I've been a vegan for about a year now and I've never been sicker. Before making the change I read everywhere about vegans who say they never get sick now, they have way more energy, they lost heaps of weight etc etc. Not the case with me, I rarely used to get sick and I now get sick very often with the flu for at least 3 weeks at a time. I am suffering now with my first bout of food poisoning ever which has lasted 5 days so far. I have much less energy than I used to and I've lost some strength. I see a naturopath who is also a dietician and only a tiny portion of her diet contains animal products. She has been working closely with me to make sure my diet contains the optimal amount of everything I need but nothing has worked. She and three other doctors I have seen couldn't find anything wrong with me other than an iron deficiency which I am working on. Am I the only one who has experienced this?
That is really alarming. Worst case scenario, a vegan diet would not provide something, which should show up in blood work, or should be evident to a dietitian. Since you have a dietitian looking over your diet and seeing that it is fine, I would think that maybe it isn't from your veganism. If you are really concerned, you can try to re-introduce animal products into your diet, but the fact that a dietitian is looking you over and not seeing anything from diet that could be the issue, I would think you may want to look into non-diet related issues.
There is no magic nutrient in meat, eggs, or dairy that will suddenly keep you from being sick. Do you think there is something in meat/dairy/eggs that will make you better (and if so what?), or are you looking for approval to eat meat/dairy/eggs? I am not trying to be mean, I just want to know what you are looking for here. If no one is finding anything wrong with you, I am not sure how we can help. No one here is going to tell you to screw it and just eat meat/dairy/eggs. I'm not sure what to say except that most of us don't have a dietician monitoring us and we are fine. Maybe your immune system is just screwed up for other reasons. Maybe it's in your head. Maybe it is just a coincidence and you are going through a period where you get sick a lot. That has happened to me a few times when I was not veg (but never since I have become vegan.) I will go through several years where I don't get sick, then I will get sick 10 times in one year back to back. I doubt your issue has anything to do with veganism, especially since the docs say you are fine. Maybe the anemia is making you weak and more prone to illness? In that case supplements will help.
I will tell you though that for some reason, it seems normal to blame veganism for every little problem. I've done it myself. It's odd how we jump to that first thing. But there are many things that can cause problems that have nothing to do with veganism. Take your iron shortage. I've been iron and b12 deficient pretty much since I was a teen, even with eating meat. It's stayed about the same since I have been vegan. I take supplements and move on. I'm really not trying to be rude here, I am just not going to encourage you to go back to meat, dairy, or eggs because you are sick.
Edited by smiling - 6/7/12 at 2:23pm
I've been iron deficient in and off ever since puberty. I think it might have a lot to do with most of my problems. My immune system has always been good until now. I don't want anyone to tell me to eat animal products, that's why I came here, I just wanted to know if anyone else had experienced anything similar and what they did about it. It's frustrating because from everything I heard from other vegans I expected veganism to make me healthier.
As far as diet recommendations, you really should see a registered dietician and not a naturopath if you want advice that is based on science rather than pseudoscience.
How are you correcting your iron deficiency? Are you eating iron rich and fortified foods, or taking an iron supplement? You should check with a physician regularly, as the symptoms of fatigue and generalized weakness could be symptoms of continued iron deficiency anemia.
Before going vegan I would take iron supplements which worked until I stopped taking them. Now I try to eat as many leafy greens as I can along with foods rich in vitamin c. I'm pretty sure the weakness is related to the iron problems. I'll have to look for a vegan iron supplement I think.
Bacteria and viruses can make anybody ill, no matter their diet.
Eating a healthy diet is one of many things will help your immune system do its job, but a good diet is not a panacea for all that ails. If a particularly bad bug infects you then you'll get sick. It's just that simple.
Stress is just as likely a culprit as diet when it comes to an improperly functioning immune system. But again, even if you have a strong immune system that won't prevent all illnesses. Sometimes you will just have to fight an infection.
Are you in contact with more people these days than before you went vegan? If you're having more contact with "the public" then chances are you will get sick more often. Remember to wash your hands frequently.
About food poisoning, well the truth is that most food poisoning does result from animal products but you can get sick from almost anything due to crosscontamination or simply poor hygeine on the part of the person doing the food preparation.
Lastly, here are some vegan iron supplements: http://www.devanutrition.com/vegan_chelated_iron.html
Is there a particular reason you're not eating enough legumes to obtain iron from that source?
It sounds to me like you are worrying unnessersairily about your vegan diet, and that your problems are nothing to do with veganism - and instead are to do with your iron deficency. Equally, it could well be a coincidence or a non-diet issue causing some of the problems - certainly food poisening has nothing to do with veganism (except, of course, you ate something that made you ill). Things like cold and flu go around, and everyone catches them sometimes, it could well just be bad luck you've had so many in a short space of time, or be to do with being in contact with other people more than normal, or things like sharing equiptment at work (like headsets), making you more likley to get sick.
I would focus on your iron deficency, and when that is sorted if you are still feeling these symptoms worry about them then, because my understanding is that iron deficency tends to cause weakness, tiredness, and can cause suspetability to illness. I take the vegan multi vitimin made by the vegan society, which is designed to give the nutrients that vegans are at risk of missing (incluing b12 and iron) and is chewable.
Unfortunatly, veganism isn't the cure-all some people like to promote it as. Anecdoatal "evidence" of people claiming to feel miles better after turning vegan is just that, anecdotal. I agree that in a lot of cases this is either because their diet before wasn't all that healthy, or simply because they think they will feel better and so they do - similarly lots of people claim to feel tired or weak because they expect that too - often after very short amounts of time that it's just illogical to think it could be diet related, but since you've been vegan a year I don't think that really applies to you.
I'm one of those that believes that eating a healthy vegan diet is a great way to protect yourself from illness (but yes, you will still get sick, it happens) and give you energy...but it seems to me a lot of people go vegan, but miss the healthy part. (Not saying this is you!) All vegan food is definitely not healthy food. It doesn't work like that - there's vegan junk food, and if a vegan is living on junk food, of course they're going to be unhealthy, vegan or not. Especially if exercise is overlooked. If you eat junk food, over eat, and don't exercise, of course you aren't going to be healthy! It doesn't mean that plant based diet isn't a great diet for health - it means you just actually have to eat the healthy plant based food, not fries.
Sorry, that just always bothers me...because I do try to focus on the health aspects as well as the animal rights aspects of veganism when talking to people about it, and then you have somebody come up and say "Hey, I went vegan and got fat and tired!" without explaining that they sat around and did nothing but eat their vegan french fries, oreos, potato chips, smothered everything with earth balance or daiya (vegan, sure, and great in moderation...but still not health food any more than butter and cheese are health food.) or lived off of processed crap. I think that recently one of the Happy Herbivore interviews with people who went veg, there was even one that said she was surprised by going vegan she didn't feel more healthy and energetic - until she realized she was still eating crappy junk food for everything, and when she changed that, she felt a million times better. Yes, that's a personal anecdotes, and there are a lot out there - but there's also an amazing amount of research into plant based diets that says the same thing.
Again, I am definitely not saying this is you! I think the iron deficiency may have a lot to do with it, especially if your dietician isn't finding issues with your food. It would be cool if you would post kind of a sample of what you usually like to eat, though and we could see if we spot anything off.
Edited by Kumo - 6/10/12 at 8:26am