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Chronic illness and veganism

Hello friends--

I decided to go vegetarian for health reasons after being diagnosed with systemic lupus erythmatosus. However, my doctor told me I shouldn't go vegan (and wasn't too enthusiastic that I am no longer eating meat).

Vegans without health problems are telling me not to worry about it. People with lupus are encouraging me to keep consuming dairy and to start eating fish again (which I really, really don't want to do).

So is there anyone on here who is both vegan and has a chronic health problem? What can I expect if I go vegan? I'd really like to hear from people with other autoimmune problems.

Thanks so much!
-Melissa

hi Mellisa!  Welcome!

I have Fibromyalgia - a chronic pain condition (diagnosed in 2003).  I've been a vegetarian for 8 years and a vegan for 7 months.  I've noticed a decrease in pain and an increase in my energy and brain functions (memory/concentration, etc).  Why does your doctor feel you should continue to eat meat?  If it's due to protein there are tons of other foods that provide enough protein to remain healthy.  And IMO the junk that's in meat is far worse for you than sticking to a vegan diet!

I try to eat a well balanced diet and I supplement with a multi-vitamin, B12 and magnesium/malic acid (for my muscles).  My best advice is to research as much as you possibly can on diet and lupus.  Best of luck! :)

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I have lupus and am vegan.  My decision to be vegan was entirely ethically motivated.  However, I have experienced a dramatic improvement in my health since becoming vegan.  Most of the improvement came after the switch from vegetarian to vegan.  I have been vegan since 1999.  I am on no medications.

We recently had a discussion on here regarding this.  I *believe* it was Lady Dragonfly who also has lupus and has had experience similar to mine.  I also *believe* that she went vegan because of the lupus.  Hopefully she will pop in and respond.

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Hi melissadavlin !

I would highly recommend that you goto www.pcrm.org (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine). Their magazine is probably the most informative vegan magazine I get (relating to health issues, nutrition, the inconclusive studies done to lab animals over and over and over....... with basically same results over and over and over..... >:( ).
start with these:

http://www.pcrm.org/health/prevmed/index.html
http://www.pcrm.org/health/reports/index.html

It's basically written by, and set up by physicians that are committed to vegan health and nutrition. Let me just say that they put their money where there mouth is when it comes to research, studies, and vegan nutrition. It's sometimes hard to take nutritional advice from a doctor who goes home and has a steak for dinner and grabs a quick bite to eat at Burger King from time to time (I'm not saying he's like that....but there are many....including my own brother who happens to be a surgeon). I'd hate to give you medical advice because I'm not an MD. But....on the other hand I have been a member of PCRM for years and have always found their literature and actual studies the most complete for the type of lifestyle I have chosen.
Good Luck!  :)
-dave

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Hi Melissa,

I have chronic asthma and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was 16 (23 years ago).  Since following a mainly vegan diet I have had a dramatic improvement in my asthma and my arthritis has pretty much disappeared.

Jacqueline

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Hey! I was diagnosed with Crohns disease when I was nine. (Crohns is where the body attacks the digestive system) I used to have a flare-up every year, and each flare required a three month (or longer) period of heavy steroids. I changed to a vegan diet when I was fifteen, and I can honestly say I feel unbelievably better, and haven't had a flare since.

Good luck - and have you thought about asking another doctor, just as a consult?

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I have lupus and I am vegan.  I have been vegan off and on over time for lots of reasons, but the switch back was because of lupus.

Now, I'll be honest with you.  I have developed anemia here recently.  Lupus patients are prone to it.  Since I don't eat meat and I have been less than diligent with my dark leafy greens, I chose to take Floradix iron tonic, which is vegan.  I feel better after only a week of this because it is food and works fast.

I think that a lot of doctors do not understand about veganism.  It makes people nervous in general.  Cow's milk is for baby COWS.  Eggs are intended for making baby chickens.  Flesh is certainly NOT the only source of high quality protein either.  People just don't understand!

Being vegan again has helped my lupus a lot.  With the iron, I have some of my energy back.  I have SLE too, and I have chronic pericarditis with pleuritic chest pain, but I a lot better than I was before I went back to this diet. I don't take Plaquenil or methotrexate which are common for lupus patients.  I am not on pain pills and I rarely take anti-inflammatories any more.  Yes, I still get very tired and yes I still have joint pain.  THis week I have 4 of the 5 lupus rashes and a case of hives too.  It is not a cure, but if you don't like the drugs they use, this diet is very helpful.

The idea that a lupus patient should eat dairy is ludicrous!  Stastically, over 80% of liupus patients are ALLERGIC to all dairy and nearly as many are allergic to eggs and/or wheat.  Those who are devoted meat eaters claim they are allergic to soy, but it is MY feeling that people who would rather eat flesh will say they are allergic to soy when they are no such thing.  You only have to ask what their symptoms are and they can't tell you.

Plus don't judge me for it, I didn't know about it...I put my trust in the wrong person.  I was given what I was told was a vegan dish.  I tasted it and it had an overwhelming sulfury something to it.  I asked if it had eggs and was told no.  Turns out, it was full of chicken eggs!  I was told they didn't tell me cause it was too hard to cook without animal products (beans are hard?) and they didn't think I would notice.  They came clean after I had complained of spending the entire night in terrible bloating sharp stomach pain and stuff that happens later down the digestive line that is TMI. I also bloomed in a full face discoid rash!  I look just lovely.  IT WAS AWFUL and I ended the so-called friendship over this. It isn't so much that I don't want to eat eggs, it is that I CAN"T eat them!!!  What I don't know can and will hurt me. 

If you are prone to sinus problems like so many of us lupus people, dropping dairy entirely may put an end to most of those problems.  Since I gave up dairy 100% about 7 years ago I have not had one single sinus infection, but I used to get upwards of 8 a year before that. 

One last thing, doctors do not know everything.  There is a reason they call it "practicing" medicine.

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Is there anyone out there with MS (Multiple Sclerosis), who has experienced significant improvement since converting to a vegan diet?

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I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at 19 but I'd been having syptoms for a few years before I went to a doctor.  It doesn't sound like my Crohn's was as active as Silent Cricket's but after the first initial year when I was on a high 8 pill dose plus of meds, I have only been on a low 2 pill maintenance for almost 12 years.  I contribute that to my vegetarian and then my vegan lifestyle.  My doctor has never given me any lectures about diet and actually jokes that I'm his easiest patient when I go in for my yearly checkup because nothing ever changes.  We basically just visit.

I'd say if your doctor is giving you that many problems about diet, find a new one.  No doctor is worth that much headache. 

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Hello Melissa & Happy New Year!

A dear friend of mine was recently diagnosed with Lupus and in my conversations with her about the disease she has always stressed the importance of a healthy immune system for keeping her health stabilized.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but from all of my reading, personal health experiences and such, a plant based diet is the only diet that boosts the immune system, mainly because when your body isn't fighting the effects of dairy and flesh it can better protect itself.

A good (and very short) book to read more about this would be 'The R.A.V.E. Diet", in it the author describes the fundamental health benefits of a plant based diet and talks with some of the most well-respected doctors in this arena (Furhman included) working on getting this into the mainstream. You will be impressed by some of the patient stories.

In my opinion it may be best to find a doctor more in tune with your personal beliefs and more open to thinking outside the box and outside the "food pyramid", someone willing to explore these benefits with you.

Best of Luck,
A

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I had a concussion in October from what was probably a mini seizure due to the lupus.  I was still having headaches 3 weeks in and ask my doctor to help.  She asked about my diet and I said I had gone vegan and I thought it was helping.  Her only question was: Are you taking B12 supplements or using a soymilk that is fortified?  Yes, oh yes!  Of course, she has been a veggie but not since she married her husband, well not so much she isn't, but keeps meatless a lot of the time on her own.  She doesn't lecture about it because she knows I don't tend to make myself a "cheeseball" which is what happens to so many people who go "meatless" and keep the dairy in.  Ovo-lactos run the risk of depending on cheese and eggs for their protein and become high cholesterol "cheeseballs" and get into health problems.  Veganism precludes this but you do have to try to eat in a balanced way.  HOORAH to vegweb for being there and helping even the most recalcitrant nonvegetable eater find new ways to enjoy them!

I have never met a vegetable I didn't like, but I have still found wonderful ways to enjoy them hanging out here.

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Hey! I was diagnosed with Crohns disease when I was nine. (Crohns is where the body attacks the digestive system) I used to have a flare-up every year, and each flare required a three month (or longer) period of heavy steroids. I changed to a vegan diet when I was fifteen, and I can honestly say I feel unbelievably better, and haven't had a flare since.

Good luck - and have you thought about asking another doctor, just as a consult?

a very close friend of mine also has crohns, but he does nothing to better his situation. he goes into the hospital once every 6 months or so for a week or two, sometimes longer. he is so stubborn and won't do anything to help himself. i've tried showing him stuff about vegan diets that could help him out, but he wants nothing to do with it. i'm glad you are taking care of yourself, though. did you make the choice on your own, or did someone assist you in making your life decision? i want to be able to help him, but it almost seems as if he doesn't want any help

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I have Crohn's (well, as clinically diagnosed... I'm not one to label).  As much as I would like to, I don't associate veganism with bettering my 'condition'.  I certainly think that a healthier diet is a help however.  My 'illness' is stress-induced.  When I get really stressed out (really, really), I vomit every morning for a week or two.  I can control it within two hours if I focus, meditate, alkalize my system and relax.  It's just that this 'solution' isn't always exactly accessible.  There in lies the conundrum in my medical system... I'm currently working on it.

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Hey! I was diagnosed with Crohns disease when I was nine. (Crohns is where the body attacks the digestive system) I used to have a flare-up every year, and each flare required a three month (or longer) period of heavy steroids. I changed to a vegan diet when I was fifteen, and I can honestly say I feel unbelievably better, and haven't had a flare since.

Good luck - and have you thought about asking another doctor, just as a consult?

a very close friend of mine also has crohns, but he does nothing to better his situation. he goes into the hospital once every 6 months or so for a week or two, sometimes longer. he is so stubborn and won't do anything to help himself. i've tried showing him stuff about vegan diets that could help him out, but he wants nothing to do with it. i'm glad you are taking care of yourself, though. did you make the choice on your own, or did someone assist you in making your life decision? i want to be able to help him, but it almost seems as if he doesn't want any help

I got to the point where they were about to remove a part of my bowel because there was a tear in it. The doctor said "this will help" but didn't say what would happen when the scar tissue from that swelled up and they had to remove the surrounding bowel too. Then the scar tissue from that, and from that... etc. As soon as they let me go, I walked out of that hospital with the dietary restriction sheet for a "low-residue" diet. (Essentially as many Big Macs as I wanted, but no fruits, veggies, brown rice, whole grains, tortilla chips , and a bunch of other things I can't even remember. Nothing to "stress the colon.") As I said, I was fifteen. I think having Crohns made me a little more mature than my peers, since I've had to face my own fragility, but I was still extremely scared - I didn't want to end up with a plastic bag for an intestine. I did as much research as I could, and slowly weaned myself off the low residue diet and onto a healthy one. (I say slowly because I was scared of opening up a new hole in my intestine) I cut out all hydrogenated oils and beef overnight, cut out chicken a couple of weeks later, and made the switch to a completely vegan diet a couple of months after that. Rarely any symptoms at all, and -no- pain or uncomfortable cramps where the intestine was swollen. Quite honestly, it's amazing.

Sometimes, though, I think people need to figure this out for themselves. I didn't want to hear how much my diet affected me until I had no other option. Kudos for showing him the info - have you tried cooking vegan junk food just to show him it exists? Some people think vegan = weird, dirty stereotypical hippe. Maybe he just needs to realise it can be something "normal" people can do, too.

Idioglossia, the only times I have issues is when I'm stressed. Isn't it odd how much stress affects our bodies?

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Thank you all for your help!

LadyDragonfly, thank you very much. Your advice gives me a lot of confidence-- our SLE symptoms sound almost identical! I will keep this all in mind. I feel so much better now that I've finally heard from others who are both vegan and dealing with lupus.

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I am asthmatic (as a result of fumes of a cleaning product!!) and a vegan diet seems to keep me less wheezy than if I am consuming animal products.

My husband has Acute Intermittent Porphyria, which requires regular, frequent meals with a high carb-to-protein ratio.  There are a lot of foods that trigger attacks (fierce abdominal pain and neuro symptoms) for him, but nothing so reliably messes him up as meat.  We've never been fully vegan until about a week ago (having been ovo-lacto)... and we feel amazingly well.  He claims he's never felt better.  I can definitely foresee us remaining entirely or almost-entirely vegan from now on.

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I'll share this because others have mentioned it.  I hang out on a lupus support board.  They all want to try to one up others with symptoms and how many drugs they are taking and how they are working.  One gal posted a email from her doctor.  Essentially, he said "buck up and shut up" and to try to quit dwelling on her difficulties, but rather get out and work for the Lupus Foundation.  He said she spent too much time "preoccupied" by her niggling aches and pains! 

It was a terse note from the doctor and put in a rather tactless way, but I think he was right.  You know, lots of people suffer with autoimmune disorders and lead full lives.  I think they do this by learning their triggers and being proactive, rather than being a patient.  It is a half full, half empty thing. 

I don't have to tell any of you that it takes A LOT to change your life and your habits.  You know several of us are dealing with autoimmune problems (Crohns', lupus, etc.) and we are doing it by changing our habits and thus permanently changing our lives.  I have heard every excuse in the book about why it is not good to be vegan (justifying themselves?).  Perhaps it is easier for some to change nothing and just complain.  Perhaps it is easier to put the responsibility of treating their illness in the hands of others, like doctors.  Perhaps they believe that nothing will help.  I don't know, but when I finish that counseling degree I am involved in, I hope I do understand better!

Of course, you know vegans are subversive!  I am convinced we are the freer spirits and the freer thinkers, well ahead of our time.  I sometimes think that anyone who would work to change lifelong habits, as many of use were omnis at one time, is the same sort of personality who would not treat a difficult illness by wearing their hearts on their sleeves.

I suppose all we can do is be happy, healthy living proof of our choices.

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I've had Crohn's since 1991 (originally diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 1987, in high school). While my case is much milder than many others - no surgeries or other nightmarish meds or side effects - I can certainly sympathize with the flare-ups and fatigue that accompanies this illness. A low-fat, partial vegetarian eating plan (mostly whole grains, fruits and veggies) and exercise have helped keep me healthy. But over the last couple of years, as my work responsibilities at work have increased (I am an English teacher), I am feeling more drained of energy and mental clarity.

I've been seriously considering going vegan for a few years, but several foods I love that are veggie/vegan staples just shred my insides. For those of you who deal with intestinal illnesses, how do you reconcile it with your vegetarianism/veganism? Also, once you switched over to "The Green Side of the Universe", in what ways did your fatigue decrease/mental clarity increase? Any particular supplements that you recommend besides the Bs? 

Any input is appreciated. Thanks!  ???

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I've been vegan for almost 12 years now, and have been diagnosed with: I.B.S., fibromyalgia, arthritis, bi-patello-femoral syndrome, PMDD and, as soon as I have some health insurance, most likely MS as well.  The vegan diet has definitely helped me with the majority of my issues - my immune system is obviously compromised by all of the ailments, but I don't get colds very often.  Now, that may not sound like a big deal, but I had chronic strep throat and constant colds as a kid, so to me it's pretty fantastic.  I can't work anymore, and have been denied any & all state aid since I'm not under a doctor's care (but I can't get a doctor's care unless I have insurance - it's a circle of stupid!), so it's very difficult to get the care I do need but being vegan?  That's easy! That's simple! That's perfectly do-able, and even on my worst days, I take comfort in all of the lives I've saved - including my own!  Countless people have told me I'd feel better if I just ate meat - these people, of course, are the ones who have their OWN chronic diseases but are adamant that meat makes them strong.  I find that my vegan lifestyle coupled with a damn perky attitude has kept me happier and healthier than any ol' slab of death.
I guess I'm just rambling here, because this is the first chronic pain + vegan forum I've found.  Thanks to all of you for sharing your stories and suggestions - you've all made me feel less alone! :)

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All of your replies are very encouraging to me. I've been diagnosed with Celiac disease, fibromyalgia, and asthma. I have recently become a vegan due to the fac that my FM symptoms started to improve as soon as I started to eat less non-vegan foods.

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hi there,

I don't have any experience with lupus, but I wanted to suggest seeing a dietician if your doc is really concerned. I'm not sure what kind of doc you're talking about, but alot of people who go through med school get very little education in the way of nutrition, so it would probably be more helpful to talk to someone who went to school for nutrition. If this is your "lupus doctor" maybe they could recommend a dietician to you and all of you could work together and communicate with each other about what you want and what works for you. :)

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