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Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna

I've been a vegetarian for 3 years now. Mostly free of all dairy too. 

It started out of compassion when I became aware of the connection between the contents of my plate, the suffering/death of another being, and the understanding that this seemed to be an unnecessary choice.


There were no complex moral arguments, no scientific literature on the merits of meat free diets, etc. It was just that I couldn't pick up the fork and shovel a juicy steak into my mouth any more. 


Health wise, I felt the same for around a year. Then gradually, I started to feel less energy, getting lightheaded during exercise, feeling cognitively hazy. I started tracking my diet, macronutrients and micronutrients. I was hitting all the bases. Supplementing with b12, high potency multis, getting a lot of protein, getting above-maintenance calories per day. Tests the doctor ordered came back okay, atlhough it was impossible to test everything. Yet nothing improved. 


Then, over the last few years, I saw a definite downhill slide in health. Occasional lightheadedness moved to real shakiness/fatigue. I felt myself unable to exercise at all, and so I haven't for around a year. My fasting blood sugar levels went from being low and stable 3 years ago, to gradually rising to borderline diabetic now, with risk of being irreversible if I don't intervene.

Fatigue is a big problem. I feel pretty "fragile" and at about 10% at all times. A range of other problems seemed to surface. For instance, from having no teeth issues ever before, I suddenly developed 7 cavities in the last 2 years, scoliosis developed, strange sudden blood sugar crashes come at any time of day. It's a far cry from how strong I used to feel. 


I looked into every possible deficiency (I must have a cupboard full of 100 different bottes/supplements), psychological factor, etc, until now where diet/nutrition seems like the only cause left. 

I spoke to a few nutritionists, who explained that while some definitely thrive on a vegetarian/vegan diet, it can be very unhealthy for others, even if they are following identical diets and supplementing in exactly the same way. They stated that problems often reversed with the reintroduction of animal products. And sadly, there is quite a lot of evidence to back up these claims, for instance genetic differences in absorption of different nutrients: https://authoritynutrition.com/4-reasons-some-do-well-as-vegans/. It also seems tied to what you and your ancestors historically ate. 


One explained that it was a similar story for him, a gradual decline in health until he decided to bite the bullet and become "flexitarian", eating only enough meat as necessary to maintain his health. From his experience, the best way to recover health in my current state is to go high fat / medium protein / extremely low carb, ketogenic, ideally with a focus on grass fed meat. Getting anything comparable is almost impossible with plant based sources (I've tried). 


I'm at the stage now where I'm feeling very limited by health issues and am eager to resolve this. I'm done with feeling at  10% capacity all the time, and I'm sure it's also greatly affecting my energy even with things like meditation. 


So on one hand I feel deep compassion, but I also believe this should be balanced with self-compassion, since good health is what underlies a lot of living well in the world. 


Equally, I just cannot physically imagine doing it. I went to the supermarket today and just stared at the meat counter. It filled me with more moral dread than I knew I had. The aspect of intention to harm or craving isn't there, but it's very hard to unhook that from the fact of contributing to harm.


Any input or similar experiences greatly appreciated :- )

-Wing

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/20/17 1:33 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Hey Wing!

I totally understand your situation of having deep compassion for other beings. Since I started the practice, the compassion has grown so much that it is almost causing me suffering. I take every effort to see to it that I do not step on small creatures like ants. It is almost an OCD now.  
Sorry for your situation. Good that you have done some research over it. I might not be of any help but I feel for you.
I am from India and more than 50% of Inidans follow vegetarian diet (that is more than half a billion people), and it is hard for me to understand how being a vegetarian can be unhealthy because that is never a problem here. As you said, may be it is tied to what our ancestors historically ate and the genetic differences and all that. 

See if "Meat without misery" by Sam Harris helps you deal with this problem. You may check that out once.
Hope you find a solution soon and take good care of your health. 
Peace.

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/20/17 1:59 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Just as an aside, the dalai lama was prescribed meat after falling ill many years ago. He said something like, I prefer vegetarian but I eat what I'm given. Also, during one of his visits to the white house, he was offered a vegetarian menu, but rejected it, saying something like, I'm a Tibetan monk, not a vegetarian.

So, I'd say also have compassion for yourself and take care of your health. When your health returns, maybe you can start experimenting again with less or no meat.

It can be a good lesson in how we hold onto certain identities and habits even when it doesn't serve us or others. We can't be perfect as little animals. Sometimes we just have to take care of the animal in us.

Good luck emoticon

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/20/17 5:01 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Wing Biddlebaum:

I went to the supermarket today and just stared at the meat counter. It filled me with more moral dread than I knew I had. 

I don't know if you are just being emphatic, or if you actually felt moral dread starting at the meat counter. If this is the case, I think that you might be overreacting, and might have got to a point at which your diet has become an obsession. I am saying this as a former vegetarian who realised that it was, in my case, some form of integralism.

Opportunity to practice:

1) We cause animal suffering in a million different ways. The clothes we wear, the means of transport we use, our laptops and smartphones, the books we read, the toilet paper we buy, everything. From the point of view of your impact on animal suffering, the difference between eating a little bit of meat and none at all is pretty much negligible.

2) It might be useful to take a second look at why you are actually vegetarian, and check that you are not making an arbitrary distinction between killing an animal for food vs. killing an animal for any other reason, and considering food = absolutely wrong, and everything else = relatively wrong.

3) If this is the case, is it rational to make this distincion? Why? Look at this idea of "killing to put inside your body" as inherently worse than, say, "killing to get a smartphone". Might it not be a case of wanting to obtain some kind of self-purity for yourself, rather than one of reducing animal suffering?

4) Finally, look into this idea of purity, and see if it might maybe be a way to hang on to some sort of self-image or self-affirmation.

All I have written is from personal experience. If this does not seem to apply to you, do feel free to ignore it emoticon

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/20/17 7:36 AM as a reply to neko.
Sorry to hear you have had such an experience with the whole vegetarianism thing! It sounds like you may be deficient in rats maybe. If you consume dairy, you may well be ok, but if not, good sources are avocados, coconut oil, coacoa and almonds.

If a person is deficient in fats, fat soluble vitamins​ also cannot be absorbed.

The main issue with things like supplements is bioavailability. Some supplements can only be absorbed properly in some forms or combination with certain foods. It's definitely better trying to get nutrients from their original sources, so foods like 'superfoods' are not to be underrated.

I'm tempted to try a vegan diet for a few months with a well planned diet as an experiment to see whether a physically active (I cycle about 100 miles a week) meditator might have any negative symptoms.

I think that once you eliminate certain food groups from your diet, it puts pressure on making sure that what you do eat is of the highest quality.

My diet has actually made me feel amazing, and while it may possibly not be a functional system for you, it could be something to think about if you really don't want to get back on the meat wagon! It's formulated from 

A typical day for me (Ultra low gluten, meat and dairy free:

Breakfast:
Handful of oats
2 teaspoons Maca powder/buckwheat/millet mix
Small handful of sunflower/pumpkin seed mix
2 tbsp goji berry/mulberry mix
1tbsp cao cao nibs
Small handful mixed nuts
1tbsp flaxseed
All served in a bowl with oat milk

Lunch:
Something simple and carbohydratey. Soup. last night's dinner, toast with coconut oil and marmite. Spelt Spaghetti. I don't take my lunch as seriously anymore as it is just to keep the day flowing smoothly. 

Dinner:
Lost the ability to cook creative meals recently, but all meals tend to consume similar ingredients. Amaranth (complete protein), palm oil (good source of saturated fats), quinoa, lentils, brown rice or spelt spaghetti, engevita (b12), lots of onion and garlic.


1 litre of fruit juice (wouldn't recommend this due to the sugars especially if you can't regulate your sugar levels properly atm, this is for a very active lifestyle)
About 80% of my diet is organic, this means I get a much higher ratio of nutrients in my diet.

As a person that has had issues with nutrition in the past, I've learned to stock all my nutrients from real foods and ditch the suppliments now I no longer need them. It cannot be complained upon emoticon

I'm aware it might not be of any help at all hearing another person's diet considering the effort you've put into your own, tailored for you, but I have posted this in the hope that there may be information you find useful anyway.

Below is an article for fat deficiency symptoms. Have a look if it clicks and if there is enough in your diet emoticon

http://freefitnesstips.co.uk/dietary-fat-deficiency/

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/20/17 12:49 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Check out http://www.curezone.org/forums/am.asp?i=1728051 - similar story from a former vegan food blogger.

I agree with neko that this sounds like an eating disorder / purity obsession and that you're overly focusing on what you eat as opposed to harm in general - maybe you could find an organization you believe in and sacrifice some luxury to do good by donating to it, rather than sacrificing your health to accomplish questionable good and feed your own pride in being pure.

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/20/17 1:19 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
It would be a good idea to get a full check up by a doctor. Get some blood work and any other tests your doctor recommends. Your current health may have little to do with your diet over the last three years. Or it may. But it would be good to follow through, especially since, as you say, your health has declined significantly. This advice from a cancer survivor.

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/20/17 1:38 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
A lot of people seem to mix up death and suffering. Seems particularly strange here, for people even a little familiar with the ideas of Buddhism. Of course, with factory farming there seem to be plenty of suffering.

But what about wild animals? They live their lives in just the way that their species evolved to live, and at some point will get eaten, whether by you or some other creature. The amount of additional suffering in their lives that your eating them causes, the catching and killing of them, is almost nothing compared to what their domesticated cousins go through. How long does it take for a creature to die after being shot or getting caught in a net, compared to its entire life up until then? Getting one's nutrition from wild foods might even cause less suffering than eating, for example, a vegan but factory-farmed diet, where tons of critters get ground up by combines and their habitats destroyed because of space needed for farmland, and because of pesticides, fertilizer runoff etc. Also, how much suffering is caused, directly or indirectly, by the manufacturing and transport of the supplements that many need because a vegetarian diet is not keeping them healthy?

Then there's the question of what exactly is suffering, and how is it measured? Do animals much simpler than us suffer, and if so, how much? Do insects suffer? I have a hard time believing that all life is equal in that sense. Would killing and eating a deeply enlightened person cause less suffering than eating, for example, a cow? Also, why is it assumed that animals always suffer more than plants? I remember Sam Harris arguing somewhere that molluscs have less developed nervous systems (or something to that effect) than plants have, and so would be excellent for those wanting their diet to cause less suffering.

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/20/17 4:12 PM as a reply to Sakari.
Sakari:

I remember Sam Harris arguing somewhere that molluscs have less developed nervous systems (or something to that effect) than plants have, and so would be excellent for those wanting their diet to cause less suffering.

I would be curious to read / listen to Sam's original statement, if you can find it emoticon

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/21/17 8:08 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Don't destroy your metabolism by going on a low-carb ketogenic diet. Read the writings of Dr Ray Peat and read through raypeatforum.com.

I find that eating meat every day causes mental dullness. I eat meat one day a week and I eat mostly other predators. Squid, octopus, mussels, chicken, eggs.( I once saw a couple of young goats tied up in front of a butcher shop, appearing totally dejected, and decided I couldn't eat ruminant mammals ever again).

 Other days of the week, I eat potatoes and cooked fruit during the day and atleast a litre of milk and 150g of cottage cheese at night, along with carrots, cooked greens, etc. I have no issues with putting on muscle on this diet.

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/21/17 3:33 AM as a reply to Edward Prunesquallor.
I agree 100% with this. Going through the ray peat forums and reading Ray Peat's writings has changed my health in such a positive way in the past few months. Much of what I attributed to my Dark Night seems to be being helped with foods, vitamins, minerals and a few hormones like Pregnenolone.

Btw pretty cool seeing a ray peat fan over here on the DhO. I wonder how many other Ray Peat fans there are here in the DhO.

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/21/17 5:44 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Wing Biddlebaum:
I spoke to a few nutritionists, who explained that while some definitely thrive on a vegetarian/vegan diet, it can be very unhealthy for others, even if they are following identical diets and supplementing in exactly the same way. They stated that problems often reversed with the reintroduction of animal products. And sadly, there is quite a lot of evidence to back up these claims, for instance genetic differences in absorption of different nutrients: https://authoritynutrition.com/4-reasons-some-do-well-as-vegans/. It also seems tied to what you and your ancestors historically ate. 

One explained that it was a similar story for him, a gradual decline in health until he decided to bite the bullet and become "flexitarian", eating only enough meat as necessary to maintain his health. From his experience, the best way to recover health in my current state is to go high fat / medium protein / extremely low carb, ketogenic, ideally with a focus on grass fed meat. Getting anything comparable is almost impossible with plant based sources (I've tried). 

Hi Wing

I've tried and failed to go vegetarian twice in the past, both times lasting about 6 months. 

Over the years since going back to meat, I have realised I am highly sensitive to salicylates, and somewhat sensitive to gluten. Most fruits, vegetables, spices and corn irritate me. 

As a result of my particular sensitivies I am thriving on a zero carb diet. I eat basically only meat, eggs and cheese. It's not a ketogenic diet - not high fat. While food sensitivities are highly individual, I wonder whether the majority of people who thrive on a zero carb diet have similar sensitivities to me. 

As an alternative (in conjunction with going off a vegetarian diet), have you considered intermittent fasting, eg alternate day fasting? I spent a year doing alternate day fasting and it required a lot more willpower than zero carb, but it was doable. 

On both zero carb and alternate day fasting I have experienced greater levels of mental clarity. No mental dullness here, I am pleased to report. But with alternate day fasting the greater than normal clarity was only experienced on fast days. 

All the best
Craig

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/21/17 5:25 AM as a reply to My Fragile Ego.
The Craigiest:

As an alternative (in conjunction with going off a vegetarian diet), have you considered intermittent fasting, eg alternate day fasting? I spent a year doing alternate day fasting and it required a lot more willpower than zero carb, but it was doable. 

On both zero carb and alternate day fasting I have experienced greater levels of mental clarity. No mental dullness here, I am pleased to report. But with alternate day fasting the greater than normal clarity was only experienced on fast days. 


Alternative, slightly crazy option: Why not eat like normal people do? It seems to me that many practitioners obsess over food. What if it is a psychosis? emoticon

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/21/17 1:42 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Well, I've been on a 99% vegan diet for 4 years now and I feel amazing. Nutrients to watch for are B12, D3, iodine.

My case is reversed, I felt awful eating what many people call "a normal diet". I came to a vegan diet as a result of tweaking my diet to be more healthy. That said, I don't eat flour, salt, oils or sugar (all vegan foods).

I don't have the moral thing though. I eat the way I do to feel well, not for the animals. It is a bonus.

My advice: Try to get your health back, look for food choices that make you feel better (vegetarian or not). Keep your compassion by eating not too many animal foods. Tweak your diet.

Hope it helps.

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/21/17 3:35 PM as a reply to neko.
neko:
Sakari:

I remember Sam Harris arguing somewhere that molluscs have less developed nervous systems (or something to that effect) than plants have, and so would be excellent for those wanting their diet to cause less suffering.

I would be curious to read / listen to Sam's original statement, if you can find it emoticon
I don't remember. Actually, I don't even remember if he was talking about molluscs or mussels. Now that I think about it, maybe I dreamt up the whole story...

In any case: If you care about the matter, why not directly read about potential critters? Maybe there exists some animal simple enough for your taste.

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/21/17 11:40 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
I would not jump to conclusions about what is wrong based on what doctors say. They have very little nutrition training. What they do have is obsolete by the time they graduate or has competing studies that prove the opposite. Heck, they are starting to say that it is not sugar that causes diabetes but fats as it blocks insulin and causes resistance. Just an example of how things change or health policy gets bought and sold.

You can do your own studies. Eat something with mindfulness. Sit after you eat. Do it multiple times. Find the pattern.

I started off vegetarian. Went vegan 2.5 years ago. Shortly after that, I started getting about 30% of my calories from fresh fruit and vegetable juices. 2 months ago, I set aside oils and added sugars. I have observed large gains on each shift.

I have looked at gluten. Setting it aside seemed to provide no benefit. As far salt and caffeine, I can see that I would gain from setting them aside but I am not there yet. It seems like loss.

One the moral tip, it seems like karma is built in to the food chain. If I hurt something else, I hurt myself. There are exceptions but the more sentient animals are worse for health. Suffering seems to factor in as well. I can be vegetarian but eating dairy from modern dairy farms is just as harmful to all involved as eating flesh. Some would argue worse.

That is my experience. Your experiments might yield different results.

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/22/17 7:03 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
It isn't easy, but you could try taking an experimental approach. Think about what has changed, and see if that is the culprit. It may be one pariticular thing e.g. if you started eating a lot of something that you weren't before changing your diet, for example soy, nuts, seeds. Or if you've been avoiding fat or carbs, try the opposite. Make one major change to your diet, stick with it for 4-8 weeks and see if it makes a difference.

Also, consider other things like medication, lifestyle changes, stress, change of location (e.g. allergies, mold), under-eating. Your symptoms could be caused by a huge variety of things.

If you do think you need animal products to be healthy (which I believe is considered fine ethically in Buddhism) you can do that in a measured experimental way, for example start by just adding eggs or cheese daily and see if that makes a difference. I believe most of the benefits of animal products can be gained just from eggs and/or cheese without eating meat.

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/22/17 11:58 AM as a reply to Ernest Michael Olmos.
I'm a firm believer that you should trust your body, eat what you want and what feels and tastes good to you, and never make food an ethical, health, or self-control issue. You cause a lot more harm than good that way. Food shouldn't be regulated like that - it's not good for you.

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/22/17 4:04 PM as a reply to J C.
J C:
I'm a firm believer that you should trust your body, eat what you want and what feels and tastes good to you, and never make food an ethical, health, or self-control issue. You cause a lot more harm than good that way. Food shouldn't be regulated like that - it's not good for you.


If I took your advice, I'd be plump at the least. If a famine occured, I'd resort to cannibalism.

RE: Health falling apart on a Vegetarian diet... Moral dilemna
Answer
6/22/17 3:57 PM as a reply to My Fragile Ego.
Paraphrasing Ray Peat, that mental clarity you feel on fasting days is caused by the production of stress hormones which are damaging to the body. 

Your diet is high in inflammatory amino acids, PUFA,  has a poor calcium - phosphorus ratio and in ayurvedic terms,  is generally tamasic and rajasic.