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Side Effects of the Vegan and Vegetarian Diet

Updated on November 14, 2016

What are the possible side effects of a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Both Vegan and Vegetarian diets can be extremely healthy, and indeed many people embark upon the meat and/or dairy free lifestyles for this reason. Without proper care and attention however these diets can have severe unintended Side Effects.

Nearly all the side effects to do with these diets are formed around malnutrition for Vegetarians this tends to focus on proteins and iron deficiency. Vegans on the other hand suffer from Protein, Iron and Calcium deficiencies.

These are all easily avoidable by following some basic vegetarian and vegan diet advice. The important thing is to eat healthily, maintain a balanced diet and ensure the foods that you are eating encompass the full range of your bodies needs!

The best way to do this is to arm yourself with a wide range of vegan and vegetarian recipes which give you your daily required nutrition. This seems like a lot of extra work to begin with, but believe me pretty soon you will have some fantastic vegan and vegetarian recipes memorized!

The only other real side effect that comes from these diets is a slight build up of methane inside your body, so expect to feel a little more gassy (At both ends) once you take up the vegan or vegetarian diet!

How do I spot vegan side effects?

If you are concerned that you may be suffering some il health due to your vegan diet, there's a few things you can look out for.

Doctors can test you for common dietary nutrition deficiencies, iron is especially common. Feelings of lethargy, and wounds taking a long time to heal can also indicate ill health due to diet.

If you are worried, you can also try to improve your vegan diet by expanding the range and variety of foods you eat. Many vegans suffer because they don't like to eat especially dark leafy greens, or legumes. This is fine, but this can also often lead to a lack of nutrients if they are not replaced by other foods

How do I treat side effects of the vegan diet?

First off, always consult a doctor, or at least a health specialist, if you have health concerns. Primarily this is because what you think is the problem, may not actually be the cause of your issues.

Treating side effects of the vegan diet, is nearly always a dietary fix. Check that you are covering all your nutritional needs, and take broad supplements to help fill the gap, at least in the short term. If this doesn't make a difference quickly, you need to visit a medical professional.


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    • Jennifer Lynch profile image

      Jennifer Lynch 

      5 years ago from Stowmarket, Suffolk.

      I think some supplements are a must for vegetarians but the benefits far out way the disadvantages.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 

      6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I am in the process of trying to be vegan and my difficulty lies in living in a village where the vast majority are meat and dairy-eaters and the one shop doesn't have a large range anyway. Eating at restaurants is nearly impossible unless you settle for salad though there are vegetarian options. I take B-complex to make sure I get enough B12 and I do eat some fish and dairy so am about 90% vegan.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      uhh your article is wrong...its impossible for a vegetarian to be calcium deficient cause vegetables are rich in calcium and have more calcium than any other foods on earth excluding nuts.

      and being iron dificient is rare and only a problem for people who drink tea constantly or those who have stomach problems.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I think this was poorly researched.

      Protein deficiency is called kwashiorkor, and there's a reason you're probably never heard of it. It's extremely, extremely rare, except in developing countries where starvation or near-starvation diets occur. If a person is eating enough calories- even if it is only vegetables, like broccoli and green beans- odds are they will get enough protein.

      Nuts, seeds, nut butters, dairy, eggs, soy products, beans, lentils, and peas- even the most picky eaters will usually eat 2 or 3 of these- are all excellent sources.

      Anemia rates are the same in omnivores and vegetarians, though vegetarians tend to have lower iron stores (NOT the same as deficiency (anemia)).

      'Although vegetarian diets are higher in total iron content than nonvegetarian diets, iron stores are lower in vegetarians because the iron from plant foods is more poorly absorbed (23). The clinical importance of this, if any, is unclear because iron deficiency anemia rates are similar in vegetarians and nonvegetarians (23).'

      -ADA Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets.

      There was no mention of b12, vitamin D, or zinc, which I think are the only things a vegan on a well-balanced diet needs to even keep track of.

      B12 and vitamin D isn't found in plant foods at all, only fortified products; many plant foods (nuts, beans, grains, seeds...) contain zinc, but in small amounts, and plant-sourced zinc is not as bioavailable as meat-sourced zinc.

      I am vegan, but seriously, I get the protein and iron lines all the time... NEVER has someone asked me about b12, even my R.D. cousin! People, get info from reliable sources, not hubpages.

    • LadySeren profile image


      8 years ago from UK

      I've been veggie for over 20 years, and perhaps I take any meal planning for granted now. To the extent that I don't plan at all!

      I have never had issues with iron or protein deficiencies. Both are readily available in plant matter - beans, wholegrains, green veg, nuts, seeds, soya products...

      A reasonably balanced diet will give you all the iron and protein you need, either as veggie or vegan

      Vegans do need to consider some vitamin deficiencies though - B12 and D are not naturally available in plants. However, many vegan products such as soya milk or cheese replacements are fortified with these vitamins.

      As for gas lol

      I found that my body has become accustomed to my diet and what was once a small inconvinience now no longer exists :)

    • Sufidreamer profile image


      8 years ago from Sparti, Greece

      Good Hub - turning veggie or vegan does require a little pre-planning!

      As a veggie, I always make sure that I eat beans and legumes and also eat plenty of dairy products, to get a good mix of all of the amino acids.

      I love lentils and the Greek horta (wild greens), so iron is not a problem.

      As for the gas.... :(

      Off to look at some of your recipes :)

    • Drakoras profile image


      8 years ago from San Diego

      Your a bit wrong about the protien and iron part.

      Rice and beans are high protien, Lentils even more. Someone would have to have a seriously out-of-tune diet to have such problems.

      Meat obtained protien are second-hand protien and our bodies to not take full advantage of them.


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