Happy Sunday everyone! Before we start talking about what brings us together today, I wanted to take a minute to say thank you to all of our new followers and readers, this past week, my idol and favorite author and speaker Colleen Patrick Goudreau shared our little tribute to her with her readers, and the response that we’ve had has been beyond anything I could imagine! Hundreds and hundreds of readers stopped by our Little Green Kettle, shared posts, started following, sent me emails. Wow, I’m just so incredibly lucky! Thank you for all the support, it really keeps me going and excited to continue writing every little chance I get. I’m such a fan of Colleen that of course I needed to keep a little sweet reminder of the fact that she stopped by to pay us a visit, and with such a beautiful thing to say! Yikes! We just love her!
One of our most viewed posts in the entire blog is the one in which we discussed the side effects I experienced when going vegan in “What Happened Next: Vegan Side Effects“. It’s a post especially close to my heart and one that is read on a daily basis by our followers. I talked about the incredible things that started happening to my body, my mind and my spirit when I went vegan, and how I experienced none of the deprivation, or isolation I thought I would have to go through if I went vegan. It’s an absolute love fest detailing what happened a few weeks after making the change and I highly recommend you give it a read if you’re starting your veggie journey.
Since it’s always the post most looked at through search engines, this got me thinking. Perhaps some of those readers were in fact looking for what I call ‘the detox symptoms’. More specifically, the weird little physical things that happen to our bodies for a few weeks when you stop eating animals and become vegan. For you it might be a vegan side effect, for me, it’s simply part of the detox process, as all the animal based foods are leaving your body and you’re introducing a variety of plant foods into your diet.
After a bit of research and with the symptoms I experienced, I created a little list of some of the things you might go through. I certainly did not experience all of them. Keep in mind that everybody is different, some people don’t experience any of these symptoms, some experience several, some experience them all. In any case, these symptoms are temporary, and I want you to know that it’s absolutely normal for our bodies to react in different ways to such a big change in our diet and lifestyle. The weird stuff goes away, and what will remain is the absolute bliss and wonderful permanent side effects I mentioned in our first post. In the first few weeks and even months, though, it can get a little bonkers. In many cases, the symptoms don’t come from the new diet in itself, but from your body getting rid of all of the toxins and leftover materials from the previous diet (did you know that meat can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to completely leave your system? Yikes!).
– Tummy troubles including gas, very regular trips to the bathroom, and some tummy discomfort
By far I think this is one of the most common symptoms people experience, especially if their previous diet relied heavily on animal products and here’s why. Animal products contain absolutely no fiber (none!), plant based foods are so full of it, that the addition of high volumes of fiber can make your digestive system start working in ways it never has before. Fiber is a rockstar so don’t start skimping on the stuff after reading this. It is precisely the dietary fiber found only in plants that has been systematically linked to reduced risk of several cancers (one of which is of course colon cancer), diabetes and other chronic illnesses, and it’s the only substance that has been directly linked with sustained weight loss (the kind you lose and don’t gain back!). So while your body is back in business getting healthy processing all the new fiber, you might feel some tummy rumbling, gas, loose stools and very very regular trips to the bathroom. Make no mistake, this is your body getting healthy and also cleaning itself of the meat and dairy products. The discomfort will go away as your body gets trained, just as muscles stop hurting after a while when you’re training for a marathon or race. Some helpful tips for easing your way into it if the discomfort is too strong at first, is to favor cooked veggies and slowly start adding the raw veggies and big salads (cooked foods are slightly more digestible in the beginning), have some freshly pressed vegetable juices where some of the fiber has been removed, include potatoes (without the skin) and cooked pumpkin into your diet, and slowly incorporate beans as these are the most frequent culprits of some of the discomfort. You can follow our guide to cooking beans to reduce the gas causing sugars found in them, or try having canned beans, tofu or tempeh in the beginning while your body gets used to them. In my experience, some beans like black eyed peas and fresh edamame are great for sensitive tummies, and with both beans and fiber filled veggies, the more you eat, the more your body gets used to them, until you feel absolutely fine consuming these foods.
– Fewer PMS symptoms
Both in regards to pain and in having lighter periods. Sounds good, right ladies?! You of course still need to get your period every month, but it’s quite normal to have lighter periods after you go vegan. Some women however, experience a very strong period during the first month as they’re getting rid of all the meat, and then go back to normal or experience the lighter symptoms.
– The tongue coat: Reduction of cravings and an incredible change in your tastebuds
I talk a bit more about this in part 1, but after a few weeks on the new diet, your tastebuds are suddenly exposed to real foods again. Why do I say suddenly exposed? The consumption of animal products, and especially dairy, can create a type of thick coating on your tongue that prevents you from REALLY tasting your foods. I remember having a serious “What the….%^^” moment when 3 weeks into being vegan I tried a slice of tomato while I was cooking breakfast and felt my mouth exploding with flavor. There was nothing different about the tomato, it was the same one I had always bought, but trust me, it was a surreal experience and it happened again at every meal since then. The removal of that coating will also help you get rid of sweet cravings and reduce your desire for overly salty foods. You’ll be craving weird things you never did before like a juicy tangerine or a perfectly crunchy snow pea.
– Possible weight loss
This is such an interesting and vast topic as it relates to veganism, that our next few posts are going to cover different aspects of the issue. The truth is, absolutely everyone is different. When I went vegan I was already at my normal weight and slim, but I did manage to lose a few extra pounds which made me feel lighter and great. But let me ask you something, what do you think happens on weeks in which I test out recipes for pecan pie and brownies for you guys? You guessed it! Losing weight will depend on what you eat. It is true that many people experience anything from a couple of pounds lost to hundreds of pounds lost, but it is also completely normal to maintain the weight you had previously. Don’t feel like a weirdo if you’ve been vegan for a while and haven’t become the stereotypical super slim yogi vegan. There are lots of myths surrounding weight loss and veganism which is why we’re dedicating quite a few posts to this topic right after this one. Having said all of this, statistically, vegans do have a lower body mass index compared to non vegans, and because most whole plant foods are nutrient rich and calorie poor, and a serious reduction of saturated fat happens when you go vegan, many people experience weight loss.
For me, going up or down on the scale depends on what I eat, I do have an easier time going down after indulgences than before though, probably because another side effect of going vegan is you develop a very accurate barometer for realizing what foods keep you in balance and which don’t. I have also experienced that even when maintaining my ideal weight, I eat lots more than I used to as a meat eater (which is great fun!). This is such a great tool for weight management if this is a concern of yours. More on this in the next few posts!
– No more stinky sweats!
As odd as this might sound, many people experience a big change in the way their bodies smell after they go vegan. For some people this is evident on a day to day basis (some even experience a more fruity smell! Not kidding!), for some this is evident when they exercise or break a sweat. In the beginning of the animal foods detox though, some people experience a very strange body smell for a few days (cheesy hair or hands! yup, that stuff gets everywhere!).
– The vegan glow, literally!
Due to the higher consumption of carotenoids (the antioxidants that make veggies and fruits orange), some people experience an actual orange glow. Not Jersey shore orange, afternoon at the beach orange! Hooray for that!
– The first two weeks pimple attack and the six month pimple attack on steroids!
Although it is a well known fact that having clearer skin goes hand in hand with being vegan, this is not the case for everyone, and it certainly is not the case for some during the first couple of weeks. Just as if you were doing any detox program, your body goes nutty when it’s getting rid of harmful foods. Toxins are circulating like crazy (almost as if they knew they were going bye bye!) and this causes temporary breakouts in some new vegans.
Something crazy has happened to almost every single vegan I know (especially women) when they reach their 6 months as a vegan. You guessed it, an even worse pimple attack. For some this might be the last symptoms of detox (I mentioned meat can sometimes take 6 months to leave the body!), but in most cases, it has to do with the fact that you’ve been taking a B12 vitamin for the past few months (read this post to see why this is essential for vegans). Vitamin B12 or even a regular multivitamin can cause a specific type of breakout in the skin, and is easily treated with a special cleanser and cream for acne prone skin (consult a dermatologist for specific recommendations for your skin type). In most cases, as it was for me, this weird detox symptom simply goes away within a few weeks. Mine happened just before my sister in law’s wedding which is why the cream was a Godsend and completely cleared my skin right before the big day! After about three weeks the symptoms completely went away and haven’t returned. For others, if this becomes an ongoing issue, perhaps taking lower doses of B12 daily instead of higher doses on fewer days could help prevent breakouts. For some this is simply never an issue. In most cases, it simply goes away with no changes to the diet or supplementation. Just as a general rule, remember that refined sugar is the enemy when it comes to acne prone skin. If you have an ongoing problem with acne I highly recommend Alicia Silverstone’s “The Kind Diet“, especially cooking from her Superhero recipes.
Skin rashes are also a wacky symptom of detoxing from meat and dairy consumption. Don’t worry, they absolutely go away after a few weeks.
– “But I’m so hungry!”
Some new veggies might experience that very soon after they eat they’re really really hungry again. This happens because although plant based foods are super nutritious and create lots of volume in the stomach, they are also lower in calories. If you’re eating a similar sized plate of food when compared to your meat eating days, it’s very likely you might be hungry shortly after due to the low amount of calories. For this, I’m again quoting Colleen Patrick Goudreau when I say that if this happens: “EAT MORE FOOD!”. If you now need to eat a bit more frequently or pile on some more goodies on your plate, go ahead. Don’t feel deprived. As long as you keep your diet as centred on whole foods as possible, it would be very difficult to overeat and be unhealthy if you need more food to stay satiated.
– ‘Jumping off the walls’ syndrome and sleeplessness
This is just another way of saying that most vegans, go from feeling sluggish, full, bloated and sleepy, to feeling light, energized and awake. So much so that in some cases people feel they need to start exercising more because they’re literally jumping off the walls! See why this change is so great? A diet that makes you WANT to move your booty? Sign me up! Sleeplessness can also accompany this detox symptom in the beginning, but you will soon be on your way to sounder sleep than ever before. To help with this, avoid eating or exercising late at night so that your body can truly rest during sleep.
– The emotional side of things
Please remember, you’re facing a big change here, both related to your body’s response to a new diet and to your reaction to making changes that might seem radical to the people that surround you. You might have times when you feel discouraged, have strong emotional cravings, feel tired or sluggish, feel sad or shaky. Trust me when I tell you, the other side of the rainbow, which you will get to in no time at all, is going to change your life. You’ll experience all the actual side effects of this lifestyle change I talked about in the first post. You’ll be healthy, happy and you’ll have this new zest for life and renewed kindness to yourself and to all of our fellow creatures. While you get there, treat yourself with kindness, don’t punish yourself if you missed a step, simply dust yourself off and continue on your journey. Eat when you’re hungry, rest when you’re tired, choose whole foods and experiment with fun and exciting ways to prepare them, create vegan versions of your favorite comfort foods! Be patient with the weird detox symptoms (which for me never even compared to the good side effects I was experiencing) and you’ll be there.
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below or send me an email! Remember I’m here with you every step of the way! Again, thanks for stopping by!
UPDATE AND NEWS!
After several years blogging here at Little Green Kettle, we’ve made the blog bigger and better! Meet our new blog everyone!: www.brownble.com
You can find a recent and updated version of this blog post here!