Going vegan is a lifestyle change. How much of a change it will be for you depends on your previous diet and lifestyle.
If you have been eating meat every day and chowing down on huge amounts of dairy then the simple truth of the matter is that becoming a vegan will be rather a dramatic change – for the better, of course, but dramatic none the less.
Deciding to live as a vegan will, without a doubt, leave you feeling happier and healthier. (With the added benefit that you will be occupying the moral high ground!) But that is not to say that, like any other change, it is hassle free. Switching to vegan cuisine can come with a few minor teething problems along the way.
While adopting a vegan lifestyle is far easier than you may imagine, it is important to realize that making a change to the way you eat – even a change for the better – can temporarily cause a few negative effects. Don’t worry though – the side effects of changing to a vegan diet are less worrisome that you may imagine and each of them will ease in short order, or is easily remedied with a few simple measures.
In order to fully understand the possible side effects, both negative and positive, or starting a vegan diet, lets take a look at some of the most common ones.
POTENTIAL NEGATIVE SIDE EFFECTS (AND HOW TO REMEDY THEM)
First of all, it is important to begin by saying that what happens when you go vegan will depend to a large degree on how dedicated you are to making the change. Your success in going vegan depends on how well you understand the nutritional needs of your body and how those can be met on a vegan diet.
It is important to understand that a vegan diet plan is fully able to supply for all the needs of the human body.
A little, basic understanding of what you need to eat, and why, will help you avoid many of the pitfalls of the newly vegan.
That said, making any big dietary change can lead to a number of side effects. Most of these are due to the “hangover” from your previous diet.
It is also the case that physiological changes can take time to happen, as your body begins to adapt to your new way of eating.
Even with a well balanced vegan diet, you may find that there is a transition period, during which you encounter the following side effects:
A switch from a more unhealthy meat-eating diet (especially one that is high in processed foods, fats and sugars) to a healthy vegan diet can often lead to weight loss. Many of us may welcome the chance to shed those extra pounds. But for some, the rate of weight loss can be a little faster than is desirable.
When you are starting a vegan diet, you may often find that you are inadvertently eating fewer calories per day than you need to sustain your weight. With a vegan diet, it is important to be more aware of what you are consuming, since it is important that you make each calorie count towards sustaining your body and mind.
However, though many vegans choose to maintain a relatively low calorie diet, it is not essential to do so. In order to avoid the weight loss experienced by some new vegan dieters, simply add extra calories to your meal plan.
A vegan diet can be great for those who want to lose weight – but a vegan diet can easily also provide enough calories to maintain or even gain weight – depending on your own personal requirements.
Note About Calories
Simply up the amount of vegan food you eat until you are meeting your daily calorie requirement. A little experimentation may be required, but you can maintain an ideal weight once you have settled on the right recipe for you.
One of the most commonly reported vegan problems for those new to the lifestyle is a lack of energy soon after making the change. These energy issues can have a number of root causes and how you tackle this problem will depend on where exactly it stems from.
First of all, some energy issues come from inadvertently eating too few calories for your body’s daily needs. Calculate roughly how many calories you are eating and if you need few more – include a vegan snack or pudding every now and then to give yourself a bit of a boost.
Some energy issues derive from your previous diet, rather than your new vegan one. If you ate meat and dairy before and were not particularly clued in as to the sources of the animal-derived food you consumed, your body is likely to have absorbed a number of substances such as herbicides, pesticides and excessive hormones.
Detoxifying your system can take time and during this process your body will be working hard, which can lead to low energy problems. Stick with it, continue to eat well and drink plenty of fresh water and it will soon pass.
There is no scientific evidence that cravings give insight into what you body is missing. Sometimes, it may seem as though that is the case, but the truth of the matter is that cravings need not be for something we need and are often simply for something our body has become used to.
Unfortunately, if your diet previously contained unhealthy foods, with high amounts of sugar and saturated fat, you may find that you crave these bad foods every now and then when you transition to your vegan diet.
Don’t give in!
Vegan substitutes for meat, milk, or cheese can satisfy those cravings perfectly when handled correctly and wonderful vegan recipes can be found for salt or sweetness or spice or whatever else your cravings demand.
SKIN BREAKOUTS, HAIR, NAILS
Science has not fully investigated the effects of pesticides and other such substances on the human body but it does seem that they are extremely negative. When eating well, your body will begin to rid itself of unpleasant substances. This “detox” process can take time.
Early on after your switch to a vegan diet you may well find that your skin breaks out more often, and be disappointed by the lacklustre appearance of your hair and nails. Be aware – this will only last while the old diet’s “hangover” lasts, and until you perfect your nutritionally-balanced vegan diet.
Cut out pre-packaged food and wherever possible make your own meals from scratch, using organic vegan ingredients. Drink plenty of water and make sure you are including plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and pulses in your meal plans.
Soon you will see the positive side effects of a healthy vegan diet on your skin, hair and nails, which we will discuss in more depth later on.
Headaches can also be caused by the detox process and by the “hangover” from a diet high in unhealthy fats and processed sugars. If this is the case, then this will pass as long as you keep eating a healthy vegan diet and drinking plenty of water.
Listen to your body, however. If headaches persist on your new vegan diet, you may need to consider whether there is some imbalance. Some people find that soy (like meat and dairy) can effect hormone levels, especially in women. If your headaches are due to out of whack hormones then cutting out soy and replacing with other vegan options could be the answer.
Again, being more in tune with what you eat and what your body needs will help you find the right balance and the perfect vegan diet before too much time has elapsed.
Unfortunately, it takes the human gut a little while to adapt to any major change of diet. So, when switching to a vegan diet from a very different one, it is common to experience minor digestive discomfort, or changes to bowel movements.
Vegan poop is healthy poop – but to a meat-eater it can seem remarkably different. A vegan diet is usually high in fibre, which is often lacking from many modern diets.
This means that food will pass more easily through your digestive system and stools may be higher in volume.
You may find that the change to your diet causes increased flatulence and wind. This is most likely to be the fibre too – and will lessen as your body gets used to you eating your new, healthier vegan diet.
There are, however, a few other things you can do to minimize the uncomfortable feelings.
One tip is to soak beans and pulses overnight, which may somewhat reduce their gas causing effects. Ginger, peppermint tea or fennel seeds may all also help to reduce any temporary discomfort. If you are still alarmed by the changes in your poop, or by your digestive discomfort, discuss your problems with a doctor.
Systemic change can upset all your body’s systems and that can include the systems that regulate your sleep patterns. Especially during the detox period, you may well find that you find it harder to get a good night’s sleep.
Try to eat your evening meal earlier in the evening, so you have time to digest it before you go to bed. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants late in the day. Do not have any electronic devices such as phones, tablets, laptops or TVs in your bedroom and develop a bed time routine to get into a sleepy mode before you lie down and shut your eyes. Try a soothing chamomile tea to relax and prepare for a good night’s sleep.
All these things should help, as will developing a healthier vegan diet perfectly suited to your nutritional needs.
PROBLEMS WHEN SOCIALISING
When you go vegan, it is not only your body that will undergo change. A range of different life areas will be effected – largely to the positive. However, like all major changes, some things do need adjustment.
It is not uncommon for people to find that one of the most difficult factors in going vegan is explaining your choice to other people.
There is a reluctance to look “weird” in front of friends or family.
Stand up for what you believe in without being preachy, and simply stick to your guns and talk about the issues involved when there is call to do so.
Socializing often revolves around food – placing restrictions on what you will and will not eat obviously does make it a little more difficult to dine out with friends.
But as long as your friends are aware of the issue and you’ve done your research, you will find that it is more possible than you imagined to find vegan options in your local area, and often vegetarian options can be amended to make them suitable for you.
Doing a little research about where you can eat as a vegan and where it is difficult for you to do so will help you to maintain a healthy, happy social life – even with non-vegan friends.
You will likely even find that you develop some new cooking skills and can introduce all your friends and family to exciting new vegan recipes that even meat-eaters will love.
POSITIVE SIDE EFFECTS OF GOING VEGAN
All of the minor negative side effects of going vegan are, by far, outweighed by the positive benefits of switching to a vegan diet. All of the above problems are minor, and all will be gone after a short period of detox and adjustment.
Longer term, the benefits are all to the good. A wholesome, balanced and nutritious vegan diet has a broad range of benefits to the individual, as well as to our planet and society as a whole.
The few minor niggles discussed above are but a small price to pay for all these following benefits:
As mentioned above, weight loss is often an unintended consequence of switching to a vegan diet. It can also be an intended one.
By cutting out meat and dairy and taking more control over what you eat, especially if you eschew pre-packaged and junk food, can help you to meet your weight loss goals, before maintaining at a healthy weight.
Once the initial period of detox and adjustment is over and you have perfected your vegan diet and found the right calorie count for you and your lifestyle, you will be amazed by the going vegan before and after – you will find it difficult to remember how it felt to be less healthy and less energetic.
As long as you get your nutrition right, a vegan diet can be a great first step on the road to a fitter, healthier way of life.
HEALTHY SKIN, HAIR & NAILS
The skin, hair and nails of those on a vegan diet is also going to get better as you settle in to your new healthier, more ethical and more balanced way of life. Continue to eat a healthy vegan diet, drink plenty of water and get plenty of sleep and you will be getting compliments on your appearance left, right and center.
By taking control of your food intake and thinking more about the needs of your body, as you will when following a vegan diet, you can improve your physical and mental well-being. Head to toe all systems will be functioning optimally when you eat well as a conscientious vegan.
By eating vegan diet you will be reducing your likelihood of developing ischemic heart disease and cancer and eating healthily will also reduce the likelihood of you developing a whole host of other health problems.
FEELING MORE FOCUSED
With better general health comes more ability to concentrate and focus the mind. A good vegan diet will be rich in omega 3s (found in walnuts, pumpkin and flax seeds), which helps build myelin and improves the connections between brain cells.
Keep eating a variety of veg such as broccoli and cauliflowers as these have been shown to improve memory. Getting enough B12 (fortified breakfasts or supplements) will also help you feel more focused.
BOOST IN TASTES AND SENSATIONS
A vegan diet will open you up to whole new, wider world of culinary tastes and textures. Meat eaters will tend to stick to a relatively small range of foods, while a vegan diet tends, of necessity, to be more diverse and include a broader range of organic, wholesome foods, with a range of new, enticing recipes to try.
BETTER PERSONAL RELATIONS
Giving up eating meat and dairy will alter (and most would say improve) your body odor. This will give you good excuse for a few more…cuddles.
Your new diet may also make you better in bed! Improved brain chemistry, healthy arteries and more energy all combine to mean a vegan with an ideal diet could be dynamite in the bedroom!
ELEVATED, STABILIZED MOOD
A vegan diet will not only make you healthier, which will have a knock on effect on your general mood, it can also really make you happier, with fewer mood swings and a rosier outlook on the world.
Apart from anything else, your mood will be boosted by knowing that even if you’ve had a few teething problems here and there, you are doing the right thing – not only for yourself but for our planet.
PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER
When adopting a vegan diet, you are heading towards healthier and more balanced lifestyle. However, every change in your lifestyle will cause some effects on your body – both positive and negative. One of the most common health issues reported by “newbies” is a lack of energy, which can be simply solved by including a vegan snack in your daily meal plan.
Even though your body is transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, this process takes time and your body is detoxifying from unhealthy processed food.
Don’t give up, just stick with it – there is a lot of solutions you can find online for vegan diet side effects. And believe me – vegan lifestyle has a broad range of benefits for every individual. You won’t regret it.