Veganism, and the lifestyle that often accompanies it, is all the rage these days. There are celebrities endorsing vegan products, and even super-hilarious spoofs on SNL. You know that once something becomes satirical, it’s officially mainstream. In addition to being a hip and trendy way of life, it’s clearly the choice to forego animal products that is the core of veganism. Nowadays, there are vegan substitutes for everything, meat, cheese, butter and even pate. There are restaurants popping up all over the country offering up the most decadent vegan fare. It is a good time to be a vegan. I should know, I was one for more than two years. You might wonder why that changed…
About a year after I was diagnosed with Lupus and Fibromyalgia, I was struggling, I mean really struggling with terrible fatigue and tendon pain. I was already skipping meat. I simply found it unappealing, and requiring too much energy to digest; precious energy I simply didn’t have. I was eating much healthier, but still indulging in cheese, eggs, butter and since I couldn’t seem to gain weight, all the gooey mayo I wanted. Finally, I realized that my diet could use some serious improvement. A friend had just “gone vegan” and told me that I “had to try it”. She sounded so perky and said it was really helping her feel great. So, I decided then and there, that I too was going to ditch the remaining animal products and dive into veganism. It was a little hard at first, going without cheese was tough. I realized just how much of it I had been eating. But, I persevered through the initial hard part and then…I loved it! I loved that it had parameters, there were things I ate and things I didn’t eat, simple as that. On top of that, it came with a built in “health-o-meter”. I knew if it was “vegan” then it was, most likely, good for me. It ironically took a lot of the guesswork out of eating for me, which I had always struggled with. I also saw some improvements in my energy and my pain was decreased, fewer flares and definitely better sleep. Even my husband went vegan, and let me tell you, this was a miracle. He’s a mid-western boy and thought ribs with a side of sausage constituted a well-rounded meal. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been more proud of a person. He managed to not only stay true to his vegan ways in a busy workplace full of meat-eaters, he even converted a few along the way. How’s that for inspiring…?
After a while though, my health hit a plateau. It seems that even though I was eating primarily fresh foods from the produce section along with some whole-grains, beans and nuts here and there, I still wasn’t feeling my best. I figured this is just as good as it was going to get and that life with Lupus and Fibromyalgia was just going to always be weighing me down.
It wasn’t until after about 2 years of being vegan that I came across an article that mentioned “leaky gut syndrome” and how it was possibly linked to autoimmune disease. I continued to research this theory and found it quite compelling. I also saw that my diet, consisting of grains, nuts, sweet fruits and starchy veggies was probably even contributing to the problem! What?! I thought being vegan was the best thing I could have been doing for my body. Now, I was finding out that a purely-plant based diet with grains and legumes and nuts was further destroying my digestive system, which in turn was affecting my immune system! It was hard for me to believe with all the people out there touting veganism as the end-all-be-all, that it still wasn’t fixing my problem. I decided there was nothing left to do, but adopt this theory, and put the diet to the test. So, I eliminated grains, starches and nuts and focused on eating mostly fresh greens and added some cooked veggies, the hard part came when it was recommended I add eggs for their health benefits. I paused…eggs…? I wasn’t sure how I felt about going back on my vegan lifestyle, what would that say about me? Would I be a hypocrite? I struggled with it for a few weeks and then I realized…I am eating to recover my health. Then, suddenly I didn’t worry so much about what others thought, the most important thing was to get better. People are always going to scoff at something they don’t understand, what else is new?!
Once I let my conscience off the hook, I really focused on tuning in and listening to my body, and began asking it if it even wanted eggs. I hadn’t even considered eating an egg in two years, did I even want to? After a week or so, I bought some local free-range organic eggs from the farmers market and decided to try some with my cooked veggies. As I was preparing them, my hunger became insatiable. I knew I not only wanted to eat these eggs, I needed to eat these eggs. After a few days and a few more eggs, my energy was vastly improved. There was something about this diet that was different, and my body was responding in a way it never did before. I began feeling truly satiated, like I was filling every nutrient coffer up to the brim. My digestion was off the chain and I was feeling really – dare I say – great! I added a few more select animal products that were aimed at further healing my digestive system and as the weeks passed, I felt better and better.
I thought veganism would help me like it has helped countless people with diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. But the fact is, I have a disease of my immune system, which requires a specific diet to reverse. I still think veganism saved my life. It gave me a rock-solid place to explore healthy food and start the process of listening to my body and putting only the highest quality of food into it. It nourished me, and exposed me to the healing powers of foods.
I genuinely believe, that a purely plant-based diet is a wonderful way to reset the body’s natural functions. By design, it will nourish, detoxify and alkalize – all the things the body is striving for. Keep in mind though that “vegan” doesn’t always equal “healthy”. As I mentioned before, there are processed vegan substitutes for everything now, cakes, cookies, even meat and cheese. However, if you are following a whole plant-based diet full of fresh produce, bravo! you are on the right track. If you feel you’ve hit a plateau with your health and suspect there might be more out there, let me help you. Likewise, if you are just starting on your journey to healing naturally, veganism is a great place to begin exploring the benefits of using food as medicine.
To learn more about healing autoimmune disease, check out my 90-day Retreat Program, with recipes, meal plans and shopping lists showing exactly how to eat to Recover your health.