Signs Of An Unhealthy Vegan
A vegan diet is not synonymous with health. Nor is the vegan movement only about food and eating healthy. But with a little effort, keeping animals off your plate can help you reach your fittest self. To know how to improve your health, though, you need first to know your starting point.
Through this blog, I want to help you understand your current health status and heal your body. As a vegan, it should be your moral obligation to be in the healthiest shape you can get so that the world sees you as the fittest role model. If you identify with any of the signs below, it is time to start taking your health seriously on a plant-based diet.
What Is A Vegetarian Diet?
According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of animal slaughter.
Vegetarian diets contain various levels of fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, nuts and seeds. The inclusion of dairy and eggs depends on the type of diet you follow.
The most common types of vegetarians include:
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians: Vegetarians who avoid all animal flesh but do consume dairy and egg products.
- Lacto vegetarians: Vegetarians who avoid animal flesh and eggs but do consume dairy products.
- Ovo vegetarians: Vegetarians who avoid all animal products except eggs.
- Vegans: Vegetarians who avoid all animal and animal-derived products.
Those who do not eat meat or poultry but consume fish are considered pescatarians, whereas part-time vegetarians are often flexitarians.
Although sometimes considered vegetarians, pescatarians and flexitarians do eat animal flesh. Therefore, they do not technically fall under the definition of vegetarianism.
Low Energy Levels
What is your first thought as soon as you wake up? Is it ‘ug another morning’ or is it to spring out of bed with a smile. Most people assume it is natural to feel low energy level’s as you age. This, however, is not true. You might be experiencing sluggishness because of hormonal fluctuations, lack of vitamins, gut dysbiosis, etc. This is also a sign of low vitamin B12 levels. I insist on getting a B12 test done every six months to ensure your levels are optimal. Lack of vitamin B12 is almost always associated with an iron deficiency, leading to low energy levels.
Irregular Menstrual Cycle
Fluctuating female sex hormone levels and elevated men's sex hormones in women are often associated with irregular menstrual cycles. Besides this, irregular cycles could also signify PCOS, a metabolic condition, or poor nutritional habits. If your cycles are more than 28- 35 days apart, it is best to visit a gynecologist and rule out PCOS/ PCOD. Working with a plant-based sports nutritionist such as Roshni Sanghvi can help you reverse symptoms of PCOS without the need for medication.
If you are not able to perform in bed, you are not alone. Millions of men across the globe struggle with erectile dysfunction and are intimidated to discuss it with a professional. The chances are that your testosterone levels are low, but there could be a bigger problem hiding to explode.
Like any other part of your body, the penis requires adequate blood supply to function well. If your blood vessels are clogged with cholesterol, your dick doesn’t require the blood supply needed. If there is cholesterol built up in the private parts of your body, the chances are that your heart vessels are also clogged with cholesterol. Guess what happens if your heart doesn’t get enough blood supply? You are right- BOOM. Please do not rush to pop the Viagra. Check your cholesterol level’s instead and work on bringing them down.
Forgetfulness / Memory Loss
A dip in the attention span of man has been consistent since the technology age. But have you been experiencing recent memory loss? Are you more forgetful than a few years ago? This is not a sign of ageing alone but also a symptom. Believe it or not, this also is linked with cholesterol. Well, mostly. Cholesterol itself cannot make its way into the brain.
This is because we have something called the BBB (blood-brain barrier) protecting us. However, cholesterol converts to oxidized cholesterol when exposed to heat, such as in fried and junk food and margarine. Oxidized cholesterol is proven to affect mental health. Alzheimer’s, dementia and brain degenerative diseases are all a sign of excess oxidized cholesterol. Limit the consumption of oil and margarine- even though they are vegan.
Irregular Bowel Movement
What does your bowel movement look like? You should be a solid number 4 on most days. Anything above or below this could be a sign of gut despises. The word gut despises the loss of harmony among the probiotic bacteria in your gut. The gut despises your metabolism, boosts insulin resistance, makes your body store more body fat, and is linked to inflammation.
All of these are early signs of diabetes, heart diseases, and even some types of cancers. Food sensitivities are also a sign of gut despises. Instead of rushing to add a periodic to your diet, work on understanding what caused this in the first place and fix the same. Probiotics will temporarily band-aid the wound, but the despises will return if you do not change your lifestyle.
One sign of metabolism is stubborn weight gain. The kind of weight that does not drop no matter what you do. But brittle nails and extensive hair fall could also be a sign of slow metabolism. Exercise can help boost your metabolic health slightly. But I would ask the question- WHY. and genetics is often not the answer.
Yo-yo dieting, very restrictive dieting, sedentary lifestyle, bad food habits, alcohol consumption could be factors of low metabolism. Herbs like dandelion and ashwagandha help the liver boost the metabolism slightly, but it is probably time to work on holistic lifestyle changes.
Acne And Skin Problems
If you are new to veganism and have been a dairy/ meat fan all your life, then acne could be a sign of your body trying to detox. But acne in adults is never by chance. Hormonal fluctuation or IBS could be just a couple of reasons for your acne. Acne is a sign of your gut health.
Ideally, you want to have clear and vibrant skin. Elevated stress levels, lack of proper hydration, fiber deprived diet could show up as marks on your skin. Applying beauty products from the outside is like painting dried-up brown grass green. It is not a solution. Working with a skin care specialist or a nutritionist can help you determine what is wrong and fix the issue.
Chronic Body And Joint Pains
Even if you are an avid fitness enthusiast, you should not have chronic pains. Lack of recovery could be a sign of inflammation. If your body pain is also often associated with insomnia, there could be a deeper issue. Making sure you consume enough anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric, fruits (at least five servings per day), and vegetables.
Joint pains often go away by just dropping meat and dairy from your diet. If you continue to have weak muscles, though, work with a fitness expert to help you strengthen them. Autoimmune diseases could also be a sign of chronic joint and muscle pains.
Elevated Blood Glucose Levels
Make sure to check your blood glucose levels once every six months. Most people think that elevated blood sugar is only a sign of excess carbs in the diet. But this is not true. You want to stay away from sugar and highly processed carbs. Still, fibrous carbs such as lentils, beans, pulses and vegetables are actually beneficial in reducing your blood glucose levels. Eliminating these from your diet could be counterproductive. On the other hand, excess consumption of oils and unhealthy fats can drive your sugar levels up as they clog your arteries. Getting bi-yearly tests done could be a wake-up call for some.
Obesity alone is a welcome mat to multiple other diseases. Just bringing your body weight down in an ideal BMI range is enough to see your health bloom. This is because every single fat cell in your body is a hormone-making machine. The more fat cells you have, the more sex hormones like estrogen and androgen are pumped into your bloodstream.
Estrogen stores body fat and lead to more obesity. Not only that but elevated estrogen levels are linked with PCOS. Working your way to an 80% whole food diet is enough to see a drastic difference in your body weight without having to count calories or adding extensive exercise into your routine.
Whatever your starting point may be, you can always get better. No matter what your age is currently, there is always a scope to improve and get better. If you have made it to the end of this blog, take another 5 minutes to book a health checkup for yourself and know your starting point. If you identify with any of the points above, know that you can experience a fitter version of yourself by making a few simple tweaks to your lifestyle.
Vegan isn’t synonymous with healthy. “You can still be a vegan and eat a bag of potato chips,” says Scarlata. It can actually take extra effort to be healthy on a vegan eating plan like gluten-free diets. “You have to invest the time in understanding how to eat balanced meals and making sure your diet is plentiful in things like calcium, iron, and B12, instead of going out and buying dairy-free vegan cookies,” says Scarlata. If you’re finding it easier to default to the less-healthy vegan options rather than going the extra mile to make sure you’re covering all your bases, it may be time to take a break.
Your Hair Is Falling Out, Your Nails Are Breaking, And You Haven’t Seen Aunt Flo In Months.
“Your body will tell you when it isn’t getting what it needs,” Cohen says. Common signs of malnutrition are lacklustre or thinning hair, brittle nails, dry skin, acne and — the canary in the coal mine — changes in your period. Women often lose their periods when their body fat drops too low.
Your Workouts Are Failing
Whether you’re an avid runner or a power-lifting goddess, one of the first things to be affected by diet are your daily sweat fests, Cohen says. Hathaway said the deciding factor was when she couldn’t keep up with the physically intense scenes she was filming. “I didn’t feel good or healthy. I was not strong,” she says. Cohen suggests writing down your benchmarks — how fast you can run a mile or how heavy a weight you lift — and if you’re not able to keep up, then take a look at your diet.
You Can’t Sleep
You might think that feeling tired all the time would mean you’d be lights out the second your head hits the pillow, but nutritional deficiencies have been shown to lead to insomnia.
If you decide that your current diet isn’t doing you any favours, Cohen recommends a slower approach rather than going whole-hog (ha!) as Hathaway did. “As you eat, your body produces enzymes to digest food and vegetarians or vegans may not have all the enzymes to digest animal product, so that eating can be painful.” To allow your body time to adjust, she recommends switching out a few meals at a time, gradually working up to a whole new approach.
You Feel Weirdly Bloated
Beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are loaded with fiber that can help keep you satisfied and even lower the risk for some chronic diseases. But they can also leave you gassy and crampy—especially if you ramp up your intake too quickly.
To help ease the discomfort, try drinking more water. “Fiber soaks up extra water in your system, so you need more liquid to keep things moving along,” says Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN, of Middleburg Nutrition. Eating at least half of your veggies in cooked form instead of raw can help, too. “The cooking process helps break down some of the fiber, so your body doesn’t have to do as much of the work.
Your Digestive System Is Upset
Vegan diets are typically quite high in fiber because legumes are a popular protein pick. Additionally, other mainstays of a vegan diet, such as vegetables, oats, fruits, tofu, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, are also high in fiber.
If your diet pre-vegan was relatively low to moderate fiber and overnighted you shift towards a high fibre diet, it’s not unreasonable to expect some digestive ill-effects such as bloating, abdominal pain, excessive wind, increased bowel motions, diarrhea, or it can even swing the other way and lead to constipation. Digestive upset is uncomfortable, but it can also lead to unnecessary nutrient loss if we go to the toilet too frequently or soon after eating.
This means it’s important to slowly increase fiber intake over the course of a few weeks when changing your diet. If you did start slow, but after a few weeks, things haven’t settled down, and your digestive system has a mind of its own, it’s probably time to reassess whether you can afford to rely on plant-based proteins as your main protein source. An easy fix may be bringing in a small amount of animal-based protein to balance it out.
You Are Tired All The Time
There are a couple of culprits that could be making you feel pooped. One is going too heavy on bread and grains and skimping on lean protein and healthy fats, which can cause your blood sugar to drop faster and zap your energy, Savage says. “I always recommend having at least one serving of protein and one healthy fat at each meal,” she says. (Try incorporating some of these 10 high-fat foods you should be eating more of into your diet.)
Also, there aren’t many great plant sources of iron and vitamin B12, two nutrients involved in energy production, says Blatner. Iron is found in beans, lentils, and tofu, and vitamin B12 can be found in eggs, dairy, and nutritional yeast. B12 is also found in certain fortified cereals and milk alternatives like Kashi Heart. After taking a blood test, they can determine if taking a supplement makes sense for you.
You Are Hungry An Hour Or Two After Eating
If meatless meals don’t stick with you for very long, there’s a good chance that they don’t deliver enough protein. “High-protein foods take longer to digest, so it helps you stay satisfied longer,” Blatner says. Your individual protein needs will depend on your calorie needs and activity level. But in general, you should aim to have at least one serving of protein per meal, like half a cup of cooked lentils or a cup of Greek yogurt.
Your Glow Is Gone
Maybe you’re extra pale. Or it could be that your hair is falling out more than usual or your nails are brittle and yellow. All of these are signs that you may not be getting the nutrients you need from your current diet. “You have to listen to those clues your body is giving you,” says Scarlata. “It’s very adept at telling you what’s going on.”
One major reason you may lose your lustre on a vegan diet is a lack of protein. “When you’re vegan, you have to be that much more vigilant about protein because it’s not as innate to your diet. All of the enzymes in your body are proteins that help your system function.
If your body doesn’t get enough, it will break down its own protein storage to create what it needs to exist.” That can result in not loving what you see in the mirror (even though that's probably the last thing you’d expect from a vegan diet). Plus, animal proteins are packed with essential amino acids, which help keep you looking vibrant and healthy. As a vegan, it can be harder to get your fill of those beauty boosters.
Poor Relationship With Food
I am sure we can all agree, having a diet brimming with nutrients loses its shine if it’s causing stress, despair, and anxiety on the inside. If you start to develop a poor relationship with food, such as feeling like you’re missing out, feeling resentful towards food or even feel fearful and anxious around food, it's important to take action to turn things around before they become worse. Speak up and tell others how you feel because the support from others can truly make a difference, and it may also be how others are feeling.
Overall, if you are experiencing any of the above, it doesn’t automatically mean a vegan diet isn’t for you, so don’t necessarily throw the baby out with the bathwater! Instead, it means you need to change your current vegan diet. Use these insights to adapt your current diet to help change your perspective. Shift closer to the right kind of diet for you.
Vegans are thinner, have lower serum cholesterol and blood pressure, and enjoy a lower risk of CVD. BMD and the risk of bone fracture may be a concern when there is inadequate calcium and vitamin D intake. Where available, calcium- and vitamin D–fortiﬁed foods should be regularly consumed.
There is a need for more studies on the relation between vegan diets and the risk of cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Vitamin B-12 deﬁciency is a potential problem for vegans, so that the use of vitamin B-12–fortiﬁed foods or supplements are essential. To optimize vegans' n–3 fatty acid status, foods rich in ALA, DHA-fortiﬁed foods, or DHA supplements should be regularly consumed.
Vegans generally have an adequate iron intake and do not experience anemia more frequently than others. Typically, vegans can avoid nutritional problems if appropriate food choices are made. Their health status appears to be at least as good as other vegetarians, such as lacto-ovo vegetarians.
A vegan diet sounds pretty foolproof: What could really be so bad about loading up on veggies and fruits? Well, a few different things. “Veganism can be a great diet for many people, but there are certain situations where it may not be best for someone’s optimal health,” says Boston-based dietitian Kate Scarlata, R.D.
In some cases, veganism can even be dangerous, as Jordan Younger knows firsthand. The Instagram star amassed a fierce following as “The Blonde Vegan” but found that her seemingly smart habits became the perfect breeding ground for the eating disorder orthorexia, characterized by an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. While that doesn’t mean vegan diets are always harmful.
I trust you enjoyed reading the article on the Signs Of An Unhealthy Vegan. Please stay tuned. There are more blog posts to come very shortly.
Your Opinion Is Important To Me
Ideas? Thoughts? Questions? I would love to hear from you. Would you please leave me your questions, experience and remarks about the Signs Of An Unhealthy Vegan in the comments section below? You can also reach me by email at Jeannette@LivingTheVeganLifestyle.org.
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