Vegan Induced Nutrient Deficiencies
Health and Fitness veterans have all seen the following scenario play out time and time again. Meat eater goes vegan. After 6-8 weeks claims to feel their best and are performing the same if not better! 6 months in they’re firing on all cylinders. Life is good. Veganism is the way and everyone else needs to do it too.
They’ll tell anyone who will listen about the health benefits of plant only eating based on their experience, and their experience only.
18 months in though their life and their performance seem to have plateaued and maybe are even starting to go backwards. They feel the lack of energy, they see the lack of performance, they feel the lack of mental clarity, the low sex drive, the thinning hair and the bitter outlook on life that just never seems to let up.
“This can’t be happening right?” they think to themselves
“I did all the research, I followed all the advice of those that have done it before me”
“surely it’s not my diet?” they start to agonize
It’s always around the 2 – 3 year mark that problems with their health arise and they seek medical help.
And they do arise.
Nutrient Deficiencies Take Time
The time taken for a nutrient deficiency to develop in an individual who was previously adequate, varies enormously from a few weeks in the case of vitamin B1–thiamin to decades in the case of calcium
This is the all too predictable journey of MOST people who go vegan. I’ve watched this journey I don’t know how many times now over the last 17 years. I’ve lost friends and had people screaming at me in my dm’s about "how could I suggest people eat eggs" and "meat is murder I hope you get cancer”
Who in their right mind wishes cancer on someone?
I’ve done this for long enough that I just let them go. I’ve worked hard on my emotional intelligence to the point that I accept we need to see things with our own eyes in order to learn from them. That is the human condition. I used to want to change everyone to my way of thinking too.
Now I realise I can only share what I've seen and learned, and if you want to change then I can support you on that path. Whether or not you do change, that's not on me anymore. That's on you.
I’m no spiritual snob though. Spiritual snobbery is a heavily ironic form of arrogance that abounds in certain parts of the wellness world as evidenced in this hilarious piss take below by Charlotte Donachie, I'm more spiritual than you.
So whilst I accept we must learn from our own mistakes, I urge you to simply consider the following from founding member of the British Society for Nutritional Medicine, Dr Allan Stewart, when it comes to omitting whole food groups and nutrient deficiencies.
The Stages of Nutrient Deficiency
You don't just develop a nutrient deficiency over night. It takes time and has stages.
Decline in Tissue Stores ( this is where the tipping point is )
Loss of Function
Symptoms of Deficiency
Signs of Deficiency
Our bodies are like a steak that has been marinating in herbs and spices. It takes time to leech those out of us when removing whole food groups.
There can be many reasons why nutrient deficiencies develop. They fall into one of five categories that result in a state of negative nutrient balance.
Causes of a State of Negative Balance
Inadequate Intake ( omitting whole food groups )
Poor Absorption ( digestive issues, coeliac, leaky gut )
Increased Requirement ( exercising hard and often )
Increased Losses ( renal disease, diabetes )
Altered Metabolism ( Alcohol excess, drugs, disease, environmental pollution, genetic variations in metabolism )
As you can see from the above if you omit whole food groups because some self appointed guru said so, you have a history of digestive issues, you exercise and sweat a lot, have a less than stellar lifestyle and live here on planet earth, you are the perfect candidate for a nutrient deficiency.
I’ve always said if you want to go vegan you better be a small female who doesn’t exercise and has no digestive issues.
Going vegan is really hard to do successfully and requires the most meticulous food combining and supplementation in order to stay healthy I have ever seen. Famous vegans who have gone back to meat eating for health reasons such as early menopause and chronic anemia include Rawvana, Virpi Mikkonen, Bonny Rebecca, Anne Hathaway and jackass himself Steve-O.
Anne Hathaway has famously said
"Reverting back to eating fish made my brain feel like a computer rebooting” #veganjourney
Blood Testing For Vegans
Vegan diets tend to induce calcium, vitamin D, iron, Vitamin B-12, and zinc deficiencies just to start with, so you absolutely MUST blood test yourself regularly in order to get it right. So many don’t. They just blindly jump into the fire and wonder how they ended up sick 3 years later.
Also, if you're like 40% of people and have a defect in your MTHFR gene you will really struggle. MTHFR stands for Methylene-TetraHydroFolate Reductase. It is an enzyme that converts folate you eat into the active form (5-Methyltetrahydrofolate). It is heavily associated with mood disorders and one of the classic signs of the "angry vegan" we have all come to love and hate.
If you're a vegan and you're not assessing, you're just guessing.
Luckily most people come to their senses after medical intervention and re introduce SOME animal products. The energy returns, the moods calm down, they don’t feel like they are carrying the weight of the worlds demise on their shoulders anymore. You can be pro plant and still eat some animal products you know.
This is not about the plight of animals, this blog is about humans being healthy.
Former vegans tend to soften their beliefs in regards to what we should and shouldn’t eat. The long apology describing their journey gets posted and moving forward they will be eating small amounts of animal based products in order to be healthy as advised by a medical professional.
This is what I call the middle way. In order to find the middle way we first must experience the extremes. And that’s fine. But in this day and age of Facebook, Instagram, overnight celebrity and Netflix documentaries, these overnight vegans are leading the unsuspecting down a very, VERY dangerous path. And make no bones about it, you can completely destroy your health by simply doing what you saw on Instagram or in a Netflix documentary.
Next up to attempt to delude the world with their extreme nutritional preferences are those promoting the carnivore diet. I don’t even need to go there as they too will suffer the same journey. Albeit with different nutrient deficiencies.
Suffering really is our greatest teacher isn’t it.
My Personal View
- 96% of Australians do not eat the recommended serves of fruit and vegetables.
- Ninety… six…freaking ….percent!! That number is so high its actually unbelievable. But its based on the latest Australian health survey (2)
- The message is clear, eat more fruit and vegetables.
- Consume meat and starch carbohydrates from unprocessed sources in amounts that support your lifestyle.
- Pesticides, herbacides and fungicides are not the problem because 96% of Australians do not eat the recommended serves of fruit and vegetables so how could they be.
- Water is the bottom of the food pyramid.
- Sleep is the pillar upon which all health is built.
- Alcohol and coffee are fine in moderation.
- There is nothing wrong with you.
- Live life at your own speed.
- Don’t stay in jobs that don’t value you, grnd you down with excessive hours and responsibilities, and if you died, would advertise your position on seek before you were even buried.
- Social media is a tool like a butter knife. You can use it to butter bread or stab someone. The knife is not the problem. What you do with it is key. Curate your feed.
- Give people the chance to change but kick toxic people out of your life forever.
- Value your time and your worth.
- You are being lied to by advertisers and influencers every single day to relieve you of your hard earned cash. Question everything.
- There is nothing wrong with you.
Further Reading For Vegan Athletes
Click HERE for practical advice for athletes and exercisers from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition