Wednesday, April 18, 2012

10,000 years

The dermatologist looked very worried.

My girl and I had come in about her hands—the rash that had been on my daughter's fingers on and off, for almost three years, the rash we'd tried everything to treat. Things like moisturisers of all kinds, cortisone and most recently anti-fungal creams, soap free soaps and cutting wheat, tomato, orange, yeast and mango from her diet.

The man listened carefully enough, but when—ultimately—I said the words,
"And we're vegan,"
he came sharply to attention.

"Well, that's a very restricted diet."

Yes, I said, for now, while we work out what this is…

"You know, humans were born omnivores." He looked sternly over at me, like someone issuing a fine.

Ah, I thought. I see where this is going.

"Ten thousand years ago, people were eating the same things they eat today. It's what we're supposed to eat."

I watched the man, clear-eyed and calm. But said nothing.

"I mean, sure, farming practices are less than desirable…"

No response. Just watch…and wait.

"I think she needs a blood test. I think we're going to find some pretty major vitamin deficiencies here."

My daughter began to cry.

I tilted towards my girl. I put my arm around her. Then I leaned forward and said, We give her supplements, and I've done a lot of research on her diet. I actually think we're eating pretty well. 
The fungal cream seemed to work quite well…so maybe that was it? And I was also thinking it might be food allergies. Would a skin patch test help?

"Oh," he said, as he typed into his computer, "I think we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves here! I mean, look, she has photosensitivity, which indicates a serious iron deficiency, and she has extremely pale lips…do you even eat eggs?"

No, I said, sitting back in my seat.

"Well, then she won't have zinc."

He whipped off the form for the blood test. He told us what moisturiser to use. He told us he couldn't believe the anti-fungal cream (which had recently cleared her skin) could be the solution. He said, "Come back after Easter."

When a professional, a doctor, tells you you're making a mistake, you start to wonder.

Even though the kids and I laughed it off as we were going home, even though I had done my research, read my books, read countless articles, recipes, nutritional facts, I thought:

What if he's right?
What if my child is malnourished?
What if the blood test comes back and she's deficient?
What if this isn't a healthy diet?

What if—the two words that can knot a person tight with worry.

So, what did I do?
Well, for a single, long day following the appointment, I craved roast chicken. Wild. For the ENTIRE day, all I could think about were breasts and drumsticks. It was wacky. It was nuts.

The next day, I woke up and my mind was clear.
Weird chicken worry cravings all gone.

And I researched some more.
I pored over my cookbooks and nutrition information again.
I ordered more books. Vegan books and books about food production and modern agriculture. Books about the benefits of a plant-based diet.
I watched lectures by scientists and nutritionists about dairy and related health issues.
I watched well-researched people give lectures about factory farming.

My resolve came back.

And as I've been doing for the past 6 months I kept on feeding my kids delicious vegan food.
Like lasagne-to-die-for. Breakfast rice. Moroccan sweet potato stew. Lentil bolognese. Pasta with spinach, cannellini beans and pesto. Protein smoothies. YUM.
And I kept up with the kids' supplements—their iron, zinc, and B12.

Fast forward two weeks,

to today.

When we went in to see the dermatologist again.

We'd used his recommended moisturiser, which helped. We'd gone back to tomato and oats, which my daughter loved and had really missed. We'd taken the recommended blood test. And I was ready.

Ready to hear that my daughter might be malnourished. And if she was I would make sure she'd be healthy…without giving up the one thing that matters most to my girl:

That she would not, ever, be asked to eat animals, or animal products.
Because my daughter's resolve has never wavered.

The doctor sat down with the blood test results in his hands. The results were…

Guess what.

Every. Single. Thing, every indicator (iron, protein, calcium, zinc, b12, etc) registered as Normal. Perfectly, utterly in the Normal range.

My daughter wasn't just 'getting by.' She was completely healthy. After 6 months as a vegan, and almost 2 years as a vegetarian, my sweet girl was a picture of nutritional health.


Yeah, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.


Yes. Ten thousand years ago, people were omnivores. We're still, biologically, omnivores. But we don't have to be. We don't need meat to survive any more. We can be healthy and never eat an animal again.



  1. I am so happy she's healthy, Helena. I am definitely not a vegetarian or vegan, but I can understand your reasons for your choices. I wouldn't question them, and I'm always amazed at the doctors who give people flack for trying to live healthy, peaceful lives.

  2. this is wonderful, Helena! I was a vegetarian for 7 years and then when I was pregnant with Allie I was worried that I wasn't getting enough protein (eggs made me vomit, i had to watch the fish for mercury and i just couldn't consume the amount of beans and dairy they said I had to) so i 'gave up' being vegetarian. i began eating meat 3 times a week and that is how my girls have always eaten--just three servings of meat per week. it is wonderful to know that we could cut even that out and still be healthy!

  3. Everyone is different! Obviously, with your careful planning, you all are healthy. The doctor certainly rushed to judgement. I'm sorry your daughter has a rash, though. I had very weird skin stuff as a kid and it turned out to be psoriasis. (It just didn't look typical.) I wasn't diagnosed until I was 32. Maybe she has an atypical version of a more common skin ailment? I hope whatever it is clears up and leaves once and for all!

  4. :-) So happy she is healthy and she won't have to make choices that make her uncomfortable. Now if you could just figure out what is going on with those hands...

  5. I am so happy that you shared your concerns about your girls nutrition after the obviously ignorant doctors opinon. It's very honest. I feel I would have had the same response.
    And bravo on the results! I would have it difficult to not be smug and say "I told you so!".

    I hope the skin problem clears up soon...I suppose you have tried Tea Tree?

    much love xx

  6. First of all...POOEY on that doctor. I can't believe what a jerk he was.

    Second of all...YAY for the tests coming back great. You should never doubt yourself, even though we all do it with our babies, you do so much research and you know what is best for your family. So happy this turned out well Helena. Hugs

  7. I think doctors sometimes forget that they work for us, that they are being paid to HELP us with our health concerns, not dictate to us. Sorry you had to go through that, but YAY! for a healthy girl and a happy diet!

  8. Thanks so much, everyone—it's just lovely to read all your words. So much support and kindness! I am really grateful.

    My daughter's hands actually cleared up, FINALLY, with the anti-fungal cream we'd already been using (the one the skin doctor didn't believe could work :) ) Now we just put a really good moisturiser on every night. Plus we are staying off wheat, as we (the kids and I) ALL react to it. So far, so good!

    It was so validating to find we were doing okay. I wasn't craving or needing validation, but it was nice to get it, especially in the face of such a strong opinion against our choices. Very, very cool!


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.