Even if you are not a bodybuilder, protein is necessary for your body to function properly. Protein makes up every cell, tissue and organ in your body. You don’t have to be a meathead to get enough protein. Although beef, poultry and pork are good sources of protein, many non-animal sources, such as legumes, beans, dairy, tofu, nuts and seeds, contain protein as well. Because protein can take up to three hours to digest, it may cause uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating or gas.
Take enzymes when eating protein to help your body digest the nutrient. Your stomach secretes digestive enzymes, such as pepsin, to help break down proteins. However, in some cases you may not have enough digestive juices to break down protein. You can find digestive enzyme supplements at health stores or online.
Eat protein last in your meal. Because protein takes the longest to digest, you should eat it after you eat the items that get digested more quickly, such as fruits and vegetables. If you eat protein early in the meal, you can create a food "traffic jam" in your digestive system.
Drink water or other fluids during or after a meal. Water does not dilute digestive juices but it actually helps improve digestion.
Chew your protein thoroughly, at least 25 times per bite. Although you might feel like a cow, chewing activates saliva, which begins the digestive process. Your body absorbs nutrients best from well-chewed food.
Avoid overeating. Eating too much protein in one meal can contribute to poor digestion.
Eat your protein midday for the best digestion. Your body has the most energy to digest protein between 11 AM to 2 PM.
Add probiotics to your diet to help aid overall digestion. You can take a probiotic supplement or eat fermented foods, such as yogurt. Probiotics increase the good bacteria in your stomach and improve nutrient absorption, according to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein
- Physiology Models: Protein Digestion & Absorption
- Baseline of Health Foundation: The Enzyme Story
- MayoClinic.com: Water After Meals: Does it Disturb Digestion?
- Body Ecology: The Surprising Reason You May Be Aging Prematurely: Improper Protein Digestion
- The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide: Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics
- Consult your physician if you have trouble digesting protein to rule out any underlying medical issues.
Ireland Wolfe has been writing professionally since 2009, contributing to Toonari Post, Africana Online and Winzer Insurance. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in psychology and Master of Arts in mental health counseling. She is also a licensed mental health counselor, registered nutritionist and yoga teacher.