I heard Melanie Joy (author of Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows) speak a couple of times at the national Animal Rights conference last summer in Alexandria, VA. During one of her talks she asked for hands of those in the audience who had ever pretended not to be sick or downplayed their illness specifically because of their veganism. Nearly everyone in the room raised their hand. We all had a good laugh about it at the time — it’s ridiculous to pretend you’re not sick just to protect the image of veganism. And yet, many of us often do it. There are so many folks out there ready to pounce on your veganism as a reason for ill health… “Well, you probably wouldn’t have that cold if you just ate some meat or dairy…” or “Jeez, Jane really seems to be sick a lot. It’s probably because she’s not getting enough protein or calcium on her vegan diet…” Heck, even complaining about being a bit tired can bring on critiques of veganism. As Melanie Joy said in her talk, as vegans, we hold ourselves to higher standards of health and we are held to higher standards of health. But none of us are super-human and though a well-balanced vegan diet is now recognized to be an excellent preventive or treatment for various illnesses, we are still going to get sick sometimes! Even so, I’ve been somewhat resistant to talking about recent health issues I’ve been having specifically because I don’t want to promote an image of a “sickly vegan.”
I’m going to share a bit about my personal health journey without going into excessive detail. I’ve had this unexplained *severe* abdominal pain for the last 4-5 months. It comes and goes. Sometimes it’s excrutiating and has landed me in the ER. Most of the time it’s moderate pain and discomfort and I feel like I’ve adjusted to pain being my new “normal”. Nothing makes it better or worse; it doesn’t seem to matter what I eat. Painkillers don’t help (I was even given IV morphine during an ER visit and it did nothing to the pain). I’ve spent the last 4 months going back and forth to doctors and specialists, having every kind of test, trying lots of different medications, etc. Finally, the gastroenterologist said the last thing we could try was an endoscopy, and if that didn’t turn up anything, then I would just have to wait it out (“These things sometimes just resolve on their own,” he said). So I waited and waited for the endoscopy date and had the test yesterday. Everything looked normal. There was nothing to explain the pain. I had really been wanting to wait to blog about this until I had found a cause of the pain and could write a nice tidy blog post explaining my journey to finding answers, with a happy ending (e.g., it was my gall bladder and I just needed to have it removed, it was an ulcer, etc.). It has been incredibly frustrating to have Western conventional medicine fail to uncover anything and reach the point where the doctors are ready to say I just need to wait it out.
My next plan is to find a good naturopath and see what they have to say. Honestly, I don’t know why I ever went back to a regular doctor — I used to see a wonderful naturopath in Seattle who would spend 1-2 hours talking with me about every aspect of my health in a holistic way that took into account my whole body and not just one part of it. She unfortunately closed her practice and then I fell into going to the clinic at school for medical care. Do any of you lovely readers have recommendations for great naturopaths in Seattle who are supportive of a vegan diet? Have any of you had good experiences working with a naturopath for healing?
I’m thinking since no medical reason has turned up, perhaps it’s something I’m eating on a regular basis that’s causing the problems… I’m hoping to try an elimination diet guided by a naturopath/nutritionist. Since I have already cut out some of the common culprits (e.g., dairy), I’m hoping it might be relatively straightforward to identify if anything (like gluten or nightshades) are causing problems. I would love to hear if any of you have had experience trying an elimination diet. Did it work? What method of elimination diet did you use? Did you do a self-guided elimination diet, or did you work with a medical professional? I think sometimes it can help to talk about these things as a community — to share experiences, thoughts, etc. Thank you!