I used to sneer at those who restricted their diets beyond veganism. Especially those who are not gluten-intolerant but avoided gluten. I mean, no bread? Blasphemy!
I not only thought they did a disservice to veganism by muddying the waters (where does the vegan message leave off and coffee hatred begin?), thus making it hard for new vegans, I also thought that they were on shaky grounds in regards to their long-term health.
Most of the public vegans that I truly respected advocated nothing more than a whole food plant based diet. Maybe also specifying the avoidance of salt, refined sugar, and oil, but they would always back up this regimen with scientific, peer-reviewed studies.
Then I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, possible thyroid cancer (ruled out!), IBS, and some as yet undetermined condition (we’re still doing tests) which leads to blood in the stool. My conditions weren’t going away with a simple switch to a vegan diet. In fact, I didn’t benefit from the glowing health many new vegans expect, but instead felt worse.
I needed to refine my diet for my continued health and while I hope Veganism will always be the groundwork, some of these added precautions don’t seem so insane after all.
Why Mentioning the IBS Thing Isn’t Bad Vegan Advocacy
Apparently, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is much more common than polite society would have us realize. There is some evidence that switching to a low-FODMAP diet (at least temporarily to identify triggers) is highly effective with eliminating symptoms and can be done while maintaining one’s veganism (though it is trickier).
The thing is, a new vegan who has IBS may find they feel worse on a lot of vegan staple foods. They might try to bring this up with the vegan community and may be treated as though they were just looking for an excuse to quit veganism. I know, I’ve been there.
If this were talked about more, I think would-be vegans who have this issue might discover the help they need to thrive on a vegan diet.
BTW, if you have this problem, I highly recommend this book:
What I’m Currently Limiting
I’m currently limiting alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy (no duh), processed foods, garlic and onions. It is a lot and I hope this isn’t permanent. I really love garlic and bread. And garlic bread, yum. But I’m getting more insight in what really makes me feel queasy all day long (not a great way to spend all day every day, let me tell you).
The reason behind my change in perspective behind the whole gluten thing, is that Hashimoto’s is an auto-immune disease and I’ve discovered many expert opinions (I don’t believe there is consensus on this yet) that avoiding gluten is helpful. The blood in the stool also has me worried over intestinal damage which could indicate as yet un-diagnosed gluten intolerance. I will have to see what my doctor says.
I’m sorry I started out with such judgmental opinions. Your diet is your own and there are many reasons other than veganism for adopting a specific way of eating. I do recommend that while acting as a vegan advocate, we mention why we’re avoiding something that isn’t an animal product. Other than this, you’ll find that it won’t be me who is casting the sideways glance at you.