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

Thanks so much! Cheers,

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 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,


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! ♥

  • Nicole Tozier

    Not strange at all. We have regular blood work done for two reasons: 1) We feel the need to prove our health, because we are constantly having to defend the safety and validity of our lifestyle! 2) One of the many reasons people go vegan is for their health, and a step in knowing your body and keeping it healthy, is to have bloodwork done at least at some point in your life, so that you can see that all is well. I know that no matter how you eat – vegan, vegetarian, SAD, paleo, AIP, IIFYM, ‘clean eating’ – you NEED blood work to make sure all is in order.

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  • Jimmy Smithson

    I went to the dirt diet but found it had remains of creatures like bugs and animals that had decayed into it. So I tried the water diet but it had animal pee in it that had made it’s way to the water tables. I couldn’t filter it out. I had to stop wearing clothes because the materials and labor all came from countries where they ate meat or had terrible civil rights violations. I stopped using a restroom because I found out the plumber had shot a bear about to attack a small child. I now must live naked on a raft in the middle of the sea and wait to die so I don’t harm anything or one.

  • Ned Dorff

    I needed this article right now. Thank you for sharing your story. I do a vegan health section on my website and really need to address several of these same symptoms personally and publicly.

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  • Andrea Blois

    Thank you. I can completely relate to every aspect of this story. I am committed to remaining a vegan but have had horrible experiences with the ND that I went to and not much help for my MD. You have inspired me to contact your ND and try to fix the health problems that I am experiencing.

  • Sandra Diaz

    I know this story is years old now, and I went through many of the comments. I want to THANK YOU so much for you story. It made me cry as I understand all the ethical ponderings you went through. I am currently in the middle of my own health crisis; I have been vegan for 16 years. I have low iron stores, low protein stores, and am almost pre-diabetic. I also have low levels of DHEA, protegestrone and cholesterol. I have low cortisol in the morning. However, I have been eating a very well-rounded mostly-whole foods, vegan diet for most of that time. It is inspiring to hear what you went through. I am struggling with the thought of eating any animal products, but I did break down and begin did taking a heme iron supplement, based on the recommendation of my functional medicine doctor. I just am so tired of being sick and tired! It sounds like you were not eating enough legumes, which is not my issue. Though my doc did not think I had liver issues, I think I am going to try the castor oil pack since that is the one specific you mentioned that I have not tried that I am hoping may help my body create more of its cholesterol.

  • Katie Fleming

    Wow thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s really nice to hear. I’m glad you’re feeling better!

  • Jenny Borrett

    Fantastic article and much needed, but also congratulations on your self empowerment.

    I do palaeo-anthropology and am a vegan who started her journey in 1994. 100% plant based diet is not the natural or correct diet for a human, and raw plant diets most certainly are not. Damn the gurus and their pseudo-rubbish.

    But… a westerner with plenty of food choices can be completely safe on a vegan diet as long as they understand it is a protest diet, rather than a natural diet. As long as they know to take their supplements, eat lots of protein sources and get blood tests if their health starts failing them.

    Its ok, its part of the protest. We identify a problem early and then can address it still remaining vegan. I am experiencing failing health but so far my bloods do not indicate that veganism is the problem. Vegans can also fall prey to all the other illnesses non-vegans experience… maybe less chance of some of them, but no guarantees.

    And done safely and properly, yes, it can protect people’s long term health… but done right. We can’t just mindlessly eat plants for life and expect everything to be fine.

    Its not The Magic Diet. But it is a safe and good diet. We just need to be proactive and realistic to reap the wonderful possible health benefits (though its about the animals anyway).

    Lots of love to you.

  • Swapna

    Hi, i am not ovulsting since past few months and so i just have spotting in my periods. Can i try seed cycling. What kind of beans can i eat as to get enough protein. Could u please name them.

  • Paige

    I saw this a year ago, and was just as moved today as I was then. Most vegans I’ve interacted with dismiss health issues, and most pages for chronic illnesses dismiss veganism. It’s a hard place to be, and I hope that someday, I can get an actual diagnosis and treatment plan ❤ I love you, thank you for sharing your story, and making us sick vegans feel like we aren’t alone.

  • Ella Bell

    This struck a cord with me

    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.

    Amazing post, let me keep reading :P

  • David Drimmel

    This is a well written story. Although animal practices and the meat consumption all over the world is atrocious, humans have been eating meat for a very long time. It’s brave to take the route of a vegan, and stand up for how animals are being treated. I did it for a year when I worked at Cafe Gratitude. I also got sick.

    I think it’s really important to look at this movement as necessary way to spread the message of sustainable agricultural practices and Kosher means of foraging.

    Also, these questions remain…

    1. Will humans evolve beyond their desire and need to eat meat in this 3rd dimension of growth and decay?
    2. Does veganism mean spiritually advanced?
    3. Are animals self aware? Or are animals a part of nature, without a heaven and humans simply anthropomorphize them?
    4. What is the relationship between plants and animals, and why are plants superior nutrition to animals?

  • AWeird LilCritter

    This blog post is immensely important and I am so grateful that you wrote it and shared your story with us. I cannot even begin to imagine what you went through, both physically and mentally, and I admire your perseverance, your ability to keep bouncing back to your deepest self and find strength there. Should I ever find myself in a situation like that, I am sure that I will remember your story. Thank you. I can so relate, that this was difficult, scary and risky to share. You did a great job. Thank you so much.

  • james

    Super article. This is what health is all about. Great Doctor.

  • Sally Mead

    I really loved this post, thank you so much for writing it. It is comforting to have an example at hand of a person who sought answers and didn’t give up! We women have all kinds of hormonal surges and ebbs to deal with throughout our lives, and I love thinking that we can adjust our nutrition accordingly. I am currently battling my way through menopause symptoms, so much of what you wrote rang familiar. I also feel committed to minimizing the harm I do to other creatures, so I LOVE that you found a way to stay true. It’s inspiring. I also loved that you called out vegan dogma. We all need to keep learning and evolving, I really believe that! Thank you so much.

  • Kæla B.

    Doesn’t the fact you had to do a several week program (that is not even guaranteed to work for the rest of the general public), just to have functional levels of a basic nutrient, say something about the vegan diet? I mean, when converting teenagers and young adults to a vegan diet, who don’t even have the first clue about nutrition, would you really offer this as a practical solution to (possibly) improving their cholesterol levels as oppose to just eating a egg?

  • Kæla B.

    This end of the vegan movement is very extreme, and very removed from reality. I would not suggest trying to talk sense into these people. Despite how Cecil the Lion probably chowed down on a few live antelope calves, god-forbid human animals eat a biologically appropriate diet as well.

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  • Melissa

    Humans do not NEED meat. They need a healthy diet, which you obviously did not have, if you are not just a troll for the meat and dairy industry! Read Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s books if you want to really learn.

  • Melissa

    But the animals aren’t so healthy being eaten now, are they.

  • Pal

    First off, a vegetarian should be someone that eats plants. If you eat anything other, then really you are not vegetarian. But, OK, whatever, so you want to eat animal products and still call yourself vegetarian. Fine.
    Second, if it is so humane to eat plants, then why do so many animals die in the process of growing those plants? To till the land, animals must die. To use pesticides, animals must die. Even in organic farming practices pesticides are used and living breathing beings must die. Truly organic produce is full of holes, just grow your own and you will see. Those two carrots you are eating have been the reason for more deaths than the one free range cow that will last me a year in the freezer. Besides the constant poisoning of ourserves and our animals and our environment with pesticides and herbicides and fungicides and fertilizers. What to do, what to do? I know, just stop eating and you won’t have to be the cause for killing any living things. Oh wait, you are still producing carbon dioxide so you are still responsible for global warming. Just stop breathing then and we won’t have anymore problems. Stupid bleeding heart vegetarians just don’t seem to get it that to be alive and eat food means you have to be the cause of others’ deaths. Get over it

  • Sandy Waldrop

    Other animals are not food!!!!! Eating animals,which is wrong, makes people sick…. Her being Vegan did not make her sick. It was the drinking, smoking etc. Did you not read the article .

  • Sandy Waldrop

    Do not blame your poor health on your on and off again vegan/vegertarian diet. I have been Vegan over 30 years. Humans do not need to and are not meant to eat other animals. 75 percent of Vegans do not become B12 deficient. B12 defieciency has nothing to do with being vegan. Meat eaters can also be b12 deficient. B12 is made from bacteria. Bacteria found in the ground. Beging Vegan is not a philosophy it is the right way to live. Not to kill another living being . You say you wasted 10 years of your life. These animal’s lives are taken every day for your 20 minute meal. Don’t fool yourself. You do not love animals because there is no such thing as cruelty free. Slaughtering an animal is never cruelty free. These are things you tell yourself to make yourself feel better.

  • Sandy Waldrop

    Yes, fighting for an animals life is extreme. Lions are carnivores. They need to eat meat to survive. Humans do not. Lions do not torture their prey, rape their prey, lock their prey up in fithy, small, dark areas. Lions kill only when hungry and mostly the weak, sick, and old. They are needed to balance nature. Man destroys nature.

  • Kæla B.

    I’m ex-vegan. I fell full heartedly for the whole vegan shebang under the false pretense that “Humans are really herbivores, but the evil meat industry doesn’t want us to know that because it’s evil and wants money to destroy the earth”. I probably felt exactly as you do exactly 3 years ago from today. To answer you yes, fighting for a animal’s life in this context is very extreme. Sure, raise questions and concerns about animal welfare, sure raise questions about the use of animals in non-survival contexts like animal testing, bullfighting, circuses, ect. But on the subject of food, you’re never going to stop that animal from dying. Death is a part of nature. One of the natural deaths that happen in nature, is through predation, biologically speaking animals are suppose to kill other animals for food, to keep ecosystems and food webs in balance. While it’s VERY true that humans divorced from the food chain, about 10,000 years ago following agriculture, nobody told this to our metabolic system, which still derives nutrients best through a mixed source of plant matter and animal proteins, as proven by this post, as well as the many other holes in a vegan diet.

    Man doesn’t destroy nature, it’s mostly westerners, particular those from Europe and the middle east. Meat-eating Tribes in the Amazon, Africa, Asia and pre-white America have been living in peace with their respective habitat environments for thousands of years.

  • Steven Eric Vose

    So beautifully and intelligently written. Your writing couldn’t possibly be more sensitive (in every way). I can’t imagine how anyone could convey such pain and suffering so realistically and yet so gracefully. I won’t be surprised if your new book is a best seller(!) and I love how you use fun words, perfectly placed here and there to convey your emotions. I don’t often read the “comments” or “responses,” due to the frequency of cruel, even bitter, criticism. I find it so unsettling. It makes me think that a lot of people troll blogs, etc. looking for a chance to unleash there inner rage and unhappiness and attempt to make their ego’s feel bigger by trying to make other people look or feel smaller. I have found over and over in my life that one who speaks with quiet inner conviction or even doesn’t speak of their convictions at all is much more likely to keep those convictions for a lifetime, quietly “teaching” by example. And conversely, those who shout the loudest are really trying to “hear,” convince and bolster their own ideas, and in fact, often ultimately give up the “faith” that they so dogmatically espoused.

  • Sandy Waldrop

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1aa351adafbedf8a5b7f6d907858da545b2201e41c51f1eb074ad8aaee57385a.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dd4197f127fdabd8cefc26709d9d64fcba1641a75cd2736697b1bdf2cfd6fe31.jpg First off, I am Vegan over 30 years and know of many who are even longer. HuMAN is not a carnivore. We do not have teeth of carnivores. Are jaws do not move as carnivores. Are intestines are not short like carnivores. We do not sweat from only our feet (paws like carnivores). We also have longer lives , unlike carnivores. So no, we are not carnivores , we exist as Omnivores. However, all the heath problems we have today can be shown to come from meat eating. You will never hear of a doctor telling you to eat more meat, or animal products. It is the opposite.

    There are no holes in being Vegan. Being Vegan is about the animals. About our planet. About living in peace with all living creatures and not harming as much as possible. A diet, Vegan, non Vegan, whatever, can be healthy or unhealthy depending on what you eat. Just because you are vegan does not mean you get a health pass. You still need all the nutrients and vitamins and protein. You just get these from the orginal source like other non-carnivores. From plants, seeds, nuts.

    Of course the meat industry, dairy industry, egg and fish industries are evil. Or do you consider rape, murder and torture as non-evil.. Do you know what it feels like to have someone ram their fist up your vagina, impregnet you, live horrilble until you baby is born, only to have it taken away from you at birth, so your milk can feed another animal, human animal. These mothers scream for weeks. The babies if boys live very short lives and then are murdered to become veal calves. The little girls live the short lives of rape, milked and then sent to slaughter. This is evil. Very much so.

    Again, I have been Vegan for over 30 years. Clean heath bill. Humans do not need meat to live. It is convenience, greed, the distancing from where it comes from that allows humans to eat meat. You don’t say how long you were Vegan, but I am sure it was not because of the animals. I guess you also find it ok that in China they eat dogs and cats.

    You said , “Death is a part of nature. One of the natural deaths that happen in nature, is through predation, biologically speaking animals are suppose to kill other animals for food, to keep ecosystems and food webs in balance.” These animals are not dying, they are being murdered, he majority brutally slaughtered before they are even adults. There are more herbivores on this planet than there are carnivores. So most animals die natural deaths. A predator helps the environment and keeps things in balance because they hunt the sick and old. Thereby keeping sicknesses from spreading. They kill only when they need to and can often been seen drinking with their prey. Their prey live happy natural lives. Humans torture, rape, keep animals in small areas where they can barely move. There is nothing natural about that. Only evil and cruel.

    Ok, you do realize the Westerners are people too. And all people destroy nature. What do you think all these slaughterhouses are doing . All these factory farms. They are the number one cause of the climate changing. Look at all the pollution that man creates. The oceans are full of plastic and garbage. Man, and only man is destroying our planet.

    Again you wrote, “which still derives nutrients best through a mixed source of plant matter and animal proteins, as proven by this post,”

    Did you read this post? She never stopped going Vegan. She had a hormonal inbalance due to smoking drinking and her recent birth. Wow……At least read something if you are going to comment on it.

    It is for them that I fight and will never be silent for they have no voice, only unheard screams.

  • Kæla B.

    Your response pretty much proved why 30+ years of being vegan is bad for your mental health.

  • Linda Nunn and Paul Johnson

    Thank you so much for sharing your valuable experience. Thank you for your steadfastness and your determination – even when under such duress. It would have been so easy to eat eggs or tuna or one-a-week beef, etc – but instead you chose to hold true to your compassionate values and to discover what it was you needed in your diet/lifestyle to replenish you.

    Having become a vegan over four decades ago because I was a health and gym junkie who wanted to be the most vitally fit and healthy imaginable, I initially entered mostly through the door of ego and health research – not the door of stopping animal suffering or protecting the environment (which followed in bucket-loads later).

    As a result of coming from a place of self-benefit, I studied hard, experimented hard, seldom strayed into vegan junk-food/alcohol etc and have never had a health crisis… unless it was caused through accident or injury.

    It’s important that we know which vegan foods provide protein, fibre, particular vitamins and minerals, etc. It is important that we are essentially vibrant – not only for our own well-being, but to encourage others to go vegan.

    If vegans or aspiring vegans don’t have the time, passion, self-love or inclination to do the research, then they need to follow your lead and make an appointment with vegan nutritionists/naturopaths.

  • Lejla Kasumacic

    Thank you for sharing, I have learned so much from your experience. I hate dogma in anything, I used to have dogmatic approach while fowllowing macrobiotics, never again. I believe we all should follow our intuition and individual needs when it comes to our health.

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  • AikiDavid

    Thank you for this great article!! I must admit I wish it was shorter, because you left me in anxiety for a long period of time thinking you were going to go back to eating meat because you did not know enough about nutrition. Even now, your diet is not optimal, you definitely should have quit sugar (and honey, agave, and too many dried fruits) very early in this process. But there is plenty of protein in nuts, seeds, and beans. I would highly recommend any of the books by Joel Fuhrman, MD entitled: Eat To Live, or The End of Diabetes, or Disease Proof Your Child, or The End of Heart Disease, each one of them is backed up by footnoted scientific references to OVER 1,000 studies proving what he says is not his own personal bias, but what the preponderance of nutritional science has proven!

    Dr. Fuhrman can teach you to eat a better diet (and teach any Naturopath as well), without using extra, SOS = Salt, Oil, or Sugar. For example, instead of using coconut oil which is going to plug up your arteries, instead Eat The Coconut itself, whole foods are always better than processed foods, and all oils are processed foods! (This also means you should not be using/eating olive oil. It is the “healthiest” of the oils, but that’s like comparing a used car you might want to buy with a junkyard wreck, rather than with a brand new car! All oils are processed foods! You need “oil,” but not in a liquid or solid form in a bottle, you need to get it from whole foods, like avocado, that way you also get thousands of other synergistically interacting nutrients that Really boost your energy and nutrition levels. BTW, I’m not just another “Joe Blow” on the internet, my name is David Bullock, MSW, DO, BCIM: Board Certified in Integrative Medicine, and the only Lifestyle Medicine Specialist in the State of Kansas! (I’ll still be the first one in the state, even if some more move in or get converted.) I’m also a Vegan since about 1994, and I work at training people on the High Nutrient Density diet that Dr. Fuhrman has designed, and I give my patients a copy of his book Eat To Live at their first visit, and constantly try to help them with ‘course corrections’ to get progressively onto healthier and healthier version of his diet. He calls his diet Nutritarian because like a vegetarian is seeking vegetables, he encourages us to seek nutrients in our diet. The average American diet probably gives you about 200 to 250 micronutrients and phytochemicals, the Nutritarian diet gives you somewhere around 7,000 to 10,000 ! ! ! I’m almost 70 years old, and my patients were amazed at how quickly I recovered from a broken leg recently, and without pain at all after the first 2 months. (And I did not fall and break my leg because I’m old and weak, I slipped on a couple of pieces of cardboard that were left on the stairs and not visible as I went down them.)

  • Sarah Laferrara

    Thank you so much for your share! Can I ask you a few questions?? How long had you been vegan before all your symptoms started?? I’ve been vegan almost 4 months and I’ve had a variety of symptoms starting about a month ago. One of the most consuming one is the itching and occasional hives/bumps. I’ve had blood work done and my cholesterol is 144 so not extremely low and my protien was actually high. I also rarely have my period and liver abused in my past. Did you ever figure out the reason you were itching? We are waiting on a couple more labs but I think my next step will be a homeopath because my current doctor is attributing it all to stress which I just don’t think is the case. This post is couple years old but would still love some feedback. Thank you!

  • Sydney Gastman

    thank you so much for sharing. i haven’t had a natural period in more than two years, and i’m getting off birth control next week and starting the seed cycle. your story inspires me to take ownership of my hormone imbalance and attempt to remedy it naturally and on my own. i’m so happy to hear of a vegan having a similar experience to my own.

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  • Nonya

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I have been vegan for almost 20 years and vegetarian for 34 (most of my life). I grew up in small towns and even my parents thought I was going to die if I didn’t eat meat. I grew to completely distrust the medical profession because any health problem I had was answered with “just eat meat.” To this day, I avoid doctors like the plague. My morals were too important for me to give in, so I suffered from fatigue for much of my life. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I started to pay more attention to the overall balance of fat, protein and carbs in my diet. And even then I had to glean what information I could from the traditional dietary recommendations and adapt it to veganism for myself. I didn’t have anyone to guide me in this process or make recommendations. I am so glad you found your way back to health and am very encouraged to know there’s a naturopath willing to work in partnership with a vegan patient! I hope as more people turn to veganism, more doctors will take the time to learn about cases like yours. ~Peace and blessings ~

  • Nonya

    #1 – Nothing is “guaranteed to work” for everyone.

    #2 – There are plenty of omnivorous children, teens and young adults (and all other demographics) who are terribly unhealthy due to poor nutrition and dietary habits. No one is exempt from the need to eat a healthy, balanced diet whether you choose to eat animals or not.

    #3 – For most vegans, it’s not just about what you eat. It’s a system of ethics that encompasses all manner of dietary and lifestyle choices. An ethical vegan cannot “just eat an egg” and feel good about it any more than a devout Catholic can get an abortion and feel good about that.

    #4 – It’s not about “converting” anyone. The author of this article (an ethical vegan) merely shared her own experience for the sake of other vegans who might run into similar issues. Each human chooses for him/herself what they feel is right in their heart. If you don’t think veganism is right for you, that’s fine. There’s no need to be judgmental.

  • Nonya

    You’re right, Martica, except that the author of this article in no way presents her experience as “a failed experiment in veganism.” In fact, she goes to great length to explain how she got healthy again while still maintaining her vegan ethics. She did so in spite of great pressure from medical professionals to follow a non-vegan diet.

  • Kæla B.

    #1- If nothing is guaranteed to work for anyone, then you would definitely need to be more suspicious of diet that is only 40 years old and goes against how humans have been eating for thousands of years.

    #2- This straw man is overused. While there are unhealthy “omni” (normal?) ways of eating, none of it is due to the omnivorous diet itself. A person can eat a bunch of chicken tinders, and potatoes, and be deficient/overweight, but simply decide to eat grilled chicken, and more vegetables and be ok. However, with veganism, since no animals food have cholesterol, b12, performed vitamin A, you cannot simply change up the way you eat your diet to be healthy, you’d have to take supplements (drugs) or to to these extremes the author did just to get to normal levels.

    #3- Fair, but I think that sheds light that vegan ethics may not be in touch with reality.

    #4- The author actually goes to public gatherings, and makes public speeches to convert others to go vegan.

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  • Pal

    She was not cured even after months of trying to fix it. Her protein markers are still below normal. Humans are not ruminants, humans have digestive systems like those of cats and dogs.
    I have known quite a few vegans who ate meat.
    I have personally known 3 vegan women who were unable to get pregnant while being vegan. The human body cannot thrive on veg alone.

  • Paul Matheson

    Meat and dairy propoganda vegan made me healthy.

  • Reni

    Although not eating the freely available eggs from your rescue chicken may be morally right from a vegan perspective, it doesn’t necessarily sound like the right thing to do from an ENVIRONMENTAL perspective.
    You have rescue chickens who lays eggs, whether you ask for them or not. What do you do with them? I guess you don’t give them to other people to eat, so maybe they’re turned into compost.
    Acc. to the waste hierarchy, you first use something, then re-use, thereafter re-cycle, and if no other avenue is available, you re-capture the caloric or energy value. So by foregoing this perfectly good source of protein and cholesterol and probably not using the resources in the optimum way (i.e. only recapturing them through bio-degradation), you now have to source more ‘inferior’ sources of protein from plant sources. Potentially even imported, such as is often the case with soy.
    Hence an opportunity to take in good proteins locally on your doorstep from chicken who lay these eggs regardless is replaced by having to grow less protein dense food in another part of the world and import it. And on that note, ships which import most of our goods are a highly polluting transport mode. Environmentally….this sounds like slight madness.
    So there’s not always 1 truth – just like in certain parts of the world mankind wouldn’t even be able to survive without eating meat (take Mongolia as example, where the harsh climate doesn’t allow for veg & grain cultivation)
    On that note, I’ve been mostly vegetarian for 22 years – will happily eat eggs from chickens that have a good life.

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    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.”

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    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?”