**Disclaimer** This post is not intended to deter others from following a balanced vegan or vegetarian diet. I do believe it is possible to benefit from eliminating all forms of animal products for a period of time, but now have a wealth of information sharing (and explaining my own experience of) WHY there have been no 100% vegan cultures in the history of man, and likely why there never will be.
More importantly, the information procured, sifted through, and contemplated during the late, late hours of the night have brought wisdom back into my very dogmatic-minded practice, and in effect, more balance to my own health. That is why I am sharing this article. It is not my intent to upset others, but if you are likely to not enjoy the content of this factually-based read, I urge you to click off now.
Furthermore, this post is not attacking the benefits of eating plant-based. I eat plant-based, with a LOT of my foods coming from leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and seaweeds, and strongly believe that they should be a foundational part of every diet. I will also continue to teach balanced, whole-food, plant-based, and plenty of raw culinary classes in the future.
Many know from my story that I got into vegetarian and ‘raw foodism’ at an early age. When just 15 – almost 16 – years of age in the Mid-West lands of South Dakota, I determined that in order to live with myself (recovering from a ghastly eating disorder) I would need to learn how to take care of myself and eat properly.
The effects of balanced weight, clear skin, and happiness certainly were alluring to me (to whom wouldn’t they be?), a stocky teenager with cystic acne and chronic depression. And so when I eliminated dairy, cheese, all meat, processed junk, and vowed to only eat ‘vegan’ from then on out… it was to my great elation that very soon my physical problems began to remedy, and I started to actually like myself.
However, the benefits were short-lived (6 months or so), as inevitably some of my symptoms returned. I went (the short story) from:
to Low-Glycemic Raw
to Imbalanced Paleo
to Juice Feast (and very confused)
to Raw-ish with cooked vegan
to 100% raw again (fruit-based, food combining, cutting out night-shades)
… and experimented quite a bit within the last year to try and make sense of this diet thing. In total, I have been predominantly ‘vegan’ for over 5 years now.
I tried so hard to make raw and vegan diets work. Yet was constantly faced with issues (with myself) and clients who were hitting plateaus with their health. These concerns ranged from nutritional deficiencies (which we will get to below) to hormonal imbalances that couldn’t be ‘balanced through diet alone.
And as we know (and am especially now learning), hormone balance is KEY for longevity, weight loss, feeling great, and living an optimal life.
Too many struggles, living in denial too long, and frustrated at not teaching what I have studied from every facet of holistic healing (Chinese medicine, Leptin response and hormone balance, macro/micro-nutrient ratios, Ayurvedic doshas, electron balance within the cells, etc…), I finally decided change was needed.
Hence, why I began to waver from my ‘vegan pedestal’ and dove into the ranging experiences of others, factual science-based articles, and listened to my own intuition that something was off.
How could I help others when I didn’t feel my best ?
My own health problems were easy to ignore in my plight to ‘save the animals’:
- Being bloated – pretty much all the time
- Still having an extra 10+ pounds to lose. I’m aware most of it is water weight from inflammation, which, from a Chinese perspective, is due to eating too expansive, cooling, and dampening (raw and vegan)
- Super sensitive and weak teeth – including one cracked tooth and quite a few cases of eroding enamel
- Mild pimple formation – not cystic acne, but tiny bumps that are still noticeable
- Puffy face (adrenal fatigue)
… and none of that is attractive, huh?
I have studied every facet of raw and vegan healing: at some point it can’t all be chalked up to detoxification – especially when it’s been going on the past 3 years.
So came the moment to be more open to change, the science which clearly explains the body’s needs (you somehow learn to view everything ‘conventional’ as a lie when you’re raw and/or vegan), and experiences of others who have needed to do the same at some point.
First, vegans and vegetarians are more prone to be deficient in the following nutrients:
I didn’t believe it either… until even though I was supplementing my supposed ‘ perfect’ diet with blue-green algae’s, coconut oil, marine phyto-plankton, B12, palm oil, tons of seaweed, and other super-foods… still experienced health issues.
Keep in mind: I’m not saying that one doesn’t benefit immensely from eating predominantly plant-based, I’m making a point to state that being very rigid with the exclusion of certain high-quality animal products may inevitably result in deficiencies of some sort.
Below: I was going to write an in-depth explanation for each, but others with more research experience have already gone to great lengths to explore in detail the many sources, differentiating factors, and possible causations of becoming deficient in a strict vegan diet… Therefore each nutrient is linked with factually-based research supporting such claim for you to decide.
Vitamin B12 (deficiency damages brains)
Essential Fatty Acids – especially the elongated forms including Arachidonic Acid (AA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and dihomo-gammalinolenic acid (DGLA).
Zinc & Copper Imbalance (contributor to chronic fatigue)
And taking into account the Chinese Perspective (yin/yang balance), one should only eat alkalizing, cooling, detoxifying foods for so long or else they will create an imbalance at some point or another! HENCE, why most raw vegans THRIVE in the beginning (coming from a very stagnating, acidic, low-quality, processed, and contractive diet), but then experience some form of deficiency or issue in the long-term.
Like all things in life, energy flows in two directions and must be balanced.
Ancestral Way of Eating?
*I’ll leave the debate of evolution and ancestral way of living/eating to the experts, but do acknowledge that my ancestral line (O blood type, Scandinavian/German/Irish) line was very much hunter/gatherer, and that likely plays a role in my family’s increased sensitivity to carbohydrates (and insulin response).
I am a health professional who has been gifted the inspiration and talent to help others HEAL HOLISTICALLY.
Yet, if I don’t follow my own advice and the wisdom sifted from various schools of study, I am going against the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm” and am in essence practicing negligence, or ‘malpractice’.
I’m not the only one.
The plant-based community is a very dogmatic, close-minded group. Few are the exception. And for that reason I hesitated sharing my experience. Everyone is radiantly happy to welcome you into their circle if you are ‘like’ them… But question ideals, go against the ‘system’ (sound familiar?), and they’ll shun you from message boards, send you hate mail, and/or likely talk smack behind your back.
None of that frightens me anymore, however, as I realize that no amount of criticism could ever diminish what I have learned through self study and experience: I am living my truth and honor myself because I have the courage to speak out and help others from this new perspective.
I no longer believe in ‘one way fits all’, and have a great understanding of the many nutritional principles which come into play when seeking to create inner harmony and balance within the body. This journey will allow me to become a better healer, so there are no regrets.
Leaving such rigid way of thinking can be difficult, however, therefore I was quite interested when I came across many other people’s incredibly similar experiences. Some follow:
Kevin Gianni, Renegade Health in “What do you eat now, Kevin?”
“…At one point I was taking 6-10 vegan supplements a day to attempt to override my deficiencies – B complex, DHA, Vitamin D, B12, a mineral supplement, protein powder, chlorella, and more.
I also adjusted my diet to add more cooked foods to see if that would change the way I felt as well.
This was over a 2 year period.
When I was introduced to goat’s kefir, I resisted greatly.
First, because I hadn’t had any dairy in over 8 years.
Second, because I wanted very badly to stay vegan (I did eat honey.)
Third, I had too much vested in vegan as who I was – on the blog, our business, etc.
So there were a LOT of influences keeping me away from animal products.
What it always came back to, even when faced with all these considerations, was that I wasn’t feeling great and my blood tests reflected it.
So I had to make a change. After the introduction of goat’s kefir and yogurt, I immediately felt an increase of energy, slept better and many issues started to clear up – my acne started to disappear, my knees stopped aching after a run, I gained back weight lost, I was able to retain muscle mass better, I could get out of bed in the morning, etc….” Read the rest of the post here
Erim Bilgrin: Interview with an ex-vegan
“…About a year and a half into it, I started to get weak, mentally, though this didn’t become apparent to me for years. I was extremely susceptible to stress. Anything would get to me, and I had to learn about self-mastery and breathing techniques and all that shit. It’s funny, because I was saying I was eating a raw vegan diet because it was “natural”, but here I was depending upon all these “unnatural” techniques. It never occurred to me that mental strength should come naturally. I just thought today’s world was too hectic.
I would skip school a lot, because just the thought of getting out of bed made me anxious some days. Speaking of the bed, I also had some difficulty sleeping once in a while around my second year of LFRV. Not only was my sleep too light, I also had difficulty falling asleep, since I had to shift my legs all the time. I would later learn that this is a medical condition called Restless Legs Syndrome, a neurological problem. (I’m looking at you, B-12! Why weren’t you formed in my gut as promised?)
My mood depended entirely on outside conditions. Talk about ups and downs. Cloudy sky meant bad mood. Cold weather meant bad mood. I became addicted to my mp3 player, because I just didn’t have the zest to go through the day without some stimulating rhythm. All this, even though I knew pretty much everything necessary to remain calm and centered. But, like I said, I didn’t acknowledge this as a problem with me, I just thought today’s world was too harsh.
The problems started to become more physical sometime around the first quarter of 2010. My teeth started getting incredibly sensitive, and there were clear signs of heavy acid erosion. I thought the tips of my teeth were always this transparent and that the darkened spots near my gum line were just stains from all the colorful food I was eating. My gums started to recede, I broke a molar by biting a tiny piece of a hazelnut shell by mistake, and a few months later my dentist would find six cavities in my raw vegan mouth. Jokingly, she told me I had “basically every dental problem that we have a name for”. But I was taking better care of my teeth than ever! I even avoided those acidic animal products! You know, the ones that leech calcium from your bones? I wondered how I remained cavity free before when I didn’t even brush, let alone floss, let alone brush and floss thrice a day. And clean my tongue…” Read the rest of Erim’s Story
Denise Minger wrote about this in her article Raw Gone Wrong, When the Honeymoon is Over
“…Almost without fail, the beginning of the diet yields a brilliant honeymoon phase—filled with surging energy, renewed vigor, and zest for your lively cuisine.
But somewhere down the line—months for some people, years for others—the wonder starts to wane. Maybe you start feeling like something is inexplicably missing. Maybe your energy takes a dive and noontime naps become the norm. Maybe your weight loss plateaus. Maybe your last dentist visit wasn’t so pretty. Maybe those niggly health problems you had prior to raw—aches and pains, lethargy, allergies, arthritis, skin conditions—start resurfacing out of nowhere. Whatever the reason, raw just doesn’t seem to be working as well as it did in the beginning. Your enthusiasm diminishes, and in its place comes doubt, discontentment, and a plethora of questions.
In other words, you start seeing raw foods’ freaky nose hairs and you begin to wonder:what did I get myself into?
My own raw honeymoon ended around the one-year mark. Intermittent fatigue, dental woes, hair loss, concentration problems, and some not-so-happy blood test results forced me to rethink the dietary regimen I was so tightly clutching. During this time, I started scouting out the counsel and wisdom of other disgruntled rawbies. What I discovered was this “honeymoon end” was a common phenomenon among raw foodists, and that its occurrence usually led to two things:
1. an expulsion from the raw community for being a dissenter or pot-stirrer for doubting the diet, and
2. a foray into other dietary regimens, such as paleo, low-carb, cooked vegan, macrobiotic, or ayurvedic.
Contrary to what the testimonial section in books and websites may indicate, raw doesn’t always end with Happily Ever After. What worked in the beginning may not work forever, and sometimes you need to tweak things to regain a sense of vitality and health. If you’re in the troubling situation of having been raw for a while but feeling that something’s off, don’t worry—you’re in good company...” Read the rest of the post here.
I have to agree 100% with what Denise wrote, though at one point adamantly refused to believe she had any truth to share. It’s been a good lesson in humility.
She also has a great article titled “For Vegans”, for those who still can’t handle the idea of consuming animal products, yet want to be as healthy as possible. It’s very nice, I swear.
Chet Day, ex-vegan, previously of Hallelujah Foundation writes in this article Vegan Diet Dangers:
What are the most commonly reported symptoms from long-term vegans and raw foodists who have been forced to add some animal fat and protein back into their diets to regain or maintain superior health, energy, and well-being?
Below are the symptoms and problems I hear about in mail from long-term vegans and raw foodists on an all-too-regular basis:
- inadequate milk production for nursing mothers, as well as retarded physical and mental development in some children who are strictly on a vegan or raw food diet;
- slow metabolism leading to a much less robust lifestyle;
- a general lack of vitality;
- low body temperature (always cold);
- a weak, touchy digestive system with a loss of digestive strength (unable to metabolize food quickly, have to be careful what you eat, how much, must practice food combining to be able to digest food, etc.);
- food cravings (especially among women);
- stalled weight loss because metabolism is too low (predominately in women);
- inability to gain weight, resulting in shrunken, cadaverous-looking bodies (predominately in men);
- weight gains from overeating on carbohydrates;
- amenorrhea (menstrual cycles cease), even in young women;
- loss of libido;
- hair loss and nail problems;
- dental cavities, tooth loss, and gum problems;
- joint pain
- inability to conceive
This is so true.
I have lived and worked at many healing resorts and centers now and can affirm that too much ‘expansive’ food seems to contribute to a general spaciness and airy (Vata)-like disposition among residents and long-term vegans. I also believe a lack of B vitamins contributes to ‘those ones’ that go off on random tangents and in general are super spacey. (Lack of being grounded)
So here comes the question…
What do I eat Now?
I have always been inspired by Greek culture and living, and so somehow have gravitated to a diet similar to that. So, Mediterranean-Ketogenic-Pant-Based-and-Raw… ? (If you were to put a label on it – which I hate labels)
My diet is predominantly plant-based (raw and cooked) with leafy greens, vegetables, some fruit, and minimal nuts/seeds, lots of coconut oil, no grains, and some supplemented animal products. I am presently (January 2015) including (free-range, organic, wild-caught, humane, local only) pastured eggs, bone broth (to heal the gut), some fish, and ghee,
This approach will likely change, but based on everything I have researched, it makes the most sense right now. At present I am doing an experiment to reset my leptin levels and also learn about electron balance in the cells – how it’s not calorie in / vs calorie out, but the energetics and other aspects of Quantum biology that make a difference. Read more of Dr. Jack Kruse’s work if you’re interested here.
I do not foresee myself including chicken, beef, pork, or other animal meats (other than seafood) as I could never kill these myself, and believe that if we are to consume other living beings, we must take responsibility and be able to live with the actions and consequences. I have fished and prepared fish many times in my life, though, and deem it a more reasonable protein to include than the others anyway. (Read Energy and Epigenetics 2: The Real DHA Story)
Does this make me a bad person?
I don’t think so. For a long time I struggled with this, asking “Is my life really worth more than another being’s?” I still don’t have an answer to that, but I am trying to – instead – view it from a higher perspective.
Thanks to some transcendental experiences in the jungle of Costa Rica, I have a very strong knowing that there is more than this world, energy recycles (that is also just Quantum Physics), and no ‘essence’ of human, plant, or animal is ever lost (read: destroyed) when we diminish its light on this planet.
I feel that there is no good or bad on this plane of existence, yet every choice does result in an experience, and it would be stupidity to continue ignoring what has been presented as a symptom of some form of imbalance in my lifestyle – especially as a healer.
If others think my actions are inappropriate or disappointing, that is their opinion. I will no longer live to please others, however, as there is a strong current of truth which directs my being, studies, and actions, and that Source energy is so much more important to me.
If you are struggling on a strict vegan diet…
Listen up. I was in denial for a LONG TIME about my choices – even after I cracked my tooth, studied through my RHN diploma, studied Chinese and Ayurvedic perspectives of diet, and learned from OTHER peoples’ experiences… until I one day woke up and decided that I couldn’t live trying to please others while lying to myself. That’s when I allowed research and actual FACTUAL-BASED science to determine what I believe in and the route that I will take from here on out in terms of guiding others on their journey to health, and evolving myself.
You may agree, disagree, or not even care, but I felt it was time to share this article as I am not vegan, and don’t want to give anybody a misguided notion about what I promote, teach, live, or believe.
I will continue to respect every individual – regardless of their diet – and hope to be shown the same courtesy.
In the future, more science-based articles will be released to back up my experience, research, and approach to helping you heal yourself. This website will also remain committed to sharing delicious, healing, and high-vibrational cuisine – from raw vegan to macrobiotic, to paleo to plant-based ketogenic.