar B-Q.

All I can say is this, I ate those pork ribs and I enjoyed them. They were much leaner than the ones we used to buy from the regular grocery store and more importantly I had no after dinner problems - no bloating, no gas, nothing. Simply satisfaction.

I've now been looking into ways to buy organic meats in bulk, hoping it will make them a bit more affordable. I'm sold on the health benefits of eating organic products when possible, and already buy many organic veggies. But, to be honest the cost of organic meat can simply be prohibitive. I've found a bunch of farms that sell organic beef, but I'm hesitant to try it since my last experience with beef was anything but pleasant. Although, I realize that the organic beef might be a whole different story. I've also found a few farms that sell organic buffalo, lamb, and goat, which I might try. As of yet, I've not found anyone locally who sells organic pork. I plan to keep on looking and see what I can find. But in the meantime it sure is nice to have figured this out. I really think, though, that meat packaging should have to note when preservatives have been added just like other foods.

You can read more about my elimination diet and food journals in my book, Living with IBD & IBS: A Personal Journey of Success