Response to Paleosister

I received a ping back from an ex-vegan and ex-animal rights activist, Paleosister. She writes:

> “Jack Norris, who I remember seeing speak at AR 2003 and greatly admired, writes that we should try to consume as little animal flesh (and other animal products) as possible. Quite frankly, you’re missing the point, Jack. The world is being destroyed due to agriculture; entire ecosystems are ruined—the habitats’ of animal populations destroyed—because of the foods vegans and the left are promoting.”

Some background: Paleosister is another person who failed to thrive on a vegan diet. She writes about that:

> Another common response is simply disbelief that it’s really possible to experience a physiological change with just a bite of meat….the first time I sat down to eat meat, I thought, “that is the strangest thing. I actually do feel better!” Then, for the first time in nearly a decade, I didn’t have suicidal thoughts for an entire hour!

First of all, I want to say that I feel bad that Paleosister had poor health and suicidal thoughts as a vegan. It is a serious problem that some people don’t thrive on the vegan diet, and we should not blame the victim.

I suspect that part of the problem is that vegan propaganda often includes the message that “diets based on whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables provide all the necessary nutrients.” For one thing, they don’t – they don’t contain vitamin B12. But the mantra also simplifies the situation regarding a lot of other nutrients.

For too many years, groups promoted such an idea. Instead of making sure that vegans were getting enough protein, we talked about how it was impossible not to get enough protein. Instead of telling vegans to get enough calcium, we told vegans that calcium isn’t important. Instead of telling people to get a regular source of vitamin B12, we downplayed the need. Instead of telling vegans to get a normal amount of fat, we have promoted very low-fat diets.

In fairness, much of the vegan community has changed its tune since the 1990s and now many urge vegans to make sure they get enough of these nutrients. Also in fairness, some research has indicated that low-fat vegan diets can help effectively treat heart disease and diabetes. And since studies have shown vegetarians (vegans and lacto-ovo) to have good health over time, and many of us feel just fine, we didn’t think there was a problem.

Paleosister apparently did not find any help for her health problems when she looked. I do not know what she tried, nutrition-wise, and what she didn’t. She says:

➢ It’s not the placebo effect. It’s most likely not even the effect of any nutrient we know of.

It is highly unlikely that there are any essential nutrients required by a large portion of the human population that are not currently known – the success of soy infant formulas and tube-feedings indicate this. However, there are a variety of non-essential nutrients that some people might not make enough of when following a vegan diet, especially if their bodies have been dependent on those substances from animal products up until the point of going vegan.

The fact that many children whose mother’s were vegan from conception and who are vegan from birth (except breast-milk), grow and thrive, is proof that meat, dairy, and eggs are not needed to produce healthy human bodies (at least in many cases).

I am becoming more and more concerned about promoting “healthy eating” along with veganism. So often, when someone goes vegan, they make other changes that they think are for the better – no more junk food or very low fat. It seems safer, from the perspective of animal protection, that new vegans eat as closely as they were to the way they previously had eaten so that they feel similarly; that is, unless they were previously feeling badly due to poor diet.

We should also not view ex-vegans who failed to thrive as our enemies. Who can blame someone for eating meat if they felt terrible as a vegan? I understand that we believe animals have a right not to be killed, but there would be a very strong incentive to reshape such views if we felt miserable if we didn’t eat animal flesh. It would be nice to be able to work with such people who still care about animals but cannot be vegan, rather than vilifying them; or their vilifying us for that matter.

Our message needs to become more nuanced if we want to minimize the problems we see with failure to thrive.

Now back to the point that Paleosister says I don’t get:

> The world is being destroyed due to agriculture; entire ecosystems are ruined—the habitats’ of animal populations destroyed—because of the foods vegans and the left are promoting.

No matter what humans eat, there is going to be environmental harm. I do understand that monocrops are generally bad for the environment, but I do not agree that vegan foods, in general, are significantly worse than grass-fed animal foods.

In the U.S., most animal foods are made using monocrop feeds. It does not seem realistic to feed 300 million people (or six-billion), grass-fed animal products as the bulk of their calories.

If most people switched to a vegan diet, an enormous amount of land currently grown for feed crops could be turned back into natural ecosystems, and that would be a huge gain. And at the same time it promotes an ethic of respecting the lives of animals.

82 Responses to “Response to Paleosister”

  1. CAB Says:

    Very kind and very heart warming message.

  2. Name (required) Says:

    “Technically, a ‘nutrient’ is a substance in food which is needed to sustain life and which cannot be produced by the body.”

    I doubt that definition is correct. For example, carbohydrates are considered nutrients, yet the body can technically synthesize all the carbohydrates it needs. By this definition, dietary carbohydrates would therefore not be considered nutrients. This definition would also defy the distinction between essential and non-essential nutrients.

    I’m also wary of the conclusions that can be drawn from the success stories of thriving life-long vegans. Assuming that “failure to thrive” on a/any vegan diet was genetically predisposed, wouldn’t it be expectable that children of long-term vegans don’t show this trait?

  3. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > I doubt that definition is correct.

    Whoops. You’re right, I was confusing it with ‘essential nutrient’.

  4. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > Assuming that “failure to thrive” on a/any vegan diet was genetically predisposed, wouldn’t it be expectable that children of long-term vegans don’t show this trait?

    My sense is that enzymes for creating some of the non-essential nutrients (like possibly carnitine or transferrin) get down-regulated in some people and it’s more of an environmental effect. But, yes, it could be genetic with some people and their children could inherit those genes.

  5. CAB Says:

    Recently I had eggs to become a short term ex-vegan, I felt no better, this was for the purpose of a blog post I wrote. I totally get when she wrote that she didn’t feel better with just eggs or milk and noticed a major difference when she eats flesh. I added taurine and coconut oil to my vegan diet, HOLY SMOKE. Seconds after one spoonful of coconut oil I had a clearer head than I can ever remember. A few days ago I got some 3/6/9 oil. Overall with the addition of the coconut fat, the 3/6/9, and the taurine, I’m moving around like a woman on speed and I sleep better at night.

    Her story reminds me of those studies about low cholesterol and depression for some people. One had a story about how people with low cholesterol are more likely to drive right into a wall. They have suicidal thoughts. It was a brief story, not much on this topic due to the fact that statins are big business, that’s my take on it. My mother is an RN and she sees people with funky issues due to statins and then more drugs because of the side effects of statins.

    I feel really guilty about promoting the vegan diet in the past and recommending the China Study. I am still vegan, officially an ex-ex-vegan, and I don’t know what to do with activism now. I was getting geared up in early November with the Farm Animal Protection Movement here in Sonoma to teach vegan cooking classes or something in January. I contacted them here to see if they had a room with a kitchen, and they do with the Humane Society. I discontinued my membership and am not participating anymore, I lost my peeps! I I just threw out a huge box of empty vegan food samples to show people. This has been really difficult for me.

  6. Jack Norris RD Says:

    CAB,

    For what it’s worth, I think the failure to thrive phenomena, while real, is not nearly as big as the blogosphere makes it seem. Ex-vegans get a huge amount of attention. Try throwing up a blog about becoming vegan and feeling good and see how much traffic you get – you’ll be lucky to get any unless you were already a celebrity. But the minute you stop being vegan, it’s major news.

    And I haven’t helped matters any but my philosophy is that it’s best to get this stuff out in the open so that new vegans are aware of these things and it’s not such a shock when they find out everyone doesn’t thrive on a 10% fat diet or that there are ex-vegans in the world.

  7. Sayward Says:

    Hi Jack! Great post as usual. I really appreciate seeing vegans come out and honestly, sincerely addressing the ex-vegan issue, I feel like this whole debacle will lead to very important changes within the movement.

    On an unrelated note: Can you point me towards an authoritative source regarding average protein consumption in America? ALL OVER the Internet I see statements to the effect of :

    “Experts say that Americans generally consume more than enough protein – up to twice the recommended value.”

    However these statements are NEVER sourced, the experts are never named, and I’ve searched high and low looking for numbers with no success. It’s maddening and I refuse to write such definitive statements without citation. Help please!

  8. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Sayward,

    The best place to find these things is from the NHANES studies. I don’t have that info at my fingertips, but if you do a Google search on it, you probably can find it.

  9. CAB Says:

    It wasn’t the ex-vegan blog stories that clicked it for me, they started the ball rolling. It was the family with the curent vegan (a rather well off family) with the tooth decayed children here in Santa Rosa. I met them on Thanksgiving, just days after the Tasha post and your article on Rhys’ site.

    And, frankly, the whole bunch here in this town have a less vibrance than the FL people. Is it because that Dr. MacDougall doesn’t think it’s necessary to supplement with D and only take a B12 just so you don’t become a headline? Is it because they are cold? They have more wrinkles for the people the same age. Then again, Myriam Parham, RD is very active there where I was we were getting lots of good support.

  10. beforewisdom Says:

    You would never know it by the way the book has been marketed, but Jonathon Safron Foer’s book “Eating Animals” has amazing refutation of the “better raised animals” argument. Basically, there aren’t enough natural resources to feed people such a diet. Foer researched his book for 3 years and hired a fact checker before he published it.

  11. Adam Says:

    Here is a good blog post about some of the environmental effects of grass-fed beef: http://blogs.reuters.com/environment/2010/04/08/grass-fed-beef-packs-a-punch-to-environment/

  12. Brett Says:

    “The fact that many children whose mother’s were vegan from conception and who are vegan from birth (except breast-milk), grow and thrive, is proof that meat, dairy, and eggs are not needed to produce healthy human bodies (at least in many cases).”

    How is breast-milk not vegan if the breast-milk is being exclusively delivered from the mother to its offspring?

  13. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Brett,

    It’s really not relevant to me if the label “vegan” fits a vegan woman’s breast milk or not. My point is that it is not a plant food so someone could argue that breast milk, technically an animal product, provides nutrition that plants do not provide. And they would be correct, but it only provides such nutrition for a relatively short period of time in most kids lives.

  14. beforewisdom Says:

    > Another common response is simply disbelief that it’s really possible to experience a physiological change with just a bite of meat….the first time I sat down to eat meat, I thought, “that is the strangest thing. I actually do feel better!” Then, for the first time in nearly a decade, I didn’t have suicidal thoughts for an entire hour!

    A single bite of food is not enough for someone to feel the difference from taking in a missing nutrient. Even if a single bite had that impossible amount of nutrients in it, that person’s body would need to digest and assimilate that food first — not an instant process.

    It is possible that I am out of touch, but this seems like a basic fact to me that everyone knows. The fact Paleosister could seriously offer this as a point of argument makes me wonder about the credibility of her account.

    Additionally, maybe she was being facetious when she wrote that she was having hourly suicidal thoughts for years, but if she was that tells me she had serious problems well beyond her diet.

    No disrespect to her.

  15. Jack Norris RD Says:

    beforewisdom,

    The bigger question is whether she continues to feel better over time while eating meat. Apparently she has.

    I have experienced a phenomena of being hungry for a particular food and then feeling better upon the first few bites of eating it. It could be purely psychological but I also wonder if it’s possible for the brain to perceive that a missing nutrient has appeared in the digestive tract and send signals that things are getting better. Though going from suicidal to feeling great in a matter of seconds is, admittedly, pretty hard to believe.

  16. Sayward Says:

    @ beforewisdom

    Julia Ross, who wrote The Mood Cure, has described similar findings. She uses specific amino acids to treat depression in addicts and is a huge proponent of protein-as-medicine. I’ve only tangentially studied her work but it appears to me to be legit, at least worth further investigation.

    She claims results in ~15 minutes giving her patients specific amino acid supplements. Many veg*ns do not ensure adequate or complete protein intake and may be deficient in one or more essential amino acid. If tryptophan or others are too low it can have serious negative affects. For example tryptophan is required as the precursor to seratonin.

    This work is not anti-vegan though it does call into question the way we as a movement have approached protein and our nutritional needs. Personally I think that addressing this head on is a good thing for everyone involved.

  17. Barb Says:

    Jack, when Paleosister writes, ““The world is being destroyed due to agriculture; entire ecosystems are ruined—the habitats’ of animal populations destroyed—because of the foods vegans and the left are promoting.”, this sounds like something I’ve heard based on the environmental impact of highly processed vegan transitional foods like some brands of veggie burgers, GMO soybeans, and the like. Some arguments against veganism on a large scale have been based on the unsustainable, and I think it’s important to establish exactly where she got this information and then take a look at whether and how veganic permaculture (sustainable farming using only plant-based and consensual animal contributions, such as naturally deposited wild animal manure and humanure).

    It’s a great point to make- that it’s possible to eat very unsustainably on a plant-based diet. The question is, from the sustainability, earth-in-balance perspective, how do animal-using permaculture and veganic permaculture compare in terms of yield, carbon footprint, and the other markers of sustainability?

    I see comparisons all over the place using the least sustainable way of one kind of eating vs the most sustainable way of the other. I want to see a comparison of the most sustainable forms of both omnivorous and veganic food production.

    Who knows where I can find this information?

  18. CAB Says:

    “Though going from suicidal to feeling great in a matter of seconds is, admittedly, pretty hard to believe.”

    Oh I believe it. I feel so much better from adding taurine and coconut fat. I went from just okay, feeling “normal” to feeling amazing. Brighter.

    There’s so much more at work than nutrients, there’s how nutrients interact with hormones, for one.

    My gut feeling though is that it’s probably about the fat. 2/3 of our brains are comprised of fat.

    I suffer from mild to raging PMS for about a week before my period, I take GABA and there’s a major difference in mood improvement — fast.

  19. Name (required) Says:

    “2/3 of our brains are comprised of fat.”

    No, they are not. The human brain is about 80 % water and 10 % fat, thus even the dry matter of the brain is still only about 50 % fat: http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/facts.html
    I’ve read this falsehood a lot recently. The amount of fat the brain allegedly consists of goes up to 80 percent! I wonder whether these people even realize that we are just ugly bags of mostly water.

  20. beforewisdom Says:

    I don’t think the AR and vegan communities are being particularly hostile to these ex-vegans.

    Most of us have strong ethical motivations for doing it coming from animals we care about and strong concerns about the future of the planet. These people simply aren’t quitting something that isn’t for them. They are publicly and actively spreading misinformation that is working against the work many of us have put in on vital ethical issues. So yes, there will be AR activists and vegans who will be angry and I think with some justification. If we didn’t believe in the stakes of what we devote our time too we wouldn’t be in this spot in the first place.

  21. beforewisdom Says:

    Sorry for another round of commenahrea, but I’m literally amazed that someone could blame destructive agricultural processes on vegans. Any animal sciences student, factory farmer or USDA official will tell you that the bulk of crops grown in the US are for livestock feed, not human consumption.

    If the US population went vegan Americans could convert the bulk of their farmland back into prairies and forests and still raise more than enough crops to feed our 300 million or so people.

    Gross misinformation like this makes me very unwilling to hear what these people have to say.

  22. CAB Says:

    There’s nothing about fat on that page, but there is about myelin and lipid:
    % composition of myelin = 70-80% lipid; 20-30% protein

    I’ve read 2/3 and 60%. The 2/3 was from the Franklin Institute.

    Dr. Sears, MD has:
    Fats make up sixty percent of the brain and the nerves that run every system in the body.

    Apparently: The makeup of the brain is 60% fat due to large quantities of myelin (which itself is 70% fat) insulating the axons of neurons. (Wiki)

    This is interesting: “Vitamin B12 is also essential for proper nervous system function; it helps to build the myelin sheath, the fatty, conductive coating that enables nerve cells to send information efficiently. Symptoms of severe B12 deficiency include memory loss, numbness or tingling of the arms or legs, difficulty walking, mood swings, and dementia. Lack of this nutrient is one cause of anemia. It may contribute to neuropathy, a common and potentially painful consequence of diabetes.”
    – Hyla Cass, M.D., Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition (Get the book.)

    Interesting links on myelin:

    http://harvardmagazine.com/2001/05/the-brain-at-midlife.html
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081017150738.htm
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1303155

  23. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > There’s nothing about fat on that page, but there is about myelin and lipid:

    Lipid is the same things as fat.

  24. Marian Says:

    I’ve been vegan for 4 years and, when I have a health issue, the first thing I wonder about is how my veganism might be a factor. Being vegan is different so it’s easy to question it. When I was eating animal products and I had a health problem, did I question my animal consumption as a factor? No, because I’ve been conditioned from birth to think that eating animals is natural and healthful. Since I’ve been vegan many more health issues have cleared up than new ones have developed. People think heart disease and reproductive cancers are “normal” but they’ve been proven to be largely due to animal-based diets.

    I don’t doubt that some people won’t be at their optimal health on a completely vegan diet because humans have evolved eating animal products. Maybe in 20 years we’ll understand genetics and epigenetics well enough to know what are optimal diets for whom (and we’ll still eat french fries). But, I would guess that most cases of ‘failure to thrive’ reflect our tendency to blame veganism only because it’s different. Our thoughts, including our unconscious beliefs, are so influential to our health that people can die of diseases they don’t have simply because they thought they had it! Taking a bite of meat and feeling fantastic says nothing about the healthfulness of veganism. It’s a story about someone’s experience, which is interesting in itself but shouldn’t be confused with nutrition research. If you want to know what the science says, read Jack’s site and blog. I also like Michael Greger’s Nutrition DVD’s.

  25. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Marian,

    I appreciate your comment and your endorsement. As I said in reply to beforewisdom, whether someone feels better immediately upon ingesting their first bite of flesh isn’t really the important part — it’s whether their health returns and they continue to feel better long term which is apparently the case for many of these people.

  26. CAB Says:

    Yes, I know that lipid is the same as fat. I was pointing out that figure from the “bag of water” commenter.

  27. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > Yes, I know that lipid is the same as fat. I was pointing out that figure from the “bag of water” commenter.

    Oh, well that page did mention fat (by way of “lipids”) so I don’t understand what you mean. But, it’s probably not important for me to know – I don’t plan to revisit the page; whether the brain is 1% fat or 99% fat isn’t the question, it’s how much fat is needed to keep the brain as healthy as possible.

  28. CAB Says:

    I was rush posting. To put it bluntly, I was using his/her own link to defend myself by indicating to the “bag-o-water” commenter that his/her numbers are also wrong.

    Yes, it’s not how much fat in the brain that matters, ultimately.

    People who consume a diet low in fats and especially low in cholesterol are at risk for depression and suicide.
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200304/the-risks-low-fat-diets

    Some information on DHA and depression:
    http://www.biopsychiatry.com/dhaomega.htm

  29. Name (required) Says:

    CAB, I don’t understand your point either. First you claim that “[t]here’s nothing about fat on that page,” then mention the percentage of lipids instead and finally acknowledge “that lipid [sic] is the same as fat.” The first and the last of these statements contradict each other. Bringing the special case of myelin into this doesn’t change that.
    I mean this in a polite sense: I don’t think that you are qualified enough to write about or give nutritional advice.

  30. Paleosister Says:

    Hi Jack,

    Thanks for the reply.

    I didn’t believe people who said they felt better after consuming animal products when I was vegan, either; I just assumed they craved the taste, found it too hard socially to maintain a vegan diet, or just ate potato chips. Now I feel incredibly guilty for not believing those folks.

    I would never have been able to truly rethink agriculture if I hadn’t had to begin consuming meat. The truth is, there is no sustainable way to feed six billion people. There just isn’t. But, for most of the existance of our species, our ancestors lived in harmony with the planet. It wasn’t until agriculture that things got continuously off course.

    I’m not sure I’ll be replying anymore on this blog, as engaging with vegans can be incredibly painful for me, but again, I think you for your response.

    Paleosister

  31. CAB Says:

    Name,

    The word “fat” was not on the page. That’s what I meant to say. I should have put it in quotes. Many places have 60%, 80% and 2/3 fat. I’m more likely to believe those sources, but you are welcome to believe whatever you want about how much fat is in the brain and my lack of qualifications. I’m not giving nutritional advice, I usually just give suggestions and link to Jack’s sites. Most vegans, or anyone else for that matter, are also not qualified to dispense with nutritional advice, yet you’ll find forums full of horrible advice when someone is not doing well on a vegan diet.

  32. Name (required) Says:

    CAB,

    “To put it bluntly, I was using his/her own link to defend myself by indicating to the ‘bag-o-water’ commenter that his/her numbers are also wrong.”

    How are the (rounded) numbers I posted wrong? You claimed that the brain was 2/3 fat, I refuted it with a credible source.
    Here’s another credible source supporting my claim: http://www.kyb.mpg.de/publications/pdfs/pdf2059.pdf
    As for non-human brains, these listings show fat percentages between ~ 8 – 10 %:
    http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/beef-products/3461/2
    http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/lamb-veal-and-game-products/4654/2
    http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/pork-products/2182/2
    http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/lamb-veal-and-game-products/4657/2
    In view of this, I once more conclude that the brain is indeed mostly water, just like the whole body.
    By the way, in case you feel offended by the “ugly bags of mostly water” remark, this was actually just a reference to Star Trek.

    “Most vegans, or anyone else for that matter, are also not qualified to dispense with nutritional advice […]”

    Yes, and I also consider myself to be a non-expert, but the “horrible advice” that you speak of seems to be ubiquitous (i.e. veg*an, non-veg*an, anti-veg*an). I just wish that non-experts like us wouldn’t add to the already existing confusion by spreading un- or disproved claims.

  33. Jack Norris RD Says:

    At this point, I’m going to cut off discussion about what % of fat the brain is.

  34. Laura Says:

    Any time you eat something you haven’t eaten in a long time, it’s going to be really delicious. If she’d eaten meat without knowing it she wouldn’t have felt anything special right afterwards.

  35. mark Says:

    Paleosister,

    My disbelief, as well as I’m sure many others, is coming from two facts:

    1) There is absolutely no scientific reason to think that an immediate difference could be felt.

    2) There is enormous anecdotal *and* scientific evidence that the difference can be felt for purely psychological reasons, not physiological reasons.

    For (1), your body simply doesn’t absorb things that quickly. Unless you are injecting something into your veins, it should take at least a few minutes to have a serious physiological effect.

    For (2), it is very easy to set up experiments where there is a marked observed placebo effect, especially for something where the effect of the thing ingested is claimed to be felt immediately (though, granted, I don’t know of any particular study for this phenomenon).

    But ignoring scientific evidence, we all know how much anticipation can affect the way we perceive things. I spent many years never touching any alcohol, and I used to be bored and annoyed when my friends went to bars. Then, when I started to drink a bit, I would often get that sort of “buzzed” feeling within a few minutes of drinking. However, over the last few months I’ve been the designated driver when my friends and I went out, and I’ve occasionally found myself getting the buzzed feeling *even without drinking*. It’s pretty obvious that I’m just having a certain response to the stimulus of being in the bar even without the alcohol that causes the more complete and genuine response. This, to me, seems not too dissimilar from the mouths of Pavlov’s dogs watering at the sound of a bell once that sound has been so closely associated with the original mouth-watering stimulus.

    My point with all this is that when faced with two competing explanations, rationality compels us to choose the one most plausible, and it is significantly more plausible that the anticipation and emotion that came along with eating meat again caused your immediate reaction, not the nutritional content of the meat itself.

    Another anecdote: After about two years of not eating meat, I accidentally ordered some rice and beans that had pork in it. It wasn’t until I was about 3/4 finished with the meal that I noticed that not all the fleshy components were kidney beans. I did not at all feel immediately different (in fact, after eating away for 10 or 15 minutes, I didn’t feel any different), but once I noticed the pork, I *did* begin to feel sick to my stomach. Not before I noticed it, but immediately after. Was my body, now so adjusted to not eating meat, having a violent negative reaction? Of course not! The odds that the illness would set on at the precise moment of the realization are laughably slim. It was the psychological effect of having eaten something that disgusted me that made me sick. In the same way, no one with familiarity of the science that backs all this up is going to believe you had such an immediate *positive* reaction (much like CAB, I had an immediate positive reaction to trying PlantFusion protein powder for the first time, but I think it was psychological, not physiological).

    Now, there are two further things worth pointing out in your defense:

    The first is that this is really not a major issue. As Jack has pointed out several times here, the immediate reaction is not as important as the long term reaction, and even if someone doesn’t believe the immediate reaction, it is hard to ignore the long term reaction, and that is very much worth looking in to.

    The second is that there *might* be a physiological/physical connection which could be very interesting. There’s a nutritionist I once knew who thought it a good idea to train people to make wiser eating choices by training themselves a bit exploiting this possible phenomenon (in fact, I think he claims that it absolutely exists and that there’s research on it, but I’ve lost touch with him over the years and would be interested in reconnecting). The phenomenon would go something like this: Body needs nutrient A. Body tells brain to get food. Brain eats something. If nutrient A is present, body rewards brain with positive feelings. If nutrient A is not present, body withholds reward (possibly adds punishment). If the body does this, and it sometimes seems like it does, then we can get something going like the Pavlov’s dog situation.

    So let me make this more detailed: Let’s say all I’ve eaten all day are vegetables, whole grains, chickpeas, and tofu, without any added fat. My body now needs fat. When it starts signaling for hunger, it hints at wanting something a little bit fatty (a craving we all often get). When I eat something fatty (let’s say some coconut milk ice cream), I then feel *amazing*. If I have a non-fat vanilla protein shake–which tastes very similar–I still feel hungry and crappy. On the occasions when I listen to body, my body rewards my mind with positive feelings. On the occasions when I don’t, not so much. Now, the association begins to be made with certain type of hunger pang, presence of coconut milk ice cream, and good feelings. Thus, we have the same sort of link between me and coconut milk ice cream as Pavlov’s dogs and the bell. The really good feelings don’t come for me until the ice cream is ingested, but in anticipating of the good feelings to come later, I immediately start enjoying and reacting the experience of the ice cream even more than I did back when I just liked the flavor for the flavor’s sake. This is just like how the really good feelings don’t come for the dogs until they get their treat, even though the good times start once they hear the bell.

    Now it’s very possible that the potent combination of nutrients (complete protein, good amount of fat, iron, B12, etc) that are found in meat was always attractive to your body back before you were vegan. Then when you had meat again for the first time after so long, your body had an immediate stimulus response to the combination again in anticipation of all the goodness that would come of it. I, myself, have had a similar initial response to really convincing fake meat, even though even the best fake meats are often missing several of the nutrients found in meat and offer few additional nutrients to appropriate preparations of something like a tofu stir fry.

    So I don’t think you had no reaction, but I think there are several more plausible alternative explanations to your reaction than that your body immediately was re-introduced to a special nutrient that it was lacking on a vegan diet, and (to those who might be wondering why the hell I spent so much time on this) examining those possible explanations is, I think, very instructive and (in my case at least) thought-provoking for those of us who are listening to stories like yours.

  36. CAB Says:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/435305.stm

    This article from 99 is about a large Finnish study where they found:

    “People with low cholesterol levels are more prone to suicide and depression, according to a large Finnish study.”

    “A recent US study of women showed similar links between low cholesterol levels and depression.

    It suggested boosting cholesterol levels could improve mental health.

    The eight-year Finnish study of 29,133 men aged 50 to 69, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that those reporting depression had significantly lower average blood cholesterol levels than those who did not.

    This was despite the fact that they ate a similar diet.”

    My take on this is that if you are prone to depression and you are eating a no-cholesterol and/or low fat diet, perhaps cholesterol is an essential nutrient or at least eating more of certain fats is essential to boost your cholesterol levels and raise yourself out of depression. Without some kind of geneticist-magic-8-ball-machine, we cannot know what each individual needs in his or her particular diet — we are not the same.

  37. CAB Says:

    She mentioned with emphasis on her site that she was suicidally depressed on the vegan diet. That’s why I posted this link.

  38. Clara Says:

    Interesting feedback, Mark, but I guess you missed this part:

    “If I am given a hamburger and a veggie burger, I can tell the difference simply because the actual meat product will make me “feel better.” The same for chicken and faux chicken, etc.”

    There is a REASON the vegan movement isn’t winning.

  39. Brett Says:

    There are multiple causes for depression, and to single out 1 variable for it is a bit short sighted. Many of people with adequate cholesterol levels suffer from depression too. So to single out cholesterol intake as the sole reason a vegan would be depressed really doesn’t mean anything.

  40. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Brett,

    I don’t think CAB is suggesting that all depression is caused by low cholesterol, just that in the case of ex-vegans, where there anecdotally seems to a high rate of depression, low cholesterol might be a cause.

    Mark,

    I understand your argument from parsimony – that the simplest argument is probably the most correct and in this case their reaction must be psychological because we don’t scientifically know of any food component that could work so fast. But another way to look at it would be that since we do not know the explanation, it is simpler to take the people experiencing this at their word that there is something in meat that makes them feel better immediately. Since the very act of feeling will always have a psychological component, it’s kind of hard, and maybe pointless, to try to say whether feeling something can ever be completely physical.

    I tend to think that what’s going on is that their brain is recognizing a component of food that they are lacking and giving them positive feelings from it.

    I once had an interesting experience which might shed light on what is going on. In the late 80s, I was seeing a chiropractor. He would typically test the strength of some of my leg muscles before and after adjusting me by having me lay on my back and have one leg straight with the other leg crossed in front of it (like a tree pose in yoga, except knee bent only 90 degrees). He would then pull my foot (on the crossed leg) away from my head. He would give my left foot a good tug and it wouldn’t budge. He would then test my right leg and with almost no effort it would give way. He would then adjust me and press a point deep in my abdomen (which really hurt) and then retest and both legs would not budge.

    One day I was in there after I had been vegan for a few months (and vegetarian for about a year) and instead of adjusting me after he tested my legs, he gave me a pill to put under my tongue. He tested my weak leg a few seconds later (I remember it being about 30 seconds) and the weak leg was completely strong. He could move my whole body by pulling on it. I was pretty amazed. He then told me the pill was animal adrenals and that he thought my adrenal system was weak. Because I was vegan, I told him I didn’t want to take the pills even if they did make my weak leg stronger. If I remember correctly (it’s been awhile!) he thought that it was doing a similar thing that he was doing when pressing my abdomen which he said was a valve of some sort that was stuck or clogged? I think it might have been a lymph duct.

    Anyway, one thing I do remember was that I did not feel anything at all from putting the pill under my tongue, but was amazed at the difference in my leg strength. I have never had my legs tested in that way since I stopped seeing him back in 1989. I have sometimes noticed while doing hamstring curls that my right leg is a tad bit weaker than my left which is odd for someone who is right-handed.

    Sorry about that bit of self-indulgence…

  41. mark Says:

    Clara,

    What makes you think I missed that? Nothing I said is inconsistent with that claim. Also, to say the vegan movement isn’t winning is a strange claim since the number of vegans is growing significantly, especially when you take the long view and compare number of vegans now to number of vegans a thousand years ago. The abolitionist movement must have looked pretty hopeless in 1700, let alone 1200, but by 1860 it was doing pretty well and today no one wants to go back to the way things were. We all know that nutrient dense foods can make us feel better, and hamburgers are more nutrient dense than veggie burgers. But some of us think it is not ethical to enjoy that slight improvement in pleasure at the expense of the lives and pains of the animals who suffered so that a hamburger could be made. There is a REASON people continue to join the vegan movement. And many of those people are happy, healthy vegans for decades.

    Brett,

    I think CAB is just offerring it as a possibility. And I’m not sure what “really doesn’t mean anything” is supposed to mean. The whole point is just that we have a claim from Paleosister: “I started eating meat and my depression stopped”, and we are offerring reasons for why that might be. This is just ordinary scientific curiosity, and if we can help identify the cause it can help us to prevent others from having the same problems she had on a vegan diet.

  42. CAB Says:

    There’s no singling it out. It’s more like the other way around. The Finnish study indicates that those who reported depression, eating a similar diet as other people who did not report depression, had lower cholesterol. This also means that they had lower serotonin levels, this suggest that they are linked and one affects the other. It wouldn’t be outlandish to suggest that if you are prone to depression and you are eating a diet that included sufficient levels — that is sufficient for you and you alone — cholesterol and/or saturated fat you would not experience the level of severe suicidal depression, but if you are eating a diet that is low or zero in cholesterol and/or certain fats, after some time (longer for some, shorter for others) there could be suicidal depression. After a baby is born a women’s body naturally dips in cholesterol and that has been linked to post partum depression. I wanted to kill myself after I had my daughter, it was so horrible.

    Rapid decrease of serum cholesterol concentration and postpartum depression.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2351987/

  43. CAB Says:

    Mark posted: “much like CAB, I had an immediate positive reaction to trying PlantFusion protein powder for the first time, but I think it was psychological, not physiological”

    I really feel it was physiological, since I can lift heavier and work out harder than with the rice protein or a single source plant protein. I was out of steam and felt horrible after a workout. Along with PlantFusion (since I take in GOBS of protein, usually 70-120 g a day for my fitness goals) I have been making more a little bit more effort to eat plant protein sources with better profiles (either combined or alone), my entire body has responded positively.

    http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegetarian-protein/

    Scroll down for “Best Sources”, there is eggs, dairy, and vegan options (which is where I’m looking).

  44. Amy Says:

    Jack,
    The first time I tried to go vegan I felt awful but I was also eating nothing but bagels and pasta and I was still smoking!

    The second time around I tried it I was eating much better, whole fresh foods like fruits and vegetables and I also have been trying to cut back on all my processed foods. And yes I do take a multivitamin. I do feel there are many complicated factors influencing health like exercise, stress levels and emotional support. It can’t all be explained by the foods we eat. Also the placebo effect cannot be underestimated.

    I agree that some people view ex-vegans as the enemy, it is kind of lame in my opinion. Let’s all do what we can to be a little less dogmatic and open and accepting of others.

  45. mark Says:

    A few things:

    1) wrt ex-vegans as the enemy: I often find that it’s the ex-vegans on the attack of vegans, not the other way around. One of the things my friends commented about on the Voracious (Ex-)Vegan is how she went from “some people just can’t be vegan” to “no one should even try to be vegan” within about a week, and this sort of move from “eating meat is in some cases permissible” to “not eating meat is an abomination” is a message that it is very frustrating.

    Additionally, in my experience non-vegans cite ex-vegans as sources as though nearly all of them have been to the land of vegans, seen that the vegan wizard has no clothes, and come back wiser. This, too, is a frustrating meme, and it is hard to have patience with it.

    2) wrt immediate effects: I think enough has been said about it at this point, but I’ll just register that I’m very unconvinced by the processes used by chiropractors. A lot of them have not stood up to scientific scrutiny, and I’d be curious if we could put a sugar pill and the animal adrenals under many patients’ tongues and see whether there’s a difference in the treatment. Most of the times I’ve seen the limb-checking/applied kinesiology stuff tested it didn’t seem to do what it claimed, but I don’t have any of those studies at my fingertips anymore.

    3) wrt supplementation: I, too, am now trying out taurine and coconut milk in the mornings with my smoothie. We’ll see how it goes. Either way, coconut milk is tasty, and taurine powder is cheap (227 servings for $15?!).

  46. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Mark,

    I actually went to chiropractic school for 6 months (before deciding it wasn’t for me) and I agree with you about most of that muscle testing, I think it’s in people’s heads. But if the experience I had was a placebo, it was a really impressive one.

  47. CAB Says:

    Jack, I thought he didn’t tell you what he had given you until after the leg test.

    We all have a mind body connection that is different from person to person. My daughter and my ex-husband are highly suggestible. My mother is an RN, aced her anatomy and physiology, and has a high IQ. My ex-husband is aware of her brains. One time he was complaining about a sinus congestion besides the regular stuff to do, she told him to rub his hands together to make them hot and then place his hot hand between his nose. This will help him experience relief, she explained. He did feel better and looked happier. I just sat there during this interaction (he was coming over to get our daughter for his time with her). When he left the room I asked my mother, “Does that really work?”. She shrugged, “I just made it up, but he’s suggestible.”

    So if you are saying to yourself that you need meat, and I’m not saying either way whether people need it or not (biologically that is), but if you are suggesting by repeated thoughts that you need meat, then you are likely to need meat. We self-hypnotise our selves daily by whatever we think about often.

    If we are happy and repeating positive authentic non-patronizing things to ourselves, whatever diet we are on will work better for us.

    Years ago, I read in my mother’s Green pharmacist book about a study in which they fed rabbits S.A.D. diets to study heart disease. The rabbits were on two levels and the lab assistant was a short person. She would feed the two levels of rabbits the same, crappy diet. The rabbits on the lower level had 60% fewer heart attacks. The only difference was that she petted the lower level rabbits.

    Some kind of genuine affection helps health in amazing ways.

  48. Jack Norris RD Says:

    CAB,

    > Jack, I thought he didn’t tell you what he had given you until after the leg test.

    That’s correct.

  49. CAB Says:

    I meant to say: place his hot hand between his eyebrows at the top of his nose. Sorry about that confusion.

  50. Joe Espinosa Says:

    Those who really feel that they can not be vegan for whatever reason can still spare many animals from suffering and death by eating flesh from larger animals (cows, bison, deer) who had more decent lives and deaths than the typical broiler chicken. It takes over 200 chickens to make the same amount of edible flesh as just 1 beef steer.

  51. Amanda Says:

    See, I still think that people would try harder if they were committed to helping animals. They probably did it for health, or because it’s a fad.

    I can’t eat animal products at all anymore, it would make me feel so bad about myself. I honestly think I would choose death if it came down to it.

    I mean, I’m trying to change, but I hate vegetables and I can never get the motivation to cook. I am always hungry, I am probably deficient in every vital nutrient. I’m not sick but I probably will get sick. So I feel pretty bad as a vegan but I still wouldn’t go back to eating meat. Like, I know it would give me enough calories and make my life much easier in many ways, but I would never do it. So that’s why I don’t believe people who say they were committed to it and then fell off the wagon just like that.

  52. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Amanda,

    That doesn’t sound good. Remember that it also hurts animals when vegans don’t take care of themselves and end up getting sick. While I recommend vegetables, you can be vegan without eating them and without being calorie or nutrient deficient at the same time. Hopefully, you can find some healthy foods you like to eat, and in your case, I would definitely recommend a multivitamin.

  53. CAB Says:

    Amanda,

    Healthy vegans do wonders for animals. Most people don’t start something new because of fear. One way to combat fear is seeing others do what you are fearful of. How about watching vegan cooking videos? Check out EverydayDish.tv and http://www.chooseveg.com/eggless-egg-salad.asp (there’s more videos on that page). Look for a quick, easy vegan recipe book. Here’s a list of real easy recipes: http://webecoist.com/2008/10/28/14-quick-vegetarian-recipes-for-the-hopeless-cook/

    Try simple things such as a can of black beans (watch out for the corn syrup in some brands) with salsa and avocado and a and a boil in a bag brown rice. Get a protein powder (I really dig PlantFusion), use nuts, seeds, fruit, take a good vegan multi with food, get a mixed Asian veggie frozen mix add faux meat add some peanut sauce or ginger sauce in the Thai department (look for the fish sauce, lately I’ve found standard brands are vegan). You don’t have spend a lot of time or effort to eat well.

    The more you cook, the better you look. (And feel.)

    Peace,
    Christina

  54. Brenda W. Says:

    Amanda,

    Look for vegan cookbooks that focus on “regular grocery store” type of ingredients and quick, no-fuss preparation style.

    Two that I’m aware of are

    1)The new cookbook just out by Happy Herbivore (Lindsay Nixon). Check out some of the recipes on her blog for examples of her style of recipes, but you’ll find all of them very easy to fix.

    Also, if you go to Amazon, you can browse her new cookbook via the “Look Inside” feature and see some of her recipes.

    2)The Vegetarian Resource Group has a cookbook entitled “Meatless Meals for Working People”.

    These are just 2 resources I’m familiar with … there are many, many others out there. But you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen or have a pantry full of specialty items to be vegan.

  55. Amanda Says:

    Wow, thanks for all the support guys! Don’t worry, I don’t have noticeable problems yet and I’ve made a lot of people I know think (I hope). I’m just always hungry, which probably means I’m not getting enough calories, and worried that I’m making problems for myself later. I figure because I’m so young and I’ve only been vegan a few years, problems aren’t showing up yet.

    But those are all good suggestions. I do really like pasta, rice, peanut butter, vegan chicken, and junk food like Tofutti sour cream and onion dip, ricemellow creme, and ice cream. So I can get myself to eat vegetables or nutritional foods with some of those meals. I’m always looking for recipes. Thanks!

  56. CAA Says:

    I find it surprising that the alternative to veganism for the most vocal ex-vegans is not a lacto-vegetarian diet. I’m sure the mystical meat magic wouldn’t be there, but a small amount of dairy might make a great deal of difference for those who are missing some nutrients. I suspect most ex-vegans, however, turn to lacto-vegetarianism, but it makes for less notoriety and page hits :).

    Although one might find it difficult to remain a strict abolitionist, it is clear that a diet that is primarily vegan with some dairy would profoundly decrease the quantity of suffering and death caused by one’s diet.

    The graphic below is quite striking.

    http://www.animalvisuals.org/data/1mc/

    1 million calories would be enough for 500 days or 16 months for the average male I think. And if it were split equally between veg, fruit, grain, dairy, it would involve about 2.5 deaths from slaughter and harvest. This is significantly less than a diet that adds 50% from meats which would add 50+ deaths a year (or more if it was primarily chickens you were slaughtering).

    I wonder sometimes whether the “veganism is the moral baseline” position isn’t backfiring in some of these cases, since many seem to conclude the only alternative to veganism is some sort of hypothetical “pseudo-paleo” diet.

    C

  57. Betty Says:

    I am not sure of this, but I think that commercially-fed cows have B12 in their flesh because these animals are fed a supplement with their feed. Same with eggs & milk. I have some livestock (no, I don’t slaughter them or sell them to anyone who will) and to be on the safe side – for the sake of their health – give them a supplement from a bag along with freeranging them and feeding them a nice diet. This supplement includes minerals and vitamins which have been scientifically shown to keep animals healthy.

    If you eat nothing but beef coming from grass-fed animals, however, and that grass is growing on soil totally deficient in cobalt, then I should think that such beef would have no B12 in it. So if I were a farmer selling & eating cow flesh, eggs & milk, I’d have my soil tested. I think that the Weston Price people need to know this, the way they go on about the superior healthfulness of “grass-fed beef”. [Beef is dead; you can’t feed it anything.]

  58. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Betty,

    Cows need B12 to live. Unless a cow died of B12 deficiency, their flesh will have B12. And even then they’ll probably have some B12.

    Cows traditionally get their B12 because bacteria in their digestive system produce B12. You are correct that in order for this to happen, they need cobalt. It may be routine to provide cows with supplemental B12, but I don’t know.

  59. Betty Says:

    I’m back. Re CAB’s posts. She is taking taurine and GABA. Those are called nutriceuticals. A nutriceutical is a supplement that your body is supposed to be synthesizing, ie, manufacturing for itself. If your body can’t make any, or make enough, we ought to be trying to figure out why. It could get to the point where, if the underlying problem is not dealt with, we eventually would have to take supplemental everything.

  60. CAB Says:

    I’m on a low carb vegan diet with very little foods containing B6 required to create my own Taurine. Here’s a list of foods with B6 http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/

    The highest is fortified cereal (too many carbs) and the next is potato (also carbs). The only thing I eat with my smoothie is a banana for the potassium (which lack of gave me severe leg cramps). A banana has 35% of the RDA. 35% is based on average man/woman, but there is no average person.

    As far as GABA it calms me and I think faster. I’m not taking for the last month as I’m getting plenty of Glutamine in the Plant Fusion protein smoothies and feel really great lately.

  61. CAB Says:

    I might stop the taurine, I was only taking it to cover all bases, but I see now that I get huge gobs of b6 in my Red Star Nutritional yeast:

    http://www.bestnaturalfoods.com/nutritional_yeast.html

    I eat that stuff all the time. I make soups, marinades, nut cheeses, whatever I can think of. Just 3 net carbs per tablespoon and high in protein.

    I’m up late making a sprouted bean salad with the yeast and some nori and other stuff and this just popped in my head.

  62. CAB Says:

    Just read the last few posts, and in response to the CAA post about why ex-vegans don’t turn to a lacto-ovo vegetarian or lacto vegetarian diets is, from what I understand from reading a few of their stories is that as a vegans we are taught (made aware of the facts) that the treatment is just as bad, if not worse, for most egg laying hens and dairy cows, so why bother.

  63. Paleosister Says:

    It could also be that animal flesh actually makes us feel better in a way that eggs and dairy do not.

  64. Brett Says:

    “It could also be that animal flesh actually makes us feel better in a way that eggs and dairy do not.”

    I often hear that from ex-vegans. It usually starts with a lot of “maybe”‘s or “could be”‘s. While it may seem like a weak argument at first (and probably is) it appeals to the fears of “on the fence” vegans that possibly what they are doing may not be the healthiest thing for them, and allows them to come up with their own reasons to go back to animal products. That way, ex vegans don’t have to “prove” anything, while vegans are pulling up all this science and getting into where you can get each nutrient from non-animal based sources or from supplements. It’s much like someone trying to “disprove” religion. If a person wants to believe in it, they will; meaning, if someone wants to believe animal products are necessary for them to either escape depression, or whatever ailment they think they’ve acquired through veganism (and not just poor diet), they will.
    Unfortunately, there isn’t any amount of science that can disprove an ex-vegan doesn’t feel better eating meat. Nutritional findings are always being updated. And all you have to think is that there is a possibility that there is something science is missing to argue that there might be something in meat that is vital to health that hasn’t been discovered yet.
    I myself was vegan for almost 6 years until moving to an area that I consider a vegan wasteland compared to the big city I used to live in. Allowing a small amount of animal products vastly increased the amount of flexibility & convenience, and decreased the amount of obession (nitpicking over ingredients)in my diet. Strangely, I haven’t felt any different health-wise the entire time going from omnivore to vegan to omnivore again, and I’ve always felt healthy. I don’t eat meat even weekly, and eat a small amount of animal products on a weekly basis. I never got sick, or depressed, and I never felt any sort of “surge” of life that I have always heard about when vegans eat animal products for the first time.
    For me it was about simplifying my life, and it didn’t take eating meat and other animal products 3 times a day to do it, even in the most rural areas, and with very little time and money. So whenever I hear ex-vegans talk about feeling healthy only after eating animal products again, it’s my opinion that either A) their body might have an increased need for something that is found in lower amounts in plant foods, and they don’t realize they have an increased need or B) Their diet as a Vegan was poor in the first place.

  65. CAB Says:

    After sometime, I realized that since I would like to be taken at my word for whatever I’m going through, I figured that other people must feel similarly. In that respect, I suspect, we are basically the same: we’d like to people to believe what we say. After all, others are not able to hear our thoughts or feel our feelings, so the only way to get understanding from someone is for them to take us at our word, pretty much. Even if we’ve been through similar experiences, we all have different reactions to those experiences.

    I watched a mother cow have her child taken away. I became a vegan the next moment. Other people see the same thing and they don’t have the same reaction. I used to think, “I must be more empathetic than them” (Them, those people.) However, each one of us has different capacities and different feelings and different genetic make up and different ways our intestines work. We may dig Christ, or Buddha, or Meher Baba, or the Spaghetti Monster, or a Goddess, or Obama, Palin, or Kucinich, or whatever. We are the same, but different.

    So if a person says she feels this way or that way (after eating meat, or eating coconut, or geting acupuncture), I believe she does feel better. Why is not relevant for the purpose of extending some understanding. Even if she just thinks she feels better, that is being better. Thinking and being are nearly identical.

    I believe that there is a force in the universe at play when it comes to righteousness. Righteousness gets canceled out by humbleness and the only way to get humble, for some, is a proverbial foot in the mouth. Righteous vegans end up eating meat, justified meat eaters end up going veg, and homophobic priests get caught getting felated (by a boy) in a Tampa parking lot, and homophobic parents end up having a gay son or daughter. This is good stuff.

    We are all doing the best we can with what we have to work with internally and externally. I know I am doing the best I can, I sometimes fail my standards, but I strive for improvement (such as more patience with my daughter or husband). When I repeat that to myself when I get agitated with whatever “they” (whoever that is at any given moment), then I feel a lot better and calmer. It’s not for “them” that I practice this brand of compassion, it’s for me.

  66. Brett Says:

    Another thought in regards to the thinking of vegans or ex vegans self diagnosing previous ailments, and medicating themselves. After the ailment goes away, they attribute it to something they did, ie. “I was pale and sick as a vegan, and felt better once I ate meat” or “I was obese and sick as an omnivore, I felt better once I went vegan” without fully understanding what is going on.

    My Medical Nutrition Therapy professor explained this phenomenon to me when having a discussion about taking supplements. I told him how I kept getting these tonsil stones, and they went away when I started taking a vitamin C supplement, and came back when I would stop. His response was, “well I had a friend who was looking to feel better, so he started taking ecstasy”, meaning that just because you are getting the desired effect from something you are doing because you self-diagnosed yourself, doesn’t mean there aren’t harmful things going on as well.

    So to go back to the point of meat “making you feel better”, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other consequences. Feeling better without any qualified advice doesn’t automatically mean that you’re doing what’s right for your body.

  67. Betty Says:

    The basic unstated idea on your site, Jack, by all contributors, is that if there’s anything “wrong” with you it has to be caused by diet. I thought so, too, when I was younger, because any complaint I had, why, all I had to do was make dietary additions or subtractions, and my little issue was solved. Weight issues/mood/aches & pains/insomnia/whatever.

    When I got older, it wasn’t so easy any more. It took me a few years, but I was finally led to the teachings of Andreas Moritz, who, to sum it all up, says that dieticians and virtually all people interested in diet & health are fixated on individual nutrients rather than basic biological processes. I am not selling his books or anything and I don’t agree with all his claims, but in general, in this one matter, I think he’s correct, and that one could do worse than study his ideas.

    His basic theory is that if a good diet isn’t working for you (he is a vegan except for eating ghee) it is most likely a case of toxicity, which would be why he promotes detox, especially through liver flushing, not to mention other kinds of cleanses. I know, I know, there’s people who abuse these procedures, becoming obsessed with “internal clean-ness”. But from my own experience I can assert that there really is something to be said for various wisely-performed purges.

    Something to consider and look into.

  68. Gary Loewenthal Says:

    “It could also be that animal flesh actually makes us feel better in a way that eggs and dairy do not.”

    Not me. I ate animal flesh for over 40 years. Eating vegan makes me feel better. But not only physically. Knowing that I’m striving to avoid participation in exploitation makes me feel better. Not having to block out disturbing images of mutilation, suffering, horrific transport, and brutal hatcheries and slaughterhouses when I eat makes me feel better.

    I have empathy for animals, so how could I not feel bad at some level if I know I am causing their unnecessary suffering and early death? I think we all have this empathy, even if in different degrees, so in order to inflict harm on those for whom we have empathy, we have to engage in some blocking mechanisms or rationalizations.

    When our lifestyle more closely aligns with our values – it is probaby never in perfect alignment – I believe we feel better because we reduce cognitive dissonance and have less need to engage in denial.

  69. Gary Loewenthal Says:

    I should add that I don’t deny that there may be some people, due to particular body chemistry, nutritional needs, and so forth, who do not thrive on a vegan diet – today, given that veganism on a mass scale is new, as is knowledge of vegan issues in the scientific and medical communites.

    But I would hope that all of us would hope for vegan solutions that allow all humans to thrive on the most peaceful, non-exploitative diets. I would love to see a clinical project that studied individuals who do not thrive on a usually-healthy vegan diet, in hope that we can come up with vegan, non-exploitative, nonviolent solutions.

  70. Aba Says:

    “Righteousness gets canceled out by humbleness and the only way to get humble, for some, is a proverbial foot in the mouth. Righteous vegans end up eating meat, justified meat eaters end up going veg, and homophobic priests get caught getting felated (by a boy) in a Tampa parking lot, and homophobic parents end up having a gay son or daughter. This is good stuff. We are all doing the best we can with what we have to work with internally and externally.”

    I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this sentiment. It’s like a breath of fresh air. I detest the fighting between people of different diets. Social ostracism based on food choices is cruel. I get really discouraged when people berate eachother’s views. I was glad to read this post and others here that showed respect for differing views and experiences.

  71. Betty Says:

    No, we don’t have to “berate each other’s views”, but it would be equally nice if unrepentant meat-eaters would stop ridiculing people who are distressed by cruelty to animals caused by factory farming, etc.

    The burden is not on us to be perfect, Christ-like beings 24/7. We matter too.

  72. Juanita Says:

    I’ve been following the vegan diet for a year now due to ethical reasons. I heard how healthy the diet is so I wasn’t afraid to make the switch. I had been feeling pretty good. Honestly, I am eating the healthiest I ever did. Used to be on the SAD diet and now eat plenty of fruits. veggies. legumes and nuts..

    However, a few weeks ago I went to a game. I started feeling a little anxious, crowded and like my blood pressure was dropping. I assume it was because it was so crowded and maybe I was getting claustrophobic. That could be it. Before the game, I had eaten at a raw vegan restaurant. So I immediately thought if it could be related to my diet! Its true how we always think anything we experience is related to the diet when we are veg.

    After reading these stories about ex-vegans failing to thrive, I have been getting very worried. I get stressed out because I want to make the right choices and help animals but also don’t want to risk my health (selfish?). The stress is leaving so drained, with low energy sometimes when I think too much about it. Coincidentally, I was reading about the” vegetarian myth” recently and I felt like my blood pressure kinda dropping again. These stories make me wonder if the same thing could happen to me and worry me about staying vegan on the long-term. But I can tell you I feel so much better when I’m not worrying so much and reading all the stories the ex vegans put online.

    I know we should consider any risk but I also think that psychologically we can make ourselves feel lousy and sick. The added stress also doesn’t help. I feel optimistic that we will have more advances on staying very healthy as a vegan. I really admire Jack for doing his thing to help the animals!

  73. Betty Says:

    Your symptoms sound like low blood sugar, but that of course is just a guess. You refer to “low blood pressure”. Do you have a history of this, or does anyone in your family? As far as I know, low blood pressure isn’t something you suddenly “feel”, but low blood sugar is.

    Why not get your blood pressure measured?

  74. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Betty,

    Low blood pressure can happen suddenly. Here is more info from Mayo Clinic:

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/low-blood-pressure/DS00590/DSECTION=symptoms

    That said, I would tend to think low blood sugar which, has many similar symptoms, would be a more likely cause of Juanita’s symptoms. One way that could help shed light on it is to eat some sugar when it happens and see if it clears up – 8 oz of fruit juice being an amount that should raise blood sugar within minutes.

  75. Betty Says:

    Juanita said she had eaten at a raw food vegan restaurant. If one has a tendency toward chronic hypoglycemia, I think that might do it (ie, cause her weakness).

    As far as I can see, the standard raw food diet doesn’t have much in the way of starch. Any carbs that style of eating does contain are the quickly-digested kind, which don’t give the sustained pickup that grain, beans or potatoes would; and these are not found in the raw food diet unless the grain & bean is sprouted, in which case they have largely lost their starchyness.

    What do you think, Jack? And how are you feeling now, Juanita?

  76. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > As far as I can see, the standard raw food diet doesn’t have much in the way of starch. Any carbs that style of eating does contain are the quickly-digested kind, which don’t give the sustained pickup that grain, beans or potatoes would; and these are not found in the raw food diet unless the grain & bean is sprouted, in which case they have largely lost their starchyness.

    You might be right, but it’s hard to say without knowing more. Raw foods meals at restaurants are usually high in nuts, which should provide some sustained energy, but a mere lack of calories could cause someone to have low blood sugar.

  77. Juanita Says:

    Every time, I’ve felt like that I have eaten a raw vegan meal prior. But I’m not really a raw vegan so I don’t think that ‘ll be it.

    Today was the third time I felt mild faint like symptoms while I was at the store 🙁 I followed Jack’s advice and drank some fruit juice as soon as I could. Its hard to tell if it helped b/c the symptoms have only lasted a few seconds. I’m considering going to the doc for a blood tests to see what I’m neglecting or if I have low blood pressure/sugar. I eat a variety so I wonder maybe I’m eating healthy but not balancing something or need more of something. I’ve also recently started supplementing with B12 and vitamin D. Maybe I keep doubting myself too much with what I’ve read too. Idk anymore. I know there is a lot of factors to consider. I mean come on, it might sound ridiculous to some but I’ve heard of dogs going veg. If they can, I should be able to stay veg.

    But thanks for all the help and feedback, Betty and Jack! I really do appreciate it.

  78. Betty Says:

    Let us know how you do, Juanita. That’s not a bad idea to go for blood tests. You admit that there might be some anxiety/selfdoubt involved.

    I realize this is not the same thing at all, but for my part, about 10 years ago I thought suddenly I was having a heart attack. Pain in left arm, feeling of unease, blah blah, the whole 9 yards. I went to the doctor, sat in the waiting room feeling fairly healthy, and after that test where they put little wires all over you, it turns out I had a darn healthy heart, slightly fast from anxiety, no blockages, nothing wrong. Blood pressure normal. This is in my late 40s. Went to a lab where the Chinese lab technician took my blood and, strangely, said, “There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re healthy. ????? And there wasn’t, when the tests came back. She said she could tell just by looking at my blood.

    OK, so what I am getting at is sometimes you have minor symptoms and your mind starts working overtime. And maybe this is what is happening to you, also.

  79. Juanita Says:

    Betty,
    Yes that is true, sometimes our brains do start working overtime even with mild symptoms. Thats how I feel. I worry too much. Stress definitely makes things worst. I was ready just to buy some “humanely” raised eggs just to see if I felt better. I’ve been afraid of passing out while driving. I’m still going to get those tests done when I get the chance later this week. .

    But today I took something that honestly helped me feel better. It was a Vitamin Code raw vegan iron vitamin. Iron deficiency didn’t come to my mind. I eat iron rich foods like broccoli, tofu, spinach, beans, black strap molasses etc so who knows. I don’t have any other symptoms of pale skin, brittle nails, etc. I have been feeling like sleeping though.

    I really don’t want to give up veganism, I love it, but I was think of ovo-veg if I kept feeling like that. THANK YOU SO MUCH Betty for you help and support! I don’t have much vegan support around me. God bless!!!

  80. Angie Says:

    Juanita
    I ‘suffer’ from low blood pressure, and have since a child. It rarely causes any problems; I occasionally have a day where I am feeling a bit dizzy and my brain feels foggy: I see this as a bit of a warning sign from my body telling me to rest, and I spend the day relaxing, and feel fine afterwards. There is no regular pattern, it isn’t caused by something I have eaten, or haven’t eaten, or something I have or haven’t done.

    Having said that, I do think you need to be checked out, if only to put your mind at rest.
    ——————–

    Having read the blogs of ex-vegans, I have a lot of sympathy for those who have ended up eating animal products when they really didn’t want to. I have less sympathy with those who suddenly develop a great love for eating animals, and start to dismantle all their previous arguments about animal welfare, whilst also insinuating that anyone who cares about animals is wrong.

    I really don’t know what I would do if I was told that I needed to consume animal products: firstly I would explore every avenue possible in the plant world: but if I had to eat meat/fish/dairy in order to stay healthy, I would: but with a heavy heart. I do think there are a lot of ex-vegetarians and ex-vegans out there who were made ill not by the vegan diet, but by their interpretation of it (i.e eating a lot of junk vegan food) and then go on to malign the diet itself: I have come across many ex-veggies in my time who told me that the diet made them ill: further discussion generally revealed that they either ate junk food, or they had cut meat out of their diet and not replaced it with anything else. I’m not saying that this is the same for everyone: I do think there are people who, for whatever reason, cannot process the nutrients in plant food as well as in animal products and have no choice; but there are a lot of ex-veggies out there who are ex- because they did not have enough knowledge about a good vegetarian/vegan diet.

  81. Juanita Says:

    Angie,

    Thanks so much for your reply. I completely agree with everything you said. I do feel sympathy for those people because health is very important. But I also felt bad because if people can’t thrive on a vegan diet, it doesn’t help the movement. Its horrible and heart-breaking the way animals are treated in large-scale food industries. To me convenience and taste its not worth their suffering. Its just stressful and sad to read stories like these.

    The good news for me is that I’m glad I did not give into eating animal products. I went to the doctor and had a few tests done. Everything came back normal. It seems that I was just extremely stressed out. I’ve been working on relieving stress and not dwelling on things I have no control over. I just do my best with what I can do. I really am feeling better now! Stress can definitely take a toll on your health. I was overwhelmed with stress and my mind just kept pondering on the negative things said about vegan diets. I can’t do that anymore and doubt what I believe in. I’m just doing my best to be compassionate with the choices I make. This includes being compassionate towards people.

  82. Betty Says:

    Glad you are in good health, Juanita, and also that you have discovered Vitamin Code supplements. Nothing wrong with taking supplements but there’s lots of useless ones out there.

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