Do Vegans get sick?
Vegans come under a lot of scrutiny when it comes to their health, not just from non-vegans but within our own community too. This has caused a lot of us to stay silent when we are unwell, to hide the fact that we are not immune to illness. If we do talk about it, we often get shamed for our illness, because it must be our fault, right? We are either enforcing a silly myth amongst non-vegans that those who abstain from eating animals will end up sick and struggling, or we are blamed within vegan circles because we are letting down the vegan community, or worse, the animals. We have to be super healthy, and super skinny too of course. Anything less and we are either secretly eating animals or one of those naughty ‘junk food vegans’ who ‘let the side down’. Well guess what, you can be a perfectly healthy vegan who eats a well balanced and varied diet, Greger-approved even, and still get sick. It happens. It does not mean you are at fault and it has no bearing on what kind of vegan you are.
Good nutrition, a mostly whole foods diet, will give you a greater chance of avoiding some of the ‘diseases of affluence’ that are rising in the western world. But there are illnesses that have very little to do with diet, and there are risk factors that are sometimes out of our control. I myself have hypothyroidism, now well controlled, and I have had more than one aspiring ‘health expert’ tell me that I should eat this or that to control it. That certain symptoms are a result of not eating the right kind of vegan diet. I hate to break it to the world but, there is no diet cure for most kinds of hypothyroidism, and many many other illnesses too.Certainly eating well makes anyone feel better and it often reduces symptoms, and sometimes medication dosage, in those of us with chronic illness. It makes sense that good nutrition, enough sleep and regular exercise helps everyone, sick or not. Thats hardly revolutionary. But we must accept that sometimes people still get ill even when they do everything ‘right’. What is required in those situations is a little respect and understanding. There are limits to what you can learn from watching Dr Greger’s videos and reading a few books by plant based doctors. Believe it or not, that does not make you a health expert, and certainly a lot more is required from an actual nutritionist or dietician. Health is complex and nutrition is still very poorly understood. While diet plays a crucial role in controlling illness, it may not always cure it and it may not always prevent it.
Taking care of ourselves is important, but resist the urge to blame yourself, or anyone else, when illness still comes knocking. Stay true to your vegan principles, seek advice from a qualified professional and most importantly, do not be hard on yourself. In a world that seeks to blame at every opportunity, accepting that you are human, that you have strengths and weaknesses, these things will help you far more than beating yourself up because you failed to make yourself disease-proof. Because guess what? There is no magic diet, no cure-all, no way of eating that is the panacea for life. We are human and humans get sick. Even vegans.
About Guest Contributor:
New Zealand-born April-Tui Buckley is an ethical vegan and the woman behind the popular blog thebalancedvegan
Passionate about all aspects of health and our entire food system, April-Tui is trained in nutrition and natural health. Her blog aims to encourage people to reconnect with their food, get back into the kitchen and rediscover food traditions. Recipes are designed to show people how easy, healthful and enjoyable being vegan is. She writes about other aspects of vegan life and wellness, with a particular interest in hormone health.
“I try to transfer my love of food and animals to my readers”. – April-Tui Buckley.