I’m going to tell you a little health story first. Not the whole story because I’m in my 30s and it would be way too long, but this is what happened in the last couple of years.
At the end of 2018 my hair started falling out. Shedding occasionally is pretty normal, but for a female coming from a family of full-head-of-hair sort of people, it was not normal. After a chat with a somewhat disinterested GP, a blood test and a result showing shockingly low red blood cell count I was put on a fairly strong and rather unpleasant iron supplement. My hair started growing back with the unsightly bald patches slowly disappearing, but my digestion was near enough ruined. You probably already know this – iron supplements can cause serious digestive tract problems.
Fast forward 6 months in, I was feeling physically awful. The iron supplement helped a little in raising my red blood cell count, but not hugely, the difference was at just a few points. At the same time I was experiencing cervical ectropion – a condition usually brought on by one of two things – hormonal imbalance or prolonged HPV infection. Both surprisingly common according to my OBGYN and every nurse I have ever spoken with during smear tests. On top of that, I was experiencing frequent joint pain in my knees – a reminder of one very challenging high altitude trek which effectively ruined my knees a couple of years earlier. And on top of that I was constantly sniffly and catching every cold that was around.
So here I was, in the summer of 2019, feeling like my body is about to fall apart, at the tender age of 32. What an awful situation to be in when you want nothing more but to enjoy life.
At the time I was eating a fairly standard diet – a fair helping of meat, good bit of dairy and fish, and everything else there is on offer that goes with them.
In July, my partner and I skipped out for a holiday in Istanbul. We had a lovely time. It’s such a wonderful city to visit. The food was amazing too. However, a lot of it was fairly meat heavy. During one of our last evenings there we were both having a wonderful meal when it hit me – there was a dead piece of a bird on my plate and I was not so keen on eating it. The thought came out of nowhere and just would not go away.
Fast forward to now, and I’ve been eating predominately vegan diet.
And here is what happened within those few months:
- My red blood cell count normalised on its own. I stopped taking the iron supplement and started eating leafy greens instead and that sorted it
- My energy levels went up – I’m no longer constantly tired. I will say that this might also be helped by me spending more time outdoors and naturally bumping my vitamin D levels that way
- My hair lifecycle normalised – I still loose a fair amount of hair, but I also grow a ton of new hair on my head too, and it grows faster than it used to
- I am able to exercise and recover much faster than I used to – this is surprising to me because I am getting older, not younger, and yet I find exercise easier now than I did in my 20s
- My cervical ectropion issues reduced
- My knees hurt less and less often
There is one more thing which I noticed, and it’s something that makes me immensely sad. You see, I grew up with dairy. Delicious, fresh dairy as well as amazing cheeses. I love the taste. In chocolate, I could not care for dark chocolate less. Milk chocolate is my thing. But since I eat these rarely now, I can actually see what my body does after I had them. And it does a lot of negative stuff:
- My skin changes – it becomes immediately (I mean within 1-2 hours) greasier and my pores clog up
- My knees, coccyx and lower back start aching and if I exercise, it takes me longer to recover, I also get exertion headaches which I do not experience on the days where I don’t eat dairy
- I get really tired really quickly, for no apparent reason
- My cervical ectropion gets worse. I actually counted that on average I experience symptoms for 4 more days in my menstrual cycle than when I don’t have diary for the whole month
- A bunch of digestive problems appear
It’s a bit scary to be honest. And I get it – dairy products are rather heavy on oestrogen and I guess my body is sensitive to increased levels of this hormone. And I also am aware that I do have a binge eating problem with certain chocolates and cheeses, to the point where I just don’t buy them in fear of not being able to control my eating pattern when they’re around. But the thing is…I only want them when I start eating them, otherwise they could not exist.
In the first six weeks of eating plant-based diet I was not feeling any difference. To the point where I was about to give up – honestly reading every label and having to actively seek out new recipes can get tedious. But I am glad that I didn’t give up – to think of it our body takes whole 7 years to renew every cell and by comparison six weeks would not have been enough to fully see the results of this dietary change. And now I see the change and I feel really good about it.
There is one more big change too – because greens are so much cheaper than animal products, my food budget dropped. By a lot. The exact figure is hard to calculate because my partner and I share that budget but not the diet, so I thought that finger in the air it went down by around 30%-35% on my side. But since he has been away for a couple of weeks and I am home alone, my personal budget actually went down by around 60% and I’ve been eating a lot. It’s a nice perk, but it pales with the fact that my body feels so much better than it did only 6 months ago.
You might wonder why I put a trigger warning in the title.
Here is why.
I am not here to tell you what to eat, why you should consider dietary changes especially if you’re not feeling great and why I am pissed at people who eat junk and then complain that they’re bloated. I am here to tell you that your choices are your own and if you f*ck up your body because you fail to appreciate that your actions have impact on your life, I have no sympathy to offer. So don’t be that person. Educate yourself on what works for you, listen to what your body tells you and take proper care of your health because it’s your biggest asset.
With that, I am signing off for the day.