7

votes

a raw vegan friend is horribly sick...how do I say something?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created December 30, 2011 at 4:01 AM

I work in a mixed use building that houses a commercial kitchen. On the weekends they rent their space out to a woman who makes raw vegan ice cream. It's basically coconuts, cashews, fruit and agave. It's actually pretty paleo and pretty tasty...but I digress.

A few years ago she got real sick and "healed" herself with strict raw veganism. She's a really nice person and a hard worker, which is something I value greatly. We've touched on nutrition in conversations before but I never felt I could really say anything bad about raw veganism. She's so devoted that I didn't want to open a wound or insult her. She raised her kids raw vegan, and despite the fact that they're very sheltered (and home-schooled) they're great kids. They're active, smart, well behaved kids. I really like them, although in my opinion they're really shy and don't get enough social interaction.

Long story short, she recently suffered what could be described as a psychotic event and is homebound, bedridden and horribly depressed. I'm helping to take care of her with a large group of her friends, and since her incident she's living off green drinks, water and bananas.

In her current state I could never suggest that she might benefit from high quality animal fats and proteins. But if she gets better do I try to convince her that she's doing more harm than good on her "pure" diet? I'm really conflicted on how to handle this. All I can do now is try to get her kids outside as much as possible.

This isn't like talking to your semi-healthy co-worker about how paleo is better than Mickey Ds. She and I agree that industrial and chemical food is bad, but I think she is ruining her health by eating bananas and figs and not much else. We're friendly but not the best of friends so it's going to be hard for me really lobby hard for her to try animal fat.

Sorry for the rant style question....it's been a tough couple a days.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on January 04, 2012
at 11:10 AM

If all else fails, maybe this shirt could help lighten the mood around there. http://www.zazzle.com/my_karma_ran_over_my_dogma_tshirt-235987247862753599

F1b39d4f620876330312f4925bd51900

(4090)

on January 03, 2012
at 07:35 PM

Truthfully I am in more of the "mind your own business" camp but I do love a chance for mischief!

F1b39d4f620876330312f4925bd51900

(4090)

on January 03, 2012
at 07:34 PM

Yes, Hide a copy in her cupboard in the shared kitchen with a sweet note in it.

Medium avatar

(8239)

on December 30, 2011
at 09:12 PM

Likewise, how nice to hear this! Happy, merry....

0faecc3397025eab246241f4dcd81f5e

(2361)

on December 30, 2011
at 08:19 PM

I agree, as someone who has worked with vegan clients, looking at their symptoms and reference vegan dietitians for answers. e.g Jack Norris, vegan Registered Dietitian http://jacknorrisrd.com/ Vegan Health website http://veganhealth.org/ Ginny Kisch Messina, vegan Registered Dietitian http://www.theveganrd.com/

E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3

(4347)

on December 30, 2011
at 05:43 PM

I agree. During my time eating a vegan diet, I would have been offended by advice to eat meat (had to come to it myself), but would have been open to someone saying "eat more coconut oil and take vitamin D/B12/whatever" first.

724ba4f39f7bbea7f74b45c0a79615f2

(1968)

on December 30, 2011
at 04:48 PM

Yes, once I started eating meat and cleared up my own crazy sudden-onset depression, and started reading ex-vegan blogs, I was furious that no one had told me that this might happen. As a vegan, we always sort of assumed if we were still alive we were doing just fine. If someone had been like, "psst, if you decide one day you want to die, try eating a steak and it might clear it up" it would likely have cut down my depression from 3 months to 1 or less.

724ba4f39f7bbea7f74b45c0a79615f2

(1968)

on December 30, 2011
at 04:21 PM

Quick note: my husband had, before I got super depressed, intimated that being a veggie was terrible for me, but he mostly did it in a "we were made to eat meat" sort of way. Trust me, as a long-time veggie, that just sounded hollow. So, if you're actually going to argue, just go for the guts: i.e., this is just medicine until you get better, these are vitamins that are more easy to digest, your body is tired right now, there's nothing wrong with being a vegan or eating as little animals as you can, but just right now you can't do what you're doing, no bacon, just some chicken soup, etc.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on December 30, 2011
at 11:02 AM

Dragonfly, I think you are very right here.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on December 30, 2011
at 10:53 AM

Dorado, every morning I look forward to finding your comments. Ever the gentle wordsmith, tapping lightly on the anvil of sensitivity with your logical sledgehammer. :)

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on December 30, 2011
at 08:40 AM

I was raised vegetarian, but my mom was worried about getting b-12 into us kiddos, so our otherwise veg. diet was supplemented by liver every so often.

Cf4576cbcc44fc7f2294135609bce9e5

(3125)

on December 30, 2011
at 07:37 AM

i can relate to your comment, my brother got his second cardiovascular stint today just to keep him alive. He called and said he is ready for a life style change, i hope my weight loss has been influential,

Cf4576cbcc44fc7f2294135609bce9e5

(3125)

on December 30, 2011
at 07:32 AM

please google B12 and dementia befor you blow off my comment. A B12 level is the first blood test ordered when one presents with a sudden demented state of unknown origin. why? because its the most common reason.

Cf4576cbcc44fc7f2294135609bce9e5

(3125)

on December 30, 2011
at 07:27 AM

please google B12 and dementia befor you blow off my comment

D9032e4f6540f9e6bcbb07143002bedd

(449)

on December 30, 2011
at 05:24 AM

thanks for the responses, all very helpful

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on December 30, 2011
at 04:43 AM

You didn't mention how old the kids are, but mothers will sometimes change in order to make sure their children are going to be taken care of properly. If she is very ill she can't look after them so it is in her best interest to try things like eggs and maybe fish to add nutrients to her diet. Speak to a vegan who has changed their diet to include animal protein for more information on how to transition.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 30, 2011
at 04:33 AM

Actually, I thought some more and I wonder if she's the type of person you could look in the eye and say, "Look, you're in big trouble here. You're sick because you're starving and you need some nutrients NOW!" Might be worth the risk if it could possibly save her health/life.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 30, 2011
at 04:05 AM

Wow, your stress meter must be off the scale. All you can do is feel her out very gently, such as asking if she'd consider trying something a little different like an egg or two to see if she'd get stronger. If she doesn't react well, sadly I think all you can do is be there as a friend.

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10 Answers

14
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on December 30, 2011
at 04:38 AM

Speaking as someone with a lot of raw vegan friends, I think it's probably best to work with her chosen diet, rather than try to "convert" her--especially right now.

You might try bringing her some coconut manna. Sounds like any good fat would be helpful Also, avocados would probably go over well...

Also, get her some Vitamin D in rice bran oil or MCT oil if you can find it. Tell her it's great for depression--use the kid card , if necessary!

If she will eat fish (some raw "vegans" will eat sashimi), that could be a possibility, too.

Good luck!

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on December 30, 2011
at 11:02 AM

Dragonfly, I think you are very right here.

E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3

(4347)

on December 30, 2011
at 05:43 PM

I agree. During my time eating a vegan diet, I would have been offended by advice to eat meat (had to come to it myself), but would have been open to someone saying "eat more coconut oil and take vitamin D/B12/whatever" first.

0faecc3397025eab246241f4dcd81f5e

(2361)

on December 30, 2011
at 08:19 PM

I agree, as someone who has worked with vegan clients, looking at their symptoms and reference vegan dietitians for answers. e.g Jack Norris, vegan Registered Dietitian http://jacknorrisrd.com/ Vegan Health website http://veganhealth.org/ Ginny Kisch Messina, vegan Registered Dietitian http://www.theveganrd.com/

5
Medium avatar

on December 30, 2011
at 04:50 AM

Am I alone in thinking this is not some casual detail in this narrative?

"Long story short, she recently suffered what could be described as a psychotic event and is homebound, bedridden and horribly depressed."

That "long story" is way too short for any one here to offer relevant thoughts, let alone suggestions or recommendations, about diet of all things.

"We're friendly but not the best of friends so it's going to be hard for me really lobby hard for her to try animal fat."

Especially if she were a friend, there are good reason why for you to "lobby hard" should be difficult.

The person who most needs your attention is ??? you. As you note, it's a stressful time. Step back from the drama. She's not being force-fed the bananas. She's making intentional choices, based on her sense of priorities. With all due respect, you should be doing the same. Love your friend. That is, accept her exactly as she is, and exactly as she is not.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on December 30, 2011
at 10:53 AM

Dorado, every morning I look forward to finding your comments. Ever the gentle wordsmith, tapping lightly on the anvil of sensitivity with your logical sledgehammer. :)

Medium avatar

(8239)

on December 30, 2011
at 09:12 PM

Likewise, how nice to hear this! Happy, merry....

4
Cf4576cbcc44fc7f2294135609bce9e5

on December 30, 2011
at 07:21 AM

perhaps some sub-lingual B12 drops could help that vegan induced dementia. you might be able to find some in candy form who knows? what vegan doesnt appriciate a good piece of candy now and then? if she were my friend i would find some.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on December 30, 2011
at 08:40 AM

I was raised vegetarian, but my mom was worried about getting b-12 into us kiddos, so our otherwise veg. diet was supplemented by liver every so often.

Cf4576cbcc44fc7f2294135609bce9e5

(3125)

on December 30, 2011
at 07:27 AM

please google B12 and dementia befor you blow off my comment

Cf4576cbcc44fc7f2294135609bce9e5

(3125)

on December 30, 2011
at 07:32 AM

please google B12 and dementia befor you blow off my comment. A B12 level is the first blood test ordered when one presents with a sudden demented state of unknown origin. why? because its the most common reason.

4
0d0842381492a41b2173a04014aae810

(4875)

on December 30, 2011
at 04:45 AM

If she does get better, you can count on her attributing it to her diet.

Honestly, unless I'm with family or a friend that I would consider almost as close as family, I take a deep breath and remind myself that everyone is fully responsible for themselves, nothing more and nothing less.

I do make an effort to shine brightly enough in my life that others can't help but take notice and/or inspiration; and for those that do inquire, I gladly discuss and try to provide scientific backing and recommend reading that can help one educate themselves in order to make an informed decision.

This does beg the question, does being more educated than a majority of the population about a subject such as nutrition, imply a certain responsibility?

Cf4576cbcc44fc7f2294135609bce9e5

(3125)

on December 30, 2011
at 07:37 AM

i can relate to your comment, my brother got his second cardiovascular stint today just to keep him alive. He called and said he is ready for a life style change, i hope my weight loss has been influential,

3
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on December 30, 2011
at 08:29 AM

Check out this link: http://www.beyondveg.com/

I've had some success talking to people from the perspective of an ex-vegetarian. Sometimes what we wish were true simply doesn't mesh with what our biology mandates, and that is a very hard hurdle to get over even when self-discovered. It took me a long time to discover that what makes the brain happy makes the body happy, and it sounds like she hasn't discovered that yet, but might have the chance to if you can figure out how to intervene.

She will be very, very sad, and you are going to get a lot of push back, but it might be time to be very brave and have a heart to heart with her and let her know that if she gets worse she may end up in an institution where she has no control over her food supply, will be force fed pharmaceuticals, and could be isolated from her children.

Get a copy of "The Vegetarian Myth" for yourself, and maybe offer it up to her as "an interesting read" just to open the dialogue. The book goes into depth about how vegan diet can be responsible for just as much animal suffering as an animal based diet, it is just more behind the scenes. You can talk to her about the positive soil inputs of pastured animals, and how by getting her calories from grassfed beef, goat, or lamb she is reducing the world's dependence on fossil fuels. Talk to her about the need for the right ratio of omega 3:6 for her brain to function properly (veganism is a nightmare for omega 6 ratios, and the lack of omega 3's and subsequent inflammation could be contributing to her dementia).

I also often bring up how we shouldn't confuse the "how" with the "what" in our diets. Vegetarianism is a just and noble response to the commercial meat industry, and that was pretty much all that was available in the '60's and '70's when the literature for vegetarianism was being written, but we now have free range chickens, and pastured beef and pork readily available, and properly raised animals don't cause health problems the way commercial meat does. So, from a health standpoint a veg. life doesn't hold water anymore. And from an ethical standpoint, all animals die whether we kill them or not, most guilt I suffer from taking a life of another being to sustain my own life has been mitigated by feeling some personal responsibility for that beings quality of life, and doing what I can to make sure it only has one bad day.

Let her know how impressed you have been with the progress she made improving her health by detoxing with her raw vegan diet, and that raw food is great for "cleansing" the system, but what she is suffering from now is not something she needs to detox from, but an illness of deficiency, her brain is starving and needs the most bio-identical building blocks possible to rebuild it, i.e. animal fat and protein.

The desire of not wanting to do harm needs to take into account the self. Denying herself what she needs to be healthy is also anti-feminist, historically veganism has been used to control women's sexuality and to keep them "in their place". In the Victorian Era there was something called "green sickness" (anemia) because it was fashionable for women to eat only salads and sweets, her diet sounds like a modern version of that. She can choose to self-select herself out of existence, or she can come to terms with where she is now, and work towards improving the future of food. Weston A. Price set out in search of a healthy vegetarian hunter-gatherer society to share with the world as an ideal, but every healthy indigenous society he encountered included some animal products.

Bone broth is pretty universally considered to be a healing food (even if it doesn't fit in with her current ideals, deep down I think people know it is good for you), maybe you could make a deal with her that if she doesn't start to feel better after a week of homemade broth with each meal that you'll support her other choices without question. A big stick of butter melted in there couldn't hurt either, her brain is obviously starving for fat.

She may be familiar with the Vitamineral line (it is vegan), I've found the Vitamineral Earth made as a hot broth/tea to make me feel better in general and more grounded. You wouldn't have to cross any idealistic lines to offer her that, and it would get a little more vegan nutrition into her. She should also at least be having some miso or veggie broth, and kim chi or other fermented vegetables to rebuild her brain from the gut up. I understand a lot of fruit after a workout or having a baby, but to heal from something like this having a fruit based diet seems like it would contribute to candida or gut badness and diminish mental health further.

This will take an enormous act of courage, but you may be her key to returning to health. I'd be pretty upset if I knew someone was holding out on me if they had critical information that would help me heal. There will be an initial angry emphatic "no!", but you have at least offered your knowledge and caring, and it might sink in eventually. Try to be as well researched and diplomatic as possible, and make sure you prepare to accept her unconditionally even if she refuses every single piece of info you share with her.

724ba4f39f7bbea7f74b45c0a79615f2

(1968)

on December 30, 2011
at 04:48 PM

Yes, once I started eating meat and cleared up my own crazy sudden-onset depression, and started reading ex-vegan blogs, I was furious that no one had told me that this might happen. As a vegan, we always sort of assumed if we were still alive we were doing just fine. If someone had been like, "psst, if you decide one day you want to die, try eating a steak and it might clear it up" it would likely have cut down my depression from 3 months to 1 or less.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on January 04, 2012
at 11:10 AM

If all else fails, maybe this shirt could help lighten the mood around there. http://www.zazzle.com/my_karma_ran_over_my_dogma_tshirt-235987247862753599

3
25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on December 30, 2011
at 05:30 AM

Perhaps Lierre Keith's book, or links to her interviews might help?

F1b39d4f620876330312f4925bd51900

(4090)

on January 03, 2012
at 07:35 PM

Truthfully I am in more of the "mind your own business" camp but I do love a chance for mischief!

F1b39d4f620876330312f4925bd51900

(4090)

on January 03, 2012
at 07:34 PM

Yes, Hide a copy in her cupboard in the shared kitchen with a sweet note in it.

2
724ba4f39f7bbea7f74b45c0a79615f2

on December 30, 2011
at 04:17 PM

Absolutely agree re: B-12, the symptoms of deficiency are often psychological, and can range from suicidal depression to straight-up psychosis.

I don't know that arguing with her about anything will help, but if you do go there, be sure to agree with her if she's an ethical vegan (i.e., yes, if we could all be healthy without harming a fly that would be ideal, and when you get healthy again, decide then, but for now you simply can't support animals this way right now).

There are a lot of ex-vegan blogs (let them eat meat, for example), and they talk a lot about sudden-onset depression. That, along with "brain fog" appear to be near-universal symptoms for those vegetarians/vegans who get sick (there are many threads in PH about it too), but when I was a sick vegetarian, I didn't read those or see myself in them until after the magic moment that I ate a lamb chop and felt like a superhero. Until then it just literally never occurred to me that my sickness was nutrition related, since I appeared to have been doing so well without animal products for so long., plus one of my closest friends is a vegan triathlete who's never been sick a day in his life.

For me, and for some ex-vegans, I think the turning point is when you get too depressed to give a sh*t about anything anymore. If you guys are feeding her/caring for her, she certainly may get there and simply stop putting up a fight, so if you're bringing her groceries, unless she literally flips out at the sight of meat, it might be a good idea to throw some bone broth/cod liver oil/etc. in the fridge in case that moment comes. She may also be sort of subconsciously craving meat, so having it in the fridge may help if she has a "weak moment." And chances are, once she gets some in her, you won't be able to pry it out of her hands. For a lot of us, it's literally a magic moment of "holy crap, this is who I am, this person is awesome, where the hell has she been??" I had that with ice cream after being a vegan for 3 years, and I had it with lambchops after being a vegetarian for 17.

In the meantime: B12 (seriously, I'd go with shots if she's willing, oral doses have meh efficacy, as someone who's supplemented with it for the full 17 years I was a veggie and still came up deficient in every blood test). Also I'd supplement the crap out of her, just lots of everything, multi-vit, multi-mineral, some extra Zinc probably and Vit D, EFA's, DHA.

724ba4f39f7bbea7f74b45c0a79615f2

(1968)

on December 30, 2011
at 04:21 PM

Quick note: my husband had, before I got super depressed, intimated that being a veggie was terrible for me, but he mostly did it in a "we were made to eat meat" sort of way. Trust me, as a long-time veggie, that just sounded hollow. So, if you're actually going to argue, just go for the guts: i.e., this is just medicine until you get better, these are vitamins that are more easy to digest, your body is tired right now, there's nothing wrong with being a vegan or eating as little animals as you can, but just right now you can't do what you're doing, no bacon, just some chicken soup, etc.

2
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on December 30, 2011
at 12:56 PM

Send her to the doc for some B-12 shots.

1
Medium avatar

(3024)

on December 30, 2011
at 08:47 AM

You might consider sending her this link http://voraciouseats.com/2010/11/19/a-vegan-no-more/ Since it was written by someone who was obviously a very devoted vegan, it might hvae more inpact than info from the paleo world.

0
0faecc3397025eab246241f4dcd81f5e

(2361)

on December 30, 2011
at 10:12 AM

I did a post with a ton of links you might find useful - especially to the vegan dietician who writes about deficiencies and how to deal with them and still stay vegan. Jack Norris http://www.veganhealth.org/

Here's my post with health issues typical in a raw vegan diet http://paleozonenutrition.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/why-i-dont-recommend-a-low-fat-raw-vegan-diet/

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