Often, people say something like

"I'd love to be vegan, but I have low iron levels and a vegan diet would be unhealthy for me."

I'm not a physician and I can't just say

"I assure you, your iron intake will not suffer, but maybe even improve."

I still don't really know whether there are people who can't be vegan for health reasons.

What health conditions can people have such that a change to a vegan diet would be unhealthy?

Some examples I've witnessed (only personally):

  • The iron argument, multiple times, especially about adult women.
  • Someone claiming that he has a special kind of anaemia and he needed to eat beef because of it.
  • A vegetarian with Irritable Bowel Syndrom turning to meat eating because of his doctors recommendation.
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    I have a cousin with legume and gluten allergies... I can't say I could think of any vegan diet that would work with that. – djechlin Mar 21 '17 at 14:22
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    I'll add a personal anecdote here - I was vegetarian as a kid briefly (my parents decided not to spend money on meat when things were tight) and the whole family became iron deficient. Later as an adult I was vegetarian for years and am now vegan with no iron problems - suggesting it's not the ethic itself that's the problem but, what you eat. As a kid I was essentially eating a meat-eater's diet, without the meat, and neither supplementing nor eating lots of veggies. – StackExchange What The Heck Jan 18 '18 at 16:41

There are many medical conditions that call for dietary restrictions. For example:

  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • allergies
  • migraines
  • gluten sensitivity

When a person has a combination of medical conditions, it can be very hard to find foods that satisfy all the restrictions.

I have a friend with several allergies and migraines. After removing all allergens and the migraine triggers from his diet, he is very restricted. Considering that he doesn't have much time for complicated recipes, he decided to eat seafood.

Every specific case would need to be evaluated by a combination of a doctor and nutritionist, to determine, if it's really impossible or just very hard to be vegan.


Check the list of Potential migraine triggers

The article in medicalnewstoday says: Any food can cause an allergy, theoretically and As far as foods are concerned, nearly all allergens are proteins

Another good list of food allergens is foodallergy.org

healthline.com lists foods to avoid with irritable bowel syndrome.

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  • I'm interested in know the list of restrictions your friend has found work for him. – ecc Feb 13 '17 at 16:59
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    actually these conditions make it more difficult, but still possible.. – Attilio Feb 27 '17 at 23:47
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    Some allergies (soy or wheat) would make your CULINARY life far more difficult as a vegan, though :) – rackandboneman Mar 13 '17 at 9:52
  • @Attilio has a point. I have two of the example conditions and it just takes a bit more of work – istepaniuk Jun 27 '19 at 15:21

One possibility: Omega-3 deficiency. Although omega-3 fatty acids can be found in non-meat sources, the best way to get them is by eating fish.

I knew someone once who was an on-again-off-again veg*an for this reason, because her body had trouble absorbing omega-3. She would stick to plant foods for a few weeks, then be forced (feeling horrible about it) back into eating fish for a while. Last I heard, she and her doctor had come up with a way for her to cut out fish on a more permanent basis (although I never found out what that was).

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Besides celiac disease and allergies, the following can make a vegan diet difficult:

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Trying to recover from a restrictive eating disorder.

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    Welcome. Maybe you could elaborate to improve this answer. I think a mental health reason is as valid as physical health. Someone with disordered eating may very well use veganism for the wrong reasons, but equally they might use it as a wholesome way back in to eating. Some references would be even better. – David S Aug 22 '19 at 13:24

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