One of the myths that gets propagated, particularly by vegan advocates, is the idea that meat rots in the colon. This image is designed to be unappetizing in order to put one off of eating meat. But the reality is that it simply isn’t true.
We’ll keep this short and sweet since it doesn’t require much to thoroughly debunk the myth that meat rots in the colon. As we’ve seen in the previous section, protein digestion begins in the stomach. Once you eat protein, the stomach pH drops dramatically to somewhere in the 1 to 3 range.
The pH has to be less than 3 in order to activate pepsin, which is the protein-digesting enzyme that works in the stomach. Pepsin is a powerful enzyme. In several hours, it can thoroughly break down just about any protein you throw at it, including sizeable chunks of protein swallowed whole.
Pepsin breaks apart proteins into smaller proteins until all the protein is in little, tiny bits, forming a liquid called chyme. At that point, the stomach empties into the small intestines, where it is buffered by bicarbonate.
The bicarbonate raises the pH to be slightly alkaline so that the pancreatic enzymes can work. Among the pancreatic enzymes that the body secretes are proteases that further break down the remaining proteins in the chyme. The proteins get broken into amino acids, which are then absorbed through the small intestines. The result?
By the time the chyme reaches the colon, the protein has been almost entirely absorbed. No meat remains. To be fair, there are some people who have difficulty digesting some types of protein. For example, as we’ve seen earlier in the book, some people do have difficulty digesting some components of casein, which is one type of protein from milk.
But perhaps the protein that causes the most problems for most people happens to be a plant protein – gliadin – from wheat. Ironically, meat proteins are among the easiest to digest. So while some proteins may make it to the colon, meat proteins are the least likely to travel that far. Does meat rot in the colon? Nope. But fiber does. Though you don’t hear a lot of people warning about the dangers of rotting fiber (because it’s beneficial).