Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I don't want to speak too soon

And jinx myself.

But I think I finally know what is the cause of the stomach/gut problems I have been experiencing all these years: beans.

If nothing else, eating a wheat free diet these past weeks has forced me to really focus on my eating and how I feel after I eat a particular meal.  I noticed that typically after every meal, I'd feel bad.  Sometimes worse than others.  So I had started to suspect that wheat was not the culprit since I had not felt even a tiny bit better after cutting it out.  I started to suspect beans.  Yesterday, I didn't eat any beans at all.  No tofu.  No hummus.  No bean anything.  In other words, I had to rearrange everything I ate yesterday to exclude beans and that was actually more difficult than excluding wheat.  Three-fourths of my diet centers on beans.  

So I didn't eat it yesterday.  And I felt amazing yesterday and I continue to feel amazing now.  My stomach is settled.  I'm not in pain.  

I kind of feel a little foolish for not realizing it sooner but I had always prepped my beans properly (well soaked and cooked with kombu).  And I'd never heard anyone complain of gas associated with eating tofu or soy milk so I didn't think that could be part of the problem (although I did eliminate soy at one point to see if it was making my hair thin).

Now I have to really re-vamp my whole diet and I'm a little daunted.  See, I don't really know how to cook any other way besides vegetarian. I eat fish but it is really just as an aside:  a baked salmon fillet or some canned tuna added to a salad (that probably has beans in it).  I searched some books I have and also on the internet and came up with some recipes for raw burgers and hummus-like dips made with seeds or nuts but my intuition is telling me that this is it for me and a mainly-plant based diet.  I'm going to return to eating meat.  Of course, I have lots of standards for whatever meat I will eat and as my fortune would have it, I met a great mama a few weeks ago who runs a buying co-op.  The co-op sells all kinds of meat, milk, eggs and other groceries raised and produced at a farm nearby.  So I'm able to purchase high quality animal products (not fed soy) in a relatively inconvenient  way (pick-up is not far).  I'm not exactly sure where to start first in terms of cooking it but I figure that I can start by just adding chicken, turkey or beef to dishes where I would have used beans.  And then go from there.  Like Monday's dinner was sweet and spicy chili from Vegan Planet.  It tore my stomach up!  But I could cook the chili and before I add the beans, take out half or so to another pot and add some browned turkey or beef.  And then with the remaining half, add half the amount of beans.  

Sometimes I feel so stupid for going down the road of vegetarianism and staying on it even though I just felt worse and worse and worse as I continued.  I really wanted to be healthy but I got some micro-focused on this one way of "healthy" eating that I ignored the fact that it hasn't been healthy for me.    Yes, I had allergies and acne and all that . . . I really believed that a vegan/vegetarian/plant based diet would heal me.  Instead, I still have all that stuff and more complexities added on to it.  

I think about the spiritual aspects as well and I have to be completely honest:  not eating animals has never made me feel any closer to God or any more spiritual or connected.  I guess it's kind of hard to get connected when your gut feels like it's going to explode or something.  I actually feel that eating in a way that doesn't cause me to feel sick is the most compassionate thing I can do for myself . . . but I'm not sure how to align compassion on myself with compassion on the animals that have to die in order for me to eat.  The very least I can do is to make sure that the animals I do eat had decent lives and were killed as humanely as possible.  

It just amazes me sometimes how the ideals I had in my early twenties have just not matched up to my reality.  And it's taken this long to finally be okay with letting go and accepting what is.  


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Shay said...

I was a vegetarian in my 20's and despite spending mucho money at Whole Foods weekly, I actually saw my health decline.

I did eventually go back to eating meat but meat is not something I must eat with every meal. We still have quite a few days in a row where meat is not served. (My 18 yo by the way is a vegetarian)

I think you just may have to experiment and see what is the best way for you to eat. Honestly I can't eat a lot of beans, I eat em and even when they aren't giving me out and out gas they still settle rather uncomfortably on my digestive system.

Also I choose to buy humanely raised meat from local farmers and due to cost that keeps me from eating a great deal of it. Though I will say now that the farmers market is over there have been a few times I bought meat at the store and that was a no-no. My system literally could tell the difference between mass produced meat and local farm raised meat.

Good luck!

alice said...

So glad you're feeling better! Your plan sounds eminently workable, and maybe once your stomach has had a chance to heal itself up, you can experiment with adding some beans back in, if it feels right to you. (At least you'll be able to put seitan and wheat proteins back in your rotation!)

Dealing with the compromises that we sometimes make between compassion for ourselves, the animals who provide us with food, and the practical considerations of cost, access and time is definitely tough, though. Personally, I wish I had the temerity to go vegan, but with severe wheat & mushroom allergies and moderate corn & soy allergies, it's too hard for me. I try to push myself to live up to my goals more, while not berating myself for being imperfect, but it's hard compared to living a more 'pure' life and saying "screw the consequences."

Anonymous said...

There is a well-known vegan blogger who recently announced that she'd returned to eating meat because her vegan diet was the cause of her chronic health problems. The main thing I took away from her story is that it's not wrong to listen to your body's needs.

Don't feel bad about sticking to something that didn't work out in the end. Life is about change. So we do better when we can.

Leah Bayaka said...

Many, many people suffer from the discomfort of soy and other beans. I'm sitting here right now about to explode. I've eaten tofu for 2 days in a row after a long break. Not a happy camper.

I hope this works better for you. I'm really curious because I haven't eaten meat in 12 or 13 years so I'd love to read a blog on your experience of eating/digesting your first meat dish after so many years. How was the mastication process? The slow eating you mentioned in the previous blog?

I know you'll make this an interesting journey. Best of luck to you Sis!!

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