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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.

Vegan diets

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…

What happened when I tried veganism for Crohn’s:

I discovered that every healthy option was a high fiber option

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 which 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.

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!)

I was tired

I struggle with fatigue anyway and find meat products to help give me energy. Sure I don’t eat a huge amount of red meat, but even poultry is a good source of iron. 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

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!

Going vegan didn’t work for me but there were some positives

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 learnt a lot, however. I learnt 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?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The InflammatoryBowelDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Jills
    5 months ago

    I too can eat salad and I seem to have to eat it to keep my bowels working as I have stricturing crohns disease from inflammation and scarring. Tried dairy free and gluten free close to a year. Lost thirty pounds though no improvement or change in my crohns. It is a nasty disease and it seems we all experience it differently. When you find what helps you should stick with it.

  • theluckyfrog
    5 months ago

    I can eat salad! I’m in a weird position where food has never impacted my Crohn’s symptoms in any way, shape or form besides food=eventual poop and no food=no poop. Besides that, fiber, animal fat, animal protein, dairy, FODMAPs, allergens, gluten, lectins, caffeine, even alcohol have made no difference whether in flare up or in remission. And I am completely sure–I spent the last 2 years of my last active period doing a 6 month elemental diet followed by a complete elimination and rotation protocol. I was miserable in the same way no matter what I ate, and now I’m healthy no matter what I eat. It’s kind of strange. I even eat popcorn and stuff with my ostomy and my gut’s like, “no, I got this”. But when my entire large intestine decided to scar up and die, there was no stopping that either. I’ve decided my body just does what it wants. However, the direct connection between volume of food and volume of poop has still given me an emotional resistance to eating that has persisted well into my 7th year of remission, so that sucks.

  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    5 months ago

    Love this post.

    I have been interested in trying to go vegan, but I get so hangry when I don’t have meat lol. I stay away from red meat but I love my turkey, chicken and fish.

    Just like you, beans and lentils never digest well with me so not sure how I would get adequate protein.

    Loved hearing your perspective. Thank you for sharing.

    Oh, and I’m one of the lucky ones that can have salad!

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

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