Facing Failing Health As A Vegan

January 20th, 2013 - filed under: The Food » Food and Health



I have been trying to write this post for ages, and I do mean ages. I’ve spent enough hours staring at this blank page, blinking cursor, to have written it many times over and still been able to bake a gluten-free vegan cake. Okay maybe that’s not true, but you get my point.

You’d think it would be a relatively easy story to transcribe. It’s a linear progression of factual events, right? Well, sort of. There are actually a number of ways I can tell this story, is the thing. For example I could very simply lay out the series of events, the way I got sick and why, and how I got better (I did). But that would sort of miss the point.

Or, I could write a scathing assault on our modern medical system which refuses to look at holistic health or even to pause at the quiet insistence of a new mother saying “No really, something is wrong.” Yeah, I could definitely write that story.

Or I could muse about the fascinating interplay of mental and physical health, wax New Age-y about the mind-body connection; wonder which causes which and ponder where it all begins (though I don’t think I’m the girl to write that article, ‘cause I’m not all that New Age-y and it’s all just Ouroboros anyway.)

Obviously, this is going to be a long post, can you tell?

The truth is that there’s only one way it feels right tell this story, and that is to contextualize it in the exact way that the entire thing was contextualized in my own life. It’s a story you don’t hear much in public, but I sure have heard it over and over in confidence. And I feel like it’s a story that needs to be told.

So this is my story: the story of how my veganism, held in deepest conviction, hit the wall of health crisis, and cracked with doubt.

~~~

Before I begin I want to acknowledge that I leave some things vague, mostly when it comes to my blood tests/numbers and what led to my diagnosis. This is because, well, it’s in the past now and I’m just not up for debating the specifics of how or what I could have done differently. I know everyone on the Internet is an expert (hey, me too!) but please respect that I don’t wish to argue about what I did or didn’t do.

I can imagine about a million and one ways in which people might be offended by what I’m about to say. I can also imagine another million and one ways in which people might want to invalidate my experience (Psychosomatic! Placebo! Armchair RD!). And you know? That’s fine. I’m not here to defend myself. I can’t please everyone, eh? I’m just trying to speak my truth and tell my story, exactly as I experienced it. Here goes.

Breastfeeding in a farm field. You now, like you do.


So, everything started a few months after Waits was born. But it was hard to get a handle on at first, because I was a) dealing with postpartum anxiety [certainly intertwined with my health issues], and b) a first-time mother who was attachment parenting a colicky baby, and c) still trying to “do it all” [ie maintain my blog and speed-write a book while keeping on top of all of the mom/wife/house stuff]. Which is why it took me so long to figure out that something was really wrong.

It began with the fatigue, and I don’t just mean that new mom exhaustion that’s born of too many sleepless nights. This was different, so that on my “bad” mornings my limbs were like lead, and moving into my day felt like so much work, it almost seemed unbearable. Like I said, the physical and the mental stuff was all tied up together.

The fatigue was often accompanied by a splitting headache, and after that came the rashes. My skin was suddenly hyper-sensitive. I had to stop using all lotion and even coconut oil – everything caused me to break out in itchy little red bumps. But even without any stimulus, the rash would come. Often it would be a fatigue day followed by a fatigue + headache day, with the rash setting in a few days after that. Or sometimes the rash would just show up, unannounced.

All of this compelled me to talk to my doctors; first to a midwife and then to an MD.

The midwife said that it sounded like typical new mom stuff. That I should come back if it hadn’t cleared up in a few months. It felt like the brush off.

The MD suggested that I had picked up a virus, any one of the many (like fifths and that cohort) that are common among small children. I asked about the strange recurrence, almost like a cycle, and he said that it could happen with these viruses. Even when I spoke to him again, six months later and it was still happening at regular intervals, he said it was just a virus. I felt like he wasn’t hearing me.

There were other symptoms as well, things that at the time seemed like maybe they were “normal” (in that new-mom sort of way), but as the year wore on and they all got worse, a bigger-picture of the problem began to emerge. My skin was often itchy and dry. I had these extreme mood swings. EXTREME. Often they seemed related to food, which was part of what prompted The Great Grand Diet Trial of 2011. I would get hot flashes, too. Clammy skin. Intense sugar cravings. And of course, anxiety and depression. Lots of anxiety, lots of depression. And eventually by the end of it, complete self-loathing.

This continued through the second half of 2010, and on into 2011. It only got worse. But my symptoms would ebb and flow, enough so that over and over, I would think it maybe had passed. I would feel better for a spell, and I would begin to believe that it had ended. Then, one evening my skin would feel a bit dry, and my heart would sink. And sure enough, the next morning, I would wake up with that same extreme fatigue, feeling like I literally couldn’t get out of bed.

That was the worst part of it all – the over and over up and then down, hope and then despair. That roller coaster, it wears you away. Does damage to the psyche.

I would have done almost anything to feel better. Anything. And when you’re vegan, eventually you start to wonder if your diet is part of the problem. Or maybe, everyone else wonders for you. But I couldn’t help it – I wondered too. I talked to my father, who is a well-respected doctor of Chinese Medicine. He advised eating meat. My Qi was weak, he said. “Just a little bone broth?” or, “Maybe some fish?

No” I repeated over and over. “Dad, I can’t do that. I’m vegan.” It became a point of contention in our relationship. He saw his daughter suffering and he wouldn’t accept my refusal of his solution. I felt like I was suffering and he couldn’t step outside his narrow paradigm to try to help me. But I’ll admit, his words and the words of everyone else wiggled in, and I worried that they were right. Was I making myself sicker because I was stuck in this ideology?

In March of 2012, over a year and a half into this, I spoke again with the MD. He still maintained it was a virus. Or, “Sounds like typical new mom stuff to me.

I felt completely alone. I felt like I was screaming for help and nobody was listening. And I felt like I was living a lie, blogging about the good stuff in my life (trying to practice gratitude, trying to be positive), while omitting this enormous struggle. It felt disingenuous and contributed to my shriveling self esteem.

In February of 2011, I quit blogging. I needed to figure out how to get myself better. Because I was truly, completely, hopelessly miserable. And I’m having trouble walking the line as I write this now, not wanting to sound melodramatic, but needing to express just how horrible it was, and how much it affected me. Quality of life? I had none.



Finally, in April 2012, I made an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor.

I’d held off for a lot of reasons, mainly because of money (insurance doesn’t cover most naturopaths) and also I don’t know, maybe a sort of prejudice? I mean, I’m a hippie girl at heart, raised that way and totally accepting of alternative modalities. But homeopathy is something I could never really get behind (it just DOESN’T make sense to my scientist’s brain) and since I have both an MD and a Chinese Medicine doctor in the family, I just never really looked into Naturopathy.

But this was different, because I wasn’t getting the help I needed and very simply put, I was desperate.

I found a list of naturopaths that were covered by my insurance, and cold-emailed the ones that sounded like a good fit. This is what my email said:

“Hello, I’m wondering if you are currently accepting new patients. I am
dealing with lots of weird health/mental health issues which have come
up following the birth of my son. He is 25 months and the problems
started around 5 months postpartum.

I am “medium crunchy”, which means I’m actually very crunchy and
prefer alternative medicine techniques, but I’m also very grounded by
traditional science. You sound like you have a similarly balanced
approach and I’m wondering if we could have a consult and see if we
“click”.

Thanks so much! Cheers,
~Sayward”



Dr. Lasse called me back within a few hours. She left me a message, laughing at my “medium crunchy” remark, and sounding so kind. I felt right away that she could help me.

My first appointment was at the end of April, and I wept as she did my intake. I cried A LOT in that first session. I just felt such relief at finally speaking to somebody who looked me in the eye, who said “Yes, you’re obviously sick, let’s figure out why.” I had hope, real hope, for the first time in ages.

I told her my story and she agreed with my suspicion that my hormones were the underlying issue. The cyclical nature of the symptoms – and the symptoms themselves – seemed to indicate a hormonal imbalance. She was alarmed to hear that I wasn’t menstruating, something I hadn’t paid much attention to. I assumed that since I was still nursing I was just experiencing lactation-induced amenorrhea. Also, I hadn’t had regular periods in years, since way before getting pregnant (and since before going vegan, in case you wondered). I wasn’t actually menstruating when I got pregnant with Waits.

But she felt strongly that I should be, and so this became a starting point in our initial treatment plan. I left her office that morning armed to the teeth with a battery of the crunchiest crunchiness you ever did see. Herbal tinctures. Bitters for digestion. 3 different homeopathic remedies. Castor oil. A “prescription” to eat certain seeds on a lunar cycle in order to induce menstruation. I know! And of course, orders for a whole battalion of blood tests.



Two weeks later my blood work was back. Let’s pause and take a moment now. Try to imagine the absolute worst, the most ridiculous, the most comically ironic diagnosis that a vegan could receive.


No, it wasn’t B12. My B12 and D were great.


However, my cholesterol was abysmally low. And on top of that, I had blood markers for protein depletion. Seriously.

Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a type of fat found only in animal foods. Vegans do not intake ANY dietary cholesterol. Human bodies do produce cholesterol, however, that’s only if the body is healthy. Cholesterol is produced in the liver. My liver had been abused by many years of drinking, smoking, caffeine, and then eventually, pregnancy.

Cholesterol is the precursor to all sex hormones (like estrogen, progesterone, etc). Without adequate cholesterol, the body cannot make hormones.

Protein Depletion
You’ve probably heard vegans (and pretty much every vegan “leader”) scoffing at the protein question. “The protein myth!” and “How many cases of Kwashiorkor have you seen this year?” they’ll quip sarcastically. Basically, “neener neener, duh” is the attitude towards people who question protein.

But you don’t have to develop complete protein deficiency to be protein-depleted. And I, living an active lifestyle, nursing, and eating a sometimes-high-raw, always-vegan diet, was protein depleted.


I was devastated. Devastated. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. To hear “cholesterol” and “protein” as a vegan, well it just shook me to my very core. I was reeling.

My naturopath knew that I had some rescued hens, and she suggested that I start eating their eggs.

And maybe you’re thinking the same thing? It sure would solve all my problems, right? That’s a perfect little packet of pure protein and cholesterol, right there. In my very own backyard. Guaranteed cruelty-free.

The thing is though, it wasn’t about me. Because, sure, I could eat those very specific eggs that I don’t necessarily have an ethical objection to, and it would probably help me. Maybe even heal me. But then . . . what would that mean?

If I had to eat animal foods in order to get better, then that would mean I was not capable of being vegan. And if I was incapable of being vegan, then that would mean that the vegan ideology was fundamentally flawed. Because if I HAD to eat animals to be healthy, then eating animals could NOT be morally wrong.

So do you see? That this wasn’t just about me? Wasn’t just about my own health?

Veganism is the cornerstone of my life. It is my framework, it contextualizes my actions and informs my every decision. I believe in kindness and non-violence with the wholeness of my being. This is everything to me.


Those next few days, I was in a stupor. I cancelled a speaking engagement at the Mad City Vegan Fest, an event I’d been so looking forward to. How could I stand in front of a room and talk about veganism, when my own health was failing and my own faith was in crisis?

And then one night, just a few days after I received my diagnosis, I was making dinner and listening to a very popular vegan podcast. The host is one of my greatest mentors, and her discussions always calm and inspire me. This newest episode was all about talking to people who might misuse our words: people who call themselves vegetarian but eat fish, or people who call themselves vegan but eat occasional “humane” animal products, etc. And, there was a section on people who stop being vegan “for health reasons”. What a coinkidink.

One thing I’ve always loved about this speaker is the compassion that she seems to radiate in everything she does – it’s something I’ve worked hard to emulate. She’s just got a way with non-judgment, which was why it came as such a shock to hear the callous, almost mocking tone she took when speaking on this particular topic. She seemed to imply – no, she definitely said – that if someone gives up veganism for health reasons, it’s because “. . . they felt inconvenienced . . . ” and “. . . [they] didn’t really embrace it enough . . .”, ending with, “. . . and so the easy way out is an excuse that appears legitimate.”

This is, essentially, victim-blaming people during their most vulnerable time. And hearing this from someone that I so admire? Well that was just sort of my breaking point.

You don’t know!” I wanted to scream. “If you’ve never been sick you don’t understand! I would do practically ANYTHING to stop feeling like this!

So that’s the night I found my anger. And oh boy, was I angry. I resented everyone, everyone I’d trusted. All the vegan leaders and vegan doctors and vegan gurus who’d insisted over and over that I was eating the healthiest diet on the planet. They lied to me! FUCK THEM!

Well, that lasted about 12 hours. I’m not really one for anger and thus my self-righteous indignation didn’t make it past morning. The second I let myself remember why I was vegan in the first place, was the second my anger melted away (literally). Because, remember, it’s not about me.

I am vegan for the animals.

Period. I’m not vegan for the leaders and doctors and gurus, for the approval of my mentors or even for my own health. I’m vegan because I believe with all my heart and soul that it is wrong to inflict violence and suffering on innocent beings. Period.

So that was that. I’d uncovered my reserve strength. And now I had to find a way to get better while staying vegan. I mean, if anyone could possibly re-imagine, get creative, and think outside the box for a nontraditional solution, well I think that I’m just the girl for that job. I’m pretty freakin’ persistent.



I came to my next appointment with a renewed sense of purpose. “We have to make this work within the framework of veganism” I told my naturopath. She was supportive. We devised a plan.

I’m not going to go over every detail of my particular treatment, but in general it went something like this:

• Seeds. Within 3 weeks (seriously!) of starting the cycling seeds program for hormonal balance, I got my first period in over 3 years. I don’t even know what to say about this because it makes the scientist in me raise such a skeptic’s eyebrow, but listen. Dudes. It worked.

• Liver support. We wanted to help my liver efficiently make its own cholesterol. The regimen included castor oil packs, omitting alcohol, coffee, and black tea, and omitting refined sugar. I also cut out gluten because it very much exacerbated my most troublesome symptoms (fatigue and moodiness).

• Fat. Eating as much saturated fat (coconut products, cacao butter) as possible (SORRY NOT SORRY, DR. CAMPBELL) because saturated fat stimulates cholesterol production. Also, eating plenty of other healthy fats, like olive oil, nuts, and avocados (SORRY NOT SORRY, DR. ESSELSTYN). [Of course, I’m just being playful “apologizing” to these amazing doctors. I mean no disrespect – these are great men. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that although I believe a low-fat vegan diet is excellent for reversing and curing many chronic diseases, that does NOT mean that it’s the right diet for everyone. A diet for healing is different than a diet for maintenance, is different than a diet for building (pregnancy) and is certainly different than a diet for growth (children). I feel like a lot of vegans, and vegan leaders, overlook this important point. And in my own anecdotal experience, the vegans who most often get sick are of the low-fat and/or all-raw variety. Maybe this warrants it’s own post in the future, eh?]

• Protein. I made a conscious effort to include plenty of protein in my daily menus, with the aim of eating something protein-rich with every meal. During my intensive healing period, I was eating high-protein foods all day (beans, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, lentils, and more beans beans beans) and fixing myself a “protein & saturated fat” shake every morning and every night before bed.

• Additional emotional/physiological support, via herbal tinctures and homeopathic remedies. Because well why not?


And the results? Following this protocol, my progress was so immediate and so monumental, it felt like nothing short of a miracle. Within just a few weeks I felt like a different woman. I could hardly believe it.

And as the months passed, I only continued to improve. I was able to lay off some of the stricter guidelines (reintroduce black tea, drop the late night shake, etc). There was a lot of other very difficult stuff going on in my life back then, but my health remained strong and continued to gain strength, and that made all the difference in the world. Much of my anxiety and depression was relieved just by physically feeling better. So much.

When my blood was retested in September 2012, my cholesterol had moved up into the healthy range, and the markers for my protein depletion had mostly normalized (still room to improve, but much better). By the end of October I felt like both my physical and emotional health had made a complete recovery, and I scheduled my last session with my naturopath.

In some ways, I really feel like she saved my life. For those of you in the Portland area: Dr Raina Lasse, ND. I simply cannot recommend her highly enough.

~~~

These days I feel strong. I am healthy and I am happy. It’s actually not something I think about much anymore, which is more of a relief than you can probably understand. When you have your health, you just don’t realize how much you have to lose.

As for my current diet, I still eat coconut products (saturated fat) more often than most folks, but not every day. I’ve also retrained myself in the way I approach my meals, so that I always include some protein (it’s become second nature now). I do believe that every person requires a slightly different diet/macronutrient ratio, and that there’s no one set way that is a guarantee for good health. Some people only need very little fat, others don’t do well with carbs, and still others require lots and lots of protein. VIVE LE BEANS!

But all of these individual needs, I think, can be accomplished within the framework of a vegan diet. I do believe that now. Because I’m proof.

“I adore myself and everyone else.” Affirmation on the mirror at Cafe Gratitude, Hollywood.


If you are vegan and sick, please know that you are not alone. This is happening to others. This is even happening to leaders in our community. I know, because I’ve talked to them.

And you know what? It’s is a damn shame that there is such a stigma attached to this, that people feel the need to suffer in silence. I mean I get it, I do. As vegans we deal with enough skepticism from the “outside” world, and it can start to feel like you need to be a shining example of vegan health and perfection at every moment, or else you’re damaging the cause. But it’s a mistake, I think, that the leaders and bloggers and writers and others, are not sharing more of these sorts of struggles. Because we cannot fault people for giving in and going back, if they have no examples of how to persevere.

If nobody shares their stories, then everyone feels alone.

And if I, a deeply committed ethical vegan with a reputation and career on the line, living in freakin’ Portland Oregon, can actually consider going back . . . well, then I can’t blame isolated vegans in small towns who have no support system at all, for doing the same.

Losing your health is the scariest thing. When you’re sick, it consumes everything. But you don’t have to feel like hell just to stand by your beliefs, and you don’t have to stop being vegan in order to feel better. Find a medical practitioner – whichever type you prefer (I’m naturopath-for-life now!) – one that will actually listen and really wants to help. Get your blood tested! Don’t play guessing games, just pony up and pay to know what’s really going on. Then educate yourself, reach out to experts, reach out to the online community, find support, and work with your doctor to figure out a treatment plan that will fit your needs.

Once you’re better (and you will be), share. Leaders and bloggers and writers and everyone else, please share! We will never be able to figure out the whole puzzle, until we are looking at all the pieces. This is not a matter of veganism failing; this is simply a failure of information.

~~~

So that’s it. That’s the story of how I got sick, had a crisis of faith, found my strength, and fought my way back to health and happiness. My hope in telling this story is that it may inspire you to stand firm in your own convictions, whenever those convictions are rooted in love.

So with all my love,

*cheers*

To your health.



Edited to add: I am completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I have received today. Thank you all so much! It is downright scary to put yourself out there, but you have all reaffirmed my intuition that this was a story that needed to be told. And I am honored to have been able to share it.

As of now, tonight, this post has garnered almost 10,000 hits. Amazing! Please, keep sharing, because it’s obviously resonating with people out there. Again, I’m just so honored.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to respond to each comment individually, but please know I have read and appreciate every single one. Thank you so much again – it feels great to be back! ♥

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  • http://www.youtube.com/user/Gary1111001 Gary High-Fruit

    Your post stirs me on a deep level because it’s the type of situation that made me become a health coach online (Youtube, Twitter, G+). I think education will reassure you about veganism, and to do it the best way.

    See why high-fruit and grain is the right lifestyle & fat should be low,

    My videos remain “Irri-fruitable”

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    This post is not for self-promotion or selling your products. I do not promote a high fruit diet, and a low fat diet is partially responsible for destroying my health.

    Please do not post any more comments trying to promote your coaching, or anything else, here.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/Gary1111001 Gary High-Fruit

    I doubted you were vegan from the start. You’re trashing veganism for money which is why U don’t want me making any. If you’re vegan, smarten up and stop hurting people. You already hurt yourself with your bullshit, Nazi low-life.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Lolz. So this comment I’ll definitely leave up, since I think it’s an exemplary sample of the sort of aggressive belligerence I so often see from the high carb low fat / fruitarian community. One of the many reasons I don’t promote this sort of diet.

    ~Nazi low life (but definitely still vegan)

  • Star

    This is exactly what I needed to read. I feel completely alone right now and like a terrible vegan. I adopted veganism for both health and ethical reasons as well as in order to recover from an eating disorder. well, it’s not working. I’m weaker, sicker, my hairs falling out, my hormones are so out of whack I think I’m going literally insane all the time and I can barely even breathe walking up the stairs. I haven’t recovered at all – I’ve actually devolved rapidly, and can’t even express it because I feel like I’d ruin my reputation both as a faithful vegan and as someone in recovery. Talking about it makes you selfish. All I can think about is “Your hairs falling out? What about the animals that died for that? Selfish non-vegan.”

    I don’t know what to do. Guess I just needed to rant. Anyway, thank you for this.

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  • Mick

    Great, great, great read. You are one brave dudine, Dudine! I really don’t think I would’ve made it through that, so thanks for being the pioneer that blazed the trail.

  • Mick

    Crawl away, Audrey.

  • Natasha Allen

    Thank you so much for this post! I have been searching for weeks for an answer to why I could not gain weight as a vegan despite eating healthy foods (e.g. potatoes, corn tortillas, etc). I was just about to consider giving up veganism, something I absolutely didn’t want to do when I came across this post in a search. It is horrible to be sick and not know what it is, even more, when you think it could be attributed to your own beliefs. So thank you because now I know that I can be healed as a vegan.

  • Catherine

    I came across this post while doing a search for information on supporting Vegan teens. My 14 y.o daughter and I are vegan and she is experiencing some fairly significant health challenges, oddly many of which you described in your post. Although she is not post partum and only 14, there are many similarities. We too are committed to the vegan lifestyle and are hoping to find a naturopath/nutritionist to support her path back to health while remaining vegan. Thank you for this ray of hope!!

  • L.

    Audrey, you and some people in the population likely have a more narrow ability to intake B12. For a great many people, there are more than one type of B12 that can be absorbed. Vegans can be healthier toward later life than other cohorts regarding this vitamin because older people tend not to be able to absorb B12 well from meat sources, but vegans are already on supplements that are a still-absorbable form at that life stage. It sounds to me like you have a genetic difference from others. That genetic difference is really only as limiting as the ability for humans to synthesize B12, which is to say it currently does limit your diet, and may for the rest of your life. This makes it a great topic for researchers and developers. However, hopefully you can recognize that in a way that does not detract from the vegan cause, nor those who can easily at this point in time become vegan. Because the vegans you lived with may have been highly judgmental, that seems to have branded your view of how vegans are in general.

  • Nina Khodorivska

    Thank you very much for this post from a vegetarian from Ukraine. To find a doctor that would treat vegetarianism and veganism as something worth respect is way harder here than in the US. And reading your story is so much of the support.

  • Dandelion

    This post has filled me with so many thoughts and feels I can’t even respond adequately.
    First off, congrats on surviving such a journey and on remaining the soulful, articulate and ethical human you clearly are.
    Secondly, as someone who is also ‘medium crunchy’ and has struggled with very similar health issues until finally being so sick I caved to eggs, fish and as of this week chicken… I’ve been scouring the internet for any shred of evidence that it wasn’t the animals that has given me 3 periods in the last 6 months (a record!). Your story has given me heart and hope that not only will things get better if I’m determined but that it’s maybe not the animals per se that started me on the improve. What’s the point in being healthy if I’m not living the delicious and soul-satisfying life I feel most happy within?

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I’m so sorry to hear that you’re having these issues, but I’m glad you found this post and I hope that it’s given you some confidence and hope. You should also check out Lacy Davis at Super Strength Health http://superstrengthhealth.com/ She is an ex-ex-vegan who has a very similar story. She was a vegan who got sick, started eating eggs again, but has now gone back to vegan and remained healthy. Also she is just a super amazing and inspiring woman!

    Good luck with your journey, and please be kind with yourself. ♥

  • naadirasahra

    What happened to the rescued chickens and their eggs?

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  • Conor Hope

    I have read the secret life of plants, and study a degree in biological sciences. Plants cannot feel pain and are not conscious as they have no central nervous system. If you read the book more carefully you will realize that the author is simply personifying the plant’s adaptive reactions to the environment, which they do explicitly mention at the start.

  • annie

    What does your son eat?

  • Ralph Boas

    To challenge your arguments I would suggest
    reading The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith. She was a vegan for 20
    years till she took the time to really examine how food is produced.
    She says
    “Certainly, most people who consume factory-farmed meat
    have never asked what died and how it died. But frankly, neither have
    most vegetarians. The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive
    thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save
    us. The truth is that agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of
    entire ecosystems The truth is also that life isn’t possible without
    death, that no matter what you eat, someone has to die to feed you.”

    Eating pasture raised cattle and other animals can arguably cause less
    death than the plowing of fields, clearing of forests and growing of
    plants (especially vast monocrops like grains) which causes the death of
    birds, rodents, bugs, worms, and trillions of microbes in the soil, as
    well as fish from the waterway destruction to irrigate.

  • Nichole Hill

    Thank you so much for writing this. My daughter just turned 20 months and I’ve been feeling off since she was about 6 months old. Everyone kept telling me it’s new mom stuff or post baby blues. However, in the last few months my body has developed rashes and new allergies and my skin and hair is dry and limp. Everyone around me is quick to blame my diet and I was starting to question myself too. I have to pay out of pocket to see the doctor and I’ve been putting that off because being a single mommy is expensive and I didn’t want to be told medically my diet is what’s to blame. This article has given me the kick in the pants to book an appointment and get some blood work done because it probably is my diet, but it can be solved holistically while staying vegan. Thank you for giving me hope.

  • Lealo

    Thank you, SO much!! I’m a mum to a 14 month old boy and only been a vegan for 6 months, but have spent 75% of it ill with either a virus, infection, candida or stomach bug, I’ve never been this ill in my life and reading this has brought back hope on the bridge of switching back. Although I’m not high carb I’m sure there is something off balance I just need to find it. Thanks :D!

  • jdee33

    Love this … thank you for sharing your experience with such thoughtfulness and eloquence.

  • JS

    If you study The Seventh Day Adventist religion you will find they are some of the healthiest people on earth,
    While most are not totally vegen they most of them are vegitarians.

  • JS

    Read again she did mention being afraid her community would reject her.

  • JS

    And people can be very healthy eating meat. Dose it not strike people as strange that vegans constantly have to have blood work etc to make sure they are eating the right balance of food?

  • http://www.greytontransition.co.za Nicola Vernon

    What a relief to read your story as I don’t thrive healthwise as a vegan and you’ve given me lots of ideas to improve my diet. I’d sooner die than eat animal products again so you’ve given me hope. More nuts, beans, coconut oil for me!

  • Annikabe Vegana
  • Martica Heaner PhD

    I am a nutrition professor and would like to point out to others who may be misguided by this story that your implications and post is very misleading. I’m sorry that you felt so bad, but I think that this is an irresponsible post if you don’t also post exactly what you were eating during this several year period. Your symptoms are also similar to what an anorexic would experience and losing one’s period is also a symptom of not eating enough calories to match energy expenditure (also seen in the athletic triad.) Being very low in cholesterol and protein levels is also a sign of undernutrition–ie. not eating enough calories, and not a symptom of veganism. And many of your clinical symptoms can be ascribed to a series of nutritional deficiencies–also coming from not eating enough and not eating enough variety. Without knowing anything about your nutrient intake other than you didn’t eat animal products, it’s very clear that you also were not eating enough. And anyone who does not eating enough is at risk of missing out on key nutrients across the spectrum. There is rarely a protein deficiency in this country, except among people with anorexia. Just because you were vegan does not mean you were eating what you needed. To paint this as a failed experiment in veganism is not fair to the overwhelmingly positive evidence that a vegan diet is the healthiest one can have. This is a failed experiment in eating well at all, meat or no meat. There is a plethora of evidence showing that most Americans are extremely low on nutrients–and most American are also obese and sick–hundreds of millions with diabetes, hypertension, poor cholesterol and a variety of other meat- and diet related ailments–and who find cures and disease reversal from eating a plant-based diet. There are junk food vegans and they undoubtly are not as healthy–although still likely healthier than the standard omnivore– as a whole food, plant-based vegan. But anyone, meat or no meat, who does not eat enough is still going to be lacking in nutrients and while the body can cope for a while, overtime it’s going to catch up to you and cause many of the symptoms you describe. Just eating kale is not enough if that’s the bulk of what you eat. We need a variety of plant food and not eating animal foods, or eaten them minimally, has been shown in every culture to produce the healthiest humans. – Martica Heaner PhD

  • Janet

    O.M.G. I have tears in my eyes. Thank you SO much for writing this. I have been vegan for a year, and the reason I haven’t turned fully vegan earlier than last year is that I have a strong gluten sensitivity. The milk allergy I developed was one of the things that helped becoming vegan so much easier, I must add. But I’ve been struggling with my health for many years. Mostly skin and digestive discomfort. It’s gotten SO much better since I became vegan, but now my biggest concern is my teeth. Mal-absorption of minerals in my digestive system, mostly due to eating gluten for MANY many years, has caused me to have very bad teeth. And it’s not getting better, as I know for a fact my digestive system is not healed. It’s an ongoing struggle, and I’ve just (about a week ago) recommitted to focusing on my own healing for the next few months. Part of this is also to stabilize my periods – they’ve been erratic long before I turned vegan too. I’m going to try out the seed cycling, thanks!! And thank you so much for being such an incredible inspiration. Someone with integrity. <3

  • http://www.writerscafe.org/Alani Alani Keiser

    LOVE THIS POST! I have always listened to my body and from day 1 of feeling slightly off… I increased my fat intake, as well as other stuff, like greens!
    This post is way overdue and I am so glad some one wrote it! Just because we are vegan, doesn’t mean we are healthy for life. We need to look after ourselves, so that we can be there for the animals! xxx

  • Cookie

    Thanks so much. I have health problems due to mercury poisoning, and I realised now that because I’m always tired and don’t have much appetite, I don’t put much effort into eating and my diet is very restricted. I’ve forgotten all those seeds and oils that I used to eat. (I’m a vegetarian.) Thanks for this timely reminder.

  • Ann Stone

    Thank you, for having the strength of character to find a vegan solution. Many more selfish beings would have just started eating cows.

  • Ann Stone

    Did you really have to troll this post just to be an asshole?

  • Ann Stone

    Another great way to ward off illness is to restore your body ph with apple cider vinegar or this amazing home made tonic: http://heal-thyself.ning.com/profiles/blogs/master-tonic-101. It is my family’s go to medicine for congestion & viral type symptoms. 2-3 shots per day will drive just about anything away. Haven’t used any other medicine for years.

  • Nasdaq7

    This vegan thing is absolute nonsense. Evolutionary science tells us we might have lived in the sea – eating other fish. And that’s for millions of years.

  • Nasdaq7

    She required beans and lentils which contains high protein. WOW! I could have told her that reading half-way through the article. The bottom line is she is promoting an eating method, a damn ideology instead of looking at the body’s requirements and what IS in the environment AND healthy sources of foods. So ZERO for REALITY. ZERO for RESEARCH. ZERO for SCIENCE.

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  • alice

    Honestly, saying that a sick person can get better without adding in animal products is an opinion based off of YOUR experiences. You have no way of knowing that another vegan would get better by following your path, because not every vegan gets sick for the same reason (low cholesterol and protein, in your case). In fact, there isn’t even a way to 100% know what specifically about a vegan diet makes certain people sick. Vegan gurus are quick to retort, “You need more fat! You need to cut out soy! You weren’t doing it right!” as if they fully understand the complexities and individualities of human biology, as if they are filled with all-encompassing knowledge about all of the micronutrients in meat compared to plants. I have no way of knowing why eating my first bite of meat again allowed me to not feel queasy for the first time in years. I don’t know why I feel better in the short term and long term when I’m regularly incorporating red meat into my diet and limiting starches. But I do know that I am disabled with several chronic illness, I do know that these last for life, and I do know that I will do whatever makes me feel best so I can have hopes of one day living a life that does not consist of bedbound isolation as a young college drop out. You know how it feels to be sick. Find your empathy and extend it to those who needed a different path from you. Thanks for sharing your story, and I wish you the best of luck on your health journey.

  • Cat Ivana-Charles LaughingMoon

    You where craving sugar, because you where depriving yourself of carbohydrates. Your anxiety caused your skin condition. Anxiety is caused by; non-acceptance or catastrophic, lack of carbohydrates (since you are starving your brain), and an hormone imbalance. Turnips are anti viral, so if any thing vegans have the tools to fight disease in their arsenal. I am incredibly tired of people that ran away from the vegan lifestyle using these excuses, when there are clearly other causes. There isn’t an excuse besides lack of research, and lack of determination.