Vegan Diet – The Challenges & Side Effects

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

The Vegan Diet

The vegan diet has become increasingly popular over recent years with many people reporting amazing results and improvements in their health and wellness, but what are the possible side effects?

The truth is that a plant-based diet can have amazing results for the health of your body and health of the planet. A vegan diet is a strict plant-based diet of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, bread, pasta, and lentils. It excludes all animal products including meat, dairy, and eggs.

Vegan Diet Benefits

Studies have shown that the health benefits of a vegan diet are that it's great for weight loss, reduces cancer risk, lowers type 2 diabetes and the list goes on. Most of these claims have proven to be true and effective and so the diet has increased in popularity naturally.

For the environment, producing plant-based foods requires fewer resources to produce unlike producing animal foods. Cattle grazing in huge amounts generates methane and carbon dioxide and are potent greenhouse gases. By choosing to go vegan, people are making a change in lifestyle that can help to slow down global warming.

With all the information available to show the great benefits of a vegan diet, it is also important to assess whether this is the diet for you? Making the move to a vegan diet is not easy and requires a big commitment and lifestyle change.

The important point here is that some aspect of the vegan diet is not spoken about and people are not open and honest about the challenges they experience.

Veganism Trend

With many celebrities and public figures now following a vegan diet the diet has become mainstream across the globe. The vegan diet is now seen as a “trendy” diet and a way to follow the same diet as the influencers you most inspire to whether that is a celebrity, athlete, or public figure that has turned to veganism.

The vegan diet was further celebrated in the recent Netflix documentary The Game Changers where athletes across all sports competed whilst following a vegan diet. The documentary appeared to show that the vegan diet is optimal for athlete performance and that animal foods are harmful to an athlete’s performance and health.

Whilst the experts in the documentary appear to suggest that an athlete will excel and perform better on a vegan diet, Chris Kresser a leading functional Medicine and Ancestral Health Specialist debunked the documentary. Chris described The Game Changers documentary as “propaganda for veganism, pure and simple” in his recent appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience.

Chris goes into further detail and provides further evidence to show that the extraordinary claims made in the documentary regarding the vegan diet are not true. You can read further into his findings here.

It is claimed that in The Game Changers documentary, many of the participating athletes have since switched back to a regular diet or other diets since filming. This questions how sustainable the diet is but also the pressing side effects the diet may have on your health long term.

Is The Diet Right For Me?

The big question many have when considering a vegan diet is what the nutritional implications are for missing out on animal-based foods. For many, they hesitate to take up a vegan diet in the first place due to this with the jury still out as to whether the vegan alternatives can replace the protein and iron levels that you gain from animal-based foods.

Increasingly, many people are taking on the vegan diet but through challenges and side effects they experience they ultimately turn their backs on the diet.

The key point here is that there is no one optimal diet for everybody, we are all different and diets work better for some than they do others. Our bodies react differently to each diet and the mission is to find the right diet for you and your body.

While there are many glowing benefits to the vegan diet to decide whether this is the right diet for you, it is important to be open and honest in your research before taking the diet on. This means understanding the possible side effects too.

Lets breakdown the 5 Possible Side Effects of the Vegan Diet here:

#1 Deficiency in Nutrients & Micronutrients:

Certain micronutrients like Vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids, Zinc, Iron, and Calcium could all be lost in a diet free of meat or dairy products. This may result in a weakened immune system, tiredness, osteoporosis (low bone density and bone fractures), hypertension, fatigue, or rashes.

#2 Hair Loss:

Foods rich in protein help to build or repair [worn-out] tissues. The human hair consists of bundles of amino acids chains that form protein tissues. A diet like the vegan diet that lacks proteins may result in the wear of these amino acid chains, resulting in the wear of the hair tissues and subsequent loss of hair.

#3 Digestive Problems:

For vegan newbies, rapid change in dietary lifestyle can result in constipation, bloating, or diarrhoea. The reason is that fiber, the indigestible part of plant materials, may be difficult to digest given that the normal flora (bacteria) in a vegan newbie’s gastrointestinal tract may not be optimized for digesting fiber effectively.

#4 Irreversible Numbness of Hands and Feet:

This neurological effect of a vegan diet is a result of the deficiency of Vitamin B-12 which is extremely hard to detect since it shows symptoms that are like other medical conditions. Unlike the other deficiencies highlighted above which can be remedied, it just might be too late when eventually the deficiency of Vitamin B-12 is detected given the irreversibly of its side effect.

#5 Social anxiety disorder:

Vegans sometimes are subjects of ridicule by others who perceive their lifestyle to be awkward. This sometimes causes distress (borne out of fear or anxiety) to vegans in social situations that may impair their ability to function in some social functions. Socially this may have implications when selecting restaurants or places to eat with friends as the menu may have no vegan options available.

Do Your Research

In conclusion, going or staying vegan has numerous benefits for health, environment, and ethical considerations. However, it is important to understand the challenges, side effects, and dangers to your health too.

As with any big life-changing decision, make sure you do the full research to see whether the vegan diet is right for you and your lifestyle. It's important to do your own research and seek out the possible side effects along with the benefits to make a more complete rounded decision.

Hopefully, this article helps to provide you with a more open and honest approach to what you can expect from the vegan diet so you can select the right diet for you.

By Mark Ollerton - Freelance Writer

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©2020 by Mark Ollerton