I have been wanting to write this post for quite some time. In fact, I had never, ever planned on talking about anything like this on my blog, but just keep it about the food. However, I am getting approached a lot with messages, emails, comments and questions asking for guidance. That leads me to believe people want to know more.
Warning: this is a very long, serious candid post, so if you prefer just to see my food posts, stop reading and wait until my next post. No biggie. However, if you really want to know my story and thoughts, read on. I am not painting a pretty picture though, so be warned. More and more people are contacting me with questions about gout and the vegan diet and lifestyle, especially newbie vegans. More on that below. A lot of people want to know why I'm vegan or how they can get somebody else in their family interested in a vegan diet. I figured it was a good time to address these questions.
What if you aren't vegan or care to be? Well, I first want to say this to my friends and fellow bloggers. I follow several blogs that aren't vegan and I love you guys. I know those that follow mine aren't all vegan. I know many of my readers are not vegan. So, please, this is in no way a guilt trip, condemnation or a finger-pointing post. I realize I used to eat meat and dairy too, so I get it. I really do. I will still follow your blogs and love you and respect you. I do because I like you and admire you, that is why I follow your blog. This post is because I felt led to do it and I thought it would really help all the people who are currently transitioning or wanting to transition to a vegan diet and have questions. There have been several people who have told me that my blog has helped their transition to veganism so much easier, and for that, I am so honored. However, if you are afraid of what you may read here (I touch on the animal side of it), then I won't be hurt if you want to stop now. Just come on back when I post the next tempting dessert! No guilt here! I'm just sharing my own experience. But warning, I'm going to be completely honest and candid from my heart, the only way to be! I'm not telling anybody that they should or need to be vegan, that is a very personal choice and this post is about mine and how and why.
Why do I blog? As always, I want to help people. This whole blogging world began ultimately because of how my life was changing because of my love for my husband. As you read, you'll understand what I mean. I wanted to share what I was learning in the kitchen and how it was changing my life...our lives. I wanted to reach people. I am also hoping this post may help others with the knowledge I've gained. I am in no way a doctor, a nutritionist or "expert" of any kind. I am just a wife and mother who has lived through hell to get to the point I'm at now. I will simply share my own personal experience. I'm not looking for debates or comments on how or why I should eat meat, or how good bacon tastes, as it will not affect me in the slightest. I grew up eating bacon, eggs, sausage, steak, burgers and cheese, so trust me I know what it all tastes like! My life and health (and my family's health) has changed so much for the better, that I believe this is my destiny to be where I'm at. When you read my story, you will understand why.
What is gout and why did I choose a vegan diet? First off, I can tell you that I did not choose it to lose weight, to be trendy or to get attention. I chose a vegan diet, if you aren't already aware, because of my husband's deteriorating health due to very, severe gout. I touch on it briefly on my About page. Gout is a crippling form of arthritis that typically affects men over the age of 35 and is mainly due to eating high purine foods, with meat and dairy being the main culprits. Although, there are several veggies that can trigger gout as well, mushroom and cauliflower for instance are dangerous for my husband. Alcohol as well, is a huge no-no. Meat and dairy are very acidic to the body, cause inflammation and with somebody like my husband, these foods cause a uric acid buildup that the kidneys do not flush out. When there is an excess of uric acid, the body forms needle-like crystals of the acid which then migrate to joints. The only way to remove the uric acid is through waste, of course. It is very important to drink lots of water, daily, to keep uric acid at bay. The joints mainly affected are the feet or knees. These crystals cause excruciatingly, painful flareups, swelling, redness and is very debilitating. Some people have mild cases, however my husband had one of the worst cases doctors have seen. He was practically living on crutches. It was an awful way for both of us to live. I felt like a caretaker a lot of the time, felt totally helpless and he was always in pain and in bed a lot.
What was it like for me? Imagine, if you are a wife, watching your husband scream in pain for hours and you can do nothing to stop it. Imagine, thinking that you created a "safe" meal for him, just to find out a few hours later that what you fed him caused him to go into a terrible gout attack of pain. Imagine watching him be in pain for hours all night and once he finally can go to sleep, you spend the rest of the evening staying up late crying yourself because of guilt. Imagine each time you want to prepare a meal, you are in fear to do it all over again. I lived like that for years. We were both so angry and both felt so helpless. I spent so much time researching and trying to learn what I could. It was an endless cycle and I hated it. He cried all the time from pain and I cried all the time out of feeling like a failure at helping him. I would always plead to God for help and answers. I would always ask him "Why did you give this to me?" Quite honestly, I was very angry for a long time. BUT, He had a reason. Little did I know, that completely eliminating animal products would be life changing.
No way to live. Whatever my husband would eat, would cause a gout “attack”, which is the sudden onset of swelling, redness and pain that increases very quickly. I literally would watch before my eyes his foot swell up and turn painfully red. Google images if you are curious. I’ll spare you our personal photos. I spent many years being by his side trying to comfort him and wait on him while he would suffer. His pain would get so severe, that I would have to take a belt and wrap it tightly around his thigh just to cut off the circulation for a few moments of relief from the pain happening in his foot. He would get so sick and weak from the pain and would be desperate for pain pills. I would be by his side hand feeding him grapes, just to get food in him, so he could take pain pills. Grapes is always the food he craves when in pain. The pain would get so bad, he would vomit, then he would get very weak and I would feed him while he laid there just to get his strength back. Then after the "attack" would subside, he would then be on crutches for weeks due to the swelling that happened during the attack.
Would a vegan diet really work for gout? In my life, I always try to make choices led more from my heart, not just from my head. What I mean by that is, I have always and will always try to make choices of self-sacrifice when I love somebody. I won't bore you with the details of all the years I read and researched and tried different elimination diets and medications/treatments. Nothing worked really. Ultimately the one thing that continuously was confirmed to be BAD for gout, even by most doctors, was meat. Meat in general has cholesterol, no fiber, is acidic and terrible for digestion. I did know that eliminating meat, at least temporarily, would help. In 2010, he was living in Austin for work, and was sick almost the entire year due to gout. He was always on crutches and in awful pain.
I put him on a very strict diet to heal him. I fed him LOTS of potatoes, fruit and veggies. There was no eating out, no sodas, no sweets. This was strict because I was trying to heal him. Well, not only did his gout clear up, he lost 30+ lbs and looked like a new person! However, once he moved back home to Houston, we gradually started eating meat and junk again. Shortly thereafter I found out I was pregnant (Feb 2011). We ate terribly and he started having flareups again.
We are a team. My daughter was born on October 2011 and she has never been fed any meat or dairy and I'm so grateful for that and her health has been clean as a whistle. But we were still eating it. That first year of her life was brutal. Not only was being a new mom really tough on me, but he started to have flareups back to back. It was so incredibly hard taking care of a baby and a husband that couldn't walk. After all these years, I knew once and for all something had to change.
I knew I couldn't expect him to do it alone, so I committed to being a vegetarian myself. We started eating vegetarian May 2012 and by October 2012 (my daughter's birthday), we committed to being vegan. We had still been eating cheese and honestly, I still had some chicken here and there, but by October he had another gout flareup and was on crutches at our daughter's 1 year birthday party. He couldn't even help me set up and I was so frustrated and just tired of it all. I just knew then and there it had to stop. It was that day at my daughter's birthday party, that I had my last piece of chicken. I had just began to research factory farming and began to detest the idea of meat, knowing what the animals had gone through before they ended up on my plate. That truly was the defining moment of choosing a vegan lifestyle. No looking back.
The scary truth and how it's changed me. That brings me to my next discovery. Now, I'm not going to condemn anybody that eats meat or dairy, that is not my purpose here. Again, I am just sharing the complete truth of why I personally am vegan and why my heart is committed to it. I simply am not the same person anymore. It is one thing to choose veganism for health reasons, but it's an entirely different world of what being a vegan truly means, when it is about the animals. The very definition is obstaining from the use of animal products, in any way. I cannot, will not, ever consume meat or dairy again knowing what I have learned about factory farming. Let's just put aside the known health issues that can arise from meat and dairy, I know, I have lived it firsthand, but instead look at the ethical side. That's the part that changed my soul. For one, these animals are injected with all kinds of growth hormones and antibiotics and God knows what, but more than that, they are treated worse than you could ever imagine.
I do NOT crave steak, because all I see is pain now. I don't crave cheese, because I know how much a cow suffered it's entire life being forcibly impregnated and in terrible pain from excess milk production that is far, far from anything they were meant to endure. I don't want ice cream because all I see now is how the cow was abused, kicked and had it's babies stolen at birth, just so her milk could become cheese and ice cream. I have learned that "cage-free" and "grass fed" are very misleading and quite often, far less freeing than it sounds. How can I know a dog or cat wants love and feels emotion and pain and pretend that cows, chickens, and pigs don't feel those very same things? Cows are very, very attached to their young. They mourn when their babies are taken from them. I don't see them as food for those reasons anymore. None of those things appeal to me.
These animals live in complete fear every single day of their lives. Can you imagine living in fear every single day and not having any choice how to escape it? They are always in pain. I want no part of that and I have control of it, by not choosing to consume anything that is a part of it. That includes bedding, pillows, clothing, decor, car interiors, shoes, cosmetics and of course, food. Ironic that it is considered "upscale" or "luxury" when the means to obtain it is pure torture. It is now very hard for me even to look at leather or down comforters, because I know what happened before it ended up in the store. I'll stop there.
My best piece of advice is if you truly want to know the truth, and truly see animals as beings that deserve compassion and companionship, then don't ask me the questions, just watch the movie "Earthlings". It is free on Youtube. It cut me to the core, ripped my heart out, but it also opened my eyes to what I am now thankful I've seen. If you are not vegan and are reading this, it may really bother you, as it did me, but I can assure you...your discomfort reading this is far less painful than what the animals suffer.
So what about local farming and our "need" for dairy? Now, I know there are many people who get local milk or eggs or whatever and say the animals are "happy". Maybe so, I'm not going to get into all that, as I am talking about factory farming and buying from a reputable local farmer is certainly much better. However, I still 100% believe that dairy milk is meant for their babies as we are not meant to drink milk from a cow. I also just can't dismiss how much better I look and feel, personally, since I eliminated every single type of animal products, including eggs. It is evidenced in so many studies that illnesses, sicknesses and diseases that dairy has been linked to. Read this study here and you can really learn info concerning dairy.
If you are truly interested, I encourage you to research it yourself as I am not one to tell you how to live your life. I can only attest to what I have seen it do to my family and what eliminating it did for my family. I am not a doctor! I would encourage you to research though, if your child is sick often or gets a lot of colds, ear infections, skin disorders, etc. as dairy is often a large allergy. You can read this here relating to studies of dairy being linked to chronic ear infections. My daughter has never drank cow's milk and has never had an ear infection or digestion problems or constipation. So, I can only share my own experiences. Those can all be linked to dairy, so it is worth looking into if you are concerned. I know so many kids that have had them. You would only know by completely eliminating and see what happens. That includes any boxed products where dairy is secretely hidden. I don't think it is a coincidence that so many people, especially children, can't tolerate dairy.
When I was a kid, I used to have the worst tummy aches and sorry, but was always constipated. I had constant sinus infections and colds. I now completely believe that was due to my excess dairy consumption, because I had the same issues all the way until I became vegan. Once I had adapted a vegan diet for many months, I went to my doctor and he tried to tell me I had to have dairy for calcium. I kind of laughed, but in all fairness, I love my doctor. But, it is sad that many doctors aren't really well informed about nutrition itself, but moreso about treating with meds. Case in point, what we went through for years. A lot of doctors believe the same thing about dairy. You know, the ads of happy, laughing cows and that "milk does a body good" slogan. It's all about greed and cruelty, that is the reality. There are no laughing cows, trust me. Now, that dairy is out of my life, all my issues are 100% gone! I had sooo many digestion issues and congestion issues that went away immediately once I stopped the dairy. Sometimes I don't know whether to be thrilled about it or angry that I struggled, unnecessarily, for so many years. You don't even realize how crappy you felt, until you get rid of the foods, and then realize how much better you feel!
So, how is my husband's health now? Well, he is a million times better! He is off crutches and completely off meds! He went without one flareup for about a year and a half. A couple of months ago though, he had some issues due to working in the yard and it causing some flareups. With his body, his joints are extremely sensitive due to the years of gout flareups. It has made his joints much weaker and more easily affected. We have learned that too strenuous of exercise will cause a flareup. He cannot go jogging or work in the yard anymore. It is tough, but it is reality. We are just grateful knowing that the majority of it has been solved through diet. Life is not perfect and that's okay. I've learned not to ask God to make everything perfect anymore, but instead just to help me accept things that I cannot change and His amazing grace to deal with them. I'm not going to share 20 articles on why a vegan diet works, because it's not just something I read, I have lived it personally and seen what it can do for us and others.
What changed for me? Other than what I already mentioned above, ethically changing, can I just say that I haven't gotten sick ONCE since going vegan! Not even a sniffle. I'm more energetic and no longer groggy mid-afternoon. I no longer need to drink coffee in the mornings to function. I no longer have any tummy aches or the heavy feeling after a meal. Let me also clarify though, that it is entirely important to eat healthy vegan food. In other words, you won't be any healthier if you eat nothing but vegan "meats", vegan processed "cheeses", vegan junk food, etc. It is just as bad for your health as it is full of chemicals. I don't use storebought almond milk either, it has too many chemicals. Make it at home, it is delicious and easy. You should be eating homemade food, veggies, fruits, potatoes, legumes, etc. I eat a diet full of potatoes, some grains (mainly brown rice), lots of beans, nuts, avocados, lots of fruit, tons of veggies, chia seeds, flaxseed, sesame seeds, etc. Potatoes are absolutely our miracle food! I try to incorporate lots of variety. I love my homemade desserts too, of course! On rare occasion, we will eat Field Roast sausage when we want something fast. It is so delicious but it has oil in it, which I try to avoid as much as possible. Update: we no longer eat any fake meats since I am that much more careful about avoiding those high oil foods. I use absolutely no oil when I cook our own food. I'm not promising you that you will be invincible on a vegan diet. You aren't going to become superhuman or live forever. I again, am just sharing my own experience, which is really all I can do. I can't speak for others, but the differences are night and day.
So, what other outward changes have I noticed? Well, no exxageration, if my hair gets any thicker, I may start making wigs out of it. Honestly, I have always had thick hair, but nowhere near the thickness I have now. Even people that personally know me have commented on how much thicker it is. Well, guess what guys, it is even thicker than the last time you saw me....you can't see my face now, hahaha! I can't speak for others, but within 3 months of going vegan, my hair started to grow....and grow....and grow. It is so thick now, that I can't even wear it down unless I have extra time to iron it straight, otherwise I look like I'm wearing 2 wigs of hair. It's not a complaint, but I am just shocked at what the healthy foods have done for me. It is actually kind of comical. I take no vitamins either, it's all food baby! I also lost 40 lbs total! After I gave birth to my daughter in October 2011, I really struggled to lose the baby weight. Still at 9 months postpartum, I was at 170 lbs. Just to give you an idea, I was 125 when I got pregnant, so it was very tough on my confidence. So, when we went vegetarian in May 2012 and vegan by October, I was back to my lean self by Christmas that year. Within a few weeks, the weight started to just melt off. I have debated many times showing my before/after photos. Now understand, I am not in any way saying you can only lose weight on a vegan diet, obviously. I am just simply stating that it does work if you are eating a healthy vegan diet. One of the biggest reasons is because of how much better food digests and how much fiber is in plantbased food.
My skin as well seems to be getting younger looking, as my skin is so much more moist and smooth, which I attribute to the healthy fats from avocados and nuts and all the vitamins and nutrients from the veggies/fruits. I have never had such moist skin. That coupled with sun protection and Eminence skincare and sweet almond oil, and I'll be ringing in my 40th birthday like a champ! Haha! Now, I ain't promising you that you will look 16 again if you adopt a vegan lifestyle, this is just my own experience!
Stay tuned. So, that about sums up my post. Hope you are still with me. Again, this is just MY STORY. I chose to share it from my heart to help others. Not condemn anybody. If you have an issue with anything that I've said, then I would ask you why would it bother you so much? I haven't stated anything here that I didn't personally experience or learn that isn't already out there. So, please if you have any questions or comments, let me know below. I give respect, so I ask that in return.
I will do a future post on how to get your kids to eat healthier foods and popular recipes that will fool non-vegans, since that seems to be tough for some. I will say this, a large majority of my readers are not vegan and all rave about the recipes they make for others, if that gives you any idea that it is just simply delicious food! If you have any specific areas you would like me to address, leave a comment below. This has gotten long, so I'm not going into that arena until next time.
As always, I love sharing yummy free recipes to you all. Thanks for your support and the next post will be back to droolworthy food and lightheartedness!
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