A couple years ago, I wrote about how vegetarianism ruined my health. Like the story below, my story was anecdotal. It was my own, and it was the truth. Since then, I’ve received countless comments and emails, insisting I’m lying, I did it wrong, or I have some ulterior motive to just bash plant based diets. I shared my story because I know I’m not alone. I know so many other men and women have dealt with this same thing. I personally know people whose health suffered due to a plant based diet. And one of those people is my husband. A few months ago, he encouraged me to share his story. So I’m finally doing just that. This isn’t a ploy to bash anything, it’s simply me sharing the truth with you all. This way of eating works for some people, and it doesn’t for others.
When I met Scott at the ripe ol’ age of 23, just starting my nutrition business and as bossy as ever – he was a vegan. I was (and am) a hardcore grass-fed and local meat eater. I truly thought our relationship would go nowhere because our lifestyles were so radically different. I was ordering my food from a local buying club and chugging raw kefir, he was eating out at vegan restaurants. Dates were hard for us – we had to go somewhere that served healthy vegan food (ie: not just pasta dishes) and also served organic meats without grains for me (burgers weren’t going to cut it).
Luckily, he had told me that after ten years of veganism, he was considering introducing some animal products. Definitely not meat, but maybe cheese and butter. It still took him over six months to introduce these foods into his diet, and during that time I was making him the healthiest vegan food I could.
Soaked and sprouted legumes, tons of organic veggies, I got him off soy and eliminated the processed foods he was eating. I introduced more veggies and even some fermented foods. As far as being vegan goes – his diet wasn’t bad. He wasn’t eating loads of sugar just because he could get his hands on vegan donuts and cupcakes. He wasn’t eating soy hot dogs. Hell, he wasn’t even eating gluten.
And then I convinced him to go to the doctor. A doctor that did not just a basic blood test, but vitamin and mineral alalysis as well, a CRP test (to measure inflammation), genetic testing, liver and kidney function, a detailed analysis of his cardiovascual system – basically testing everything.
A few days after his blood work, instead of just sending it to us, she urged him to come into her office. She said she needed to explain everything to him and it couldn’t be done over the phone.
She sat him down and told him the results were dismal. She told him he needed to stop drinking and smoking immediately.
Here’s the thing: my husband doesn’t drink. At all. He’s literally never smoked a cigarette in his life. She didn’t even believe him. His results were so bad that she assumed he was a couch potato that ate junk food all day, smoked, and went drinking regularly.
When he told her he was vegan and ran over 15 miles a week – she wasn’t surprised.
She told him that he immediately needed to start eating healthy sources of animal protein and fat. I specifically remember her telling him that he should start incorporating a ton of eggs into his diet if he refused to eat grass-fed meats and wild seafood.
At this point you may be wondering what was so bad about his results. Well…
- He was prediabetic
- His liver function was terrible
- His cholesterol was awful
- His vitamin D was extremely low
- His vitamin A was extremely low
- His vitamin B12 was extremely low
- His iron was extremely low
- He was on course for heart disease
From his healthy, unprocessed vegan diet – with supplements!
I know the argument that the above nutrients, which are concentrated in animal foods and lacking to the point of non-existence in plant foods, can be supplemented. The reality is that supplements can only do so much. The reality is that a significant portion of nutrients found in supplements are not bioavailable. I say this all the time: you cannot out-supplement a bad diet.
It was at this point he finally decided to bite the bullet and introduce animal foods. I bought him pastured eggs and cheese. And something happened. His skin wasn’t so pale and sallow. The bags under his eyes disappeared. He didn’t have crazy night sweats. His energy was better. He felt better.
I’m happy to report that he now also eats wild seafood and feels even better. Still no chicken, beef or pork – but that man will house some shrimp.
Our most recent tests, in May, revealed a few things. I won’t lie to you, they weren’t perfect. But his blood sugar was in the normal range. His vitamin and mineral analysis was good. His liver function was great. His cholesterol levels had improved, but weren’t great. We discovered that this is because he has the APoE4 gene mutation – and two of them. He is E4/E4 – the worst kind for cholesterol, meaning he doesn’t utilize fats properly. But that’s another topic for another article.
Overall, his health has improved dramatically. It’s still a work in progress, but over the last three years or so we’ve been working to undo a lot of the damage that was done.
Again, I’m not sharing this story to bash plant based diet. I’m sharing this story because I want to be honest with you guys and let you know our experiences. I want to let you know that if a plant based diet isn’t working for you, it’s not your fault. This type of diet isn’t for everybody (I’d go as far to argue that it’s not for majority of people). This diet may be touted as safe and healthy, but if you’re experiencing health problems because of it, it may be time to explore other options. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it means the diet has failed you.
Image via here.