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September 23, 2013

Medication Management: Is Your Medication Spoiling Your Vegan Diet?

As a vegan, you enjoy a lifestyle you consider healthy, humane, and environmentally conscious. Vegans don’'t use any animal products—; not in food, not in household goods, and not in wardrobes. Many older adults like you adopt a vegan lifestyle because of the health benefits of a plant-based diet and the reduced impact on the environment. But mature vegans might be unaware some of their medications could spoil their efforts.

Over-the-counter and prescription medications can contain components that are derived from animals, according to National Public Radio (NPR). The most common is lactose, which is used as a stabilizer or to add bulk to tablets. That’'s not all. There are often gelatins derived from the skin and bones of pigs and cows in capsules and pills. Even shellacs and colorings found in medications can be produced from crushed bugs. 

While fillers and colorings can be problematic, there are also active ingredients, such as insulin, heparin, amino acids, and hormones developed or extracted from animals. That makes it especially difficult for vegans to find alternative medications that work the same but fit with their lifestyle choice.

Check the labels of the medications you’'re taking. Do they contain animal products? If you’'re vegan, NPR advises you do the following:

Prescription Medications

No matter how committed you are as a vegan, you should never quit taking a prescribed medication before consulting your doctor. If keeping vegan is important to you, you can talk with your doctor to see if there is an alternative medication that better fits with your diet. While there are sometimes substitutes available, there may be no options as effective as your current medication. Even dedicated vegans sometimes have to take medications that contain animal products in the interest of their own health and well being.

Over-the-Counter Medications

When it comes to everyday, over-the-counter medications, you have more options.  Doing your homework can ensure you’'re getting vegan-friendly products. Research the ingredients listed on your favorite medications for headaches, indigestion, or allergies. Stearic acid, found in some over-the-counter painkillers, for example, can be derived from pig products. Lists of ingredients that come from animals are extensive, and some products can be called a variety of technical names. There are books vegans can buy or check out at their local library as reference guides. In general, it’'s a good idea to stay away from “gel tablet”versions of medications, as gelatin is most frequently an animal product.

If you’'re still stumped, you can try asking your local pharmacist for help in identifying vegan-friendly over-the-counter medications so you can stay on track with your vegan lifestyle.

Want more info on managing your medications? Download our free guide “Tips for Better Medication Management: At the Doctor’s Office, At the Pharmacy, and At Home” today!

Better Medication Management


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