In this series of articles we discussion the decision and the driving factors that led to it. Health concerns was the main driving factor for the decision for the transition from a plant-based diet to include dairy and eggs, and to eventually include meat.
We were vegan for over 4 years and in some cases much longer. We have a range of expertise in nutrition, some very experienced and some read a book. Based on this experience, we identified the issues described below. We put a lot of these issues down to this: the body absorbs nutrients from animal-based sources much more readily than plant-based sources. For example, a soy-based product might contain 10g of protein or iron, but only a fraction of that protein or iron will be absorbed by the body because soy is a plant-based source. So there is a difference between what nutrition a product contains and what amount of that nutrition will be absorbed by the body.
Based on this experience, we identified the following issues:
- Risk of diabetes: A lot of the faux-meat plant-based replacements exist, such as chicken nuggets, ham slices, and other standards in vegan form. However, they typically have a high concentration of carbohydrates and plant fats to give them the desired texture and flavour. In other words, if somebody has a predisposition to diabetes then the risk of becoming diabetic on a vegan diet is present.
- Lack of energy: During the first 6-12 months of being vegan we found that we felt light and fresh. We were living by our ethical framework and we felt good about it. But after 6-12 months we began getting more tired later in our work day, it would take all of our energy to go to the gym and get through the set. Because the change was so gradual for 6 months, we thought that it is simply a matter of getting older. Only after changing our diet and finding more energy, we realized that the change is not down to our age but it is down to our diet.
- Easy sick: While being vegan we found that during the winter time we became more sick more often and for longer. Coughs and colds would drag on for months. Since changing our diet, we find that we bounce back from illness much more quickly than they used to while we were vegan. We still get sick on an omnivore diet, but it passes within a few days and we are fighting fit again.
- Nutrition deficiency: We had regular blood tests, performed annually. Eventually we found despite our diligence we still experienced low iron and protein levels. We were in the lowest end of the “acceptable” range, certainly much lower than expected for a healthy adult. It is worth noting that these are the areas of nutrition that were tested for. Other areas of nutrition were likely lower than expected, but were not tested for.
- Long-term body damage: We found that we have experienced long-term damage to our bodies in multiple areas:
- Nerve damage: Lack of sensation or sensitivity has occurred. This is likely linked to a B12 deficiency, despite taking the supplements that should have stopped this from occurring. A lot of the damage sustained has been recovered from after 2 years on an omnivore diet.
- Hair loss: Some women in the group experienced female hair loss while vegan. There were other factors at play, including stress.
- Bone damage: Weak bones or thin bones has occurred. This is likely linked to a calcium deficiency. In-turn this could be associated with too much oxalate that blocks calcium absorption or inadequate vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, and boron necessary for efficient calcium absorption. If there is inadequate calcium coming into the body then the body will leech calcium from stores within the body, including bones and teeth. A lot of the bone damage sustained has been recovered from after 2 years on an omnivore diet.
- Dental damage: Weakened and damaged teeth is likely linked to a calcium deficiency, as described in ‘Bone damage’ above. Unfortunately, some of the damage is permanent and cannot be undone with specialized toothpastes or the best dentistry.