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Hi everyone! I went vegan at the beginning of December and soon after felt wonderful- high energy and mood, and skin cleared (was previously an issue over the past few years, both on and off vegetarian diet). However, about a month or so in, I started feeling bad again. I believe I experienced the typical detox symptoms, feeling exhausted, weak, and flu-like for a few days. These passed, however, some negative symptoms remained- my skin was breaking out worse than I've seen it in a while, and I was fatigued, even though I was eating 100x better than I ever have. I've read a ton of forum entries on here describing the same thing and wanted to share my experience with you- and possibly some solutions I've found.
Now it's March, and I've been trying to find an explanation for these continued negative feelings. While I am very happy to know I'm no longer consuming all the harmful substances of meat and dairy products, there were possibly some nutrients in those foods as well- for instance, omega 3's from salmon- that my body was cut off from. Yes you can get all these from vegan sources! I just wasn't aware of some and therefore didn't look for alternatives after I went vegan, which could explain why I first felt better cutting out the bad but then worse when my body was missing some of the good. So I strongly recommend looking into omega 3's sources, such as ground flax seeds or chia seeds. I've read some information about flax seeds and phytoestrogens so look into that for yourself if you're concerned with hormones- this could be good/bad for some. Some flax seed in my cereal the past few mornings and my skin condition is turning around.
Also, check out some vitamins found in animal sources if you've experienced a similar story as mine- I've read many that were! I've also found great success with the vitamin B-3, also known as niacin. I became interested in it after hearing about it from the food documentary Food Matters- that people were taking it in mega doses (grams) for depression and anxiety with great success (I struggle with these too). I'm taking a 500mg niacin with a whole foods multi-vitamin after dinner. Now, I've just started the flax and niacin into my diet the past few days and it's been a huge turn around so far for my complexion in less than a week, and so hopefully my energy levels will be next to improve. A third supplement I've added in the past week is Vitamin D-3, as I'm in the east coast winter and definitely need a sunshine boost in any way I can get. This is a crucial one for anyone not in summer sun.
I just wanted to post this for anyone looking for answers with detox- and wondering when the detox will end. It could be you're missing something. Check out vitamins for yourself. It's my opinion that the recommended daily allowances for vitamins are very conservative numbers- the minimum to avoid a deficiency- so research what levels are safe and effective for not just avoiding sickness but improving wellness. Zinc is another important nutrient found in meat sources and is known to be a deficiency in those with skin issues. A deficiency in any vitamin can lead to a number of complaints since vitamins play so many important roles in our bodies- including hormone regulation.
Feel free to message me with any questions or comments. I'm doing much better already and wanted to share the light with others looking for answers, as I was also on here reading around the detox topics for a while. Good luck everyone!
Thanks for posting Kate! I'm going to be doing a detox soon & I've wondered all kinds of things...
Hi everyone, this is difficult for me to post but in honor of honesty and the information I posted of my experience I think it's fair that I should.
I began this vegan journey in part to better my poor health. In the very beginning, I felt amazing. However, after a couple weeks, things quickly declined to worse than when I started. I found out about detoxing/ health crisis and read all about it and people's individual experiences with it, and figured clear skies were coming right after. I believed in my choice to be vegan, so I kept with it despite declining symptoms, in belief that it was the detox. I was vegetarian for several years soon before starting the vegan diet, so I was surprised that it would be so extreme and for so long: fatigue, weakness, anxiety attacks, trouble breathing, constipation (led to anal fissure which I'm still struggling to let heal completely a month later- horrible), and a development of cystic acne in places I was previously clear (went from few/minor blemishes mostly around chin to the stubborn, deep, painful kind on forehead, inner cheek and jaw along with tiny bumps all over my face, chest, back and even down my neck!). It's true that with some vitamin intervention I got some relief, but this would disappear after a day or two.
Unfortunately, I'm currently unemployed and have been trying to find work and depend on the interviews I get, so I can't afford to be in such bad shape (who can afford to be so sick and miserable?). It's also been making things very strained between my boyfriend and I (he's loving and supportive but I was so self-conscious of how bad it was, as I have self esteem and intimacy issues anyway). It's very difficult for me to contend with, but I've began adding small portion of fish/meat back into my diet. I'm not trying to argue that this is healthier, as I'm not even convinced that it is, but within a week's time the cystic acne has been disappearing (you may call this a superficial condition but to me, it's a severe cry for help from the body, and skin is a sign of beauty for a reason!= health!).
It's been about two weeks and I'm starting to feel like I did when I started- not perfect, but definitely better than I've been lately (which makes no sense to me). If my condition continues to improve or stabilizes, I guess I'll just have to contend with my body needing some meat in moderation. I don't want to argue or debate the matter, as I don't like it myself, but I just wanted to post this like I said out of honesty and just in case anyone else is struggling as I was for so long (I've read a few stories that seem to reflect my own experience). I'm still avoiding dairy, and will probably try going vegetarian/vegan/superhero again at some point in the future, as I *want* to live that way. Sadly I just couldn't take the chance to continuing any longer after 4 months, as my conditions were worsening rather than showing signs of improving.
I'm sorry to disappoint anyone, as I loved being vegan for all reasons except how it made me feel. I really believe in what you're all doing, and am envious to hear so many people improving their health through a diet that is kind. I hope it will work for me at some point, too! I just wanted to share my experience so if someone else was feeling as bad as I did, that it may be okay to keep experimenting. I'm starting to think different diets work for different bodies.
Best of luck to everyone!
Kate, I am so sorry to hear that you have been feeling poorly! It sounds like you've been through a lot. I don't mean at all to sound insensitive (especially because I appreciate your honesty), but have you checked into food intolerances? I have Celiac disease and some of the symptoms you described are associated with it. Just wanted to throw that out there in case it might be helpful. I hope you continue to improve.
Hi southernveg, thanks for your kind and thoughtful response! I have wondered about food intolerances for a while now but haven't been able to pinpoint any triggers yet, even after cutting some known trigger foods out for a few months. It's a hard road feeling like every possible food, even healthy foods!, could be poisoning me. I've read up on gluten intolerances and celiac and have thought that could be a possibility; however, last summer while I was feeling great and symptom-free for a few months (for the first time in ages), I was regularly eating a wegman's brand tortilla wrap that contains wheat- wouldn't that mean I can tolerate it? I could be wrong! My symptoms seem to come and go in waves though, not immediately after a meal or anything (that I've noticed).
I haven't had any professional medical tests done on food intolerances though, half because I'm honestly afraid/distrustful of going to the doctor and also because I was put through extensive allergy tests when I was a kid. I have allergies like wool and pet dander, but apparently no food allergies. If I don't start feeling better soon, I may have to bite the bullet and go for a test, as I understand that they can develop in adulthood.
I think the major cause of my issues are hormones though. I've been on Yaz before which I felt really good on, but since my insurance stopped covering it, I've been trying to balance them naturally. I thought I could do this with a healthy clean diet but, against all odds, I somehow spiraled down. It's scary and very heartbreaking to get so healthy but to feel much worse. It's like wanting to lose ten pounds, starting a yoga class and somehow ballooning up 50 pounds extra!
Some other strange things I've noticed in the two weeks that I've added meat back to my diet (mostly fish), is my body temperature has increased back to normal. I always have to wear a sweater/ slippers/ and scarf around the house and sit under blankets to stay warm, but lately even my hands are warm, like my circulation has possibly improved. Possibly related, the skin on my hands has been raw all winter, very uncomfortable and sometimes cracking between my fingers. In the past two weeks they've healed themselves up to just normal dry for winter weather, as if the increased circulation allowed the skin to heal there. Maybe that was why my new cystic acne started deflating too? Another thing is... my sex drive came back. I don't know how to explain any of this, but it's difficult for me to write it off as all coincidence, especially considering how bad things were recently getting. I still feel guilty for retreating on my new vegan life, but unfortunately it wasn't being kind to me back.
Anyway, sorry for the long answer! It was just nice to read someone respond to me so I may have gotten carried away. I appreciate the kind words and will let you know how I'm feeling in the days/weeks to come. I wish you all the best too.
Aw Kate :( If you used to be on Yaz, being off it now could be affecting you badly... I was on birth control for a while & when I got off I started having a lot of acne & stuff (which I've never had to deal with before!)
Do you think maybe you weren't eating enough of certain nutrients? Or maybe you got too much of something? Although that's more rare :/
Man I'm so sorry it's been like this for you :( Keep us updated!!
Hi girlmoving! Thanks for your concern! I appreciate it. I've wondered if the birth control could still be affecting me now, but I was actually only on it for one month last June before my insurance cut me off, so I feel like this is an intense reaction! I actually felt great all summer, even right after I stopped taking the Yaz, so what would that mean?
I also wondered if I wasn't getting enough of certain nutrients, but my diet was so good I struggled with what it could be. I usually have chex cereal and almond milk for breakfast and a baked sweet potato with cinnamon or garlic for lunch or dinner (foods I ate daily while I was feeling great last summer), and a wrap with hummus, raw spinach and raw veggies like carrots and broccoli. (I ate the wraps, hummus, and raw spinach while feeling great too, but over the summer I had some turkey on it rather than raw veggies). I'd often have brown rice and organic black beans and fresh garlic on the wraps too. My mom and I have a vitamix too so most nights we'd blend all organic carrots, kale, cucumbers, celery, and a green apple for a big homemade drink. We also used it to make homemade veggie soups with other veggies including squash, and I made organic miso soup with nori and fresh ginger often too. In case I didn't get my vitamix juice some night, I usually took a whole foods multi-vitamin (which I fared well with for at least a month, if too many vitamins were a problem, don't you pee out the extra anyway?).
If I had any snacks it would be an occasional homemade vegan banana muffin made with sweeteners like agave nectar or coconut oil instead of sugar, or a tiny piece of dairy free dark chocolate (which I also ate when I was fine). I didn't eat any meat substitutes. I cut out coffee and opted for green tea/ bitter herbal teas like dandelion meant to help detox organs. I stopped taking meds like advil or topicals for my skin, instead opting for all natural treatments. I used organic shampoo and conditioner and wasn't wearing makeup the majority of the time. So overall I thought I was pretty healthy! I enjoyed it too. Sadly I just couldn't deny the severity of the symptoms I was experiencing, the sudden and severe acne being the most obvious and heartbreaking (and I hate to say it but I credit this to the diet. Just as another kind lifer described, my skin suddenly felt like it was purging tiny plugs everywhere, many of which would become inflamed, but it felt bad everywhere and was markedly different than before). It was more than that though; once I was going to my boyfriend's and suddenly it was hard to breathe like I couldn't fill my lungs, and I was afraid I was going to faint while driving on the highway! Luckily that only lasted a few days toward the beginning of my veganism, but it was very scary and sounds like it was caused by more than whacky hormones to me.
I don't mean to frighten anyone or suggest that a vegan diet can't be extremely healthy and beneficial, because I think it could be the healthiest (definitely the kindest) diet possible. I just wanted to share what was happening with me. Thanks for being so kind and concerned for me though! As each day passes I am feeling much better and two weeks later I hardly have any bumps on my face or neck at all and my fissure seems to have healed.. What should all this mean?
I will keep updating as time goes on, to better confirm that the diet did or didn't cause all this (as I won't be going on meds to fix/balance my hormones). I'll also be glad to answer any questions if any other concerned or struggling kind lifers find this and think they could be reacting in similar ways. For the rest of you, I'm so glad for you to have found something that can help you feel better! I know how difficult that can be.
Best of luck and health to everyone!
Some more info (in case someone is looking for answers/ wondering if they are like me):
I haven't drank alcohol in over a year so that's not an issue. I thought at some point I might be deficient in omega 3's so I started eating ground flax in my cereal (which I think helped with some of my issues in the bathroom) and also making homemade guacamole with fresh avocado, lemon and some sea salt and pepper. These things were surely good for me but still didn't make a lasting difference in how I felt. I tried supplementing with vitamin D (thinking I felt so good in summer because more sunlight?) and also zinc, neither with any significant or lasting effects.
One thing that I *think* could be helping me is recently drinking some mint medley tea. It contains peppermint and spearmint, both of which are supposed to reduce testosterone in the body. I'd drank it over summer as well just because it was yummy and refreshing so maybe that was helping me and my hormones naturally. I don't think this tea is the reason why all my other problems are disappearing (they were just so bad before), but I think it's helping. I've had a short period the past couple months (lasting maybe 2 days- which I've read is the lower end of normal range but still worrisome) which I think has been related to hormones or maybe low iron levels? So we'll see if this changes too.
On another note, I've found a drugstore cleanser that is magically clearing any clogged pores/ breakouts/ and evening my skin tone back out. I never use soaps but I had this in a cabinet from a while back and somehow knew I needed it a few days ago and have been so grateful for the results so far. I wish I had before and after pictures already since two weeks ago. For anyone interested, it's the Neutrogena Stress Control Scrub. I never would've thought a soap could help and I only believed in homemade treatments, but this one's different (I think because it contains glycolic acid). So I recommend it if your skin sounded like mine and you are in need.
Wow. That's intense. Well maybe you needed more protein? Most people don't actually need much but some people need more than others. It is true that we expel extra nutrients, generally. Except in the case where someone is getting wayyy too much. That's not likely though. Maybe you should keep a food journal for a few weeks. Maybe there is a certain herb you're allergic to or something. If you want I can help you review your food journal in a week? I don't have any kind of credentials but I'm really sad for you and I'd love to help in any way I can!! :)
Hey girlmoving, it's possible that I needed more protein, but my reading suggested that most people get way too much protein from the SAD, and that you can get a healthy amount from eating plenty of veggies, beans and nuts. I may keep a food journal for a few weeks- you'd think after all these problems I'd have started that by now! I'll be glad to spell it out on here if I start the journal. I have to say though, I am feeling so much better lately than I was. I'm having virtually no pain or problems in the bathroom, my anxiety is calmed/moods are more stable, my sex drive is back, and somehow godwilling my face has almost completely cleared up and is actually glowing as if I've always had great skin- whereas 3 weeks ago it was out of control. I wish I had before and after pictures. I'm having an easier time falling asleep at night, though I still experience fatigue throughout the day. Overall though, I feel like I've gotten my health back so I can't complain- I'm actually so grateful.
I have to say, thank you all for your kind and concerned responses to my story. I was worried that there might be some negative responses back to me, but I just felt compelled to share in case anyone else was suffering like I was. I could've been damaging my body by continuing a diet that was making me feel sick just because I thought it was a never-ending detox. So please everyone, always listen to your body and take care!
I'm here for any more questions or anything!