[Wellness] Fad Diets for the Thoughtful 5: Series Conclusion
New to this series? Start here:
My table of comparisons between the diets discussed in this series, using vegetarianism and macrobiotic as baselines for comparisons, click to enlarge:
In this series, I examined raw veganism, fruitarianism, sproutarianism, juicearianism and breatharianism to find out what they were, what the advantages and disadvantages were, and, as per my table above, whether they were nutritionally sound. I also produced this handy infographic:
In conclusion, there are a lot of restrictive diets out there, many of which are founded on religious or philosophical concepts. Whilst researching this article I found out about The Creationist Diet, which I will discuss in a future post – Creationist vs Paleo diets. Of the diets discussed, I would strongly suggest that anything below a raw vegan diet is not fulfilling all of the basic nutritional requirements of a person. Raw veganism sounds really interesting as a concept (I actually think the concepts behind sproutarianism and fruitarianism are also pretty interesting) but obviously you would have to spend a lot of time researching and finding out about how to get the exact nutritional requirements from these foods without eating too much “filler” (fruit sugars, chlorophyll etc) in the process.
The 75% concept is a good idea – I would like to see more people in all these different sects of veganism advocating following 75% (their diet) and 25% (to take it up with nutrients). I would be particularly intrigued to follow a 50-50 diet between fruitarianism and sproutarianism to see what the effects were like, because their nutritional deficiencies do complement each other although I would only want to do this for a short while due to it being extremely difficult to get enough protein from fruit and sprouted seeds by volume (and I have had a protein deficiency in the past, I don’t want to go through that again). I have future plans to road-test raw veganism, fruitarianism, sproutarianism and 50-50 fruit-sprout-arianism, to be able to give a full and detailed review (and just to have experienced these things; in case you hadn’t noticed I’m all about getting the experiences). I will not be including juicearian and breatharianism/ineida, however, because they are just bloody stupid, and I can live without the experiences of abdominal pain, diabetes or death.
I also found out that some people use the term aquatarian to describe a water-only diet (and some people use it to describe pescetarians, presumably because they want it to sound nicer). Personally, I would like to see a water-organisms-only diet (fish, sea vegetables, seafood and water) and I would describe that as aquatarian. Presumably that would have too many nutrients for anyone to actually sell it to people. I would guess the water-only drinkers don’t live long enough to design or make a website, as none of them have one, just commentary hints about how “only water is pure” and how water has all the vitamins you need (which is absolute rubbish).
I’m going to offend someone with this; this entire paragraph is specifically talking about breatharianism: The breatharians with websites are obviously lying. If you can’t see that we need to eat and drink to live, you are either extremely gullible (possibly raised within a strict dogmatic faith), or you’re a spoilt middle class or upper class idiot with too much money and not enough sense, because anyone who has genuinely gone hungry or been surrounded by hunger in a situation beyond their control knows they need food to live. Find a real religion or spiritual system (or devise your own that works just for you) which will give you a sense of fulfilment and personal destiny, a spirituality or sense of purpose. Steve Pavlina has some great ideas about the mysteries of the cosmos – check him out: http://www.stevepavlina.com
If you’re getting angry because I’ve criticized your diet, learn what’s making you so angry here: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/lunch-att/lunch-attitudes-1a.shtml Please note that this article explains the pathologies behind lunch identification but it falsely assumes that only vegans and raw vegans are capable of such a thing – failing to understand that the militant attitude of some plant eaters was directly caused by the same lunch identification (and worse) from omnivores – in other words, the meat eaters have spent the last 150 years disparaging vegetarian and subsequent diets, so of course vegans have grown to learn a logical set of reasoning to explain their choices to the next ignoramus who asks. I am not a vegan (I was not a vegan when I wrote this all as one long article before I published part 1 in December – I’m vegan now, and still totally comfortable with what I eat), but have been an omnivore, a vegetarian and a vegan (and all sorts of other things) in the past, and I am comfortable in my eating habits, so am able to make this observation. Also bear in mind there are a hell of a lot more omnivores so they each have to be less negative to wear a vegan down to the point where they reciprocate. Not that it stops the omnivores from going too far consistently (have I now pissed off every dietary group???).
This is important, because a lot of the anti-vegan propaganda focusses on the fact that veganism has a coherent rationale and that every vegan will tell you similar reasons for eating vegan. That rationale was developed as a response to what the article calls “dietary bigotry” – and in the first place, the bigotry was travelling from omnivores towards vegetarians and this fixation on trying to change other people’s diets and “convert them to meat eating” arises out of a chronic insecurity, which caused a reciprocal problem in the vegan community and downwards. Additionally, if the reasons are appealing to the vast majority of vegans and play a part in the decision making process, then it stands to reason that people will cite similar reasons for going vegan.
However, the pathologies described in the article are good and accurate and worth being aware of if you find yourself becoming obsessed with diet. The real question then would be what to do about it, but I think that your approach to that would be highly personal and utterly depend on your circumstances, such as what you were currently eating and how far gone you were. There is a fine line between conscious eating and silly eating, and only you can judge where that line falls. Unless you end up ill, in which case leave it to a qualified doctor.
Here are some signs you should not ignore in any vegan diet:
1. Constant tiredness – this is a symptom of many nutritional deficiencies, including protein, vitamin D, iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium. It’s also a symptom of excessive tryptophan, one of the amino acids that is plentiful in the vegan diet. Excessive tryptophan causes “serotonin syndrome” which can be deadly.
2. Constant difficulty doing “brain-intensive” work, e.g. reading – this is another symptom linked to the above, and implies a deficiency of protein, iron, vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium and calcium.
3. Constipation/diarrhea for more than 3 days – this is a big sign that something is wrong in your digestive system. Once you’ve solved the short term symptoms (with either a laxative or an anti-diarrhea pill) you need to start going through what you are eating and how you are preparing it to find out the cause of the problem – this can be caused by contaminated foods, such as lentils, which haven’t been heated quite enough to kill all the bacteria, also food intolerances, fibre intolerance, dehydration and excessive iron intake.
4. Hair loss (excessive) – Protein makes hair. If you don’t have enough protein, your hair falls out. It shuts down non-essential systems, and hair is one of these. Zinc and magnesium deficiencies also cause hair loss.
5. Irritability – This is another sign of protein deficiency, as well as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and a host of other things. If you have periods, do check that it’s not just the week before your period – PMS and PMDD both come with irritability as standard.
6. Pica – the need to eat things that are considered “non food” e.g. coal, glass, ice. You have a food deficiency. To identify what the deficiency is, find out what the “non-food” item you’re craving is made of, and see if any of its composition is a mineral (or other nutrient, but it’s most commonly minerals such as iron). Try supplementing with that mineral and see if the pica goes away.
7. Hallucinations and delusions – You have a severe B12 deficiency, get thee to a doctor and get some supplements as well.
8. Inability to “get going” – This is an extension of tiredness/fatigue/concentration problems, and is down to lack of energy – i.e. carbohydrates. Try a piece of fruit, try checking if you have any other symptoms, and if it’s still a mystery, go to the doctor.
9. Constant hunger – You’re hungry, even though you’re eating loads. It’s because you’re not getting the right stuff inside you. Try mixing it up and eating something really random that you wouldn’t usually try, such as nuts, goji berries, mushrooms or couscous.
10. Unexplained bruising and bruising far too easily, with the bruises not fading after the usual time – this is a vitamin K and iron deficiency. Usually accompanied by some other symptoms such as fatigue. Supplement with vitamin K and iron.
11. Your period has stopped – This is a big sign of malnutrition which I mentioned before with the video in Part 1. If you usually have a period (and there are a host of reasons you might not, e.g. not having the right equipment, being on long term contraception, pregnancy, medical problems etc) and your period suddenly stops happening, check you’re not pregnant. If you’re definitely not pregnant, you need to get more food into your diet. Amenhorrea is never something to ignore as it is a sign that something fundamental is wrong with your body, even if you feel well. I would consult a doctor if you absolutely will not change what you eat, but I don’t know what else they would say.
With all of the above symptoms, you need to take a step back, assess whether your diet is really giving you the nutrients you need. This can be really difficult to do when you’re still in the middle of it, so I would recommend trying supplements first, if you can find any that fit your diet rules, then have a think about whether there are any foods you could get that suit your vegan-subtype that would be a better long term solution to include in your diet. Personally, if I was having problems with a diet, I would revert back to regular vegan or even ovo-vegetarian for a period of time, build up my nutrients so I’d got a good store of them, then try again. I have a milk allergy so there is absolutely no way in hell I’d ever eat milk or milk derivatives, which is why I don’t discuss the role of milk in the diet.
In all of the places where I have mentioned a “doctor” I mean a medical professional who has spent many years training at a medical school and works in a medical setting with the ability to identify your ailment accurately and find a solution to it. Retired doctors, pharmacists, nurses, holistic therapists, dentists, voodoo dancers, village shamans, hairdressers etc etc, all have good intentions and can have some good advice, but there are times when you just need to see an actual current qualified doctor who is up to date with latest developments in their field and has the power to prescribe you something that has been tested rigorously to make sure it actually works – and someone who you can hold accountable if it doesn’t work, because they have a vested interest in getting it right – or they can lose their licence to practise medicine.