Background – Vegetarian, Vegan, and Calorie Counting
I was a pretty healthy kid growing up. My brother and I were raised as vegetarians, with the occasional fish added. My Mom was really adamant that we eat well and all the research at the time said that a vegetarian diet was the best way to do so. We didn?t eat processed food, had a ton of veggies from our garden, and overall ate extremely well. ?I didn?t get sick very much, had lots of energy to run around, and played outside all the time. The only strange thing was the recurring migraines I had since the age of 2. I was so used to the migraines that I thought of all types of pain in relation to headaches. When I got a side cramp, I would tell my mom that I had a headache in my side. I went to doctors quite a bit to try to figure it out, but they all told us it was normal and to just take OTC painkillers.
By the time I was 15, the migraines were becoming more frequent, and I had them about 3 days a week. I went to the doctor again and they suggested MRIs and various blood tests to see if the problem was with my kidneys. Not particularly convinced by this explanation, my mom took me to a naturopath. The naturopath immediately suggested an allergy test*. When my allergy tests came back, they showed a severe allergy to eggs and all types of dairy. Wheat also showed up as a moderate allergy, as did beef and lamb. I know now that the beef and lamb allergy was most likely the result of a leaky gut due to undiagnosed celiac disease. I stopped eating dairy and eggs immediately. Because the wheat allergy showed up as only moderate, I didn?t worry about removing it from my diet. At the time I had never heard of gluten intolerance or celiac disease and I figured that if I ate whole grain or sprouted breads I would be fine.
My migraines stopped within days and the mild acne I had at the time cleared up almost completely. I thought I had found the secret to all of my problems. I also started to eat meat for the first time. However, over the next few years, more issues started to creep up. I had hypothyroidism and severe iron-deficiency anemia (despite taking iron supplements), was extremely moody, and had worsening acne on my face, chest, and back. This lasted throughout high school. When I went to college I decided to go back to being a vegetarian. Because I wasn?t eating dairy or eggs I went full-fledged and very strict vegan.
Strangely enough, nothing really improved. I lost about 15-20 pounds. Considering that I started at 5?1? and 115 pounds, I?m not considering that a win (though I did at the time). I stopped menstruating and went to the doctor to check it out. She prescribed birth control to regulate my periods and sent me to get a DEXA scan to test my bone density. I was still hypothyroid and anemic, and the DEXA scan revealed that I had osteoporosis (at 19!). The doctor suggested that I might not be eating enough, but didn?t seem all that worried and just told me to keep taking birth control.
I stuck with that path for about a year or so. Then, my mom decided to go on a gluten-free diet to see if it would help with arthritis. Thinking back on my blood tests from 5 years before, I remembered the moderate wheat allergy and decided to try out the gluten free thing with her. I haven?t turned back.