In this blog, we will be looking at the effects of a well balanced vegan diet directly on the human body itself. Please do not hesitate to shop at our online vegan nutrition store as part of our vegan products UK line. Use our chat service at the bottom right of the page to speak to any of our on-demand pharmacists if you require assistance. Plant based diets contain considerably more fibre than non-vegan diets. Therefore, when an individual starts a vegan diet, the first thing they may notice is an increase in bowel movements and therefore more frequent use of the toilet. This may not occur if an individual was already consuming large amounts of fibre anyway, but this phenomenon has been reported in a lot of individuals. Many dieticians recommend that you embark on a vegan diet gradually. For example, you could just start with having a vegan breakfast for one week, then on the second week add a vegan lunch, the third week add a vegan dinner and by the fourth week you will then be able to make sure everything is vegan. This technique allows for correct planning as well and enough time to start a regular supplement intake also. The biggest deficiency in a vegan diet unfortunately is vitamin B12. It is very important in maintaining a healthy nervous system and a deficiency can lead to symptoms such as tiredness, headaches, heart palpitations, numbness and persistently low mood. After a longer period of time, you might experience anaemia and nervous system damage - as well as an increased risk of heart disease and pregnancy complications. Besides supplementation, you can intake foods that are fortified with vitamin B12 such as milks and breakfast cereals.
Effect of Vegan Diet on Different Parts of the Body
We are also going to discuss the effect of a vegan diet on different parts of the body. The first and probably the most important is the heart. A very small study in the 1980’s suggested a complete reversal of coronary heart disease was possible on a plant-based diet. However, the study was too small and was over a very short period of time, so the results have not been used to back any national guidelines on this matter. However, in 2014 a slightly larger, but still small, study was published which did find similar results, albeit if not full reversal, the participants did show positive results regardless. The only downside is that the study did not fully represent “real-life” so to speak as oils, processed foods, sugar, refined carbohydrates, excess salt, fruit juice, avocado, and nuts were also ruled out, all of which are normally allowed on a vegan diet.1 Another part of the body hugely affected by a vegan diet is the brain. There are several important brain nutrients that do not exist in plant or fungi, these are; creatine, carnosine, taurine, omega-3 fatty acids, haem iron and vitamins B12 and D3. All of these nutrients are essential for brain development. For example, one study in 2007 found that giving young women iron supplements led to significant intellectual gains. In those whose blood iron levels increased over the course of the study, their performance on a cognitive test improved between five- and seven-fold, while participants whose haemoglobin levels went up experienced gains in their processing speed.2 The good news however is that these nutrients can be synthesised in the lab from non-animal sources and can be combined with vegan foods to make “fortified” foods or to make individual supplements.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, following a plant-based diet may help those with kidney disease from becoming worse. Plant-based foods are lower in acidity than animal-based foods, therefore if you lower your acid load then you will put less stress on your kidneys. Also, if you follow a vegan diet whilst being strict on using fresh produce like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains then you can increase your phytate intake. Phytate binds to phosphorus which would otherwise play a key part in kidney disease as it builds up in the blood and causes harm to bones and blood vessels.3 According to research published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases, vegan diets improve liver function in patients with Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). In this research, 26 participants with NAFLD followed a vegan diet for six months and were monitored for body weight, calorie intake, and liver function. The results shows that participants had lost weight and that there were improvements in liver enzymes with some going towards normal levels. It was thought that the increased consumption of plant-based foods improved intake of antioxidants and gut microbiota, of which both are beneficial for liver enzymes.4
Health Benefits for Athletes Eating Plant Based Diet
It is also worth noting that many athletes are also taking up vegetarian and vegan diets. This is because meat and dairy are known to contribute to inflammation, which in turn can affect an athletes performance during competition. A plant-based diet also helps to reduce the viscosity of blood and can therefore allow more oxygen to reach the muscles. This also helps with performance as well as recovery. A vegan diet also allows one to consume more antioxidants which can then neutralise free radicals. These free radicals would have led to muscle fatigue and impaired recovery.
So to sum up, there are lots of health benefits or positive effects on your body in just a few weeks that can happen when you consume a vegan diet. These can be weight loss, better bowel movements and better internal organ health. However, there are deficiencies in the diet, such as a lack of vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D3, and iron. The good news is that you can still follow a vegan diet and receive all the benefits and save yourself from the negative effects just by supplementation. So a vegan diet along with a good supplementation of vitamin B12, vitamin D3, omega-3 fatty acids, and iron can help you to achieve peak results. All of these supplements and other great vegan products can all be purchased from Nutracity’s online vegan nutrition store.