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Vegan in Pain

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Hello. I am new here and in desperate need of answers. I've been an physically active vegan for many, many years. Unfortunately those years have come with a lot of unhealthy side effects: fatigue, weakness, severe tongue pain, random soreness, internal pains, skin problems, and extreme bloating/constipation/diarrhea. All of these have affectes my life dramatically. It's hard to get out and be social. My sleep schedule is destroyed. I hurt constantly and have trouble keeping a job. I spend most of my time on the toilet or, as of recently, in the hospital. It's become hard for me to put on muscle or even just get into shape. I've tried everything with my vegan diet including gluten-free, low FODMAP, low-sodium, sugar-free, soy-free, raw, etc. Lately I've been seriously reconsidering this whole vegan thing. I have a very low white blood cell count and possible IBS. With my many allergies - mostly to citrus fruits, yeast, vinegar, and possibly nuts - being vegan has become very limiting, both in taste and in life. I am in constant pain and discomfort and what I eat is so dull and flavorless that I honestly want to give up on life. If anyone has any answers, please help before I quit.

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Hello Sticky,


I am not a doctor, so please do not interpret anything I say as medical advice.


First of all, I am very sorry to hear about your troubles. I totally understand how being in constant pain and not being able to sleep can destroy your sense of life and sap your will to live. If I were in your position, I'd try anything... even eating spam (!)... if I thought it would help.


Eating a balanced vegan diet can provide you with all the vitamins and minerals you need... as well as the providing a good balance of macronutrients (fat, protein, carbs, and fiber). With that said, there is obviously something seriously wrong here. I suspect the problem goes far beyond a simple choice between vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore, and may be due to some type of disease or medical condition: e.g., celiac, diabetes, leukemia, cancer, viral infection, IBS. However, if you diet is an 'extreme' one, then it is possible you are not getting one, or more, of your essential vitamins or minerals and a diet tweak might help.


Have you spoken to your family doctor about this? Have you had any medical tests?

How long have you been experiencing these problems?

Did you have any of these problems before you went vegan?

How long after you went vegan did the problems start to appear?

How much fiber are you getting in your diet?

How much water are you drinking each day?

Are you taking any medications?


Note: after reading more about IBS, I found the following articles which may help. Or not.






I hope you find some relief soon!




EDIT: you might try posting this on Jeff Novick's (RD) page over at Dr. McDougall's Online Discussion Board:


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I went vegetarian around 2002. A year or so later I went vegan. Around 2005/2006 I started eating meat again. I didn't pay attention to what kind of meat and what was on it that I was eating and felt gross so ended up going vegetarian again, then vegan. I've had the tongue problem as long as I can remember, but the gas and bloating and diarrhea, as well as fatigue and sleep problems, seem to have come with the veganism. I even get quite sick from time to time. I'm no longer on any medication (as of 2012). I drink water all the time. I won't leave the house without a full water bottle. Recently I've has insane cravings for chicken, eggs, and fish (organic, cage free, etc.). Vegan food sounds absolutely disgusting to me now. This seems to have come from me starting to pay more attention to how my body physically feels rather than what my beliefs are (although they are starting to change slightly). The only reason I am vegan at this point is for the animals and the planet. I understand all the violence, dangers, and corruption within those industries. The health benefits I've heard about don't really seem to be there. I'm trying to get into a doctor once again to find some answers before it's too late. Until then I'm here looking for help.

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I don't imagine your problems are from "being vegan." You can be a healthy or unhealthy vegan...veganism absolutely does not automatically mean that you're living a healthy lifestyle...as a matter of fact, I've seen/met some pretty damn unhealthy and sickly looking vegans. If you think your health is at risk, definitely see a doctor. Otherwise, you need to see a nutritionist.

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Hey Sticky,


So, you've been in pain since 2002 (except for a brief period when you were eating meat)? That's a long time.


I'm sure it's hard to remember what you were eating way back then... but I agree with jmf -- except for B-12, there are no vitamins, minerals or macro-nutrients that you can get from meat and dairy that you can't get from fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts. If you switch between eating vegan and not, you are adding some foods and taking away other foods. If your problem is due to nutrition, that's where you need to look -- at what has changed (if it's a medical problem, then as jmf said, you need to consult a doctor).


For example, if you vegan diet was unbalanced, you might have been iron deficient. Switching to meat could have given you the iron you needed. But you could have gotten the same iron by eating more wheat. On the other hand, if you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, then eating wheat could be part of the problem. It's either diet... or it's medical.


You definitely need to do something, and you are far beyond my knowledge. Sorry.


Dr McDougall (a long-time advocate of plant-based diets) recommends a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes and very low in salt, added fat, added sugar, and processed foods. The only reason I mention it is because the online discussion board at his website is frequented by nutritionists and doctors. If nobody pops up with a recommendation on this board, you might try there.




Best of luck,

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  • 2 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Hello, again.


I am still vegan and still in pain. Here's a list of the daily symptoms:


- gas, bloating, diarrhea

- dry, itchy, infected, scarred, and flaking skin (has sent me to the hospital numerous times due to mental anguish)

- constant ringing of the ears

- dizzy spells

- severe chest pain near heart area (NOT anxiety, comes and goes, no problems according to doctors)

- inability to grow more muscle (gut looks constantly bloated, pecs are saggy, some muscle has grown)

- tired, sore, and weak body

- low energy levels

- brain fog (difficulty concentrating on even the smallest of tasks)

- smelly urine

- hair loss

- allergies (unbearable tongue pain brought on by numerous vegan foods, nuts, coconut, citrus fruit, etc.)

- anxiety

- severe depression (worsened by lack of food available)

- eating disorder (literally afraid of food because the side effects cause tremendous pain)


Basically, I am still suffering and feel extremely unhealthy. Life is currently unlivable. I feel like complete trash. I am honestly craving animal-based foods such as eggs, fish, and chicken. Aside from drugs and cannabis, the only thing I have yet to try is switching back to an animal-based diet, but the only thing keeping me from doing that is my knowledge of how the animals in those industries are treated.


Foods I can no longer eat include:


- beans

- legumes

- wheat / gluten

- soy

- most fruits

- most vegetables

- sugars (aside from some fruit sugars)

- citrus fruit

- nuts

- coconut

- agave syrup

- maple syrup (aside from very, very small amounts)

- additional sweeteners

- vinegar (including apple cider vinegar)

- yeast (including nutritional yeast)


Basically, there isn't much left for me to eat aside from starches (potatoes, quinoa, and rice), seaweed, very small amounts of leafy greens (kale, lettuce, and spinach), one banana a day (at most), some tomatoes, some sprouts (alfalfa, mostly), olives, a small amount of vegetables (carrots, mostly), seeds (including chia hemp, sunflower), oils (aside from coconut), and few condiments such as unsweetened ketchup and mustard. I can drink unsweetened hemp/flax/rice milk - sometimes with vegan protein powder - and water. I also supplement with b-12.


Obviously, my diet is not right. It's bland. There is little taste and little to no fun in eating it. I currently only eat to stay alive... which I feel won't be for much longer thanks to my health issues. I do have a doctor appointment later in the month (March 2017) which I hope can lead to some answers for what's going on. In the meantime I could really use any advice here in this forum as I exhaust every last possible solution to my suffering before abandoning veganism altogether (which I am attempting to avoid). I hope you understand.


Thank you.

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