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Complex Bodies and What Goes in Them

A look into my complex diet restrictions and why you should try it too

By NovaPublished 4 years ago 4 min read
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One thing that doesn't get talked about enough in the promotion of a vegan diet is how complex each of our bodies are, both in what they need to thrive and how they process different foods.

I grew up in Texas where the public school system is a joke (especially the idea of learning about nutrition). I grew up being told that I needed grains, meat, and dairy in every meal, and I had no idea why I always felt unwell after eating those things.

This is actually pretty spot-on for what I saw around me growing up.

My mom always told me I ate like a bird (I was a very picky eater), but it wasn't until I became chronically ill that we found out it was an instinctual avoidance of inflammatory foods for myself. About 6 months after my dad was murdered in 2012, my physical health started to deteriorate at 18 years old. I lost roughly 20 lbs. that November due to nausea, lack of appetite, stomach pain, bowel movement issues, etc., so my mom and I decided it was best we get some tests done.

For about 6 months, I went back for tests over, and over, and over, and over; I was poked and prodded and asked for a sample of my own feces. Eventually they declared I have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). I later found out this is a cover-all diagnosis when nobody can confirm any one illness/condition. That doctor essentially told me I'd be sick for the rest of my life and all there was to do was to try and manage my symptoms.

After the ridiculous amount of blood that was drawn, samples that were taken from different parts of my body, appointments with doctors that didn't actually want to help me stop my pain, and a whole shit ton of medical debt, I stopped trying. I decided to continue self-medicating with cannabis (literally the one thing that got me to eat food at all) until I could move to Colorado and obtain help through a different lens once I could visit a doctor that specialized in medical uses of cannabis.

Fast forward to August 2014 when I moved to CO with my boyfriend at the time. We had adopted a vegan diet together for the previous few months before moving and maintained it until about a year after moving. Soon after gaining residency in my new home, I visited an MMJ doctor who recommended not only more effective ways to medicate with cannabis, but also that I cut gluten out of my diet. My mom has Hashimoto's disease (an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid that can be genetic) and had recently cut out gluten in her diet. He suggested to me that if I continue to eat gluten, it's much more likely that my body will start attacking itself similarly some day.

After that appointment, I cut gluten out entirely and switched to organic foods for the next 5 months. I noticed that it didn't make as much of a difference for me as the doctor had suspected it would. I did, however, notice that there was something to the elimination diet method/eating organic because of some of the changes I had noticed in my symptoms. I decided to visit a nutritionist to see if they could point me towards any helpful information.

I was blown away by that visit. I found out that I knew next to nothing about nutrition and what my body actually needed on a daily basis to thrive.

I learned that:

  • Humans need carbs, fat, and protein in every meal.
  • Vegan diets actually take a decent amount of planning and intention to be healthy.
  • Pesticide chemicals can literally collect in your gut and cause Leaky Gut Syndrome.
  • Some people's bodies over-digest certain parts of foods which can cause gastrointestinal upset.
  • FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols.
  • These are basically found in all the absolute best foods on the planet...

The nutritionist handed me a list of foods I should avoid in my new elimination diet, and I actually teared up.

Things from that list that made me want to sob included:

  • Dairy
  • Gluten
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Leeks
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Mushrooms
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Watermelon
  • Apricots
  • Mangoes
  • Dates
  • Honey
  • Cashews
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Inulin
  • Fructose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Sugar
  • Artificial Sugars
  • Alcoholic products

Finding out you have to stop eating all those foods would make any person shed a tear or two. It shattered me. My mind was reeling about how I could sustain a vegan diet when almost everything I ate at the time was made with these ingredients.

To my dismay, I was forced to reintroduce eggs, seafood, and chicken back into my diet. And guess what.. I felt so much better! It didn't occur to me that changing my diet to something I didn't want it to be would be absolutely crucial in me being able to manage my chronic illness. I started to slowly gain some of my weight/muscle back, as well as some confidence!

Eventually, I was able to start slowly adding foods from the list back to my diet, one at a time, and now I've pinned it down to about half the foods on the list I gave above. I still can't eat cashews, dates, onions, garlic, or lots of other fun foods. When people ask me if I'm vegetarian (most of my meals are very plant-based), I have some 'splaining to do. It's just not that simple.

I learned so much about other aspects of maintaining healthful nutrient levels in my body through that process, and I am certainly still learning and evolving as I go. I am still on my chronic illness journey. I'm still having to go back to doctors and see if anyone can find anything new that would point to an answer other than *shrug*.

For anyone experiencing intense gastrointestinal upset regularly for an extended time (especially folx that can't afford to see specialists), I would recommend trying a low-FODMAP diet for 4-6 weeks and see if your symptoms lessen. Taking our health into our own hands and researching what can be inflammatory for some bodies is so important. Society is not actively passing this information along, so we need to share it with each other.

healthy
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About the Creator

Nova

I'm a 28 year old non-binary person (they/them) with a lot to say and no idea how to get it all out.

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