The issue of poo
Ever since I went to India, my digestion has been…shall we say, “off.” Ummmm, for those of you who like better descriptors, shall we say…”fuzzy.” Or ill-formed. Or goopy. Or how about let’s just say that my body is not producing the perfect, soft, firm poo that we all aspire to.
I got my poo tested (trust me, you do not want to know how I did this), then did the usual Western solution and endured three weeks on some particularly disgusting antibiotics in an effort to rid myself of my new-found digestive pest.
To no avail.
The sexy naturopath
In desperation, I went to a highly recommended naturopath, who suggested that I do an elimination diet. She was dressed like one of the real housewives of Newark, New Jersey. She had high hair, massive bosoms, and a soft, knowing manner. I quite liked her, and admired how she was able to walk in heels that were so high.
I took an expensive allergy test, waited three weeks, and came back for the update. She said that though I looked skinny, I had fat around my organs that wasn’t healthy. I had developed allergies to several foods, but luckily nothing that was permanent. If I was disciplined for 9 months, I could help my body recover from all of my bad habits and reset my system. And then she put me on a diet that removed…well, almost everything.
- no gluten, flour
- no dairy
- no soy
- no eggs
- no nuts
- no seeds
- no alcohol
- no caffeine, no coffee
- no sugary foods
- nothing fermented (this truly sucks. No Braggs. No Braggs???)
- nothing that would add to yeast (no nutritional yeast, my vegan friends)
- no bananas (particular to me, I have an allergy. Which makes sense, because they make me feel sick.)
- no broccoli (particular to me, because I lived on it all the time)
- no pineapples
- no citrus fruits
- no corn
- no nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants)
- no potatoes
Understand: when I went to see her, I was vegan.
Take another look at this list, my friends. No soy, no nuts, no seeds? What does a vegan eat exactly?
Answer: the vegan eats meat.
Oh, and the naturopath’s specially formulated protein shake mix that she’ll sell you for a low-low price and you’ll need to eat as two meal replacements.
Now, when this event happened, I was ready to try anything to fix up my belly. Veganism had been a bit tough on my innards. (For more information, see the many posts on flatulence under “Going Vegan.”) So, with my newfound, “what not to eat” knowledge, I went home whipped up a buffalo meat stew. Yep, the same night.
Alan watched from the sidelines, incredulously.
“You’re cooking meat?”
“Yes,” I say, stirring our stew.
“You’ve been vegan for five months, haven’t eaten red meat in 15 years, and now you’re making a buffalo chili.”
He crossed his arms, leaned against the fridge, suspicious of his good fortune. “Why?”
“The naturopath says I should. And I’m anemic, so I’m low on iron. She says that if I’m going to eat meat, buffalo is my best protein source.”
“I am,” he says emphatically, “thrilled about this.” Alan, though very supportive, had never been a big fan of my veganism. At heart, he was an avid meat eater stuck in a pescetarian psyche for the last ten years, and his natural carnivorous cravings were beginning to catch up with him. My decision to go omnivore suddenly lifted his self-imposed ban as well.
My parents happened to be in town visiting (from Texas, so you can well-imagine that they were also pleased with my culinary turnaround), so we all sat down to eat together.
Alan took a bite and moaned, “It’s soooo good! Why have I deprived myself for so long!” He looked at me, wide-eyed and slightly wild, “This is amazing. I want to always eat like this.”
I took a moment to pray for the buffalo before eating. Thank you, buffalo. Thank you for showing me so clearly this great cycle of life and impermanence, and my place within it. I will not always be here, either, and this moment reveals the constant ebb and flow of material and life force, and my part in it – at least for now. Thank you.
And I ate.
Did it taste good? Well, yep, it tasted pretty darn good. Was I freaked out to be eating meat? A little freaked out. But I’d been raised on meat, so it actually didn’t feel or taste that weird. And what, you may ask, were the side effects? What happened to my poor system from eating a pretty good portion of red meat after 15 years without?
Answer: nothing. Absolutely nothing.
And, wouldn’t you know, my digestion started to improve too.
The follow up
In addition to encouraging carnivorousness, the naturopath had also put me on a rigorous supply of supplements (sold by her, top quality at a low, low price) and her twice daily shakes. When I went in for a check up, she measured my body fat percentage. It was higher than when I started.
“Isn’t that weird,” I said suspiciously. “I thought that number was supposed to go down. You know, the organ fat.”
“No, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s okay.”
“Maybe it’s because I’m drinking like a can of coconut milk a day in these shakes.”
“No, it’s not the shakes,” she says, “the shakes are fine.”
“And how long am I supposed to do this?”
Soon after, I started getting massive stomach cramps after drinking the shakes. I’d never experienced anything like it.
I emailed her, “Why am I getting massive stomach cramps?”
She emailed me back that it’s probably because I’m cheating on my diet. See, even the tiniest cheat can cause a massive setback. And the tricky things is, you won’t experience an immediate side-effect. The side effect can turn up a couple days later. So really, you never know what’s causing your symptoms. Or maybe it’s the flax oil. Sometimes that causes a reaction.
I’m starting not to like this naturopath anymore. Particularly because she’s right: I am cheating. It’s four months in and I’m exhausted by the restrictions (particularly the “nothing fermented” rule. This eliminates pickles, mustards, citric acid…it’s serious challenge.) Particularly since the smallest cheat can apparently cause massive problems, it’s hard to tell if it’s actually working. Am I going through a “healing crisis,” or reacting to a cheat? Or is my body pissed off because I’m not eating anything that it’s used to?
I decide that it’s not likely that putting a dollop of cream in my decaf coffee is causing massive cramps. I think it’s more likely being caused by the massive amount of rice protein and coconut milk that I’m being told to consume every day. Or the 20 pills per day. Or the amount of money I’m spending.
I stop going. It doesn’t feel right and I don’t trust the process. I don’t trust her.
I go out and have a pizza. Gluten, starchy, cheesy yum pizza.
And it is delicious.
And frankly, yes, I do feel bloated and paunchy afterwards.
But damn, it was good.
I am still not satisfied.
Ethically, veganism rocks. However, as a vegan, my body does both better and worse than it does consuming animal products. And I do feel a profound connection to the cycle of life and death as an omnivore, though perhaps that is not commensurate with the argument to be made against suffering and the impact the animal husbandry can have on the environment. Eating only fish (great protein, great omega’s, perhaps the best option) has some problems now due to overfishing and concerns about radioactive saturation from Fukushima.)
More investigation needs to be done. The self-laboratory continues…