by Marina Becker

How going vegan impacts your microbiome – Veganuary Challenge


Similar to previous years, health-focused new year resolutions like improving fitness (48%), losing weight (34%), improving diet (32%), stopping smoking (12%), and drinking less alcohol (3%) are top priorities for many people [1]. After examining the effects of alcohol on our microbiome and successfully completing the Dry January Challenge last year, we are starting this year with our next challenge: Veganuary

What is Veganuary?
Veganuary is a global challenge where people go vegan, i.e. eating only plant-based foods, in January, to improve their own, as well as the animals’ and environment’s health. Veganuary celebrates its ten-year anniversary in 2024. Last year, more than 700,000 people participated worldwide. Around 800 new vegan products and menus were launched, 446 US brands, restaurants, and retailers participated and more than 25 US businesses took part in the workplace challenge. [2]

Health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets
The connection between our diet and our gut microbiota is well-established [3, 4]. Countless studies show that vegetarian and vegan diets can:

  • Improve insulin resistance [5]
  • Lower risk for diabetes [6, 7]
  • Offer protection against cardiovascular diseases [8], cardiometabolic risk factors, some cancers, obesity, hypertension, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular mortality, and lower total mortality [9]
  • Lower levels of oxidative stress, body fat and cholesterol [10]
  • Have beneficial effects on metabolic syndrome [11, 12], and Rheumatoid Arthritis [13, 14]

And what happens in our gut microbiome?
Plant-based diets are characterized by a variety of antioxidant-, phytonutrient- and fiber-rich foods. The increased consumption of dietary fibers (non-digestible carbohydrates, only found in plants) significantly increases the abundance of intestinal microbiota, helps to diversify our intestinal ecosystem, and benefits its physiology. [15]

Dietary fibers like inulin, pectin, cellulose, and resistant starch influence the growth and activity of gut microbiota like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Roseburia spp., E. rectal, and Ruminococcus. [15] Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus have anti-pathogenic and anti-inflammatory effects and provide cardiovascular protection. Some microbial species ferment fiber into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), like butyrate, which improve immunity, strengthen the blood-brain barrier, provide energy and support the gut’s integrity. [16]

Studies found different gut microbiome profiles in vegetarians, vegans and omnivores. Vegan’s and vegetarian’s were mostly similar, but differed from those of omnivores [17]. Vegans have a lower stool pH than omnivores. An acidic environment like this is not suitable for E. coli [12]. They also have less pathobionts like Enterobacteriacea, and more protective species like F. prausnitzii, less potentially harmful and more potentially beneficial metabolites [18], as well as reduced levels of inflammation. [17]

To consider
Keep in mind that ‘going vegan’ does not necessarily equal healthy eating. A diet consisting of chips, crackers, candy, and soda is technically vegan, but nowhere close to being healthy. And vegan fast foods are still processed foods that should be avoided in order to support our gut microbes. Also, consider having your micronutrient levels checked and supplement nutrients like B12, when necessary. Talk with a skilled doctor and/or nutritionist when it comes to your children, specific nutritional needs, stages of life, etc.

What do you think?
Sounds good? There’s even more good news: Research has shown that alterations to your diet can rapidly change the gut microbiome. Changes can therefore occur fairly quickly. [19]

So, give it a try and have a healthy start to this new year!

Marina Becker
Marina Becker
Holistic Health and Life Coach / Editor

Marina Becker studied communications and psychology in Munich. As a Certified Transformational Nutrition Coach she supports people who struggle with their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing by providing a holistic and personalized approach to healing and transformation.

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