I tried going vegan to help my Crohn's disease and here's what happened...
I often chat about the foods that I find helpful and, let's face it, not so helpful (aka: makes my digestive tract freak out!) for my Crohn's disease but today I thought I'd talk about a specific diet in particular: veganism.
Trying a vegan diet for Crohn's disease
Vegan diets are incredibly popular at the moment and you don't have to look far until you find many people explaining how ditching meat made them feel incredibly healthy, 'cured' (I use that term very very loosely) their health problems and overhauled their entire life. There's vegan food on every restaurant menu and we're told a vegan diet can help the planet and even work out cheaper than a meat-based one. So far so good, right?
I decided to try veganism a few years back. I am already dairy-free as I find this makes my digestion worse regardless of how my Crohn's is doing. I also rarely eat red meat since I've never much liked the taste and find it hard to digest. Therefore, it didn't feel like a huge leap to veganism in my head and I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about. Here's what happened...
Every healthy vegan option was high in fiber
Many people complain that it's impossible to get enough protein on a vegan diet and technically that's not true. There are many healthy sources of plant-based protein out there like lentils, beans, and seeds. The problem? I can't eat any of them.
It's not always true that a vegan diet is higher in fiber. You could live on bread and pasta after all, but a healthy vegan diet will center around naturally vegan foods, and whilst lentils, beans and seeds are a nutritional powerhouse, they contain a lot of fiber that tormented my gut no end!
It's worth noting that fiber aside, many of us find lentils and seeds difficult to break down and they can cause a lot of gas.
I'm unable to tolerate raw foods with Crohn's
The options were raw and I can not tolerate raw food. There's a real trend now for raw food and often veganism gets lumped together with this. My gut does not like raw food!
My gut likes food that has been blitzed, cooked, blended, and chewed really, really well. In fact, when studying nutrition a few years ago, I'd read that the raw food diet is not really recommended for those with gut problems so it shouldn't be a surprise.
However, you can get creative. A vegan soup might be just the thing your belly is craving whilst a raw sprouted salad is probably not (P.S Can anyone with IBD eat salad? If so reveal yourselves!)
More tired and fatigued on a vegan diet
I'd previously base my dishes around chicken, turkey, and fish. These gave me protein, B12, and energy but I struggled when going vegan.
I think one problem was I couldn't literally find enough to eat (since I'm also gluten-free which made it even more complicated as a lot of vegan products were reinforced with wheat) and the high-protein vegan foods tend to be the high-fiber ones I mentioned above.
I went to the toilet more often when I ate vegan
This is something I notice now, even if I just have a plant-based diet. A vegan diet did increase how often I went to the toilet. Great for many folks, not so great for those with IBD!
Some positives to a vegan diet
Put simply, veganism didn't work for my Crohn's disease. However, that's not to mean it might not help others with their symptoms. It just wasn't for me.
I learned a lot, however. I learned that I definitely do better with cooked foods and that poultry and fish really are my go-to foods. I did discover some great foods to incorporate into my diet: like nutritional yeast (a great source of B12 for vegans), lots of creamy nut butter (much easier to digest than real nuts) and chia seeds (you soak these so they should be easier to digest).
Now I'm not vegan, but I do incorporate some foods that are and have plant-based days so I have expanded my meal repertoire a little! I feel like because I had already cut so many things out, it didn't work for me but for others who could eat gluten, it might be more useful.
Also, moving towards a vegan mindset could help those who consume dairy and red meat as they might realize those things are potentially triggering.
I hope you found this post and my experiences useful. I'd love to hear your experiences of veganism and IBD. Did it work for you?
Does exercising regularly help in the management of your symptoms?