Many vegans have adopted a diet free from ingesting animals and animal byproducts for humanitarian and ethical reasons. Others have sought to lose weight or recover from eating disorder through veganism. I had once been a vegan for six months because I wanted to cure myself from tumors without going to the hospital. The experiment started out with amazing changes to my body and even shrank my tumors, but eventually failed as a host of ailments started to pop up. Eventually, I opted out of veganism for the sake of my overall health and found a different way of eating that suits my individual conditions way better. Below is the story of how I ventured into veganism and what I have found during the journey.
A Bomb Dropped from the Sky
In the summer of 2009, I was diagnosed with two large uterine fibroids and an ovarian cyst after visiting my cancer-ridden father and taking care of him for a few months.
I was shell-shocked upon hearing the diagnoses. Luckily, the fibroids and cyst were benign, meaning, no cancer! Having been on the battlefield with my dad when he struggled with acute leukemia at the hospital, my greatest fear was to get cancer myself.
When the initial shock faded, I went to see a few specialists to get their opinions. All of them suggested surgery. One of them promised he would do a good job using minimally invasive technique, but he would charge an arm and a leg for the surgical fee. Another one said due to the fact that the larger of the two tumors was stuck to the back of my uterine wall, there could be excessive blood loss during an open abdominal surgery. He recommended a few shots of lupron, a synthetic female hormone that would put my body into sudden menopause and make me very depressed. The reason for this shot is to shrink the fibroids somewhat so as to minimize the possibility of blood loss. Now, this was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Having suffered from clinical depression in my 20’s, the prospect of an artificially induced menopause and depression was absolutely frightening!
Searching for an Answer
Since then, I started researching alternative ways of treating fibroids. There turned out to be tons of materials on the Web and numerous books have been written on the subject, including “What Your Doctor Did NOT Tell You about Premenopause.” I started learning all about the possible contributors to uterine fibroids, including eating too much estrogenic food and being exposed to environmental toxins that are known as “xenoestrogens,” etc.
I read about how dairy products, refined carbohydrates, especially wheat flour and sugar, the lack of Vitamin D/sunshine, all contributed to my condition. Sure enough, my diet during the years prior to my diagnosis was mainly made up of these foods, and I sorely lacked sunshine all year round.
The connection between fibroids and nutrition (or the lack thereof) reminded me of a book that I got as a gift from a former classmate. It is a book about the acid/alkaline diet, “The pH Miracle,” which I never read. Suddenly I got interested and devoured it in one setting. Boy oh boy, I was in another round of shock! The content made me so depressed, as it seemed like everything I ate up until then was highly acidic. How would I be able to make sure I get the perfect acid-alkaline balance? After that book I read at least two more books on the subject and looked up numerous sources online, only to find countless conflicts in whether a food is considered acid- or alkaline-forming. The only way, of course, was to find out by eating the food and see how each type made me feel. I was told that white cheeses are alkaline, so I tried a different type of white cheese every week. All this made me sicker in the stomach. I was also told that yogurt is alkaline-forming. So I ate that together with some oat granola for breakfast. I got a stomach ache every time I ate this, but somehow I kept this “wholesome” habit for months!
After the acid-alkaline episode, which got me into a dead end, I started reading other books on the relationship between food and health.
My best friend gave me a Chinese book written by a Taiwanese author, Dr. Tom Wu, who wrote about phytonutrients from fruits and veggies and how all kinds of diseases, including cancer, can be cured by blending juices and drinking several glasses all day long. In fact, he tells the story of how he cured himself of lung cancer using this method. I followed his instructions closely and spent at least an hour every morning preparing vegetables and fruits for blending. I also added psyllium husk to help “sweep toxins down the colon.” My bowel movements were not a pretty sight, I can tell you that!
But after some time, I read about the scam surrounding this so-called doctor, as revealed by his own son. Apparently this doctor has a very small practice in California and has faked all his naturopathic doctor qualifications. All he has been trying to sell, besides his book, is the Vitamix blender! Oh well, so much for medical integrity! This story gives me a lesson: Not all people with the “Dr.” title can be trusted.
Foraging into Veganism
After that juicing episode, I got myself into the vegetarian and later, the vegan diet. Among the many books I read at that time was the infamous “China Study” by Colin Campbell, who proposes a plant-based diet as the panacea of all ills. It was not easy at first, having been an omnivore my whole life. It was a little disconcerting to read about Campbell’s findings that the predominant way of eating in China is the vegetarian diet, because my entire existence as a Chinese up until this point was based on a “balanced diet” that my mom and ancestors had always taught me—one that included a blend of meat, animal organs, fish and seafood, vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and herbs. Somehow, it was more convincing to hear from this American guy with a phD title after his name, what kind of diet that “most” Chinese people actually follow!
Gradually, I “deleted” all the fish and meat from my meals. It wasn’t difficult with the fish part, as I hadn’t been eating much fish for years at that point. And as for dairy, it wasn’t too difficult, because all the materials and books I had read about fibroids pointed to the same idea that that dairy products would fuel the growth of such tumors. Reflecting on how much dairy I had consumed since I left Hong Kong and pursued my studies and career in the West, I realized that it isn’t particular suited to my body and may have led to toxic accumulation inside my body. So I just took it out of my diet “cold turkey.” But when it comes to meat, it took me a little while to get used to not eating it. Regardless, as someone who was super determined to shrink my tumors in a natural way, sheer will power did it.
At about the same time, I also read a whole bunch of online material and books on the raw food movement, including “The Raw Food Detox Diet,” “Raw Food Life Force Energy“—both by Natalia Rose, a forefront public figure on detoxing through raw food. I was really into the idea of detoxing my body, and the raw food paradigm seemed to make a lot of sense to me.
Initially the raw food vegan diet made me feel light. I gained tremendous energy from it. My skin cleared up and started to glow. I lost a lot of weight and looked slimmer than ever. This boosted my confidence (or should I say, vanity?) as a super skinny figure is considered ideal in the ballet world—and I was pretty crazy about ballet at that time, having started to learn it quite late in my adulthood. I loved the new flat tummy, which I stopped having since my 20’s. All of these convinced me, at first, that I was on the right track. Better still, an ultrasound scan found that my fibroids had shrunk one-third in size! Needless to say, I felt proud of my “alternative” choice, and vindicated even, as almost everybody I knew advised me to opt for surgery.
So I went on with the diet, rubbing off of the self-righteous aura in the raw and vegan communities (mostly online, and in America, as this type of diet was almost unheard of in Hong Kong, where I was living, back in 2009). I felt I was in the vanguard of a new health movement, something that my fellow Chinese had no idea of, and was proud of it.
But gradually, I started to face resistance. Eating out became a pain. Even vegetarian restaurants were still a rarity at that time, let alone raw and vegan! So I resorted to not eating during social occasions. I felt rather anti-social and people gave me weird looks. And then physically, I started to feel something strange. I was cold and shivering all the time. I remember coming home from work totally exhausted, so much so that I hardly had any energy to walk up the stairs. My hair started to fall out and my nails became brittle. My skin got very dry. The skin on my legs was so dry that it looked like the scales on a snake. I lost a lot of muscle mass and I weighed barely 100 pounds. My period became light. I was almost always still hungry after each meal, but I got extra hungry at bed time. So I would munch on a lot of nuts before I went to bed. Worse, I developed a terrible acid reflux, so much so that not only the waking hours became extremely uncomfortable, but I even had trouble going to bed, as my throat would always feel “stuck.” The discomfort became stronger and stronger as the days went by.
One day, I suddenly had a dizzy spell. It lasted for two hours straight, and it felt like the sky was about to collapse on me. I had to take a sick leave from work, which I seldom did, because it was so bad I couldn’t do a darn thing! This happened one more time before I realized something very, very wrong was going on in my body. It was not until later that I realize I had anemia.
The decline in my health kept me searching in other directions. I continued to devour books on health, and in the midst of reading “50 Secrets of the World’s Longest Living People” by Sally Beare, I stumbled across the Blood Type Diet by a naturopathic doctor, Peter D’Adamo. I was instantly intrigued. Wait a minute, I thought, hadn’t I heard about the connection between food and blood type before? Sure, it was in that book by the Taiwanese “doctor” where I first read about the connection. That “doctor” probably stole the information from Dr. D’Adamo. In any case, I got curious. “Perhaps there is something to it,” I thought. Reading half way through the “50 Secrets,” I was ready to give up, as each culture the book mentions seems to thrive on different kinds of food. To me, the book simply presented too many food choices, so many that it made me feel like I had to eat all those foods suggested in order to achieve longevity—an impossible proposition. It just didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t want to spend all my waking hours looking for and ingesting all these so-called “power foods”!
The concept of a diet based on different blood types, on the other hand, really “clicked” with me. It sounded more “selective.” I immediately purchased “Eat Right 4 Your Type” and finished it in one “gulp”! How interesting to read about the anthropological background of the four blood types and to find out that I, being a Type O, have hunters and gatherers as ancestors!
The part about the right kind of diet for my blood type was right on, as I recognized how the foods in the “Avoid” category affected me physically, making me feel ill one way or another. For example, I’m not supposed to have dairy products—no wonder the yogurt in my breakfast, which my then naturopathic doctor said was “excellent”—gave me stomach aches. And the book made me realize that my severe pollen and later dust allergy in the past was a result of having consumed a massive amount of dairy products, after moving to the States and living in Wisconsin, the “Dairy State,” of all places!
Later on I also found out that I’m not supposed to have oat. The combination of oat granola and yogurt, touted as an ideal kind of breakfast in the vegan and raw food community, was therefore a big no-no for me! There are a number of other details, such as alfalfa, cashew and brazil nuts being “Avoids.” These were new foods in my diet during the raw-vegan period, and I was eating quite a lot of them and spending a lot of time in sprouting! In fact, I was eating all organic, raw and vegan, and paid a ton of money for what was supposed to be good for me. But it became clear that what sounded good in theory might not necessarily “sit well” with our individual body.
On the other hand, when I started to eat high-quality, grass-fed red meat, such as beef and lamb, my body literally started to wake up and sing in joy! My energy level soared immediately. My frail body started to feel warmer, more alive, and best of all, my stomach felt cozy and satisfied. No more bloating, no more drowsiness after meals. Everything was digested properly and I had so much more energy than before—solid energy that lasted throughout the whole day. My metabolism had never worked this well since I was a teenager. Within a week’s time, my terrible acid reflux disappeared entirely! How amazing is that? The acid/alkaline diet would have said “No” to this as red meat is highly acidic! But, according to the Blood Type Diet, O’s have a high level of stomach acid, and red meat paradoxically helps control that. It also turned my anemia around completely. I soon learned that grass-fed beef and lamb can actually aid digestion, burn fat and improve metabolism in Type O individuals. They also provide a lot of important nutrients such as B12, which I sorely lacked during my vegan period, and which directly caused my anemia.
I was also overjoyed to find that I could eat up to six eggs a week. The first time I went back to eating eggs, my body felt a great sense of relief and satisfaction. It was just what it needed—and craved!
Gradually, I introduced many beneficial items like ghee (clarified butter) and deep sea fatty fish like salmon, sardine and tuna. The increase in animal protein really made a big difference in how I felt. I was finally able to feel more “solid” on my feet, no more light-headedness and constant hunger, my muscle tones improved a great deal and I didn’t become fat from “all that meat”!
What My Body Told Me
The lesson I have learned here is to listen to my own body, which contains all the wisdom that I need in order to heal. Theories are nice and if they turn out to fit your life, so much the better. But ultimately, the body is the final judge, and it is so important to listen and follow the signals it is giving us.
The more I learn about how to eat according to my blood type, the more in tune I become with what my body really needs. The more this diet cleanses my body in a slow and steady way, the more I can connect a particular ailment or reaction to a particular kind of food. Over time, I have learned to avoid eating all those foods that make me feel bad or uncomfortable.
Eventually, I no longer use the paradigm of “good vs. bad food” when I eat. The choice for foods that are beneficial for me based on my bio-individuality is a conscious one, for when I choose foods that do not suit my own body, I would very soon experience unpleasant side effects. It is really fun to be able to put two and two together this way, almost like playing a detective game! So, refraining from certain types of foods doesn’t feel like a “restriction” to me anymore—a feeling that oftentimes is associated with diets that aim at losing weight and which play a role in eating disorders. It is merely a pro-active choice to prevent diseases.
Some Benefit from Veganism but Not All Do
While the raw food and vegan movements have been popular among a certain population in pursuit of maximum health and longevity, I suspect that only a certain percentage of the population could actually benefit from it. These are mostly Type A’s, whose health would benefit greatly from cutting out red meat and eating mainly a vegetable-based diet due to the fact that they generally have a low level of stomach acid and intestinal alkaline phosphatase, which are necessary in the proper digestion and assimilation of animal protein. Even so, from a nutritional viewpoint, they would only achieve optimum health in the long run by supplementing a predominantly plant-based diet with some fish, poultry, eggs and certain dairy products such as Greek yogurt and some white cheeses. If not, they would need nutritional supplements for certain nutrients that can only be derived from animals, such as Vitamin B12.
In my nutrition course, we did an informal survey of people who have been on a vegan diet. The longer the length of time, the fewer vegans left in the audience. There are practically zero vegan who have been on this diet for over 50 years. Compare that with the way human beings have been eating–as omnivores–for hundreds of thousands of years.
The reason you don’t hear much about the struggles of those who have problems with veganism is that their belief in this ethical way of eating and living supersedes their suffering. I would venture to say that most of those who are struggling with various ailments, such as those I have suffered from during my vegan period, are either Type O or B people, who have a much higher level of stomach acid and intestinal alkaline phosphatase than the other two blood types, and would thrive with a diet of a higher proportion in animal protein. Unfortunately, many struggling vegans are ashamed to tell the truth openly for fear of being chastised by their community or for being condemned as “losers” who can’t stick with the principal. If you are a vegan or a raw vegan and are struggling but want to improve your health, please contact me through the comment section or leave a private message through the contact page. I would love to hear from you.
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