If you’ve been following a vegan diet for the past few weeks, but feel worse than ever, here are 3 common signs that Veganuary maybe isn’t working for you, and what you can do about it to feel a little better:
1. Feeling more bloated than usual
This is a common reaction to suddenly increasing the quantity of vegetables and legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas etc) in your diet. The fibre and carbohydrates in these foods feed the bacteria in your gut. Normally, this is just fine, but if you’ve got undergrowths of bacteria or overgrowths of pathogenic bacteria, or perhaps overgrowths of parasites (e.g. dysbiosis), or even the right types of bacteria but in the wrong part of your intestines (e.g. small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) then increasing their food source may increase their activity, resulting in bloating, gas, and discomfort.
So what can you do about it?
Well, you have two choices:
- Reduce the number of high FODMAP foods in your diet to restrict the amount of food available to your gut bacteria microbiome. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. Gut bacteria degrade undigested carbohydrates to produce gases including hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide. The higher the FODMAP level of a food, the more water is drawn into the gut to support fermentation (breaking down the food by bacteria). This is what produces the excess gas in your gut, and may be why you’re in so much discomfort.
- Experiencing bloating from high FODMAP foods is not a food intolerance and may not show up in a food intolerance test as this is not you having a reaction, but your gut microbiome.
- Please note that avoiding of high FODMAP foods isn’t a long term option, as there are more high FODMAP fruits/veggies than there are low FODMAP options, which means you will find yourself eating the same “safe” vegan options everyday… or find yourself eating high FODMAP options and suffering the consequences.
- For long term benefits, identifying and addressing the reason why you are reacting to high FODMAP foods is essential. Stool testing for bacterial overgrowths/parasites/yeasts in the large intestine, and breath testing for bacterial overgrowths in the small intestine are both good places to start. Organic acid tests may also be useful for helping to identify imbalances in the body. Tests like these can be discussed during an appointment with myself at our London clinic –> Click here if you’re ready to book your appointment with me.
2. Feeling more tired than usual
OK, it’s Janaury. It’s dark, it’s cold, everyone seems to be catching viruses (even I had the flu this year!) and it’s almost “normal” to feel rundown.
But… what if you’re feeling more tired than usual?
Well, there’s a common reason for that:
Vegan foods contain little B12. Sure, some vegan foods (the processed ones) may be fortified with a few vitamins, including B12, but it may not be enough and the formulation of B12 in those products varies so you may find yourself needing to be a label reading expert just to know what you’re taking in.
Insufficient B12 in the diet can lead to B12 deficiency anaemia which has symptoms including fatigue, parasthesia (pins and needles in hands/feet), dyspnoea (breathlessness), dizziness or feeling faint, palpitations….
If you ticked more than one symptom in that list, here are your options:
- Get your B12 levels checked and then take a daily B12 supplement. Your GP should be able to test your B12 for you, and all clients in our London clinic who have a suspected B12 deficiency will take home a letter referring them for routine blood testing, including B12, with their GP (if they haven’t already been tested).
- If you’re getting your B12 tested, it’s probably worth getting iron, folate, and vitamin D done at the same time…
- A normal B12 result in a blood test doesn’t necessarily mean optimal , so make sure you get the results interpreted by a registered nutritional therapist (such as myself!) before deciding to add in any supplements. I offer a telephone review of test results for just £40, which includes interpretation and explanation of the results and a 30 day plan regarding diet, lifestyle and supplements.
- This is controversial, and will go against much of what Veganuary and veganism in general is about, but you may need to consider adding in some animal products, particularly if you’re really not keen on taking a tablet everyday while eating a vegan diet. Foods such as eggs, dairy, meat, or fish all contain B12 and eating them on a daily basis may support your body’s B12 levels.
3. Feeling generally sluggish with slow “congested” digestive system
There are lots of companies jumping on the Veganuary wagon this year, with vegan steak-bakes, vegan sausage rolls, fake-bacon and so on all widely available. But what are these foods really made of? If you read the labels, you’ll find that some are made of a mix of vegetables and legumes (I’m happy with these kinds!) while others are a blend of soya, pea protein, flavourings, texturisers, sugars and so on (these are the kinds I’m not so happy about!). Sure, the latter type of foods are vegan, and they provide a level of protein, but… the types of ingredients used may not be supportive of a healthy gut microbiome (bacteria levels).
What are your alternative options for protein?
- Stick to moderate quantities of beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Opting for tinned versions requires less time in the kitchen soaking and boiling, and they may have lower FODMAP levels too.
- Use nuts and seeds to add a level of texture to soups, salads, and other meals. These have great levels of protein too, and some of those healthy fats nutritional therapists are always banging on about.
- Consider adding in a vegan protein powder, particularly if you’re following a low FODMAP diet or you’re just not keen on legumes, nuts, or seeds. Look for ones with pronounceable ingredients from reputable companies, such as Motion Nutrition (one of my favourites is their peanut butter protein shake).
If you’re not sure what you should be eating or would like some advice and support, you can call me on 07951 740423 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re ready to book in and spend an hour with me in clinic looking at potential food intolerances, optimal diet, supplements and lifestyle, then you can click here to book your appointment now for just £100 as I am taking £15 off appointments booked and attended before the 3rd February 2020 .