The accidental vegan?

As you may have noticed, I’ve been a bit MIA lately. Actually, I’ve been quite sick lately. And it has led me down an interesting road.

In fact, I’ve been struggling with a mysterious illness that has seriously compromised me on more than one occasion over the past several months. It started with postpartum nausea and built up to daily bouts of intense abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, fever, chills, headaches and so on. I’ve been to 5 doctors, including a trip to the ER because I was sure something in my abdomen was going to explode or leak out of me. I think I’ve had just about every test there is — colonoscopy, endoscopy, CT scan, 2 ultrasounds, full blood work, allergy testing, pregnancy test… So I know what it’s NOT– cancer, pregnancy, anemia, gallbladder, appendix, colitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcers, food allergies… And the consensus is that all the tests show I am healthy! So, laying in the fetal position on the cool bathroom floor moaning in agony and praying to my maker for mercy — that’s healthy?! Um, FAIL!

Because pretty much everything else has been ruled out, my gastroenterologist suggested that my problem might be IBS, or irritable bowl syndrome. There is no known cure and it doesn’t show up on any tests. But my symptoms and their severity track with it. And I’ve been experiencing this for about 10 months, the last 4 of which I have not been breastfeeding (because for a while everyone was telling me this was pregnancy/breastfeeding hormone-related but it’s only gotten worse as time has gone on). And I’m not alone. About 55 million Americans — or 1 in 6 — Americans have IBS and women are twice as likely as men to get it. Lucky us.

So I started doing some poking around the internet about IBS. In particular, I wanted to get some relief. Over the past several weeks I’ve barely been able to eat (or keep what I eat in me) so I’ve lost almost 20 pounds. (I do NOT recommend this!) And I was going to the doctors so much and asking them what I might be able to eat that would not make me sick. But nobody had any suggestions. In fact, after so many doctors and so many tests I basically felt like modern medicine had failed me.

I found that some sites were mentioned quite a bit and seemed to have reasonable information (you can never feel 100% with the internet) and so I decided to head the advice that kept coming up on all the sites: Avoid these trigger foods! While everyone is different and has to figure out what works best for them, the common thread was that meat, dairy and eggs (as well as caffeine, coffee, chocolate and fried foods) seemed to be universal triggers for the majority of people. This made sense with what I have been experiencing. Meat and eggs in particular seem to bring about the most intense symptoms. And this led me to The Veganist and several other websites that touted the success of a vegan diet when dealing with IBS.

So… now I am a vegan? The universe has a wicked sense of humor.

For about 10 years my husband and I did not eat beef and for about 5 of those years we were full vegetarians. Then around 2006 I had some allergy testing done and discovered I had some food allergies that were going to make vegetarianism almost impossible. So, reluctantly, I gave up my veggie life and went back to eating meat. Now meat is the bad guy!

But you know what? I’ve been cautiously eating vegan for the past week and I already feel so much better! My skin is clearing up. My eczema is going away. And most of all, my stomach is calming down! Yesterday was the first day in a month that I did not need to take prescription anti-nausea medication!

That a vegan diet might be a solution to my problem is really funny to me. It is definitely something I have made fun of in the past. So I’m sure there’s some karmic irony in all this. But if this helps me, I’ll laugh all the way to health over it! And it can help with many other health issues including cancer prevention (specifically colon, prostate and breast), blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cataracts, cholesterol, arthritis and more.

And if veganism isn’t hippie enough for me, I’ve also been doing yoga and meditation after I read that they can help ease IBS symptoms, too. In fact according to the Mayo Clinic, meditation can help alleviate many health issues including allergies, asthma, high blood pressure, sleep problems, depression and more.

God help me! I’m an accidental vegan!

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