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Veganism didn’t work for me – and we need to stop pretending it’s a healthy cure-all

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Veganism didn't work for me - and we need to stop pretending it's a healthy cure-all
Veganism isn’t right for everyone (Picture: Erin Aniker for Metro.co.uk)

Today marks World Vegan Day and as there are so many stories of people finding a switch to veganism so life-changing, I thought it was only right to share how actually, veganism didn’t work for me.

There’s been a huge surge towards veganism over the past few years and – while ethical reasons are of course fundamentally important – there’s also been a massive shift to going ‘plant-based’ (as it’s now trendily billed) for health reasons.

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Going vegan has been linked to everything from better digestion to curing all kinds of conditions.

With powerful vegan documentaries like What The Health? and Vegucated it’s no wonder more people are looking to veganism for answers.

In fact, health-related vegan search queries have increased by nearly 60% compared to 2016, with searches such as ‘health benefits of eating vegan’ being one of the most popular, according to Hitwise.

Therefore, it seems there are just as many people going vegan due to promised health benefits than there are those ditching meat for ethical concerns.

Yet, are these health claims substantiated?

I decided to try veganism three years ago. I was living in China and had just been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.

For anyone that’s been to China, you’ll know that the meat there is highly questionable.

Every day there is some kind of scandal going on there – from an outbreak that kills thousands of pigs to non-existent quality controls in the meat industry.

It made sense that going vegan (as I was already dairy-free) should be the next step for me.

Yet, I struggled.

Veganism didn't work for me - and we need to stop pretending it's a healthy cure-all
A vegan diet can make some medical conditions worse (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

If you’ve got Inflammatory Bowel Disease like me, or perhaps IBS, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that vegetables were often not my friend.

As I avoided gluten, much of my meals were based around vegetables and non-gluten grains.

The sudden increase in fibre was not kind to my gut… let’s leave it at that before I start getting flashbacks to needing the loo and only being able to find a traditional squatting toilet.

I found energy levels difficult too – I wasn’t eating a huge range of food and giving up meat meant I was already increasing my risk of anaemia, which having IBD meant I was very prone to anyway.

It was hard: I was tired, underweight and hungry.

You might well be thinking that this is nonsense and that a vegan diet isn’t limited and doesn’t have to be nutritionally unbalanced.

As a Nutritional Therapist, I’d agree with you. Just like most diets, a vegan one can be perfectly healthy.

But not for everybody and it needs to stop being mentioned as a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

I’m not the only one who found that veganism made their health worse rather than better.

Sarah who runs a blog about life with IBS agrees: ‘Going vegan didn’t work for me.

‘Too much fibre makes my IBS really bad and pulses and lentils just don’t agree with me at all.

‘I have cut back on my meat consumption but know I would be very limited on what I could eat if I was vegan’.

Health blogger Hannah explains that going vegan didn’t work at all for her fitness goals.

‘I found it really hard to get my protein levels without going over my carb macros. I was just eating lots and lots of carbs and didn’t feel healthy.’

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It’s not about individual conditions, but people as individuals.

For example, there are plenty of people with Crohn’s like me who find veganism to have helped their health, while others feel it’s hindered it.

However, when my disease flares, my go-to foods are always of the meat variety: plenty of bone broth (the collagen helps my gut lining) and plenty of turkey and chicken (which helps with energy and protein).

I lasted several months before admitting that there were plenty of things I’d already cut out and that meat was something I felt my body needed.

So, this World Vegan Day, share your stories, your inspiration and your recipes.

But please stopping sharing that veganism is the only solution for the many health conditions lots of us are battling.

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