One of the main reasons why I went Vegan 6 years ago was to get healthy. What ended up happening was exactly the opposite. Here is my story.
How I Ruined My Health with the Vegan Diet
I grew up in the like most North American kids -The diet of the 80s/90s consisted of hotdogs, pizza pockets, chicken nuggets, orange crush and ice cream sandwiches. It all caught up to me when I hit 18 – I gained over 50 pounds!!
It was in University that I was introduced to vegetables. Long story short, I heard that meat makes you fat and vegetables make you skinny. I was sold. I started off cutting down on meat, then became vegetarian and finally vegan, with periods of raw vegan too.
The first two years were great. I lost a lot of weight, my skin cleared up, my brain felt better, I felt morally supreme and I was happy with myself.
The three following years was where my health began to deteriorate. I had stopped menstruating, started to feel more tired, became noticeably cold all the time, experienced anxiety and sadness, got sick often and developed a pattern of disordered eating (bingeing).
This year I completely fell apart. Panic attacks, illness, adrenal fatigue, hypothyroid, candida, recurring infections, ibs symptoms, you name it – I was feeling it. Blood tests showed that I had almost no white blood cells, extremely low platelets, high markers of infection, mononucleosis and was anemic. I had live cell microscopy blood analysis done as well which showed high uric acid, systemic infection and no immune cells! These are all markers of blood cancer.
How Did My Vegan Diet Make Me So Sick?
I didn’t understand at the time. My diet seemed perfect. Quinoa, beans, sweet potatoes, veggies galore, nuts, seeds, sprouts, hummus, fruits and a TON of kale. I stayed away from meat, dairy, gluten, refined sugar, salt and everything processed. How the hell was I so sick!?
It was only through holistic nutrition school (the sciences specifically) that I realized that my Vegan Diet was not as conducive to health as it’s hyped up to be. Let me tell you why.
Animal products contain many fundamental building blocks needed for the human body to thrive – B vitamins, minerals, protein, amino acids and quality saturated fats.
The Vegan Diet is mostly sugar. Carbs carbs carbs. Fruit is a bit of nutrients and a lot of sugar. On the vegan diet I was eating a whole bunch of starch (sure, it was the ‘healthy kind’) – but it all still ends up breaking down into glucose. This spikes the body’s insulin, causing a blood sugar rollercoaster and messes with hormones big time. I thought I was being so healthy by having my overnight oats with berries for breakfast, almonds and an apple for a snack, a salad with beans for lunch and some lasagna pasta with veggies for dinner, but really, once I learned to count my macro nutrients, I was consuming almost 75% carbs, 15% protein and 10% fat.
Raw Vegan sounded SO healthy, but really, it SO wasn’t. All of the brassica family (kale, broccoli, brussels, chard, cabbage) INHIBIT thyroid function when eaten raw. I pretty much lived off this family of veggies. No wonder my thyroid stopped working! (Not to mention that salt is required for adrenal and thyroid function, and definitely is missing in the raw vegan diet)
The amount of soy I was eating now sickens me to think of. Tofu, tempeh and tamari OVERLOAD. One of the most toxic, gmo and estrogenic foods. A disaster recipe for hormones and the liver!
Another BIG mistake I made is not getting enough fat in my diet. The whole ‘Low Fat’ diet is the WORST diet myth. Fried foods are bad for you, yes, but good quality fats are ESSENTIAL for many of the body’s processes. The vegan diet isn’t against fat, but I found that it wasn’t promoting it either.
Is the Vegan Diet Unhealthy?
Like anything else, that depends. First off, each person is so bioindividually different; our genetic makeup as well as immune system and central nervous system matter. O blood types thrive on animal protein while A blood types do better on carbs. Lowered immune systems need the nourishing properties abundantly found in meat and fats. Stressed out people are low in B vitamins, also easily accessible via meat. *Now, when I say meat, I ALWAYS mean grass-fed, organically raised, hormone and antibiotic free meat.
Now, besides the subjectivity of each person, the Vegan Diet objectively is very loosely defined, basically it means to consume no animal affiliated products. By this definition, donuts, Oreos and french fries are vegan.
On the other hand, the Paleo Diet has been very loosely understood as being unlimited bacon, butter and animal meats. This is not healthy either, and not a proper representation of the diet’s practical philosophy.
I believe that it is possible for a vegan to achieve optimal health, however macro nutrient composition needs to be considered, as well as a few other variables, for example:
Current state of health – A healing crisis requires more amino acids and protein and less sugar (especially if there is any infection, virus or parasite…which the majority of people have). Also, with Candidiasis on the rise, sugar is the enemy!!
Amount and type of physical activity – Strenuous activity depletes amino acids, protein and B vitamins which are readily found in animal products and not so absorb-able in plants.
Level of stress – Meat is very grounding where plants tend to have the properties of air and space, which can contribute to anxiety.
Blood type – O blood type specifically requires more animal proteins then any other type, and does not digest dairy or grains well.
How did I come to realize that the Vegan Diet was making me sick?
Let me tell you, it did not come easy. It took me two years of very intense pain and suffering to finally listen to what my friends, family and doctors (both medical and naturopathic) were telling me. I actually fell apart. I felt awful all of the time. As I mentioned, my blood results showed that I was anemic, had almost no white blood cells (immune system) or platelets, had high uric acid and high markers of infection. My Bs were down, D was very low, TSH level (thyroid hormone) was that of a woman post menopause and my adrenal glands were completely depleted.
I tried it my way and it wasn’t working. When I had nothing else to lose, I decided to be open minded and listen to what my loved ones were telling me.
It has been only 3 months since I have decided to switch my diet and the difference in my digestion, energy, mental clarity and mood has transformed drastically. Ethically, I am still a bit attached to the idea of being vegan, therefore although I now consume animal products, I ensure that the products are as local, sustainable, ethical and organic as possible. I give thanks to the nourishment that these beings provide me and I have a deep appreciation for this journey of rebuilding my health. I feel good about supporting my local farmers and connecting to the source of my food and my health. My blood tests have been much more positive and my overall health has taken a turn for the better. It’s a work in progress, but there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel.
I will shortly post an article on the current diet I now follow and would love to answer any questions you may have regarding my story. *Just to note, I am not bashing the Vegan Diet, I am just saying that it is not for everyone at all times. Life and health comes in waves and we must adjust accordingly. Now my diet is delicious, healthy, nutrient rich omnivore style.
If you or someone you know is going through similar struggles, please feel free to send me a message. I want you to know that healing IS possible and that we do not need to suffer with poor health.
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All my love,
Holistic Nutrition & Lifestyle Practitioner
Real Life, But Better