Are you following a vegan eating regime or diet? Perhaps you are thinking about it? There are many reasons why someone might want to follow a vegan diet and if followed using healthy, nutritious food sources, a vegan diet could make you feel more healthy and vibrant in the short-term but, it’s not always the case. It may not be necessarily right for you – as with any diet or specific eating regime. Vegan diets may help some to lose weight and they may have a ‘cleansing’ effect on the body short-term but is this a sustainable diet for optimal health in the long-term?
One important thing to remember is that there is no one perfect diet. Eating for optimal health is about eating what’s right for you and if you listen, your body will tell you. Allowing your beliefs to determine your dietary approach may not be the best option for you. An eating regime tailored to you that you can thrive on is the true goal for health and happiness if that is your priority.
Of course a vegan diet is a lot healthier than the typical western diet of processed and junk foods and a few months on a vegan diet can really make a difference to your health but there are possibilities of health issues if you eat vegan on a long-term basis:
Low stomach acid – by avoiding healthy, organic meat and animal fats your body’s production of hydrochloric acid can be reduced which means it’s a lot harder to digest and break down foods and obtain the nutrients from them. Nutrient deficiency and low stomach acid are associated with a number of health issues. Low stomach acid can also contribute to an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut.
Compromised detoxification – genetic mutations in the detoxification pathways are common and if these are not supported by supplementation (due to the low availability of these nutrients in vegan food options) it can cause autoimmune, hormonal and again, digestive issues.
Skin outbreaks – the lack of vitamin A retinol and collagen from animal sources can impact skin health.
Weakened immune system – a lack of healthy fats in the diet make it more difficult for the body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients needed for a strong immune system.
Nutrients that are challenging to obtain from eating a vegan diet include: choline, folate (B9) and B12, vitamin A (retinol), collagen, OMEGA 3 fats, fat soluble vitamins D3 and K2 and iron (the more absorbable heme form).
This article is not about telling you to avoid eating vegan but to make you aware of the potential affects of a long-term vegan diet. Other options are to rotate a vegan eating regime with an eating regime that includes animal products to obtain the vital nutrients these food sources contain. Contrary to popular belief there are sustainable and ethical methods to produce organic, good quality animal products from reliable sources. For example, three weeks vegan and then the fourth week include animal products or three months vs one month.
As I said before it all boils down to listening to your body and how your diet makes you feel and working out what’s right for you. If you have been following a vegan diet and you’re feeling in optimal health that’s great but it is recommended that your nutrient levels are regularly checked and that you visit a nutritional therapist or health professional to identify any deficiencies that could have an impact on your health and wellbeing. This is of course even more important if you are experiencing any of the health issues above.