Do Some People Need to Eat Meat?

It’s one of the most frequent questions I get from blog readers: How do we respond to people who insist that they require meat in their diets?

I know very well that some vegans struggle with their health, because I hear frequently from those who are looking for help. Most who contact me are animal advocates who are experiencing nutrient deficiencies (diagnosed through blood work) or they simply don’t feel well.

These are not people who are eating junk-food vegan diets. Anyone who gets sick from eating a diet based on potato chips and cookies will usually have a fairly good idea of why they got sick, and they also know how to take some steps to fix that. Instead, those who write to me are usually eating what they believe to be a healthy diet, based on whole plant foods. They are also very motivated to stay vegan.

Writer Sayward Rebhal describes that motivation in  a recent blog post about her experience with failing health. She was determined to make a vegan diet work, to reclaim her health without abandoning her commitment to an ethic that she describes as the “cornerstone of my life.”

Not everyone expends as much effort. The latest blogger to bail on her vegan diet is Alex Jamieson of Super Size Me fame. I remember seeing that movie quite a few years ago and rolling my eyes at Alex’s observations about nutrition. I had pretty much the same reaction when I read her story about why she returned to eating meat. She claimed that her cravings for meat were a sign that she needed to be eating it. Jack has some comments on that in his post on the topic.

With the exception of those who have extensive intolerances to numerous plant foods—leaving them with few plant food choices—I believe a vegan diet is a safe option for everyone. But, I can’t know that for an absolute fact because it’s something that is impossible to prove.

Instead, the burden of proof lies with those who say that a vegan diet failed to support their health. And so far, I’ve not yet heard a story from any ex-vegan that sounded convincing. I was not convinced by Lierre, or Tasha or Alex.  Again, it’s not to say that I know that they could have recovered their health on a vegan diet. I don’t know what they were eating and I didn’t see their blood work. It’s just that their stories are all so flaky and misinformed and filled with holes, that they invite skepticism. So, until someone actually presents some evidence to the contrary, I continue to believe that vegan diets are safe for everyone.

But yes, some vegans struggle more than others to stay healthy. Nutrient needs vary among individuals so some people may need to work a little bit harder to obtain everything they need. And some vegans are not getting enough of what they need because they are eating diets that are too restrictive and/or they are not taking appropriate supplements. My initial recommendations for someone who is craving meat or dairy are these:

  • Add umami to your diet.
  • Eat more concentrated sources of protein—soy, seitan and beans.
  • Add some healthy fats to your meals—nuts, avocado, and foods cooked in small amounts of vegetable oils.
  • Check your diet against the food guide and supplement recommendations from Vegan for Life.

Most of the claims against veganism can be countered with a few science-based observations, but it’s not so easy to change the minds of those who firmly believe that meat is a dietary essential. Probably the best we can do is to make sure our own diets are health-supporting and that we share good evidence-based nutrition information with other vegans.

 

 

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115 Responses to Do Some People Need to Eat Meat?

  1. JL March 2, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    I love you. That is all.

    • Ginny Messina March 2, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      Love you, too, JL!

  2. Krista March 2, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    ^What JL said.

    • Ginny Messina March 3, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      Thank you, Krista!

      • Shell March 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

        I think a lot of vegan and vegetarians problems is that the soil in this country is completely depleted of nutrients. It makes it harder to get the vitamins through food. I’ve been vegetarian for 13 years, if I can kick my sugar habit I could be vegan. I watched a video on how if we would use rock dust (ground up rock) and dried seaweed we could put all the nutrients the human body would need back into our food. The person relating the info used the example of a bowl of raw spinach leaves in the 1950’s had 158 milligrams of iron compared to today, same bowl 2.2 milligrams of iron. For that reason and others I plan on having my own garden this year with heirloom organic seeds. I hope.

        • Ginny Messina March 7, 2013 at 7:54 am #

          I’d be very surprised if a bowl of spinach had 158 milligrams of iron in the 1950s. If the soil had been that iron rich, plant foods would have been dangerous to consume! At any rate, a study published just this month in England showed that the decline in iron content of the soil since the 1930s has been negligible. So, I don’t think this is a problem for iron nutrition. Using heirloom seeds wouldn’t make a difference since it wouldn’t affect the nutrient content of the soil. (Although, I love using heirloom seeds in my garden, too. :)

  3. Ellen March 2, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    My guess is that, in all likelihood, even though they’re eating the right foods, they’re not eating the proper balance of those foods.

  4. Valerie @ City|Life|Eats March 2, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    I do not comment much, but I read faithtfully (found you through Gena and JL) and this post really resonated with me. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with both Celiac (or gluten-intolerance – my tests were faulty as a result of a naturopath’s bad advice) and many nutritional deficiencies, the later most likely as a result of malabsorption. Soon after, I attempted to go from a gluten-free/dairy-free/egg-free/still eating fish diet to completely gluten-free vegan, and, because I had been also been diagnosed with gallstones and possible gallbladder problems stuck to a fairly low-fat diet most days. Within a few months I came apart – my nutritional deficiencies got worse instead of better (despite tons of supplementation), my cholesterol dropped to what my new and more-useful doctors characterized as “getting so low that you are close to the level of compromising brain and neurological function,” I was cold all the time, and even more fatigued, and in some ways felt worse than before I had found out gluten, dairy and eggs were problems from a health/intolerance standpoint.

    I briefly went back to eating fish and trying duck eggs (I have an egg allergy), but here’s the kicker – I did not feel much better at all and, emotionally, felt really conflicted. I had not been vegan for long, and it had initially been more for health, which is why I was swayed back to eating fish and trying duck eggs, but neither felt right and, more importantly, neither were really solving anything. I went back to the drawing board with my doctors and they listened in two ways – suggesting I up coconut products and fat in general as well as vegan protein powder and vegan protein sources AND swap out my vit d and magnesium supplements from pills and liquids (I had tried many, to no avail), so a topical application, ie to absorb through skin to bypass the digestive system altogether, since clearly, I was not absorbing them despite diligently taking my supplements. The naturopath also upped my digestive enzymes to help me digest all those fats and not compromise my gallbladder further (I occasionally have gallbladder discomforts, particularly with IBS C flare-ups, but otherwise am generally ok). With those changes, I went back to eating vegan, emphasizing proteins and fats.

    Long story short, within a couple of months, my numbers slowly started getting better and, in hindsight, my health problems had little to do with switching to a vegan diet, and much more to do with pre-existing malapsorption issues, perhaps aggravated by the lower-fat diet I was sticking to. It’s been a couple of years since that crisis and massive course correction, and it has been worth it, as my veganism is now much more ethics-based as well as health-based, and I honestly could not imagine not being vegan.

    These days, I often try to tell my story to people who say they tried veganism and it did not work for them, as I think it is easy for people to assume it’s veganism, rather than something else that is causing the issue. Also, I eat completely gluten-free (eventually another test made the Celiac diagnosis far clearer) as well as vegan, which is why I have very little sympathy for people who eat gluten-free who tell me it is just too hard to be vegan.

    So thank you for this post :)

    • Ginny Messina March 3, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      Thanks for your story, Val. I think this is something that probably happens to many people–that they don’t realize that better vegan choices are just as helpful for restoring health as switching to animal foods.

  5. Valerie @ City|Life|Eats March 2, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    PS sorry this comment got so long. Thank again.

    • feet March 2, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

      I’m having a health crisis right now and I appreciated your mini-blog sized comment!

  6. Doug Spoonwood March 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    I wonder if one of these ex-vegans will ever actually post what their vegan diet say over the course of a week (even if what they gave us had no proportion sizes it would come as something). I find it interesting how Alex’s story says things like “my truth” when she’s talking about how food interacts with her body… which in the end all boils down to a physical reality of a sort. When will these people learn that a “my truth” sort of idea applies to something psychological like a political experience, or a social experience of (dis)favoritism of some sort, or something plausibly ambiguous, but has little credibility in the physical world, where even though we have vast complexity, we have much less ambiguity?

    • Ginny Messina March 3, 2013 at 10:40 am #

      Yes–great observation! And I certainly agree that it would be so interesting to know what some of these ex-vegans were actually eating. I wonder if it would remove or reinforce my skepticism.

    • beforewisdom March 4, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

      FWIW, Lierre Keith was never vegan. She admitted that she often binged on eggs while she “was vegan”. For all she knows she could have contracted one of the many diseases that factor farms produce

      http://beforewisdom.com/blog/veganism/the-vegetarian-myth-by-lierre-keith/

    • Hanna August 13, 2013 at 4:18 am #

      Kristen Suzanne, a raw vegan with a very active blog, went back to being an omnivore due to health reasons. You can read her food blogs online, so knock yourself out. She did everything right you can possibly do right on a vegan diet and yet failed. Veganism is NOT for everyone and our bodies ARE different – just accept it and stop pointing fingers at people who choose to put health (that of their children more than their own in most cases) before animal rights.

      • Ginny Messina August 13, 2013 at 7:29 am #

        Hanna, how do you know she did everything right? Her blog post on why she returned to eating meat shows such a poor understanding of nutrition that it helps to make my point.

      • Parsleytongue December 16, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

        Chill out there, Hanna.

        I stumbled on both Ginny (and through a link, Kristen’s) blogs today. What I can say is that Kristen’s case for giving up her veganism (ethical veganism, no less) is completely lacking in justification. I can understand concern regarding her children’s nutrition, but she goes on about how her butt looks? Similar ramblings persist, none of it very substantive or convincing. Frankly you would expect a lot more from someone who claims their diet choice was founded in a deep ethical framework.

        It makes someone who did not their hide their primary motivation being animal rights/ethics to come across as ultimately nothing but self-serving and self-involved. Did I mention her concern about her butt? That’s called vanity, plain and simple. Not exactly a higher virtue. Nor did she simply integrate a tiny bit of animal protein into her diet as some do, to minimize the exploitation of animals but make a “necessary compromise” for her health. She went full-on Weston Price/paleo cultist mode with a smorgasbord of flesh.

        But hey, she pumped out 12 raw books and hasn’t changed the portions of her website that peddle raw vegan living, despite the fact she’s completely disowned it. I can only wonder how long until she hocks a cookbook slamming veganism and hopping on the laughable (yet sadly trendy) paleo/primal diet.

        But to my estimation, the saddest part is how a once-ethical vegan would completely disown that lifestyle that justify it through rationale such as “ancestral diets”. This is not forward-thinking, it’s a nose-dive into the knuckledragging past.

        Conversely, I found Sayward’s account of self-discovery and truly sticking to her principles in figuring out her diet (below) very inspiring. Kristen’s? Glib, superficial, lazy and very reductionary.

        http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/2013/01/facing-failing-health-on-a-vegan-diet/

  7. Laviyah March 2, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    Sharing this information on my website. Thank you for your continued rational, intelligent and informed responses to all the hoopla regarding “needing meat” in order to be healthy. I, like you, am very skeptical when I hear people give impassioned testimonials to why they had to return to eating meat, because there really is no evidence backing up what they are saying. Thank you for all that you do.

  8. radioactivegan March 2, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    Thank you for putting this into words. I had much the same reaction to these recent posts, but the language in my head was a little more … colorful. I appreciate your reasoned response, and I may steal your sentiment (and some of your words) when I talk to others about this very issue.

  9. Bertrand Russell March 2, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    >And some vegans are not getting enough of what they need because they are eating diets that are too restrictive and/or they are not taking appropriate supplements.

    And unfortunately, many many vegans push these restrictive / non-supplemented diets, leading to many more animals dying to be eaten.

    Ginny, I think one of your most important insights is this: “People who adopt vegan diets for health reasons never seem to be satisfied with just being vegan. They’re inclined to pile on more restrictions like no added oils or no cooked foods, or only whole plant foods, or even no nuts and seeds. – See more at: http://www.theveganrd.com/2010/11/how-the-health-argument-fails-veganism.html#sthash.VTr77Y3j.dpuf)

    If we could stop being concerned with glorifying veganism, repeating every myth that comes along, the animals would be much better off.

    • Ginny Messina March 3, 2013 at 10:42 am #

      Agree–I think we’d have far fewer ex-vegans if people weren’t so focused on these restrictive approaches.

    • beforewisdom March 4, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

      “People who adopt vegan diets for health reasons never seem to be satisfied with just being vegan. They’re inclined to pile on more restrictions like no added oils or no cooked foods, or only whole plant foods, or even no nuts and seeds.”

      That is a nice way of articulating it. They are always looking for the next bigger thing to do. If they aren’t trying something new and demanding promising to deliver a big hit they try something more restrictive. Sounds like orthorexia.

    • unethical_vegan March 13, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

      I (personally) have seen just as much evidence of orthorexia (“allergies” and restrictions) among AR-centric vegans as I have among health-centric vegans.

      “never seem to be satisfied with just being vegan”

      This is not my experience at all. PCRM, for example, appears to me to be a good example of an evidence-based approach.

  10. Karen March 3, 2013 at 6:59 am #

    Thank you so much for all you do! After having a history of significant endometriosis and uterine fibroids, I am quite anemic. Had a complete hysterectomy, and was taking iron supplements ( have plenty of energy, by the way, go figure, but some hair loss). Subsequent testing showed that I was still at the very bottom of iron counts, so I was puzzled. Then, I got your book. The information about how and under what ideal conditions iron is absorbed floored me. I’d been taking the supplements with food, and rather enjoyed drinking coffee or tea with it. No wonder the supplements didn’t seem to be having an effect! So, I’ve been following your guidelines as well as taking vitamin C after meals. Next month I will get another blood count, but I’m quite optimistic that this may be successful (hair loss has decreased, by the way).

    • Ginny Messina March 3, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Karen, the hysterectomy could be part of the explanation for the hair loss, but yes, getting your iron a little higher could definitely help. I’m really glad to hear that it has. (Hair loss is distressing!)

    • Shell March 6, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

      I am not a total vegan although I’m working on it. I don’t know if blackstrap molasses is vegan or not but years ago I learned that a teaspoon a day would raise iron count in just three days. I heard it from a nurse who worked at a blood or plasma donation clinic. A woman kept being denied donating because of low iron, she came back three days later, her iron was up to normal by taking black strap molasses each morning. I took it because iron pills made me sick.

      • Ginny Messina March 7, 2013 at 7:55 am #

        Yes, blackstrap molasses is an excellent source of iron. But I don’t think it would raise anyone’s iron count in 3 days. Iron deficiency is treated with supplements.

        • Vegrunner66 March 8, 2013 at 1:23 am #

          Actually, by far the quickest and best way I’ve ever raised my iron is via iron transfusions. 6-8 weeks of a weekly 20-minute drip made me a new person. (I felt considerably better by the third week) I also found Floradix iron + herbs to work pretty well. Love your blog!

  11. Karen March 3, 2013 at 7:10 am #

    So, I forgot to add: many folks tried to convince me that my low iron counts were because of my animal free diet, even though I had tended toward anemia when I was a meat eater in my 20’s. birth control pills ( with resultant lower blood loss each month) were what kept my iron counts normal in my 30’s and 40’s, when I was vegetarian. Had to quit using them at 49, with resultant major blood loss prior to hysterectomy. Sorry about the TMI, but, this is why I knew people were misinformed regarding the causes of anemia in relation to medical conditions as well as diet. Ginny’s book is what helped me figure out the rest of the puzzle.

  12. dimqua March 3, 2013 at 7:50 am #

    > … and foods cooked in small amounts of vegetable oils.

    Can you please explain what do you mean by “small amount”? And if I’m going to eat a cup of cooked spinach, for example, how much oil should I add to improve the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins?

    Thank you

    • Ginny Messina March 3, 2013 at 8:45 am #

      It doesn’t take much; I think cooking 2 cups or so of vegetables in 1-2 teaspoons of a good quality oil is enough to enhance nutrient absorption and flavor.

      • dimqua March 6, 2013 at 11:59 am #

        > 1-2 teaspoons of a good quality oil

        Do I understand correctly that it is 5-10 grams of fat? If so, can I replace the oil with the nuts or seeds? For example, 2 English walnuts contains about 5 grams of fat.

        I found that 3-5 grams of fat per meal sufficient to ensure carotenoid absorption: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/carotenoids/#metabolism. But for vitamins K, E and D, I did not find this information.

        • Ginny Messina March 7, 2013 at 8:03 am #

          The issue of nutrient absorption isn’t all that clear since it depends on other factors as well–whether the food is cooked, whole versus pureed, etc. And as you noted, we don’t have good information for nutrients like vitamin K. I think it takes relatively small amounts of fat, though, to ensure adequate absorption, and eating nuts would very likely provide all the fat you need. Some people might find that cooking vegetables in small amounts of oil produces a more satisfying meal, though, so for those who are struggling with veganism, it’s important for them to know that it’s not harmful to do this.

  13. Suzanne March 3, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    Hmm, I’d be inclined to accept that vegans who dump the diet are telling the truth at their current level of understanding as they try to work out why it didn’t work for them. They might not have the knowledge base to work out scientifically defensible theories, so they might come over sounding flaky. Bloggers who go public also tend to condense and simplify their experience, which means that information gets left out. Also, as in my own case, identifying with certainty what the problems are could take years, especially if you don’t have the medical or research resources and you’re isolated. And if you’ve been feeling sick and miserable for a long term, and then feel better when adding ASF, fear of getting sick again could be paralyzing.

    Being shamed and scorned by the vegan community calls up the defence mechanism – as Sayward said, she found her anger!! The more shame and scorn heaped on the person, the more s/he is treated as a traitor, defaulter, and moral weakling, the less likely s/he is to want to try to tweak the diet to suit his/her physiology and the deeper and longer-lasting the anger will be, which shuts off the ears and the mind.

    If approached with compassion and understanding for his/her very real illness and feelings of failure and guilt, s/he might well be willing to work back toward veganism. I found Sayward’s compassion for others who experience plummeting health as committed, intelligent vegans, very compelling.

    Ginny, I am puzzled by what I see as a contradiction in your post, and apologize if I have misread it. You say that you can’t actually judge whether the defaulter is genuinely sick, and their understanding of why they got sick, without seeing their labwork and medical history, and getting a complete picture of exactly what and how much of each food/nutrient they were eating. Then you go on to do just that, describing all lapsed vegans’ published experiences as flaky and full of holes…

    Finally, truth is a slippery thing. It is true for me that I cannot convert betacarotenes to retinoid vitamin A with high efficiency. This statement may not be true for another person, whose statement that she digests beans really well is totally false for the person whose trigeminal nerve is hyperirritated by legume tannins, resulting in shattering migraine attacks. I can see how I could say, My truth, about my personal situation, and make a series of statements that would contradict somebody else’s truth, yet both of us would be totally truthful and transparent!

    • Ginny Messina March 3, 2013 at 8:44 am #

      Suzanne, in saying that the lapsed vegans’ stories are flaky, I’m merely pointing out that the stories I’ve read are always filled with so much nutrition misinformation and are so generally vague, that I find them implausible. It doesn’t mean that I doubt that these ex-vegans were sick; it means that they have bought into some misinformation that has caused them to believe that they can’t be healthy on a vegan diet. I’m not saying that it’s their fault–it just means that none of these stories have convinced me that they needed meat.

      • Suzanne March 3, 2013 at 10:11 am #

        Thank you for that explanation! so you’re not judging their stories, just their conclusions that they need meat or other ASF in their diets.

        I have worked hard and long (24 years) at understanding why I personally got so sick as an ovolactovegetarian, and crashed so catastrophically as a vegan. I know now, but didn’t back then, that I am gluten-sensitive, hypoglycaemic, can’t eat legumes and nuts, don’t do the vitamin A conversion well, don’t retain vitamin B12 well, etc, etc. I couldn’t show you all my labwork, because much of it was done in South Africa 24-14 years ago and it simply never occurred to me to ask for copies and cart it all with me to the USA! Some of it is personal observation, like the unpleasant fact that every time I eat legumes, I get a migraine attack. I fingered this one 5 years ago, during the 8 months I was in a chronic pain clinic and had to track everything I ate, while nuts got the axe 2 years ago, but I only found out two weeks ago about the tannins/trigeminal nerve link. However, there is good medical evidence supporting these observations, so I think they’re sound conclusions. I don’t know if there even is a lab test for this, and I’m obviously not allergic to legumes or nuts.

        Jack Norris said very truly that it is not the lingering spirit of eaten ASF that improves health, but the molecule or combination of molecules found therein, and that if that molecule or combination can be found outside of an animal’s body, there’s no need to eat that ASF. However, for some of us, it could be a very difficult, protracted, painful, and expensive process to find out which molecules are problematic, and could mean massive supplementation. Then there’s human hypervariability to take into account! The optimal amount of calcium for person A could be four times that of person B’s requirement. It may well be true that many, even most, people can do well as vegans, but as you say, it may well be a lot harder for some than for others, whose biochemistry is less demanding.

        I made the decision to optimize my health and have a high quality of life through eating what is provably good for me, and that includes ASF as complements to my plant-based diet. I eat very large quantities of low-glycaemic-index veggies, moderate amounts of low-glycaemic-index fruits, and sufficient quantities of ASF – humane-certified whenever possible.

        My decision is are obviously incompatible with veganism and will probably draw serious flame from those who cannot accept my valuing my life higher than that of any other sentient being, and that’s understandable even if disrespectful and noncompassionate! Having owned a smallholding for seven years, on which I produced much of my family’s food, I know that there is no way, short of hydroponics in a sealed biodome, of producing human food without concomitant non-human animal deaths, and acknowledge that my life directly or indirectly causes their deaths.

        I hang out on your site not to be contrary, but because I’m genuinely interested in nutrition, health, and evolutionary perspectives, and you offer good stuff.

    • Jessica March 3, 2013 at 8:52 am #

      Wow Suzanne, I’ve never even heard of legume tannins, much less causing trigeminal irritation. How did a Dr or ND figure that out? In sure most allopaths would have just prescribed migraine medication.

      I wish Alex would have sought nutritional support from one of the expert plant based MDs, or RDs, before choosing to return to meat eating.

      • Suzanne March 3, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

        Apparently the linkage between tannin ingestion and trigeminal nerve stimulation has been known for a long time! It’s also been known for some time that the excruciating pain of migraine is caused by inflammation of the trigeminal nerve. It’s also very well known that many migraineurs are triggered by legumes and nuts so it’s pretty standard advice to avoid these because it was suspected that the tannins were responsible, but nobody ever told me exactly what the tannins did. I only had the aha moment because I’m taking a class in the Human Dietary Niche (I’m an Anthro major student) and one of the prescribed readings mentioned this effect in passing, so I hit PubMed and Google Scholar.

        I was diagnosed with migraine when I was 6 and come from a family of chronic migraineurs – it’s horribly heritable. Over the years, I have been prescribed and tried everything in the allopathic arsenal, but never with marked success. The triptans work well if I catch the attack early enough, but the side effects are appalling. I’ve also tried Botox, naturopathy, acupuncture, learned biofeedback techniques, chewed lavender buds, taken feverfew extract…and my condition just kept getting worse. Fortunately my allergy to morphine saved me from implantation of a morphine shunt, which was suggested at one point!

        The chronic pain clinic helped a lot because of the pain diaries we had to keep. We were also presented with many many pages of information including lists of known triggers. It didn’t take too long before I tumbled to the legume connection, but I was furious about it because I love pulses, so I refused to believe it. A couple of experiments, however, proved it beyond doubt. Since I read the research, I’ve been wondering if I could try the very pale legumes, which probably have minimal tannins, but I’ve just come out of a bad migraine so my fear outweighs my curiosity…I’ve reduced my pain days from 200/year to 65, so I’m not eager to reverse the trend – I have a life now and I want to live it!

        I don’t know Alex, having seen her only in her appearance in Supersize Me, when I thought she looked very pale and rather too thin. It may well be that her diet was deficient in vital elements, but I don’t want to guess. I was accused of being a closet anorexic when I was eating like a whole rugby team but unable to absorb nutrients because of the damage to my gut.

        I do know from my own experience that when you’re sick all the time, hungry all the time, and racked by cravings, it can be very hard to see beyond the day. The relief of finally feeling well and being able to function is a wonderful experience. I have seen it put down by vegans as meatgasms, which annoys me because I’ve heard vegans uttering orgasmic moans as they chew on chocoate-coated candied cherries or suck up buckwheat pasta with mushroom sauce… sauce for the goose…

        In my case, the vegan nutritionist I saw was simply angry and frustrated because my diet, so perfect on paper, was obviously highly detrimental to my health. It was a quarter-century ago, and I don’t think there was the sheer volume of information available about human hypervariability and digestive conditions as there is now, so she may simply not have known what to do. Perhaps her sighs and eyerolling were involuntary?

        Last year I ran across a vegan nutritionist – we fell into conversation at a gathering – who first tried to convert me to veganism then, when I said that I had been very ill as a vegan, told me I couldn’t have done it properly. I gave her a friendly challenge – here are my conditions, what vegan diet would you design for me that would meet my nutritional needs? Silence was followed by a burst of rage in which she slashed my character.

        Unfortunately, the comments on stories by vegans who revert to omnivory show that this is a very common response. Some of those comments are really scary! Tasha received death threats directed not only at herself but at her pets and her children, for instance. I think it possible that some people whose health worsens on a vegan diet, especially if they’ve been poster children, might actually be afraid of consulting vegan professionals and try to work it out for themselves.

        • Ginny Messina March 3, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

          Sure, but the orgasmic moans that come with eating pasta with mushroom sauce are due to the fact that the food tastes so good; it has nothing to do with an actual need for that food or for chocolate-covered cherries! I’ve never heard any vegan claim that it does.

          And the fact that Tasha claims that she received death threats doesn’t mean that she did.

          • Suzanne March 3, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

            Ginny, I’ve seen, with my own eyes, some really hateful comments on nutrition blogs, directed against omnivores by vegans, and I’ve seen some made by vegans against ex-vegans. A couple of years ago, a vegan replied to a post I made about the higher nutritional value of grassfed meat with the comment that I deserve to see my dog hung up by one leg, have his throat slashed, and then be skinned alive.

            Your comment that vegans don’t make health claims about the food eliciting pleasurable moans may be true for you. I have frequently heard this kind of thing: God, this mushroom sauce is so good and it’s just so incredibly healthy! Nobody needs meat!

            I think we should all be allowed to admit that we enjoy our food!

        • Elaine March 6, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

          So, Suzanne, what nutrients exactly are you getting from meat/dairy that are solving your nutritional dilemma? Protein? What is in meat/dairy that is so vital for your survival?
          I’m curious.

          • Suzanne April 9, 2013 at 6:06 am #

            Sorry to take so long to reply, I had deadlines and midterms! I have a lab report due tomorrow and a paper due on Thursday, so I’ll have to come back to this question later. The short answer is that I can’t eat nuts or legumes. I can’t eat grains in more than very small quantities, even if they’re whole. It would be very difficult to get a full range of amino acids from plant foods in sufficient quantity without the usual nuts/legumes/grains supplements used by vegans. I don’t convert carotenes to retinoids with any degree of efficiency. When I don’t eat meat, even when I’m supplementing with iron and eating foods very rich in vitamin C, I become severely anaemic even though I had a hysterectomy nearly 20 years ago. This is a puzzle, as when I’m eating red meat, and not taking iron supplements, while eating the same C-rich foods, my iron consistently comes in at the lowest end of normal! I have to get out of the door within 3 minutes, and I’d love to continue talking with you.

            • Holly August 18, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

              Could you PLEASe go easy on some of us former vegan/vegetsrians. I tried, I really did. 3 times for about 2 years each. I developed nerve damage (lack of B12), anemia ( from iron deficiency), GLAUCOMA!!! ( IM 28!) insomnia, and heart palpitations. each time believing I must be not eatong healthy enough I read becoming vegan for nutritional advice and dozens more blogd/webdites when the book failed me, everyday i would count up my b12, iron, zinc from my plant sources to make sure they added up; believing I was super healthy. But more importantly RELIEVED that I wasn’t hurting any living thing. Soymilk, organic brown rice protien, seaweed, chiaseed, sublingual b12 (heads up : nutritional yeast is judt brewers yeast with b12 added, plus its a neuroexciter which means its killing brain cells, please research this) hempseed( i followed brendan frazers program) etc. I ate and tried ot all notonly did I develop all above ailments, but my weight went up, even with calorie resyriction eventually added in. I HATE that I cant be a vegan/vegitarian, I feel guilty after each animal product I eat.If your able to eat that way and be healthy, thank god because lives are spared because of this. But militant vegan/vegitarians need to realize that we are not all blessed to be able to eat this way and next time your talking to someone who says I used to be vegan/vegetarian please dont automativally associate them with flaky, quitters. As some people may hate that they have to survive off the death of something else. I apologise for spelling errors,this was typed via a cellphone.

  14. Jona March 3, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    “She claimed that her cravings for meat were a sign that she needed to be eating it.”

    I think we need to widen the discussion to properly respond to these cases. It is about more than nutritional science in a narrow sense. We also need a psychology of eating linked to what Melanie Joy calls the dominant ideology of carnism. Being vegan can bring anger from others and anxiety about being different. We know from so many other areas where some are in minority that social psychological mechanism can bring about negative projection in people. Combine that with real bodily difference in terms of allergy, metabolism and uptake of different substances, and we can have something that will pull the person strongly back to meat. We need to pry apart the social psychological factors and the purely nutritional factors.

    When someone goes from vegan to a bacon-meat-cheese-milk-every-day diet it is mostly not about nutrition, but psychology.

    • Shell March 6, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

      I have been vegetarian for 13 years because I got sick on meat three times in 2 years and the last time I couldn’t eat for nearly two weeks. But I noticed at times I don’t crave meat but the idea occurs to me to eat meat, I will think it’s good but once in front of me I can’t stand it.
      Then I realized it’s like sugar or drugs, I can avoid it if there’s absolutely none in my diet, if I crave it then I accidentally consumed some meat product like broth in a dish I didn’t expect it to be in. Especially eating out. Same thing with sugar and baked goods my down fall. If I can make it a few days with out it then I’m good, made it one time for several months but one bite of baked goods or something with sugar I’m hooked. It the main thing keeping be from being vegan. Plus cheese.

  15. Wild4Stars March 3, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    Thank you for a great read.

  16. Jan March 3, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    Thank you, oh thank you!

  17. Beatriz March 4, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    Nice post! I think leading by example is the best thing I can do! But of course, when people ask me because they are curious about veganism — that is the best opportunity to tell them all about it! :)

  18. Diane C Nicholson March 4, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    Since humans, like all animals, are so individual, I believe that there are people who are unable to be vegan.

    My father is one. Many food intolerances, including legumes and most beans, make his diet extremely restricted even with animal products.

    My husband is my shining star of someone who has persevered.

    In spite of many allergies and intolerances, he has maintained a vegan diet except for a very short time in which he ate some eggs (he was losing weight rapidly and was extremely exhausted. We tried eggs for one month –believe me– I was SO careful where I got them from– did a ton of research)– well, he tried eggs– I stayed away from them, but it didn’t seem to make a difference and he quickly gave them up. Shortly thereafter he was given a stage 2 colon cancer diagnosis followed by 2, huge surgeries and all of the complications, thanks to the medical community.

    Anyway, in spite of not being able to have soy, any amount of salt, gluten, citrus, berries and several other good foods, along with us both being on the Nightshade diet (which has completely resolved arthritis pain), he’s stuck with the vegan plan– now over 17 years. And he and I literally became vegan overnight. Plus, he was a hunter.

    Yeah, I’m kinda proud of my husband of almost 40 years….

    However, I do believe that there are cases of people who need to supplement their diet with animal products. But I also think that it’s up to them to cause the least amount of harm possible.

  19. beforewisdom March 4, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    The best rejoinder I read to Jamieson’s new ex-veganhood was on vegan.com’s FB page. One of the commentators there said like Jamieson he too listened to his body and it said “Thank You for being vegan”

  20. beforewisdom March 4, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    Ginny,

    If someone has a nutritional deficiency, s/he goes to a competent MD and the MD orders test is it the case that it will be found?

    Is there any such thing as a mysterious nutritional deficiency that will not be detected by competent medical personnel?

    • Ginny Messina March 6, 2013 at 8:21 am #

      There are definitely nutritional deficiencies that are difficult to assess. Zinc is one that comes to mind. So for those who don’t feel well, but have normal blood tests, eating more zinc-rich foods might be helpful.

      • Karen March 6, 2013 at 9:06 am #

        What kinds of symptoms would low zinc cause?

        • Ginny Messina March 7, 2013 at 8:14 am #

          Things like poor immunity and slow wound healing. But zinc is needed for so many reactions in the body, that marginal status might turn up in ways we really don’t understand.

  21. Rob March 5, 2013 at 2:59 am #

    A somewhat related question: is there any evidence to support the claim that some individuals *must* consume dietary cholesterol?

    I ask because I recently skimmed this article:

    http://www.inc.com/magazine/20051001/rosebraugh.html

    From the first paragraph:

    “He does not eat meat, and until he was diagnosed three years ago with dangerously low cholesterol, he was a practicing vegan. He did not eat any animal products whatsoever, including milk and cheese. Now, on the advice of his doctor, he eats one organic egg and a few shavings of organic cheese every week.”

    This smells odd to me. I thought that all humans produce all of the cholesterol they need?

    • Ginny Messina March 6, 2013 at 8:13 am #

      It smells odd to me, too. There are genetic defects that cause problems with cholesterol production, but these are rare and would be evident at birth. And if someone has dangerously low cholesterol, it’s not too likely that they will raise it by eating one egg and a few shavings of cheese per week. Why doesn’t he just consume some plant-based saturated fats I wonder?

  22. Debby Sunshine March 5, 2013 at 5:00 am #

    I agree with your sentiments. I believe that people could not feel well on both vegan and non-vegan diets, and that changes to their diet might have to be made. The scientific evidence is overwhelming that we don’t need meat, so adjusting one’s diet while remaining vegan is the strongest option!

  23. Helen West March 5, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    Hey Ginny! I’m a meat eater and fellow RD and not anti Vegan/Veggie in any way. I love to support peoples dietary choices!

    Just a question though, if a person is having to supplement their diet as they are not able to meet their needs through food (and I’m not saying they shouldn’t) do you think that it is a sign that a vegan diet is inadequate for that individual? Interested to hear your thoughts!

    Helen :)

    • Ginny Messina March 6, 2013 at 8:08 am #

      Helen, as long as they are maintaining good health with a supplemented diet, I don’t think it’s a sign that they shouldn’t be vegan. After all, the fact that much of the world’s population needs to supplement with vitamin D isn’t a sign that we should all be living closer to the equator. :)

      • Helen West March 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

        Haha, No I am sure it isn’t a sign we should be living closer to the equator! :)

        However, it can be a sign in many circumstances that people’s sun exposure is inadequate, with supplementation being a solution to the problem at certain levels.

        I don’t disagree with your point and of course if people are happy and healthy on a supplemented vegan diet, that’s great. But (like with vitamin D) if we have to rely on supplements, then isn’t that a sign of inadequacy? In the case of a vegan having to supplement, caused by dietary choices?

        I’m not saying you can’t be healthy on a vegan diet but some may find it more difficult than others. Age, sex physical activity ect all impact on our nutritional needs and may make it more challenging to meet our requirements via a vegan diet. Obviously, inadequacy can occur in none-vegan populations too, but may be possible to fix without supplements if dietary choices are not restricted.

        Helen :)

        • Ginny Messina March 7, 2013 at 8:01 am #

          Yes, but in many parts of the world, it’s really not possible to make adequate vitamin D all year long. So, supplements are definitely required for people who choose to live in many parts of the world. Just like supplements of vitamin B12 are required by many–or perhaps most–people over the age of 50 regardless of the diet they are eating. Vegans need to supplement with B12; that’s a small issue given the tremendous benefits for our world when people choose veganism. I did note in my post that some people–regardless of their dietary choices–have to work harder to meet nutrient needs than others. We just have to make sure that people have the best information so that they can eat a diet that is responsible, ethical and healthy.

          • Ej March 8, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

            Hi Ginny! I’m new to your site and I’m so grateful to have found it. I wanted to ask about the “need” for B12. I’m a longtime vegetarian who recently decided to try veganism. To support this switch, I started taking a daily 1000 mcg sublingual VegLife Vegan B12 vitamin. Unfortunately, my face has been breaking out into rashes and when I sought medical advice my doctor suggested this may be from the B12. I discontinued it yesterday but my face is still discolored/splotchy. Have you ever heard of or observed this type of reaction? If B12 is somehow not compatible with my system, is there some other supplement I should use instead? Thanks!

            • Ginny Messina March 8, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

              Yes, very high levels of B12 can cause skin breakouts in a small number of people. You’re taking a pretty high dose, though. You need only 25 to 100 micrograms per day, so I would look for a supplement that provides a much smaller dose and see if that helps.

  24. Corrin Radd March 5, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    I love the claim that every person’s physiology is unique and that’s why we can’t all thrive on the vegan diet and why we shouldn’t generalize. And yet every person that makes this claim somehow finds the same American meat based diet to be the panacea in spite of all of their bodies being 100% unique.

    These are attention seeking and ego feeding behaviors (and surprise, several of those attention seekers have blogs). I suspect that once the attention received for practicing the unique, vegan diet wears off, they need to move on to something else to get the attention fix again and to remind everyone else that they are special.

    • Suzanne April 11, 2013 at 6:34 am #

      The problem with your position is that if you find a single ex-vegan who does not eat diets of which more than 50% is meat, it falls apart. I eat a plant-based diet supplement with small amounts of animal source products, and I personally know several ex-vegans whose meat intake is either non-existent (they eat eggs and/or dairy in small quantities) or minimal (1 can of sardines/day or 3 3oz servings of meat/week). Of these people, not one has a blog, and they don’t proselytize their diet at every opportunity. Sure, we talk among ourselves, but don’t vegans talk to each other about their diets and swop recipes and experiences? Food is very much a part of the human experience and central to culture!

      Among the ex-vegan bloggers, Denise Minger eats huge amounts of raw fruit and veggies, and small amounts of animal source foods. Chris Masterjohn’s diet is not based on enormous hunks of meat. Melissa McEwen gets several meals out of a duck breast and several more out of the rest of the carcass. Tom Billings uses small amounts of goat milk in his otherwise vegan diet.

      Hence, your argument that EVERY ex-vegan claims a meat-heavy diet to be a panacea is shown to be flawed.

      As to the comments trashing the psychology and characters of ex-vegans, how do vegan bloggers, who tend to share the same kind of improvement of health through vegan diet story, stack up? Are their blog posts attention seeking and ego feeding behaviours?

      I consider that when you find thousands of people, of different ages, living in different countries, with different cultural backgrounds, who don’t know each other and who haven’t all read the same books, but who report similar experiences, are telling the truth when they say that their health improved after adding small amounts of meat or other ASF to their diet – just as I believe that thousands of people are telling the truth when they say that their health is excellent on a longterm vegan diet.

      • Kay August 24, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

        I know that these comments are over a year old but Suzanne, I think that everything you have said is spot on. I am in a similar position as you – just coeliac, not all the other intolerances luckily, and through blood tests it was shown that I was dangerously low in iron (despite actively consuming high amounts of plant based foods high in iron). This was also impacting on my thyroid gland causing it to have to work extremely hard to produce to right amount of the thyroid hormone. This paired with a vitamin D deficiency was making me lethargic, tired and generally unwell. Between meals I would feel shaky and light headed and it was making me generally unwell. All this despite a “healthy” vegan diet and making sure I consumed enough broccoli, nuts, mushrooms and other leafy greens to keep my iron up.

        When I made the switch to gluten free and began taking iron supplements my blood started to level out but after 6 months it was still low in nutrients, and although I felt better than before, I was still feeling very tired and getting shaky between meals – I had to be eating almost ten meals a day to not get this.

        When I finally made the decision to begin eating meat again (beef, lamb and seafood) I began to get intense cravings for meat – I couldn’t get enough, and I don’t even like the taste of meat very much! My iron levels were raised as the iron in red meat is much easier for the body to absorb than the iron that comes from plant sources. Even eating red meat I still have to take iron tablets but my iron levels are at a normal level now, and my thyroid is back to functioning properly. I feel 100% better than I did on a vegan diet, I have so much more energy and am able to concentrate so much better than before.

        So are some people just meant to eat meat? YES! I strongly believe the evidence is in my own experience, even though I know this is not enough ‘evidence’ for most of the extremist vegans out there, and looking through these comments I see a heap of uneducated and ignorant responses from them – but there is plenty of evidence out there to support this.

        Even looking at the blood work from both my mother and younger sister who both eat exactly the same diet (both meat eaters) – while my mothers iron levels were on the low side of normal, my sister had enough iron for all us combined! Peoples bodies are all different, and some cannot absorb nutrients as well as others. This is just a fact.

  25. Laura March 6, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    “My initial recommendations for someone who is craving meat or dairy are these…”

    What a shame that Alex doesn’t know about those… ~sarcastic tone~ I think it’s really funny how even though Alex doesn’t go into detail about everything she tried, the hard-hitting vegan bloggers out there are absolutely sure she didn’t try anything at all before giving into her ‘debasement’– in fact, after a decade of health and nutrition coaching, she’s some dumb newbie vegan who just doen’t know any better. The arrogance around this particular subject, in which you are certainly doing your part, is astounding.

    Vegans… all about compassion… for animals.

    • Ginny Messina March 7, 2013 at 8:12 am #

      Anyone can position themselves as a “health and nutrition coach.” It doesn’t mean they actually have any credentials or knowledge. In Alex’s case, she chose to eat more foods like green juices and hempseeds to get more “concentrated protein” into her diet. That’s a good indication that she didn’t understand some basics of vegan nutrition.

      And my point was exactly what you’ve stated here–that she didn’t go into detail about everything she tried. She said that her cravings indicated a need for meat and she shared some info about something she tried, which suggested she didn’t know how to meet nutrient needs on a vegan diet. If you read my post, then you know that I said very clearly that I don’t know for a fact that she didn’t need meat–but stories that are packed with misinformation and vague observations about “cravings” leave me skeptical.

      • Karen March 7, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

        And I don’t know how drinking a green smoothie would help a craving for meat! Perhaps she should have eaten some vegan foods that taste….meaty?

  26. RICH March 6, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    I use to eat anything slower then me , i met my wife and she is a vegetarian. I stopped eating meat for her and as i learned more about it , it was for the animals and the planets health and well being .

    I started to feel better , have more energy and enjoy what i ate and cooked more. there are so many vegan substitutes for meat ( hotdogs , chick patties , burgers) not to mention dairy, butter and chesse substitutes that even taste better out there .And there made with soy or okra or other healthy non animal products .

    I guess my point is not only do you not have to eat meat i beleive that you and the rest of the world will be in much better health if you dont. More then half of the health problems are found in people that eat meat, especialy red meats . Veganism is more of an awardness of your world and your health caring about not only what you eat but the world in which you live in . Its more mental then health reasons that people eat meat , you get more protien from a bean sprout then a steak .

    I guess in a long winded way im saying , no the human body not only doesnt need animal products, its healthier not to consume them .

    if you balance your meals, there is NEVER a reason to eat an animal product and keep good health , and i was the the worst carnavor of them all , but my eyes are opened now. I think ginny would agree.

  27. Alex March 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    I have to say, it always strikes me as odd that these sorts of discussions often seem to result in many concluding that people may in fact need a wide variety of diets to satisfy their unique biochemistry. It strikes me as very odd, given that we aren’t terribly different. Yes, certainly things like lactase persistence exist, but we’re basically the result of shared ancestry. As such, shouldn’t our “optimal diet” be pretty similar? Put another way: Let’s say we’ve got 10 of animal X in captivity. We would basically feed them all the same diet, right? We wouldn’t insist that we needed to do “what worked for them”. Certainly, we wouldn’t insist on the variance that some people claim is required among humans.

    • Suzanne April 10, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

      Alex, there is enormous variability in humans, far more than in any other species. This is due to our wide radiation into many and very widely varied environments, and several bottleneck events, as well as ongoing evolution. For example, hunter-gatherers whose traditional diet is low in starch have many fewer copies of the gene expressing salivary amylase than those whose diet is starch-rich. There’s been a lot of gene flow, but it has not homogenized us, and that is why we are the world’s dominant mammal and dominant primate. No matter where groups of people went, whether fruit-rich tropical zones, or fat-rich northern latitudes, or carbohydrate-rich temperate zones, those individuals on the digestion efficiency continuum who had the luckiest gene combination had much higher lifetime reproductive success. Those on the other end gave birth to fewer infants, who were less likely to survive weaning and puberty. In carbohydrate-and-legume eating cultures, for example, the hypoglycaemics were winnowed out early, but never completely bred out of the gene pool. The same kind of situation as with lactase-persistence is found with wheat, so populations longest exposed to wheat have the fewest caeliacs and gluten-intolerants – those unfortunates died. In England, with less than 3000 years exposure to wheat, caeliac disease runs at 1% of the population, while in the Middle East, with about 10,000 years exposure, there’s only about one caeliac for every 6,500 people. It takes about 400 generations to fix a gene in a large population: 8,000 years. Then there are the allergies: Some people will die if they kiss somebody who recently ate a peanut, while others can eat peanuts till they come out of their ears. Others can’t eat oranges, or shellfish, or soy, or corn. Some people have little to no intrinsic factor and need high amounts of B12.

      Further, it’s been well-known for many centuries that it is not true that all other animals thrive equally on the same diet. In farming parlance, some animals are “hard doers.” Some pigs just don’t grow as fast as others, on the same diet and under the same management as their litter-mates. In zoos, some chimpanzees (overly “good doers”) become obese and diabetic on the same primate chow eaten by their age-mates. Mice with few copies of the BAF60C gene remain scrawny on the high-carb all you can eat diet that turns their more richly endowed siblings into butterballs sprawling on tiny legs.

      Variance in humans, as with other animals, is a simple fact of nature. I strongly recommend Roger Williams’ paper, Nutritional Individuality, published 1978 in Human Nature, for a good overview of the astounding degree of this individuality. Just one example: some people produce 20 times as much pepsin and hydrochloric acid per day as others! Pubmed.gov is a good source of studies.

  28. Helen West March 7, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Agreed :) I’m all for good information to support a lifestyle choice. I guess what I am trying to say, is if people are struggling to meet their needs and quality of life is affected by their dietary choices and lifestyle ideals, maybe they would be happier and healthier if they did eat some meat. I know as a vegan you will probably disagree with me! :)

    I enjoy your blog, it is certainly helpful for a non-vegan RD to have insight into the vegan world from a professionals perspective. I am sure it will help my practice in the future when dealing with Vegan patients/clients. :)

  29. allergicvegetarian March 10, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    Only those who have had heart or ilium surgery AND have been proven to NOT absorb B12 from Vegan sources need to avoid the Vegan diet. In those cases, I would recommend adding Salmon once in awhile. The B12 shot has been proven to be lethal for heart patients, so is not recommended by Medical doctors.

    Other people who can’t go Vegan are those with an unusual combination of food allergies such that the Vegan diet would restrict them too severely and/or prevent them from getting all the required nutrients. I am 99% Vegan. I add Salmon only 6 times year for variety because I react to so many Vegetables and dairy. I’m Allergic/Intolerant of the entire Mustard/Cabbage family, Allium family and Mixed Greens.

    Why go Vegan? Meats, Avian and Fish has been suspect in causing Alzheimer’s. See Dr. Neal Barnard’s latest research using his own family. His family ate pro-hunters diet in Fargo, North Dakota and has a Alzheimer’s rate. Meat and Avian has been linked to causing Kidney Damage. Vegan diet has been proven to reverse Diabetes.

    So, why Vegan? It is healthier in over 95% of the cases.

    • allergicvegetarian March 10, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

      By “the Vegan diet would restrict them too severely”: I am referring to the people who would be limited to 10 different foods or less or can’t get all the nutrients from a balanced Vegan diet. Think those with mega food intolerances/allergies. Thanks!

  30. Gena March 11, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    I’m very amused by the fact that a person who had built her entire career on the notion of being a “cravings whisperer”–that is, someone who coached clients in how to resist the lure of refined sugars and junk foods, replacing them with more wholesome choices–is now holding her “craving” for meat up as sacrosanct. The idea that meat cravings are somehow sacred, whereas cravings for sugar (or gluten or soy, two other foods that are criticized somewhat reflexively and erroneously in Jameison’s work) are faulty and hollow, is an absurd contradiction.

    I certainly believe that serious and persistent food cravings can often lead us to recognize and address a food that’s missing in our diets, but it’s very seldom that the actual thing we crave is precisely what we “need.” A person craving meat persistently might be craving umami, as you point out. There are ways to address a craving that do not involve taking it literally. If I were to obey all of my cravings by the letter, I’d be seeking out a pack of Camel Lights every day by this time.

    Wonderful post, as always, Ginny.

  31. fartygirl March 11, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    I was hoping for some facts, some explanation, a lesson about nutrition, an answer to the question posed in your title.

    Instead, I feel like I just read a whole bunch of bashing on ex-vegans.

    What is the point in singling out Jamieson, calling her story flaky, telling us that it had you “rolling your eyes”? That’s just mean. And you don’t even take the time to explain what you didn’t like about the story, and why. You make a reference to her cravings. That’s it. That tells me nothing.

    So what if Jamieson is eating meat again? How does this hurt you? Why should it illicit such a negative reaction?

    I just don’t get how criticizing others choices is informing your readers of anything. You come off as very mean to me. That’s all.

    For the record, I went vegan in 06. I only started eating minimal dairy and eggs a year or so ago.

    My comments here do not stem from any sort of dietary alliance. They stem from a HUMAN alliance.

    Don’t be judgey.

    • Stevie March 30, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

      “So what if Jamieson is eating meat again? How does this hurt you? Why should it illicit such a negative reaction?”

      Because she is hurting nonhuman animals, so it does harm someone.

      I think it’s fair to be skeptical when someone presents an argument with very little sound evidence that is going to cause harm to others (in this case to nonhuman animals).

      Perhaps Jamison could clear things up by being a little more specific and providing some more detailed information about her condition? If there is some scientific clout to her claims, I’m sure vegans would be more accepting of her condition and her choice.

  32. Kristen March 11, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Not trying to play with fire here…but… I agree that the restrictive approach of many of those who go vegan and then become ex-vegan is largely to blame for the 360 effect. It is also notable that we DON’T know what anyone’s particular vegan menu consists of; it’s just as easy to eat poorly while vegan as while being omnivorous. That being said, however, my personal testament of omnivore-vegan-omnivore is a little different. I ate a well-balanced and informed vegan diet for a time (it’s maybe worth mentioning that I am currently pursuing a Master of Science in Nutrition, too), and was having relatively severe health problems, which all resulted from a lack of iron. I am not at all a fan of supplements, and during my vegan days I maintained healthy Vitamin B12 and D levels throughout. Iron was a struggle, though, and as I said- my health was suffering. I fought an internal battle re: taking supplements and finally decide to supp with iron. My iron levels continued fall and were significantly lower after eight weeks of supplementing than they were prior to supplementing. I promise you I was eating as much as was possible of all vegan sources of iron while maintaining the best balanced diet that I knew how. It just was not working, and I was suffering due to being severely deficient. So, long story short- I have chosen to eat enough meat (i.e. heme iron) to sustain proper circulating nutrient levels while remaining supplement free.
    So, there you have a testament from a different angle. :)

    • Vegrunner66 March 12, 2013 at 3:50 am #

      Kristen,
      first of all, I have to wonder why your doctors did not recommend an iron transfusion (???) That helps very quickly. Also, did your doctors determine why you are anemic in the first place and rule out things like internal bleeding, malabsorption, etc? Is the heme iron helping? There are plenty of anemic meat-eaters too. Hopefully this will only be a temporary “solution” for you. Good luck.

      • Kristen March 15, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

        There was no internal bleeding, no malabsorption. Literally no anything except ferritin deficiency. I wanted to eat food to address the problem. That was my choice. I am not anemic now, nor was I then. My RBC were and are unaffected. MCV, HCT, everything normal. Again, I chose to eat to address the deficiency. I realize this was a choice I made, and it was by no means thoughtless.

    • min November 5, 2013 at 2:50 am #

      I’m in the same boat, a nutrition student who’s vegan diet is causing health issues. Supplements are not working, I eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, proteins and fats to no avail. I want to believe the human race can survive on a plant based diet, but I now think a modest amount of the population is unable to sustain optimal health on plants alone, purely down to the simple fact we are all built differently.

      • Dan November 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

        Min, I would recommend Ginny and Jack Norris’s book “Vegan for life”. There are alot of important points in there on getting the right kinds of fats and proteins, and also being sure to supplement with adequate doses of vitamin D, iodine, B12, and DHA. Some people’s diets are not adequate in zinc or calcium, and may either change their diet to ensure adequacy or take small supplements of these. Then there is the iron issue.

        We are all heterogeneous genetically but if all micro and macronutrients are covered from a combination of a well-balanced vegan diet and supplements, the number of people who fail to thrive on a vegan diet can be greatly reduced (perhaps not altogether reduced to nothing though).

  33. Linda March 12, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    Love the vegan life!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. Linda March 12, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    Love the vegan life

  35. Courtney March 17, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    This is one of the best responses I’ve seen. So many other vegans or vegetarians like to call those who couldn’t/didn’t/etc stick to veganism or vegetarianism “weak” and to me, that doesn’t do vegetarianism or veganism any favors. I prefer to provide people with evidence that vegetarianism and veganism is a good thing health-wise, environmentally, and for animals (if appeals to animal welfare might help convince the person).

    Thank you once again for a kind response.

  36. necolle March 19, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    i am always fascinated by craving for meat claim. i’ve been to meet ups where someone will remark this. i actually don’t crave meat at all. i crave certain flavors and textures but never meat. sometimes i crave bbq. so i eat something plant based with bbq sauce and my craving is gone. if i crave something fatty at breakfast. where i would prevegan had a scrambled egg i have tofu or avocado mashed with s&p. i do think some people struggle with being vegan. particularly people who do not eat a variety of plant based foods with good fats. i do find it hard to believe anyone craves the blood and flesh of another being. i think we crave flavor, texture and familiarity. we should address those cravings but in a compassionate way. also, most doctors take so few nutrition classes that i would always get a second and maybe third opinion when it comes to how to address nutrition deficits. that said, my doctors are supportive of a vegan diet and me getting all my nutrition from plant sources and/or supplements. if your doctor or nutrition professional is selling you any diet as a magic bullet i would be suspicious.i think a doctor should support your diet choices because every diet is a choice and give you practical information about how to meet your needs from a variety of sources and within your value system. when i see a food pyramid and it does not include a variety of plant sources{because that is what’s important to me} i know that doctor is not for me.

  37. Carnap March 25, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    Beyond the fact that the ex-vegan stories are so flaky sounding, another thing I always find curious is that they always tend to return eating pigs, cows, fatty fish, etc. For someone that was previously concerned with animal suffering, these seem like really odd choices when there are alternatives that would be more humane. For example, bivalves lack brains (never understood why vegans avoid these) so would clearly be the more humane choice. Whenever someone tells me they *need* to eat beef for iron and can’t get it from plants, or that vegan diets aren’t natural because you have to supplement with b12, or other typical things….I tell them about bivalves (they are very rich in iron and b12). Yet strangely….none of them seem to want to do a vegan diet + bivalves….

    Regardless, people will always find a way to justify what they want to do to themselves.

    • Bob May 2, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

      I do not absorb iron well from supplements, so I eat the meat that has the highest amount of iron. I am being completely honest with you when I write that I tried everything to stay vegan. I just couldn’t do it. There are the lazy ones who give up, and there are the people like me who really want to, and genuinely struggle. I’ve watched the slaughterhouse videos, I feel sick about it, trust me. But, the alternative for me is to get violently ill. I can’t let myself die. I am not that selfless, unfortunately.

  38. Primal Nutritionist April 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    I wish it was that easy! I tried every suggestion listed above, including some others (i.e. Natto, supplements, more whole quinoa, etc). Needless to say, I ended up optimizing my diet with one serving of organic pastured meat each night.

  39. Logan May 1, 2013 at 6:00 am #

    Dunno if this is well-known but Alex Jamieson is the author of two vegan-related For Dummies books: Living Vegan for Dummies and Vegan Cooking for Dummies.

    I didn’t read Alex’s large explanatory post so I’m not sure if she mentioned that or not…

  40. Bob May 2, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    I couldn’t do it, and it depressed me, greatly. I care so much about the plight of the animals that go through hell just to land on our plates.

    Yet, I’d been diagnosed with allergies to tomatoes, safflower, soy, dairy, peanuts, and cashews. I was already cutting out several things that I saw in cream-based vegan dishes, and we all know that tomatoes are in anything. I dropped weight, and my hereditary low white blood cell count and low platelet count worried me. I had low iron and low D. I could eat a ton, very balanced, carefully planned vegan diet, and take high-quality supplements, and I just felt awful. So, I switched to all liquid vitamins. All the while thinking that feeling just a little awful was a small price for me to pay for the animals.

    Finally, my health gave out. I struggle with inflammation and fibromyalgia, and the stress of trying to eat this way, while struggling to get enough nutrients to fuel and heal myself without getting dizzy was too much.

    I’ve sinced switched to eating a small amount of grass-fed meat with vegetables and low carbs. I eat little/no sugar, and I pray that these poor animals can forgive me. I basically hate myself over it, but I honestly feel so much better, saner, and healthier (my blood sugar was a huge issue as a vegan, I couldn’t keep it under control very well, even with protein snacking) eating a bit of meat, that I have to do it. Yet, I still support the vegan movement, and really admire and understand the people that do because they can. I think it’s awesome. I still donate to causes, however hypocritically, because that’s where my true heart lies. My body just doesn’t seem to be able to follow suit. Now, my significant other is a vegetarian and it works for them. No problems, but they are healthy and can eat anything, so they get a good variety.

  41. gail May 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    I am looking for some advice. 48 year old woman, vegetarian for 12 years, vegan for 2 years. Hair loss started about 3 months into the vegan diet. Ran through the usual causes: perimenopause, heavy bleeding/ low ferritin – resolved those issues through supplements and medication. Hair loss continued, insomnia developed, belly fat issues, physical anxiety symptoms (revved up feeling.) I was not a junk food/pasta vegan. My diet consists of lots of spinach, beans, lentils, nut yeast, vega shake, tofu, tempeh, brown rice, whole grains, quinoa and loads of veggies.

    In a little under two years on a vegan diet I have now lost about 30% of my hair, and gained about 15 lbs. After consults with GP, OB GYN, dermatologist and dietician a naturopath finally ran some hormone tests and to our surprise my estrogens are fine, my androgens are too high. Fits all my symptoms, great, now I have my answer. However the treatment is a grain free and low starch diet. I have attempted to do this on a vegan diet, and I find it next to impossible. The days I spend a lot of time planning and prepping are fine, but the days that I am busy, or running late, or didn’t get to the store are not so fine. I am frequently hungry and exhausted.

    I decided to add wild seafood and eggs to my diet to try to resolve this. To be clear, I am not sure that the vegan diet caused this issue, I think it was a contributing factor along with a stress and other issues coming together all at once to throw my hormones out of balance. But at this point I don’t how I can resolve it while sticking to a vegan diet. Given that hormone balance is involved I am not too keen on increasing my soy intake – I eat a tofu/tempeh based dinner twice a week.

    Any suggestions?

    • Ginny Messina May 29, 2013 at 9:07 am #

      I’m not really sure why your doctor would prescribe a low-carb diet to treat elevated androgens. Some research suggests that vegetarian and vegan women have higher levels of a protein that reduces blood levels of androgens. And higher saturated fat intake could affect intestinal microbes in a way that increases androgens. The key is to eat whole plant foods and perhaps increase your intake of beans and plant yogurts to improve intestinal bacteria. And soyfoods wouldn’t affect androgen or estrogen levels so you can eat those if you like.

      I assume you had your iron and thyroid tested? Those would be culprits for hair loss.

      Anyway, I would stick with a well-balanced vegan diet. Your diagnosis is definitely not a reason to start eating meat!

      • gail May 29, 2013 at 11:34 am #

        Well … increased insulin levels do trigger androgen production no? I’m not questioning that a low starch diet is the correct one for my condition, I have researched that and it fits with my diagnosis. What I am saying is that I have found getting a balanced, filling, vegan diet without grains and starches is incredibly difficult.

        Yes I have had everything tested. My hair has been falling out for close to two years now. I was eating a well balanced vegan diet – it didn’t work. That’s the problem…

        • Ginny Messina May 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

          Yes, you’re right that high insulin levels are associated with higher androgen levels. But the evidence suggests that vegans and vegetarians have better insulin sensitivity, despite their higher carb intake. The key is really to emphasize carbohydrates that are very slowly digested, like beans, sweet potatoes, oats and barley. So, I’d suggest using those as your carbohydrates, and then–if you still want to limit carbs a little bit–get the rest of your calories from things like tofu, tempeh, seitan, nuts, seeds, avocado.

          • gail May 30, 2013 at 6:58 am #

            Despite what research suggests it seems it is not applicable in my case, I don’t seem to have better insulin sensitivity. Besides the hormonal issue the near constant bloating that I just accepted as part of a vegan diet disappeared completely when I gave up grains – despite the fact that I eat black beans and spinach for breakfast every day. :) So going back to eating grains just isn’t an option for me at this point (I do eat quinoa). Anyway – thanks for your input I will take it into account and think on my next steps. I get that the vegan diet is the basis of your practice. I guess I’m just not 100% convinced that from a health perspective a totally vegan diet is the best option for my personal situation at the moment.

  42. Marjorie September 3, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    I am trying to move from hardcore carnivore to a more vegetarian diet. My only problem is that I have a problem with my iron stores. I have been told in the past to make sure I eat red meat every 3 days for health (I admit I eat way more than that). My vegan naturopath told me that.

    My body does not store iron and iron supplements do not work. Are there any really good sources of iron that act like the iron in beef?

    I will feel sick and dragged out when I don’t eat red meat. I feel better within an hour of eating 4-5 ounces. My energy levels really perk up.

    I know its not B12, Vitamin D or protein because I supplement with these regularly.

    Any suggestions would be very helpful.

    • Ginny Messina September 5, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

      The fact that you feel better in a few hours after eating meat means that this is not an issue with iron. When your iron levels are low enough to cause symptoms, it takes a relatively long period of high supplementation to correct that. Eating 4-5 oz of meat would have no effect. I would get another opinion from a different doctor and have your iron tested. I doubt that you’re unable to store it. And eating lots of grains, beans, and leafy greens along with vitamin C rich foods is a great way to boost iron.

  43. Prudence Wasserman September 7, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    I am so happy I stumbled onto this page. I am in the middle of a social psychology course and our prof I’m pretty sure is a vegan. He designed an online interview which was required for the course having to do with how we feel about animals and if our eating habits reflect that. The carnivores are raising holy terror because they feel judged and attacked even though this is an experiment. The interesting thing though is that scads of them, scads say this, “I used to be vegetarian (or vegan) and then had to eat meat for health reasons.” There must be an epidemic attacking vegans of Titanic proportions. Having spent many decades as a non-meat eating person, a person with autoimmune disease and a host of other problems related to crummy genes, I know if I hadn’t been eating the way I do, I would be dead. My docs confirm this for me. So, it is with real eagerness I read this blog to see if I could actually glean what epidemic was taking place. Rather than say, “Hey I like to eat meat you have a problem with that,” they say they have health problems. I don’t believe I have the right to judge what other people eat, just like I don’t want them to judge what I eat. It does rankle me though to hear things like this – maybe there are some people who can’t metabolize certain plant proteins and they might have to eat meat, but that’s as rare as a vegan being hospitalized for having too low of a protein. When a serving of potato chips has 2 grams of protein, we don’t really need to worry.

  44. veggylover September 8, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    I have been vegetarian for 14 years (I occasionally eat dairy and eggs). I am mid-thirties and was diagnosed with very advanced hodgkin lymphoma last year, completed 8 months of chemotherapy and am in remission as confirmed by all the scans and medical controls. I think my disease may be from genetic predisposition (my brother had leukemia) in addition to chronic occupational exposure to cancerogenous chemicals, as I have worked 15+ years in research labs, pathology labs, analytical chemistry etc. Impossible to prove but it’s a fairly reasonable guess. I think it’s nearly impossible that this disease would be attributed to vegetarian/vegan diet and my oncologist is certain it is not related. I’ve always had a very big appetite and eat a very diverse and nutrionally sound diet, at least based on my knowledge and all my readings over all those years. I also ate 100% vegetarian during treatment (except for a few days when I was hospitalized). After completing my treatments last Spring, I started getting quite sick with debilitating skin problems, rashes, eczema, general fatigue and joint pains that cannot be easily explained by chemo. It was found by my oncologist and dermatologist and recently confirmed by allergy testing that I am allergic to needles and the surgical implant I had for my cancer treatment. Patch tests revealed a severe allergy to metals and it seems I also have developped additional sensitivity to nickel and histamine from food sources. I was instructed by the immunologist to try and follow a very low nickel diet and avoid foods with high levels of histamine or that are histamine-liberating at least until this issue is resolved and my immune system is “de-primed”. It was a big shock when I was given the list of foods to avoid as they are basicly all of the plant foods I normally eat. Following a vegan diet is impossible, even a vegetarian one. Excluded: beans, pulses, soy, nuts and seeds, extensive restrictions on vegetables and fruits especially citrus and those high in vitamine C, wheat and some other grains, eggs, cheese, sea food, most fish etc etc etc. Allowed: most fresh meats, some dairy, some fruits and vegetables and some grains. No metal cooking pots etc. We are really hoping that this is a temporary condition and that I can go back to my normal eating habits once my immune system is in better shape and that my body is detoxified so to speak. I am very commited for many different reasons to eating minimally a vegetarian diet and was naturally leaning towards a vegan one but I am lucky enough to have survived the cancer now I must do what I must do to save my life. It is also counter-intuitive in the sense that the foods I believed would help to restore my health are the ones making me sick. It also extremely difficult and actually painful to have to eat meat, and I must pay extra attention to specific needs such as increased protein needs, B12 and iron to restore bone marrow health among other things. But so far my condition has improved dramatically, I have been able to stop most of my anti-histamine medication and cortisone cream, and I am confident I am on the path to health again. In a few months time I will go back gradually to eating mostly plant foods in a trial and error manner. Diet is one component of health, a big one, but not the whole story. And I do very strongly oppose to animal suffering and factory farming, and eating flesh is completely repulsive, But it has become a matter of managing those emotions while I do my very best to lead the “second chance” at life I have as intelligently as possible. It is complex emotionally and medically and most content meat-eaters would think I see problems where there is none! Anyways… peace and health to all.

  45. Gary Warriner September 27, 2013 at 12:33 am #

    I think that you have answered the question very well with the statement ” they are not taking appropriate supplements” these are supliments to replace the nutritional elements missing from a omnivore diet.

  46. Hannah September 30, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Don’t judge.

    I’ve been told my zinc, iron and B12 levels are all through the floor. Add to that I’m also hypotensive (pre-existing) and my health is through the floor.

    I’m not going to eat meat (more that I don’t like the taste than out of principal) but I could see why people do.

  47. derek November 15, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    In a effort to get healthier I went vegetarian for 6 months and made sure to eat a variety of different fruits and veggies including protein and some healthy fats… i went to the doctor at the end because I was getting sicker and sicker (pain, headaches, muscle issues, intestinal troubles, liver swelling ) and found out that I had a enzyme imbalance that could not be corrected while eating just plants… the addition of 4 to 6 oz (lean) of meat a day corrected this issue and within a week i started to feel better and within a month I was completely normal… so yes for some people meat is necessary, to those who say otherwise…. i think i will trust the doctors and specialist that told me I have to eat meat.

  48. Karen December 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    HI! I am a new mother, my baby is 8 months old & I’m breastfeeding her. I was Vegan and started eating meat early in my pregnancy because it was the only food that sounded ok when I had terrible nausea.. It was very odd! I have always been considered underweight & have never been a big eater. I am currently eating small portions of meat to keep up with the caloric demands of lactation. I would love to be vegan again since I do not want to kill animals. I don’t digest soy or dairy well. I also have trouble when I eat large quantities of grain on a regular basis. Seitan & beans are also difficult in abundance. any good books or blogs would be appreciated. I have a lot of willpower, but I don’t have too much time or free hands to do a lot of food prep daily with baby. Love to all who are trying to make this world more peaceful.

  49. Joana Blackwell March 18, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    I was a whole foods vegan for 3 & 1/2 years and it wrecked my health. All the while I thought I was doing something good for myself, that is, until I started developing allergies and sensitivities (which I’d never had before), began losing my hair, developed hyperparathyroidism, and osteoporosis. I was following the “Forks Over Knives” routine but it really didn’t work for me. I e-mailed them about it at their website when the sent a thing out asking people for their stories but they never replied (apparently they didn’t want to hear that anyone had probs). And I really wanted to be vegan–still do–but I have to face it that it didn’t work for me. I’ve switched to paleo (more specifically, “the paleo approach” which is stricter) and feel MUCH better. I’ll be getting blood work done in a couple of days and I have high hopes (because of the way I’m feeling) that it’ll show that things are getting better. Not only do I feel better, but my incipient glaucoma, which my doctor has been monitoring me for for years, has reversed and the eye pressure is now well within the safe zone and I won’t have to take drops. Additionally, I have a mild case of Meniere’s disease (affects your balance) which got worse as a vegan but now seems to be getting better. Read the Loren Cordain’s online document, “Cereal Grains: Humanities Double-Edged Sword.” It’s a real eye-opener.

  50. Sarah April 20, 2014 at 9:11 am #

    I do rather enjoy this blog due to the analytical viewpoints. Personally, although I have a vegan family member and vegetarian friends, don’t
    have any particular interest in declaring meat consumption to be “wrong” from an ethical/moral, environmental, or health viewpoint.

    Arguments can be made that we (humans) are part of an ecosytem in which carnage and survival of the fittest is paramount. Like the majority of the population, who are not vegan, our genes got here because we fought to survive, and we can infer that man Vs animals is part of that cycle. I interestingly have observed, that statistically, the vegan minority tends to reproduce less overall, and some are pro choice which seems to defy their passion for (all) animal life, their own species in particular. In short, before this century of IV infusions, labwork, and man made dietary supplements and processed functional foods,veganism for most (but certainly not all) would have been maladaptive and perhaps incompatible with life and sucessful reproduction. But I digress.

    Remember that I personally do not have any moral understanding as to why eating/using animals is wrong. I am against factory farming, and direct cruelty, however I see nothing wrong with me shooting (arrow) a deer in the woods for meat, giving it a much more clean death than if I were to sit there and watch it get mauled in agony by wolves or starve during a bad season. Do I shoot the wolves to save the deer? Do I starve the rabbits and the deer by not letting them eat from my garden? What about animals that eat those fattened rabbits and deer to survive? Which do we help if we’re all equal? It becomes an illogical
    tangled mess. A familiar argument is that humans “know better” and can consciously choose to avoid suffering. But then logically that “proves” we are not playing the same field as animals.

    Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that plants do indeed experience “pain” and can even anticipate “pain” reflexes before harm comes to that. Perhaps bacteria we take antibiotics for also suffers to. It was thought not long ago that neither animals nor fetuses feel pain. We now know this is not scientifically valid. I am not looking to debate classification of “pain” and it’s relevance, just making a point. Do plants have a right to life? Animals? Human animals? Bacteria at least serves a purpose in the ecosytem yet we kill pathological bacteria against it’s will every day.

    It has been shown that farming veggies and grains can produce as much environmental impact as meat. Other studies have shown that meat production (as much as I detest factory farms) is actually not that environmentally damaging as most vegans claim (animal welbeing is another issues).

    Some have suggested farming grains directly for humans and not livestock. But here is my tie in point-if these animals are sick and unhealthy from the mass unnatural grain feeding, what makes them a good choice for human consumption? Feeding large human populations on grains, leaving out the additional health issues I’m
    getting to, typically involves GMO seeds, pecesticides, and fertilizer.

    In addition, people need to eat for their genes if they want to be healthy, few exceptions (congrats to those hearty genes people). While health is my primary interest, even ethical/moral vegans I assume value human health as we are animals too.

    I can completely agree with those who are vegan as meat makes them sick (physically and/or psychologically), those who follow religious beliefs, etc. But the other arguments, health in particular, falls flat. Hence why veganism is a minority group and is likely to remain such despite good intestine.

    Humans are unique in a number of ways. Our immune systems are quite complex, for reasons x, y, z. There are lots of published medical studies linking grains, legumes, nightshades, soy, and other dietary components to autoimmunity and inflammation, which can cause any number of serious diseases from Multiple Sclerosis to Lupus to thyroid disease. These are published medical studies. Does that mea
    ALL must avoid these triggers? No. But genetically, some certainly should, or perhaps MUST if they have “maladaptive” genes to a primarily vegan diet. In fact, they often do better on a plant/paleo diet. Dr. Terry Whals, an MD, reversed her MS with such a diet. She is no longer in a wheelchair and continues to practice medicine.

    Vegans have to understand that for every vegan whose genes thrive on veganism, another may suffer. Biology of our genes is like it or not, not a moral fight.

    I have Autoimmune Polyglandular Syndrome 1 since infancy. I have been in and out of hospitals since I was a baby with life threatening seizures (from severe Type 1 diabetes, the rare autoimmune rapidly fatal kind), severe swings in thyroid and adrenal hormone levels, etc. I also have a thankfully mild form of cystic fibrosis. Although my overall “good” genes (other than my recessive mutations) protected me from my early
    predicted death in my 20s, I was extremely ill and low functioning with no quality of life.

    I ate the typical “normal” so called healthy diet preached for good health. Complex grains, lean proteins (vegetarian options good), etc. I was a mess.

    After becoming deathly ill (yet again), I was diagnosed with Celiac as part of my APS 1 syndrome. I had to beg to be tested, and low and behold my bloodwork and biopsy showed that my daily oatmeal was killing me (I am HLA DQ8, the 10% of Celiacs who also react to even pure oats). My allergic shiners since childhood now developed into anaphylactic reactions. I slowly found that dietary antigens, both animal and non animal sources, were the “triggers” for the instability of my
    genetic syndrome. For the first time in my life, I went from knowing I was going to die soon to being able to stabilize my
    condition that every specialist could not.

    My diet restricts foods that impact my autoimmunity and incorporate high protein and high good fats for my CF (it’s hard got me to maintain weight and normal protein/vitamin levels, which is typical in CF patients with pancreas insufficiency,

    Foods that cause severe sudden unpredictable rapid extreme swings in blood glucose that are uncontrollable for days (even trace amounts):
    -Coconut, agave, any rice except wild rice, beef, almost all gluten free “grains”, including quinoa, tapiocca. I have always had
    very insulin sensitive and prone to episodes of needing little insulin. Now by avoiding my triggers, although I will always need an insulin pump, I have more frequent periods where my
    antibodies are reduced and/or I erratically make my
    own endogenous insulin.

    The trigger for my extremely unstable thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s and
    Grave’s, as well as possible heterophillic antibodies) is soy. Once I cut out all traces of soy after a thyroid hospitalization, my levels stabilized
    for the first time since childhood. I will always need medication, but at least I don’t worry about thyrotoxicosis and coma.

    A medical journal (search Pub Med) article indicates a woma
    with premature ovarian failure reversed it (likely she only had FSH receptor antibodies) with a diet excluding eggs, nightshades. (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant), legumes, and citrus fruit among others. I did the same and I’m now pregnant (was supposed to be in menopause in my 20s). And FYI, yes I did use genetic testing to ensure my child will be healthy (carriers of my mutations don’t develop the conditions).

    My diet is unprocessed, Med/paleo/raw specific to my
    food “allergies”. I eat for my genes period,
    regardless of the source (animal or not). Lots of anti inflammatory oils, avocado, nuts, quality meat (no beef), fish (diabetics and thyroid patients can’t convert Omega 3s from flax), veggies, fruits, etc, No dairy due to anaphylaxis (it’s linked to autoimmune diabetes interestingly as
    well). No beans, lentils, or nightshades due to their links with autoimmunity. I eat about 4000 kcal daily to keep my nutritional status and weight up as I am naturally/genetically very thin plus a cystic fibrosis patient. I do take antioxidants but find I am healthy for the first time on this diet.

    So while we can all agree a clean wholesome diet with lots of plant foods is beneficial to most, vegans need to remember that not everyone’s genes are the same. Perhaps a better argument would be to promote humane farming practices rather than assume all humans should automatically strive for a vegan diet as a whole. Veganism is a new concept with few exceptions throughout history. Just because your ancestors thrived on grains doesn’t mean my body will or can.

    Interesting subject, to say the least.

  51. Adam July 1, 2014 at 8:46 am #

    I went vegan for about a year and a half when I was in the military, I felt much better for the first 3-4 months before I started having health problems. I could not keep weight on and my military schedule and situation simply did not afford me the opportunity to proper nutrition. Once I was in California I continued on a vegan diet but despite working with a vegan nutritionist and doctors for the next year or so I could not maintain my weight despite consuming 4-6k calories or more a day. Eventually I discovered a mild intolerance to soy, chickpeas and peanuts. (I won’t go into details but it was unpleasant). Once I got off of those my condition improved some and I stopped losing weight but I couldn’t gain weight. I was 6’2″ and about 140 lbs. I desperately needed to gain weight. My doctor finally recommended I try adding fish back into my diet. I started gaining weight again and eventually added some chicken as well. I gained about 30-35 lbs over the next 2-3 months. I occasionally will eat meat but usually regret doing so as I feel like I swallowed a brick and get sick afterwards.
    Vegan isn’t for everyone. I think it is a great choice for many but not for all.

  52. wish I could be vegan July 6, 2014 at 2:52 am #

    Hello.
    I can not go vegan.I had been vegetarian for 12 years. Slowly over the course of 4 months I took dairy, eggs and honey out of my diet. I replaced exactly what i took out, and began enjoying soy butter and non dairy yogurts.
    I had to eat alot of food but I was doing it right. I ate 8 varieties of beans, 3 kinds of long grain rices, every fruit and vegetable i could buy.avocados, flax seeds, nuts, hemp seeds, various milks, , i ate oats and cereals.
    I was losing energy, weak and irritable all the time. I started to get tell tale signs of nutrient deficiencies notably iron, but others as well. I was taking multivitamins, some b vitamins,fresh untreated sea salt, sprulina and eating the right amount of calories… I started sleep walking., then sleep running, then some thing called sleep hunting where the brain tried to find protein and feed it self. I woke up the next afternoon exhausted and covered in furniture and paintings that I had piled on top of my self in my sleep. . It was aweful. My life turned into a sickly, exhausted hell. And the sleep violence my body was doing was really scary for me. I went to the Dr and a nutritionist , they diagnosed me as anemic, nutrient deficient and protein deficient. they told me I could eat some meat or get an animal protein injection.

    I decided to eat meat.
    Though you are not supposed to jump back into eating whole meat so fast and you are supposed to stage up with broths I had my first steak in 12 years the next day and have eaten meat/ or dairy once or 3 times a week and have had no more issues with sleep walking, or sleep hunting. When ever I cut them out again I have major problems.

    If there is some one who wants to tell me how I can be vegan PLEASE TELL ME. <3 I want to be vegan. My body does not.

  53. Paula August 22, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    Exuse me if someone else has mentioned a similar reply.

    I went vegan in the 90’s and was not eating a very good vegan diet. But it was fair. I craved meat eventually and added it back into my diet.
    I ate lots of veggies and my health seemed to be the same as ever. Depressed and fatiqued, lots of anxiety.
    I started working with a naturopath around 2002. I got rid of excess sugar and ate a lot of veggies but still had meat in my diet. I also had non gluten grains. I began to feel really good except I felt deprived and I kicked up an old eating disorder. My eating ranged from very healthy (with meat) to bulimia.

    I finally stabilized about 9 months ago, no bulimia. About a year ago I tried going vegan again, this time with my naturopaths help. I have been diagnosed with Lyme disease, chronic epstein bar and other viruses.
    I still struggle with depression, fatique and anxiety. The vegan diet lasted about 4 months ( and I was good about omegas, b-12 etc) I had horrendous gas and fatiique again.so back to meat I went. I felt better.

    But I have noticed that now despite the meat, I do not feel better. I still get gas and so Ai am wondering if the meat really made a difference.
    I am now attempting to wean myself off animal products again.
    No meat so far, or dairy for 3 days.

    I take oxbile and adrenals for energy and digestion and will try to find substitutes.

    I write this because I really think there should be more compassion for those of us who clearly care for animals, want to be vegan. But struggle to do so. Believe me when I say I am doing my best. I think there could be more understanding for people and what they eat and it would be more inviting to people who feel intimated by the vegan movement if they are not perfectly vegan.

    Perfectionism is not a helpful trait that I find in myself or in others.

    I do appreciate the nutrional advice of vegan rd. It is helpful. I do not appreciate any form of shaming or moral high ground tones in some of the vegan voices out there. It has never helped me to be a better vegan.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Vegan eats in Salida, Mount Princeton Hot Springs and Vegan news you can use (3/3/13) - March 3, 2013

    […] If you read only one link that I provide this week, please make it this one from Ginny Messina:  Do Some People Need to Eat Meat? […]

  2. Weekly Reader: Delicious Inspiration - March 4, 2013

    […] Norris, RD., To Quit or Not to Quit Veganism. And The Vegan RD, Do Some People Need to Eat Meat? Similar topics, with Jack and Ginny, the two author’s of Vegan for Life discussing the […]

  3. Another One Bites the Meat « Pythagorean Crank - March 6, 2013

    […] Failing Health As A Vegan | Bonzai Aphrodite To Quit or Not to Quit Veganism | Jack Norris, RD Do Some People Need to Eat Meat? | Ginny Messina, The Vegan […]

  4. Going Vegan: What I’ve learned. | The Kale Ninja - April 8, 2013

    […] cravings have anything to do with your body’s physical needs, the simple answer is no.  Read The Vegan RD‘s piece on animal product cravings and Sayward Rebhal‘s beautifully honest account of […]

  5. Episode 73 – We Can Be Heroes | Team Earthling - June 9, 2013

    […] or not to quit veganism – Jack Norris Facing Failing Health As A Vegan – Sayward Rebhal Do Some People Need to Eat Meat? – Ginny Messina Being Fearless Vegan – Ginny Messina You’re Not Hardcore Unless […]

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