While an ethic of compassion is the underpinning of a vegan lifestyle, many people adopt a plant-based diet for a wide variety of other reasons. First and foremost among those is health.
There are countless stories of people who have recovered from debilitating illness or disease, went from obese to svelte, or miraculously rose from the brink of death just by moving to a plant-centered diet. I'd wager that almost everyone who becomes vegan expects to feel better, or at least feel good, even if they didn't have health problems before changing their diets.
Because of the high expectations new vegans have, and because we all want veganism to receive positive press, people who don't feel good after adopting a plant-based diet are usually given a litany by other vegans of what they are doing wrong or all the approaches they need to try. The truth is, if someone doesn't feel good on a vegan diet but is committed to being vegan nonetheless, chances are they've already tried all those approaches and the last thing they want is somebody telling them what else they should attempt.
Because vegans who are flourishing can often be judgmental and critical of vegans who aren't, those of us who aren't thriving are, not surprisingly, frequently unwilling to admit it to our fellow vegans and expose ourselves to disapproval. But the fact is that some people simply don't do as well or feel as well on a totally plant-based diet as others, and there are actually some very valid (and scientifically proven) reasons for that, particularly when it comes to people with IBS. That's because the foundation of a plant-based diet (whether it's a diet that's raw, oil-free, fat-free, sugar-free, low-carb, high starch, or something else) are foods that are high in FODMAPs, which are specific types of carbohydrates that are difficult to digest and trigger or worsen IBS symptoms. Just as cholesterol is only found in animal products, FODMAPs are only found in plant foods.
I became vegan "back in the day," before it was cool or trendy. I was on a mission to spread the gospel of animal rights and wrote numerous books on vegan cuisine and compassionate living, which were difficult to get published because, at the time, the topic of veganism was way more controversial and taboo than it is today. I promoted vegan eating and living far and wide, and I hope my efforts have contributed in some small measure to the current global vegan movement.
But, as you might imagine, divulging that I haven't felt very good all along, and that I felt even worse after becoming vegan, is a rather difficult revelation. (And, yes, I've tried all those different approaches that you might be thinking of suggesting right about now.)
IBS is a chronic condition that as yet has no cure. So although well-meaning vegan friends (and nonvegan friends, acquaintances, and family members) may think they have the brilliant solution that nobody else has managed to stumble upon until now, the bottom line is they don't. The best that those of us with IBS can do is try to manage our symptoms.
And that's the whole purpose of this website and blog. If you are vegan and have IBS, I want you to know that you aren't alone. There is a whole community of us around the world -- we just need to find each other, support each other, and bolster each other up, especially when we're having a flare-up or are feeling isolated and alone.
With this blog I'm taking what feels like a huge risk and leap of faith. Even though I'm usually a very private person, I'm steppin' out of the water closet to say that I'm vegan, I have IBS, and I often don't feel well. Whether you're vegan, vegetarian, halfway there, or still undecided, if you have IBS, I welcome you here!
Please post in the comments and let me know what you'd like me to cover in future blog posts and on the website. I look forward to getting to know you!