Smoked Meats & Stomach Pain

Beef Jerky on wooden background
A pile of smoked meat. (Image: HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images)

Smoking was the traditional way Native Americans preserved meat, according to the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. While smoking was initially meant to improve the quality and shelf life of meat -- which is prone to bacteria, yeasts and mold -- it may not be very good for your stomach. Smoked meat is linked to foodborne illness, and eating too much may increase your risk of stomach cancer. Consult your doctor if you’re having prolonged stomach pain.

Smoked Meat and Botulism

Smoked meat is considered a lightly preserved food, according to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and is at risk of becoming contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium that causes botulism. In addition to diarrhea and vomiting, botulism infection may also cause double vision, slurred speech and muscle weakness. Botulism is a serious illness that can lead to paralysis or death, and immediate medical attention is recommended if infection is suspected.

Smoked Meat and Listeria

Listeria is also a bacterium that leads to foodborne illness. Cooking and pasteurization kills the bacteria. However, listeria lives and grows in cold temperatures, and smoked meats may become contaminated during processing at a food manufacturing plant, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, stiff neck, fever and weakness are common symptoms of listeria infection. The bacterial infection is especially dangerous for pregnant women, young children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system such as people with HIV.

Smoked Meat and Stomach Cancer

Smoked meats are a source of nitrosamines, which are chemical compounds linked to cancer. A 2006 review study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found an association between smoked meat intake and the development of gastric cancer. However, the authors of the study noted that the evidence is preliminary and more research is necessary. Indigestion, abdominal discomfort and bloating are early signs of stomach cancer and may progress to vomiting and stomach pain in advanced stages.

Reducing Risk of Stomach Pain

You may be able to reduce your risk of foodborne illness by heating your meats before eating them. Cook meats to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the bacteria. To reduce your risk of cancer, including stomach cancer, the World Cancer Research Fund recommends you limit your intake of red meat to no more than 18 ounces a week, with very little to none of that coming from processed meats such as smoked meat.

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