Imagine this scenario: you have newly committed yourself to a vegan diet for the animals, the environment, and your health… or so you thought. When a medical condition arises, you are instantly told by your meat-eating doctor, dietitian, acupuncturist, or naturopath, that the only cure for you is to add animal products back into your diet. What do you do?
As a vegan nutrition coach, I suggest the following course of action when vegans are confronted with this sort of challenge:
Start with your doctor
Get examined, take all the recommended tests, get a diagnosis, start any suggested medication. Ask for copies of everything to take home with you so you could further explore. Then, if your doctor is not willing to help you heal within the confines of your vegan diet…
Find a vegan doctor or vegan nutrition professional
In this internet age, there are now hundreds of vegan doctors, nutritionists and health coaches at your fingertips no matter where you live in the world. Colleen Patrick Goudreau has such a list of vegan wellness practitioners available on her website.
Additionally, as a member of Dr Joel Furhman’s membership site, I know that he and his staff are present on the boards every day fielding questions and offering detailed medical and nutritional advice for any problem a member presents. It is well worth the tiny cost of monthly membership!
Clean up your act
As a nutrition coach myself, I cannot think of a single condition that requires a person to eat animal products. A vegan diet can supply all of the necessary macro and micro-nutrients IF it is carefully planned, centered on plants rather than junk, and contains enough daily calories.
The biggest problem I see vegans running into is not eating enough calories and then feeling weak and encountering nutritional deficiencies. Another common mistake is living on processed vegan food with nary a fresh vegetable in site! Do either approach, and you will get sick!
There is so much information online and in print on vegan nutrition and health. Educate yourself and eat properly!
Keep in mind, that there are nutrients that deserve extra attention and focus such as vitamin D, calcium, B-12, omega-3s, iodine, zinc, and K2, and that might require supplementation. Likewise, if your digestion is poor, or you have allergies or intolerances to certain foods, you might not be able to assimilate and utilize nutrients properly and could develop deficiencies. A trusted vegan nutrition or health professional can help you sort all of this out.
Remember that everyone is different
Despite all the fighting factions in the nutrition world, there is no one correct vegan diet that suits every person. Some people do great on raw food, while others feel awful. Fat-free might work for you but make your husband sick as a dog. Some can eat lots of grains, others must avoid them. You must find what works best for you and it is probably a hybrid of many different modalities. Drop the dogma and elitism and eat right for your unique type!
Vegans are not superheros!
How many of us feel that we must display perfect health as vegans in order to prove the efficiency of our diets to the many doubters? The fact is, despite the many health benefits of following a healthy vegan diet, we are still human beings living in a world of bacteria, viruses, environmental pollutants such as pesticides, radiation, and chemicals and hormonal disruptors in cleaning and personal care products. We can get sick the same as everyone else. When vegans feel they must hide their illnesses and pretend that everything is okay, they may miss the treatment that could help restore their health.
There are so many different reasons why people can feel unwell and many have nothing at all to do with a healthy diet. For instance, if we are working a job we hate, we may find ourselves tired, cold, and lethargic as we face another dreaded workday. If a relationship is having problems, we might experience a decline in our sex drive. Any big changes in our lives, from moving to having a new baby, can leave us highly susceptible to feelings of exhaustion, confusion, depression, and overwhelm. While we should always start with medical check-ups to make sure our health is okay, sorting through your situation and feelings honestly with a trusted friend, health coach, or therapist can often provide insight to why you are not feeling your sparkly best.
Because many people are new to veganism and may harbor latent fears or suspicions that a plant-based diet is deficient in some way, when a problem does occur, the first thing they think is, “It’s because I’m vegan!”. Educating yourself in vegan nutrition and working with a health professional specializing in vegan diets, will give you the confidence you need to heal yourself without compromising your cherished values.