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There’s no easy way to ease your way into a post about vegan poop. After all, it’s not the best subject in the world, but it is something we all think about when we first switch diets.
Knowing your poop is knowing your health in most instances, so although it may be a delicate subject, it is one which needs a little more light shed on it.
The problem is knowing what’s normal and what isn’t, especially when we first make the change to becoming fully vegan. So, with this is mind, I bring you five things you may encounter when you remove animal products from your life and go vegan.
Let’s get started!
Increased bowel movements
One of the greatest benefits – aside from better general health, helping the planet, and saving numerous animals each and every year – is an increase in bowel movements when going vegan. For many, a diet heavy in animal products can have serious consequences when it comes to their digestion.
As they’ve never experienced any other way, it’s normal for omnivores to regard their poor gut health as normal. HINT – it isn’t! Not going to the bathroom regularly enough can cause all sorts of problems, so increased bowel movements on a vegan diet should be welcomed…even if they can be a little inconvenient at times.
So, what causes the dramatic increase in bowel movements for vegans? In one word – fiber. So many of us in the western world are fiber deficient, and lots of experts believe it to be one of the biggest public health problems facing us today.
The most common diseases which kill the greatest number of people every year are not handed down to us by the generations who have gone before; they’re lifestyle diseases.
If that’s the case, the good news is the potential for prevention is high, and increasing your dietary fiber intake is a great place to start. So, embrace the frequent pooping; it’s how your body should work!
Fewer bowel movements
Now, wait a minute, I hear you cry. Straight after telling you all about how vegans enjoy more frequent trips to the bathroom and all the health benefits associated with it, I’m going to contradict myself and talk about how some vegans may actually poop less. What gives, Lisa?
Well, for some, switching over to a vegan diet can actually cause constipation. While most people will fall into the bracket above and see an increase, a certain percentage of new vegans will find that they visit the bathroom less often when they first transition.
How can that be? Surely all that fiber I spoke about in the section above would work in the same way with everyone, wouldn’t it? The answer…not necessarily.
Drastically changing your diet, even for the better, can cause our bodies to react as they take stock of what’s happening and try to adjust. Contrary to popular belief, plant foods can actually be quite difficult to digest (see our article on digestive enzymes for more info). This is especially true if your body isn’t used to it.
After years of eating meat, dairy, and processed foods with very few plants it’s little wonder our guts can misbehave when we begin loading them up with fruits and veggies.
A slower transition to a plant-based diet can help lessen the negative effects: constipation, bloating, gas, etc. so try and incorporate vegan meals into your existing diet more gradually. Not only will this help your gut adjust, it’ll also lessen the intensity of any cravings for rubbish foods you may have otherwise had.
Another reason for some folks suffering from constipation is the fact that many new vegans still don’t actually get enough fiber. That’s right, NOT ENOUGH fiber!
This may seem bewildering, but if you are going to opt for vegan junk food over a more whole food, plant-based diet, lack of fiber is likely to be a problem.
While the ethical vegan boxes are being ticked, the healthy side of things can often be found wanting when taking this approach. My advice is simple – stick to the fresh produce aisle when shopping.
Obviously, the occasional piece of vegan junk food isn’t going to kill anyone, but don’t base your entire diet around processed foods; be they vegan or not.
Oh, and don’t forget the importance of water. If you are eating plenty of plants, but still struggling in the bathroom, increase your water intake. Fiber needs water to do it’s thang!
Vegan diet means better quality poop
You’ve probably all heard the saying, you are what you eat! Well, that’s certainly the case when it comes to your poop.
So, what exactly does better quality poop mean? Well, one way of looking at it is to examine the now famous Bristol Stool Chart.
As you can see, only two out of the seven stool types shown on the chart fall into what researchers regard as “normal”. The team, led by Dr. Stephen Lewis and Dr. Ken Heaton at the University Department of Medicine, Bristol Royal Infirmary, England, who compiled the chart looked at the time it takes for stools to form within the colon.
Types 1 and 2 show signs that your poop has spent too long in your body, indicating constipation, whereas types 6 and 7 clearly haven’t had very long at all to form any real shape or form, indicating diarrhea.
Type 5 is considered to be okay, but patients are advised to increase their fiber intake to help slow the transit time and allow the body to extract all of the goodness (vitamins, minerals, etc.) from the food we eat before it is passed as waste.
Vegan and vegetarian bowel movements will largely fall in the 3 to 4 range, meaning that vegan poop consistency is usually right on the money. Because of this, they will be easier to pass and bring a greater feeling of relief when you finish.
For anyone who has experienced an incomplete bowel movement, this can definitely be chalked up as another benefit to adopting a plant-based diet.
Your poop may smell worse (at first)
Now, none of this post has been particularly pleasant, but one thing people get especially squeamish about is smells. However, it needs to be addressed, so here goes!
Although it may be embarrassing, the smell that occurs when we go to the bathroom is usually a good sign. While we all hate it, the odor is actually proof that your body is ridding itself of harmful toxins and it’s also thought to be associated with the bacteria found within the gut.
The problem is that, again, everyone is different. So, what may be a “normal” smell for one person will be entirely different for another.
People transitioning over to a plant-based diet are likely to experience a change in smells, and it can sometimes get worse. This is because the body is cleansing itself of all the dioxins, hormones, bacteria, antibiotics, and other nasties associated with regular consumption of animal products.
The good news is this will generally settle down, although it can take a little while. I remember when I first switched from the Standard American Diet to eating solely plants it was a shock. My guts were in turmoil, and it lasted for several months!
I even seriously considered giving up and going back to how I was eating before, such was my embarrassment. Thankfully, things began to calm down and now I actually have fewer issues with bad smells as my body is generally cleaner and better equipped to process the food I eat quickly and efficiently.
Another thing that can help with the new vegan poop smell dilemma is probiotics. Improving your gut flora will help your body adjust to your new way of eating and can also help lessen your cravings for certain foodstuffs, especially those with high sugar content.
The thing to remember is if your smell changes dramatically for the worse, without any other changes occurring (such as switching diets), and remains this way for longer than a few days, a trip to your doctor is probably wise. Same rule applies for the frequency of your bowel movements too.
Drastic changes can be signs of underlying problems, so don’t let embarrassment stop you from getting medical advice. Your healthcare practitioner has heard and seen it all before.
SPEAKING OF ODORS, HAVE YOU SEEN OUR CRUELTY-FREE DEODORANT GUIDE?
Vegan poop is easier to, ahem, deal with
Now, this isn’t going to be easy to describe with any finesse, so apologies in advance!
As I’ve already discussed above, the quality of your vegan poop is likely to be good providing you follow a whole food, plant-based diet. Now, we already know that this is good for our health, but it also has another advantage too.
When you start eating more plants and eliminate animal products from your diet, you’ll find that your stools become less, well, sticky. Sticky stools are usually associated with fatty foods and those which are high in protein (ie. animal products), and they can be a real pain when it comes to cleaning up once you’ve finished clearing out!
Another reason you may encounter the dreaded sticky stool is an intolerance of some kind. While those who are lactose intolerant will automatically bring relief to their guts by removing dairy from their lives, anyone who has a problem with gluten may see things get worse when going vegan.
This is largely because many of us substitute animal products with more grain based foods when going vegan, so be aware of this when transitioning across. The fact is, many people who have celiac disease are actually unaware they have a problem.
Therefore, if you feel as though you are eating healthily, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough exercise, but are still passing tacky, tarry stools, a visit to your health care provider for a celiac disease test is probably a good idea.
For most of us, though, adopting a plant-based diet means more angel poos. If you’re unsure of what that means, I’ll hand you over to the Urban Dictionary 😀
If you can think of anything else new vegans can expect in the bathroom when they remove animal products from their lives, drop a comment below!