What Happens If A Vegan Accidentally Eats Meat?

  • Author: Ben
  • Date: September 19, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.

A vegan who eats meat accidentally is in mortal hell. Will they meet the Reaper immediately or quietly internally combust and disappear in a whisp of smoke? “There goes Caroline,” the old man said, wistfully, “She ate a burger. And it disagreed with her.” Well… it’s not all that bad. So, do not panic! However, for a dedicated vegan, it can feel like a major issue and potentially can cause some inadvertent but temporary, minor problems too. Let’s look at the physical and mental consequences of accidentally eating meat.

What Should I Do If I Accidentally Eat Meat as a Vegan?

Eating meat after being vegan may have side effects. It depends largely on the person, how their digestive system works, and how long they’ve been on a plant-based diet.

There are both physiological and mental issues related to eating meat accidentally. However, they’ve both usually temporary.

Let’s explore the mental and physical impact of accidentally eating meat as a vegan.

Mental Side Effects Of Eating Meat As A Vegan

Not to put a finer point on it, you’ll be deeply unhappy about it. That’s normal!

However, there’s nothing much you can usually do now if the meal was consumed hours prior.

Many vegans will choose to brush their teeth and use mouthwash to get their mouths minty fresh. They may also floss to remove any food remnants from between their teeth and gums too.

Doing this avoids the meal’s taste from coming back to life. It also feels like you’re taking action.

Knowing how and why it occurred is important.

Not only will this help you to isolate the reason and prevent its recurrence, but it’ll also give you a sense of closure.

Most times, you didn’t know or couldn’t have known. The main thing is to learn from it, rather than mentally beat yourself up over what’s now in the past.

Physiological Impact Of Eating Meat As A Vegan

The physiological impact is a different matter.

It may require your body a while to process the food. You can help to flush the system a bit by consuming more water.

But realistically, it’s a natural process that needs to be allowed to run its course.

What Happens If A Vegan Accidentally Eats Meat

Physically What Happens If A Vegan Accidentally Eats Meat?


While the gut is highly adaptable and will adjust to a switch from a carnivore diet to vegan and back again, occasional meaty meals are more troublesome.

The body has both good and bad bacteria.

Your gut specifically stores good bacteria to aid in proper digestion. This also relates to your recent diet.

Any sudden or drastic change to what you’re eating can cause an upset stomach. This is because of the lack of the right type of good bacteria to handle it.

With meat, the gut stores enzymes that help to digest different types more readily.

These can sometimes dissipate over time and may be limited or absent when consuming meat-based meals. This is why a one-off meaty meal can be hard for the body to digest as a result.


A headache may occur when it would overwise not have done so.

Essentially, the body is working overtime to handle a different meal and it’s thrown your long-term vegan body for a loop!

It will pass.


Processing meat can give the gut sufficient extra headaches to cause bloating in the abdominal area.

This may also be paired with either stomach discomfort or abdominal discomfort.

There is nothing that can be done to reduce the severity of it either.

Excess Gas

It’s not uncommon to experience additional gas due to the gut doing its best to handle the latest change.

This will pass… literally. And there’s not much you can do about it other than perhaps working from home that day or limiting social activities.

Feeling Nauseous

Some vegans reach a point of retching at the smell or even the thought of meat.

As a result, thinking about the meat-based meal that’s been consumed may cause nauseous feelings.

Also, any burping that partly brings food back up can trigger more nauseous feelings.

The longer the time you’ve been a dedicated vegan, the likelier that’ll be.

Women’s Hormonal Reaction

Menstrual cramping and the severity of their monthly cycle can sometimes be affected by meat in hearty meals.

Lethargy or Excess Tiredness

The body requires more energy to process meat compared to vegetables. Also, when the gut is working harder due to the sudden dietary change – even from a single meal – it depletes energy stores faster than expected.

Without consuming enough calories in a meal, including cutting a meal short when discovering it contained meat, can lead to a calorie deficit.

Combine that with the body’s need for extra energy to process it, and it’s easy to become lightheaded, lethargic, or tired.

Skin Reactions

People with increased sensitivity can experience a fresh skin reaction within a few hours of eating meat. This can occur the other way too, with acne resolving itself when reintroducing meat.

For more on the vitamins and minerals, you need to maintain healthy skin with a vegan diet, check out our article covering this.

Ultimately, as a vegan, don’t panic if you’ve eaten a meal containing meat. Let nature take its course because you cannot go back in time to reverse it now. Just try and plan better in the future, even if it means asking a lot of questions when you are eating out.

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