My Vegan Journey
My vegan journey has been a long one; I had an inclination about the potential health benefits of a vegan diet long before I learned about the abhorrent treatment of animals in the meat, dairy and egg industries, and even before I really made any connection between the lump of meat I was eating and the once living, breathing and feeling being it came from.
I started making the connection between the food I was eating and animals only after I got a dog at 24 years old- until then I really hadn’t thought about it. Suddenly I was head over heels in love with this beautiful, vulnerable creature who I would have done anything to protect, and I was busy eating other animals twice or even three times a day. It didn’t take me long see the hypocrisy and to cut out meat at this point, but I was still blind to the suffering and death inherent in other vegetarian products, such as eggs and dairy, which is far more hidden from us. It was only after I watched an early screening of Cowspiracy, and I fully comprehended both the environmental and ethical consequences of consuming non-vegan products that I made the switch over.
I also had the fortune of experiencing incredible health improvements after I went vegan: my chronic arthritic pain disappeared, my energy levels increased exponentially, I stopped feeling like I had to worry about my weight, my digestion and immunity improved drastically, my hair, skin and nails got better, and I experienced a kind of inner peace and sense of gratitude that is hard to articulate, but many vegans try to. I knew that this had to mean incredible transformations were happening in my body, and unsurprisingly the science was there to back up this notion.
Veganism and Naturopathy
During my health science degree in Naturopathy there was a staggering amount of misinformation about vegan diets, with the vast majority of lecturers and students believing them to be unhealthy; opinions based not on science but on hear-say, and likely personal attachment to these products. After all, if we acknowledge that a vegan diet can be both nutritionally adequate and healthful, then we have to take full personal responsibility for our personal choice to continue eating animals. There was so much anti-vegetarian and anti-vegan dogma in my educational institution, that even some long term vegetarians ended up reverting to eating meat, so convinced they were in the veracity of unsubstantiated claims or personal anecdotes lecturers were saying.
There are really only a handful of vegan naturopaths around, and whilst we also had to complete a rigorous training in biosciences, herbal medicine and nutrition, we additionally had to do our own personal education in plant-based nutrition, as it certainly wasn’t anywhere on the curriculum. Accordingly, most naturopaths who are not themselves vegan or vegetarian, have the bare minimum knowledge in what constitutes a healthful plant-based diet, nor the healthfulness of such a diet when appropriately planned. I have unfortunately also heard so many stories of naturopaths and nutritionists who instead of admitting, and filling in their absence of knowledge, coerce their clients into going against their ethical choices and reintroducing animal products, citing such nonsense such as “The Blood Type Diet” as justification. For all of these reasons, I highly recommend if you are following a plant-based diet, or are keen to move in that direction, that you seek out advice from somebody who follows that diet themselves.
In clinical practice I see vegans, vegetarians and people who wish to move in that direction themselves. Sometimes the diets they are following are not adequately nutritious, and why would we expect them to be? I don’t know about your school but the last thing we were taught was how to prepare a nutritionally complete meal, and certainly not how to meet our nutritional needs from the plant kingdom. Can you think of any meat eaters you know who aren’t eating “properly”? I’ll give you a moment.. or two..
I also see vegans and vegetarians who are eating very optimal diets, but for a wide range of other reasons (which can include underlying health conditions, lifestyle, emotional and genetic factors) are not thriving. In this case I work with them in a way that is respectful to their ethical beliefs, further optimising their diet and lifestyle, providing ethically-appropriate and evidence-focused natural medicines, often in collaboration with other work their doctor is doing.
My mission is to assist current vegans and vegetarians to thrive long term, and also to help those who are keen to transition to this way of living to do so. Every single day I am grateful for living this way, and I truly believe everybody deserves to feel the peace that comes when our actions and our values line up, and all the other personal rewards to our health and happiness that can accompany it.
I work from my 100% vegan naturopathy and nutrition clinic in Mullumbimby (part of the Byron Bay shire), but I also see patients online from around Australia and the world. Click here for more information on my services, the conditions I work with, or to read more blogs specific both to plant-based nutrition, and to a variety of health conditions.