Friday, March 4, 2016

Confessions of a Vegan Tubie: Part 1 - Raw Vegan Success

As an advocate for chronic illness, diet suggestions and comments are inevitable. Supplement advertisements are featured on the television screen. Gluten free articles are plastered on the front of every magazine. Even your second great Aunt Darlene delights in her advice that disease can be cured by resorting to a diet free of dairy, following an autoimmune protocol, or converting to paleo or veganism.

A few days ago I encountered a social media comment pinning the blame for my genetic conditions on my diet. Diet is undoubtedly important. Fueling the body with junk food is not going to build healthy cells. That is why making healthier lifestyle choices frequently prevents or rids of DIET-induced health concerns. Genes, however, are just as significant. Gene mutations do occur, resulting in GENETICALLY caused conditions. Although it may help, sometimes even significantly, changing the foods consumed do not instigate the disappearance of gene mutations that have been predetermined by birth.

My situation is a prime example.

After surviving off of tube feeds, intermittent TPN (IV nutrition), and minimal (if any) oral intake, I began avidly researching diet and healing in 2014. It was that year when I thrust myself into the world of raw veganism. More specifically, the raw until 4 plan. My stance on animal rights and ethics followed suit in time.

The goal was to eat a diet high in simple carbs, like fruit. Those are the easiest for our bodies to digest. Keeping overt fat intake low prevents unnecessary weight gain, as well as the blood sugars from spiking if consuming a high carb diet. Protein is to be kept low, also. It is easier on the digestive tract. However, eating a minimum of 2000-3000 calories is the only way to do this properly. So, high carb vegans receive an optimal amount of all of the micro and macro nutrients. For a little 110 lb female frame, I managed to ingest ~70 grams of protein daily.

The plan I was following required that I ate all raw fruits and vegetables for the first two meals of the day. After 4 pm, or around dinner time, cooked vegan options could be eaten. My breakfast was around 500 calories of 2 or 3 bananas blended with other in season fruits, greens, and seeds or nuts. Lunch was similar, but sometimes included "mono" meals of a single fruit. Yes, that meant for lunch I would eat an entire cantaloupe melon or a plate of 6 or 7 mangos with a plate of greens.

TIP: Dates are a good way to increase calorie intake. Being low volume and ~60-70 calories each, blending them in smoothies helped while I was adjusting to the new changes.

Most involved in this lifestyle enjoy vegan pizza, curry dishes, rice and quinoa, chili, potatoes, etc as their dinner. My cooked meals were lesser in comparison. I could only tolerate minimal amounts of grains once or twice a week. Ingredients to make fancy vegan pizzas were still too processed for my body to accept. 

It was a process of trial and error. Once I flirted with vegan "junk" foods and got that out of my system, my health drastically improved. My feeding tube and central line were removed. Labs were perfect. The majority of my symptoms dissipated. I was functional. I will let the transformation speak for itself. 

To an outsider, as well as to myself, I was thriving! My days of being fatigued immediately after waking were over. I was playing tennis with family, taking a full course load, riding bikes, and lifting at the gym multiple times a week. I could even go to school, workout, and go to the grocery store all in the same day! Imagine that. 

Deliciousllyella is a fellow POTS sufferer who's website actually sparked my interest in healing through diet originally. While I am aware every situation differs depending on the cause, I was inspired that she has maintained her healing for years. In her FAQ she mentions, "I would say that my illness was in remission – on a day to day basis I have no symptoms but I am careful to continue to eat well, sleep well and exercise every day. When I don’t do this I don’t feel my best and can start to feel symptoms creep back. It took me about eighteen months after changing to plant-based, whole foods diet (with nothing processed) to feel well again and I started really slowly – it absolutely wasn’t uphill the whole way either but it was the best thing I’ve ever done." 

Other Helpful Sources:

For those who know the symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos, Mast Cell Disease, and Dysautonomia all too well, this lifestyle change eliminated my motility problems, took away my chronic pain, decreased nausea if only safe foods eaten, rid of my blood glucose regulation problems and my POTS heart symptoms were almost entirely gone. I became fully functional with only a few symptoms remaining from my Mast Cell Disease.

Example Breakfast: Banana Ice Cream topped with Raspberries + Chia Seeds

Obviously, healthy choices can be beneficial. They are imperative for everyone, genetic disease or not. Just realize that while it may be helpful, it is not a cure. If you go vegan or paleo or gluten free or whatever your choosing and do not get better, it is not your fault. If you do improve, great! Or if you initially experience healing only to have a random onset of disease progression or flare, it is also not your fault. Setbacks are okay. Do not allow anyone to blame you for such.

So, where did I go wrong? Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 where I discuss easy, healthy recipes/snacks perfect for low energy, sick days and the not so successful portion of my vegan journey.