Why I’m An Omnivore: My Experience Eating Vegan + Pros/Cons of Different Diets
- Published on: 03 November, 2014
- Last update: 25 March, 2018
I have been wanting to write this for a while, but haven’t in fear of being judged… but today I realized that’s a very silly fear. I got a random phone call from a blog reader who I had been in contact with about a month ago. She was so sweet, and we began talking about small steps she can take to improve her health.
She told me that she tried to cut out meat, but was nervous about omitting it from her son’s diet completely because he craves it and feels much better when eating it.
“Is there a particular reason you cut it from your diet?” I asked. “Well,” she said, “because everyone posts about how bad it is, so if you eat meat you feel like you’re this horrible person betraying a whole community.” Woah. That didn’t sit right with me. No one should feel like that… especially not because of the Internet. I began to tell her my story about how I too used to eat a vegan diet in hopes of regaining my health. The beginning was wonderful, but soon the problems I had (cold hands, feet; low sex drive; poor digestion; bad moods; bags under my eyes; etc) just got worse.
Now that I’m so immersed in Traditional Chinese Medicine, I see why. Plant foods are yin, and animal foods are yang. My particular illness (kidney yang deficiency and spleen Qi deficiency) required me to eat very yang foods and little to no yin foods. I was doing the opposite of what *my* particular body needed. After everything I’ve learned and years of research, I have come to the opinion that a vegan diet is not the best for everyone. We are all different. The woman on the phone was so relieved. She said the other day she was SO cold and craving animal protein; after giving in to one organic free range egg she instantly felt better. “Listen to your body,” is the advice I left her with.
I started my blog to give people unbiased, objective research about how to heal and nourish themselves. I believe that we all nourish differently, and I don’t ever want people to feel like there is one diet they have to follow to be perfect. This post is about my research on different diets and schools of thought, why a vegan diet didn’t work for my body, and why I eat an omnivorous diet. I also talk about the pros and cons of vegan/omnivore, because both can be incredibly beneficial. I didn’t write this for people who are looking to argue or debate, or for people who have their minds made up. I wrote this for the beautiful woman I spoke to today who felt lost, because I was once in her shoes.
My experience eating a vegan diet goes like this…
I was in the midst of the most amazing growth period of my life. I was teaching myself nutrition by reading/studying on my own – and I managed to lose 40 pounds between my junior and senior year of high school!
After a lifetime of being overweight, I was finally making leeway and realized my body wasn’t something I should hate and punish. Although I was smaller, fitter, and overall healthier, the nagging symptoms I faced from a very young age didn’t want to vanish. Then, during my freshman year of college, my liver started failing due to a mix of stress, unnecessary pharmaceuticals prescribed by doctors who get paid to dish them out, and an overload of heavy metals from the toxic Gardasil vaccine (read my full story here). I discovered the wonderful world of herbs and used FlorEssence tea to detox my liver and get back on track. I was able to go back to classes and had an even deeper passion for finding the truth about Western medicine’s lies, natural cures, and real healing. My liver was getting better but once again, the symptoms that were there all my life remained. Acne, fatigue, gluten/dairy/sugar intolerance, bloating, and the feeling that something wasn’t right.
Did I need to dig deeper? I knew I could heal myself on my own, but figuring out how to do it was the issue. What is the “perfect” human diet – am I not doing it right? I researched for weeks, which turned into months, which dragged on forever as I battled between my instincts and a flood of new information. Half of the people on the Internet told me to go Paleo, while the other half told me that meat was murder and I was a terrible person if I craved a steak. I am a very sensitive being with a ton of compassion for both people and animals. Even though I knew that my body thrived on meat (it was one of the very few things I could eat without having an allergic reaction via bloating, inflammation and lethargy), the things I was reading online told me it couldn’t possibly be good for me. Everyone I followed on Instagram and looked up to that was “awake” advocated a vegan diet. “This is it,” I thought. This is the one. I’m going to go vegan and my life is going to change forever.
Except it didn’t really happen like that.
In the beginning, it was great. I was juicing, eating fresh fruits/greens in the morning and cooked foods at night like sweet potato, sprouted beans, soups, and rice. I was watching my protein intake, taking B12, and covering all my bases. However, soon fall came around – a time where my symptoms usually begin to get worse than ever. I waded through what felt like the coldest autumn and winter of my life. My joints ached, my menstrual cramps were unimaginable, and I was always cold, even if the heater was on blast (my dad even bought me a personal space heater). My moods started to fall into old patterns (even though I had already healed from depression) and I was irritable. Low sex drive, poor digestion (just like before my new diet), pimples; and I started to hate fruit that I used to love. You couldn’t have paid me to eat another damn banana. Anything but bananas.
I chalked it up to winter (my least favorite season) and hoped things would get better by spring. I asked people on forums what I could do to ease this ‘difficult transition period’ and was told I was a) detoxing or b) not eating enough carbs/calories. Seriously… I was eating 3000+ calories a day. I would almost throw up trying to eat enough apples to meet those requirements. My body just didn’t want it. And it wasn’t detox. My body was pissed, and something wasn’t going right. Spring rolled around and I still wasn’t myself. Plus, why was I craving raw eggs all the time?! I haven’t even craved cooked eggs my entire life! I can think of 3597883 things I’d rather eat than eggs.
The research continues…
I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to question myself. I was in love with living a compassionate lifestyle and frankly I didn’t want to start back at square one.
As attached as I was to the label and lifestyle, I was more attached to finding the truth no matter what it took. So I grabbed a notebook. Here were my symptoms (these occurred both before and during my vegan diet):
- Low B12 due to MTHFR, a hereditary genetic defect that makes it impossible for my brain to methylate and use Vitamin B12. I had been taking Methyl-Folate and Methylated-B12 to combat this, but it seemed my body just wouldn’t absorb it. Could I be one of those people that absolutely need bioavailable B12 from animal products?
- Cold hands and feet
- Low sex drive
- Fatigue, lethargy
- Exhaustion from the slightest exercise
- Poor circulation
- Pale face
- Intolerance to cold
- Easy weight gain
From my research, I read that although vegans and vegetarians supplement with B12, 52% of vegans and 7% of vegetarians are B12 deficient (Gilsing et al.). A study using the more sensitive techniques found much higher rates of deficiency: 68% for vegetarians and 83% of vegans, compared to just 5% of omnivores (Herrmann et al.). Being that I was already so dangerously low due to my MTHFR (genetic mutation), could I afford to completely leave this nutrient out of my diet? Probably not. A lot of the symptoms I was having sounded just like the lack of this crucial vitamin. By the way – an estimated 60% of the population also has this condition!
I poked around on the Internet and found several (1,2,3,4) accounts of people (even big bloggers/authors) who had thrived on a vegan diet for quite some time but eventually experienced the opposite. I found a post on Kristen’s Raw about the health problems she and her family faced after eating a vegan diet for over 13 years. Although she lasted a lot longer than I did, the things she said really resonated with me. Once I read her thoughts on supplements and essential co-factors that allow us to absorb said supplements, a lightbulb went off. Meat, especially organ meat like liver, is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. What if I was eating all of these fruits and vegetables, but was not able to absorb their nutrients because I was missing crucial animal fats and the co-factors within them? She also mentioned that two of her teeth broke (my back molar was in serious trouble). Lastly, she brought up the concept of the same vitamin existing in different forms within animal or plant foods. Retinol, the complete form of Vitamin A is only found in significant amounts in organ meats. Beta-carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A is found in a plethora of plant foods. The problem is that your body has to work to convert beta-carotene to usable Vitamin A. My body clearly wasn’t working correctly, and my energy was so low all the time that who knows if it was capable of fully converting anything.
Another note on Vitamin A: In 1949, Hume and Krebs induced vitamin A deficiency in three human subjects; they treated one with retinol and treated the other two with a concentrated dose of beta-carotene dissolved in oil. They concluded that 3.8 units of carotene are required to produce one unit of retinol. With a body as weak as mine, I needed the most efficient form of vitamins I could get. That does not mean that someone else who is very strong and has an efficient immune system cannot thrive on beta-carotene. It means that my particular body could not.
1. Yin and Yang: BALANCE!
This is the most important thing I have discovered so far. Plant foods are yin, and animal foods are yang. I was wondering why I had heard accounts of people losing their period on a vegan (or raw vegan) diet. I was also wondering why my menstrual cramps got worse on a vegan diet. Kidney yang deficiency! Your “kidney” meridian in Chinese medicine governs your reproductive system. You must have lots of yang (heat) in your kidneys in order to move blood and toxins out of your uterus (movement=heat). If your kidneys are too cold, your menstrual flow will cease or become very light. This is not good because it means the blood is staying stagnant in your system. Menstrual cramps are also a sign of severe yang deficiency and a body that is too cold. The cramps can also be caused by parasites in the uterus (when it is cold and damp!)
Almost every single one of the symptoms I listed earlier are symptoms of yang deficiency. Cold hands and feet, joint pain, fatigue, oversleeping, low sex drive, poor digestion, poor circulation, etc. I live in a climate that is cold half of the year AND I tend toward yin because that’s just the way I am. We are all different. I could not afford to leave out yang, animal foods when I was already so cold. If you don’t have any yang in your body, you don’t have “digestive fire” or “metabolic fire.” This is why I didn’t digest food during that difficult winter, and why I got worse almost immediately. My body was at its wit’s end and eating only plant foods pushed me over the yin edge! I started to realize that maybe people who lived in tropical, yang areas of the world and tend toward “heat” in the body would be better suited to a vegan diet.
Boy, are we all different. Some of my very best friends absolutely thrive on a vegan diet. For me, I obviously knew within a few months that I was going down the wrong path. What does this tell us? We are biologically individual! There is NO “perfect” human diet because we all need something different.
Dr. William Kelley held that a root cause of cancer is the body’s inability to metabolize (digest and utilize) protein. “The person gets cancer because he’s not properly metabolizing the protein in his diet,” said Dr. Kelley. “Then, to make matters worse, the tumor has such a high metabolism that it uses up much of the food which is eaten.” (Lily and I believe and have seen firsthand that many tumors/cysts are in fact pockets of parasites – which would explain the ability of tumors to eat our food. But that’s a different story for a different day.) If a person’s disordered protein metabolism is not corrected, Kelley continued, “it will give rise to more tumors in the future, even if the first one is successfully removed. This, by the way, is the unfortunate reason why so many seemingly successful cancer operations end up in recurrences a year or two later. The tumor was removed, but the cause-improper protein metabolism-remained.”
Dr. Kelley developed an anti-cancer program that combines:
1. therapeutic CUSTOMIZED nutrition,
2. supplements intended to destroy cancer cells, and
3. vigorous detoxification of the body.
Kelley divided people into what he called ten metabolic types, with slow-oxidizing vegetarians at one extreme and fast-oxidizing carnivores at the other. Each person is different, he asserted, not only in nutritional needs but also in food utilization. For each of the ten different metabolic types, a different nutritional program was recommended. An individualized diet was tailored to match the metabolic character of each patient, taking into account his or her physiology, neurological make-up, physical make-up, basic metabolic rate, and personality.
In addition to following a diet, Kelley’s patients also took up to 150 supplement pills per day. These included pancreatic enzymes, vitamins and minerals, and concentrates of raw beef organs and glands, believed by Kelley to contain tissue-specific growth factors, hormones, natural stimulants, and “protective” molecules. Earlier this year I met Carol Alt, who used Kelley’s program to cure her cancer. Read more about Kelley’s protocol here, which of course was “blacklisted” by the American Cancer Society. Can’t have anything that works get out to the public, now can we?!
3. Glandular Therapy
In the last section I mentioned that Dr. Kelley gave people concentrates of organs and glands. In a cancer patient, what is compromised? All of the organs and glands. So why would eating an animal’s organs and glands help to heal you?
One of the basic concepts of glandular therapy is that the oral ingestion of glandular material of a certain animal gland will strengthen the corresponding human gland. The result is a broad general effect that suggests improved glandular function, increasing the tone, function, and/or activity of the corresponding gland. This principle is a staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine (and the reason Lily is dying to make us Lung soup for the fall!)
In case of infection of immune system deficiencies, thymus extracts and spleen extracts have been found to be quite useful. Glandular therapy is used extensively in the treatment of cancer, and AIDS. (Source: J. Bland, “Glandular-Based Food supplements: Helping to Separate Fact from Fiction”)
“It is believed that glands and organs in animals and humans contain similar biochemical substances as their functions are very similar. This is especially true with the sheep from which most of these extracts are prepared. For example, sheep digestive system produces enzymes very similar to humans. Sheep tissue contains 2 enzymes found in only one other living organism-the human body. These enzymes are:
(1) Aldose reductase, an enzyme for sugar breakdown
(2) Steroid 17 -20 lyase, an enzyme for both producing steroidal hormones and for the subsequent detoxification of those hormones from the body.
Thus, the effect of using the biochemical compounds extracted from animals is often one of “substituting” an exogenous (externally generated) source to make up for the endogenous (internally generated) deficiency.”
For a tissue cell to repair or replace itself, it must have the raw materials necessary. Glandular therapy provides the raw materials to the failing organs, glands, and tissues so that they can start the process of regeneration.
I mentioned above that my liver was failing when I first started this blog and developed an interest in natural healing. Eating organic, grass-fed liver has improved my overall health dramatically and has become a staple in my diet.
4. Animal foods can heal
There are many accounts of a plant-based diet healing disease. I firmly believe in this, and give huge props to everyone that has healed a myriad of disorders. What you don’t hear often, however, are accounts of people who have healed using animal foods.
Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Autism, Epilepsy, MS, ALS… what do they all have in common? They are all neurodegenerative disorders. Although as I said above, a plant-based diet can and does heal, for these specific diseases we must look to a “ketogenic” diet, where 80% of calories come from fat and 20% of calories from a mixture of protein and carbohydrates. Why? Patients with neurodegenerative disorders all have an inability to create ATP (which would be derived from glucose and carbohydrates). ATP is your body’s source of energy. Without ATP/energy we have memory loss, tremors, seizures, muscle dysfunction etc.
Foods, especially animal fats, that have certain fatty acids are metabolized into ketones. Ketones are an alternative energy source for the brain. Ketones go through the “back door” and do NOT require insulin to get into the cell for ATP production!
Dr. Terry Wahls, who was diagnosed with MS and put in a wheelchair, was told she would never walk again. She decided to adopt a ketogenic diet high in B1, B9, B12, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, and iodine to regenerate her brain. For her neurotransmitters, she included sulfur and B6. Where are these nutrients found in the highest concentration? Dark leafy greens, bright colored vegetables, wild fish, seaweed, and organ meats.
EVERY DAY, she ate:
– 3 cups of dark leafy greens
– 3 cups of sulfur-rich vegetables
– 3 cups of bright color
– grass-fed meats & organ meats
– wild fish
– and seaweed
Within 9 months, Terry completely cured the MS doctors told her was incurable.
5. Bioavailable Nutrients
You hear a lot about vegan diets and B12. But what you don’t hear about are the lesser-known yet equally important nutrients such as K2, Retinol (mentioned earlier), Creatine, Carnosine, and DHA.
Have you ever heard of Vitamin K2? If not, please look into it. Did you know that the ONLY plant source of K2 is an Asian dish called Natto, or fermented soybeans? These fermented soybeans only contain K2 because they are made with a bacteria that produces it. I do not like Natto whatsoever and could never imagine eating it every day or even every month! This was a huge missing piece of my vegan diet. Meanwhile, animal sources of K2 are abundant, including hard cheese, soft cheese, egg yolk, butter, chicken liver, chicken breast, and ground beef.
A study recently published by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) has revealed that increased intake of vitamin K2 may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent.
Vitamin K2’s role in the body protects us from heart disease, ensures healthy skin, forms strong bones, promotes brain function, supports growth and development, and more. Vitamin K2 is also essential for building strong bones (ESPECIALLY TEETH) due to its role in activating proteins responsible for utilizing and storing calcium. My teeth were decaying before and after a vegan diet. The vegan diet did not cause my decay, but didn’t help it either. Now I take fermented cod liver oil / high vitamin butter oil every single day (very rich in Retinol, D3 and K2), oil pull every single morning, and my cavities are literally vanishing before my eyes.
Creatine is stored in our muscles. While we do make creatine in our bodies, largely in the liver and kidneys (which provides about 1g/day), about half of the creatine we make actually comes from the diet, also providing 1g/day. As a result of this 1:1 ratio, we need creatine in our diets to maintain muscle creatine. Dietary creatine is found in only animal products. Creatine helps form an energy reservoir in cells, and studies show that vegetarians are often deficient.
Carnosine is protective against various degenerative processes in the body and may protect against aging. It is found only in animal foods. (Source 1, 2, 3)
DHA is the most active form of Omega-3 fatty acids in the body and primarily found in animal foods. ALA, plant Omega-3, is inefficiently converted to DHA in the body (Source 1, 2, 3)
6. Blood Type Diet
Not everyone agrees on this, but personally, I’ve had fabulous results with the Blood Type Diet. I say this solely based off of my own experience. My friend Jessica is an M.D., (some of you may know her as “mdkygirl”) and is also a huge fan of the blood type diet. She recommends it to her patients all the time. Her blood type, A, is best suited for a vegetarian/pescatarian diet. She eats vegetarian and absolutely thrives that way. I’m blood type O, the only blood type that uses meat as “medicine.” As soon as I stopped eating a vegan diet and reintroduced meat I felt better. As soon as she cut it out – she did too. We are all so unique, and that’s what makes us a beautiful, diverse human race.