Going Vegan Detox Symptoms

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So, you decided you are going vegan for the animals.

But, it turns out that making this lifestyle change might come with some surprising symptoms.

Hi! I’m both a ethical vegan and dietitian (aka- a credentialed food and nutrition expert)!

I’m so glad you are here, because we need to talk about the so called ‘going vegan detox symptoms.’ that have been blasted all over social media.

In this article, we’ll discus what could changes you might notice as a new vegan and things you can do about them.

Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for personal medical or dietary advice. Talk to your doctor about any health concerns, before making major dietary changes or starting a new supplement. See our Disclaimers for more details.

This article was originally published on 12/6/21. The recent updated date is listed above.

Is a Vegan Diet a ‘Detox Diet?’

Nope! At least, a vegan diet is not inherently a ‘detox diet.’

Let’s try to define each.

Based on the definition for ‘vegan’ by the Vegan Society, a vegan diet simply means the elimination of all animal products and animal by products.

By the way, being vegan goes beyond what you eat! You can learn more about that here.

What is a detox diet? Nccih.nigh.gov describes it this way:

“A variety of “detoxification” diets, regimens and therapies – sometimes called “detoxes” or “cleanses” – have been suggested as ways to remove toxins from your body, lose weight, or promote health.

“Detoxification” programs may involve a single process or a variety of approaches. These include:
-Fasting
-Drinking only juices or similar beverages
-Eating only certain foods
-Using dietary supplements or other commercial products
-Using herbs…
-Reducing environmental exposures…””

For full quote see: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/detoxes-and-cleanses-what-you-need-to-know

Can a “detox diet” just so happen to eliminate all animal products?

Yes, but I’ll venture to guess that most vegans are not on a “traditional detox diet.”

While it’s true that vegan’s only eat certain foods, the goal of a vegan diet is not always motivated by health concerns or weight loss.

Even if it is, most vegans will not restrict their diet to strictly raw fruits and veggies, which is common on some detox diets (and that type of restrictive diet is not something I recommend).

So, if a vegan diet isn’t inherently a ‘detox diet’ what’s the problem?

Why would new vegans have any detox symptoms?

Lets talk about that! But first what symptoms might be associated with detox diets?

What Are Detox Symptoms?

Side effects of a detox can vary widely.

While you’ll probably find a variety symptoms depending on the source, The-Well.com suggests some symptoms of a detox may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Brain Fog
  • Irritability
  • Acne

Talk to your own doctor if your have any concerning symptoms.

Ok, with this in mind, let’s get to the ‘vegan meat’ of the article!

Are there any detox symptoms from starting a vegan lifestyle?

Going Vegan Detox Symptoms

Firstly, we gotta be up front about this: going vegan does not automatically mean everyone will experience symptoms that are touted as “detox” symptoms.

We are not aware of any studies that suggest the below items are more common in vegans as compared to non vegans.

If you are experiencing any health concerns, please seek help from the appropriate medical professional.

Alright, now lets get to the list!

Anxiety

Lets face it: most of the world is not vegan. In fact, some estimates suggest that vegans make about 1% of the worlds population(1).

One percent! In other words, not the most popular thing.

Needless to say, you may be vegan, but many of your close friends or relatives may not.

For some people, this could mean stressful social situations.

As an example, vegans could experience anxiety when their friends want to gather at a restaurant with few vegan options.

As another scenario, vegans might lose some sleep over their families annual visit to the zoo.

What do you do if that has always been a tradition?

What Can I Do About It?

First of all, if your anxiety is interfering with your life, talk to your doctor and seek help from a licensed mental health professional.

Anxious thoughts can make you feel very alone.

As a vegan myself, it’s I know what it feels like to get nervous before holiday gatherings.

How do I discuss my beliefs if I get questions?

Will there be something for me to eat? (btw, if you need ideas, check out my vegan recipe section over here!).

I’ve found some comfort in discussing challenges with my vegan friends. It has made me feel less alone!

Try finding a vegan group or friend that supports your values to reduce animal exploitation. Many vegans deal with some discomfort in social situations. Ask your support group how they have dealt with them.

And if you feel comfortable enough, ask your non vegan friends if they would be willing to try a vegan friendly alternative (ie: a restaurant that has more vegan options, or a animal sanctuary instead of a zoo).

The worst they could say is no!

Irritability

Many new vegans are motivated to stick to their lifestyle because of the horrors of the animal industry.

While this is an inspiring factor, sometimes it can lead to irritability towards those who do not understand or are not vegan.

While it is important to raise awareness of issues like animal cruelty, the way we talk about these problems could damage relationships.

What Can I Do About It?

The moment you speak the word ‘vegan’ it feels like everyone has an opinion, right?

Conversations that quickly go south could be because the other person believes you are attacking their beliefs or judging them.

One strategy to help preserve these relationships is to lead by example rather than preach. If someone wants to hear about your vegan journey, share in a compassionate way.

The Center For Vegan Effective Vegan Advocacy has some great free resources to help you learn how to communicate your lifestyle to others in a compassionate way. Check them out here.

Digestive Changes

When you make any kind of dietary changes (not just vegan ones!) you may experience changes in your digestion.

Many (but not all!) new vegans may unintentionally increase their fiber intake.

Why? Because vegetables, fruits, and beans are vegan, and for some, its the only foods they know are plant based (FYI: There are so many foods that are vegan! Learn more via our post about grocery shopping as a vegan).

While getting adequate fiber can have great benefits for GI health(2), those who increase fiber too much or too quickly, could experience gas, bloating, constipation, or loose stools.

Don’t forget to chat with your doctor about concerning symptoms, as they could be attributed to something else.

What Can I Do About It?

Consider these questions (and if you have any concerns, talk to your doctor about your digestive woes):

  1. Are You Drinking Enough Water? Fiber loves fluid! Think of insoluble fiber (found in foods like sweet potatoes, beans and veggies, etc) like a sponge that attracts water and bulks up your stools(3). If you aren’t drinking enough, you could experience bloating, constipation and irregularity (to name a few issues). So make sure you get enough water!

  2. Are You Increasing Your Fiber Too Quickly? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 states women aged 31-50 years old need about 25 grams of fiber/day, while the same aged men need about 31 grams of fiber/day. If you are having digestive woes, ask yourself, are you significantly increasing your fiber intake too quickly?

    If so, try slowing down. Gradually increase your fiber intake over time (PS: a dietitian can give you more targeted personalized help with this!).

  3. Are You Getting Enough Daily Movement? If you are more sedentary, exercise may help with constipation. Make sure you talk to your doctor before starting any serious exercise routine.
A few questions to ask if you have digestive discomfort as a new vegan: are you drinking enough water? Are you increasing your fiber too quickly (hint: slow down if so)? Are you getting enough daily movement (ie: walking, sports)

Fatigue and Feeling Hungry

Lets face it, learning what’s vegan and what’s not can be hard! Its a huge learning curb, and that’s no surprise – being vegan is not the norm.

Most of us know that fruits and vegetable’s are vegan, and may not know more than that (unfortunately).

So, many new vegans may fill up their meals with plain salads, steamed low calorie veggies and fruit, only to realize their energy levels are low (no to mention they are more hungry than ever)!

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with fruits and vegetables, and there are many health benefits to these nutrition powerhouses.

The problem comes when we only eat certain limited foods.

Many fruits and veggies are also missing out on some unique nutrients from other vegan foods, like whole grains, fats, legumes and protein rich plant based foods, can provide.

What Can I Do About It?

Before you decide to quit veganism, take the time to educate yourself about a balanced vegan diet. You’ll learn all about this in our post: Vegan for Beginners, a must read for both new and well seasoned (pun intended) vegans alike!

Finally, if you want personalized guidance a consult with a Registered Dietitian can help!

Cravings

Confession time: I haven’t intentionally eaten meat for about 2 decades, yet: I crave a beef taco from time to time.

Alright, before you go on to say what a bad vegan message that is, I want to give you a different perspective. I m human- a human who used to eat meat!

Even though I enjoyed the taste of beef taco, I have not acted on my cravings. Why? Because of I decided to forgo meat to reduce animal cruelty.

When you go vegan, you may find yourself missing out on those animal products you ate so frequently in the past. Which leads us to the next question…

What Can I Do About It?

Don’t feel bad about it! Easier said than done, but I can not tell you how many vegans I know that have cravings for animal products.

Sure certain cravings may go (and they have for me) however this is not a guarantee for everyone though.

This is where your vegan support system comes in to play! Ask them what they have done about cravings.

Perhaps they tried a vegan product that was similar in taste to the animal product (for example, I like MorningStar Veggie Griller Crumbles as a convenient taste replacement for beef).

Check out my Vegan Food Reviews to browse some options that are out there!

You never know! Your next favorite vegan treat could be right under your nose.

Will any vegan substitute perfectly replicate the flavor of animal products?

Maybe, and maybe not. Taste is so individualized. But with some creativity in the kitchen and a reflection on your vegan values, it can get better.

One more point: it’s fun to eat more highly processed foods, but a healthy diets tends to focus more on a variety of nutrient dense and whole plant based foods.

Skin Changes

Does what you consume have an impact on your skin? Perhaps.

For example, some research suggests that dairy milk might be associated with acne in some individuals(4), but again, this research is limited, and there are so many factors that contribute to acne (learn more in our article about vegan diets and acne here).

But in short since vegans don’t consume milk, they don’t have to worry about that one!

On the flip side, it’s also been proposed that eating more quickly digested foods (such as sugar) compared to more slowly digested foods (such as nuts) might contribute to acne.

What You Can Do About It

Skin changes can have many causes.

Before you attribute or blame your vegan diet on your skin changes, know that other factors, such as skin reactions, genetics, stress, and sleep, etc can all play a role as well.

Talk to your doctor or dermatologist about skin changes that are bothering you.

In Conclusion

New vegans may (or may not) experience a variety of “detox like” symptoms.

Consider the ideas above and if you have any health concerns, talk to your doctor and get appropriate medical care.

Staying healthy, taking care of yourself, and eating a healthy and varied diet with whole foods playing a lead role goes a long way.

And if you are going vegan, know that it may take a while to adjust to this new philosophy and lifestyle!

Have compassion with the process.

Did you enjoy this article? Are you ready to start your vegan journey?
If so, I got a couple things that can help ya with that!

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