August 7th 2016 will mark my second year being vegan. I thought I’d share my vegan story today and talk about why, when, and how I went vegan two years ago.
So to tell the whole story I’m going to go about 6-8 months prior to being officially vegan.
In early 2013 I was feeling tired and out of breath frequently. My heart would race and skip a beat, or palpitate often. It was so bad I couldn’t even climb the stairs at a normal pace, let alone work out, without my heart pounding and feeling “skippy” as I called it. A lot of the time I’d ask Adam to “run up and grab my glasses” or “could you get the phone for me? It’s upstairs” just so I wouldn’t end up feeling like that for the next hour. I was more anxious than normal and had trouble sleeping so I’d take a nap in the afternoon and would wake up with my heart pounding then too. It was frustrating and I wasn’t sure what was wrong.
I went to the doctors and told them what I was experiencing. After two rounds of blood tests they told me I had Hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism boils down to an overactive thyroid gland, producing too much of the hormone thyroxine. Symptoms include fatigue, mood swings, heat intolerance, nervousness, abnormal heart rhythm, fast heart rate, insomnia, hyperactivity, puffy eyes, weight loss, hair loss, along with others. My main symptoms were to do with my heart and anxiety as well as trouble sleeping. They put me on medication to help with my heart rate. At the time I was already taking my blood pressure and heart rate 2-3 times a day and writing it down along with any symptoms. After a few weeks on the medication my heart rate went down a little and when I went back in they said they wanted to proceed with the usual radioactive iodine treatment. Their solution would destroy part or all of my thyroid gland with radiation so that it wouldn't produce too much thyroxine anymore. This seemed like overkill--why would the best option be to melt (as some put it) my thyroid when up until a few months ago it was working seemingly fine?
During this time I was already looking into ways to improve my hyperthyroidism without drugs or surgery but instead with one’s diet. I read about how people would go gluten-free and dairy-free as well as avoid all soy products and eat more foods like broccoli and spinach. So I started doing those things; I cut out dairy, soy, most gluten, and started adding broccoli to my smoothies. I also gradually stopped taking the medication and opted to try and fix my thyroid on my own.
Taking my health into my own hands, I started a food diary along with taking my blood pressure and heart rate. I realized that on days I was eating meat, particularly beef, I would have a spike in my numbers the following day that would last all day long. I was very surprised at this having been a non-vegan my whole life and believing meat was good for you. So at the time I limited my intake.
Cutting things out and eating better only got me so far, there was only a slight difference in my blood pressure and heart rate. Then my younger sister, Darla, showed me Freelee the Banana Girl! I was intrigued because I was already gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free for about 5 months with, like I said, little difference. Freelee said she used to have hypothyroidism (an under-active thyroid) and that a plant based diet/going high carb low fat vegan was how she cured herself of it as well as other health issues she had. So I spent the next few weeks doing as much research as I could about veganism. I binge-watched all of her videos, watched The Best Speech Ever by Gary Yourofsky, and More Than an Apple a Day: Preventing Our Most Common Diseases by Dr. Michael Gregor. At this point I made my mind up and I was set. I told Adam I wanted to go vegan. That same day we watched Gary’s speech as well as Dr. Michael Greger's video together and both of our minds were made up. We were going vegan!
We didn’t transition into veganism we just stopped using the non-vegan items we had, (soon after we got rid of them) and went shopping for fruit and potatoes! I think the reason we didn’t need to transition was because the whole 5-6 months prior I was already dairy free, we didn’t eat eggs that often, and we didn’t buy that much meat. So it was kind of like a bonus transition time where I, and in turn Adam too, cut those things out anyways.
After 6 months of being dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free my numbers barely changed, my heart still raced and skipped, and I still had to pause halfway when going up the stairs.
After ONE month of being vegan and fully plant based all my symptoms completely went away. I could run up the stairs if I wanted to, my heart didn’t skip even if I worked out, and I was sleeping better. I was SO thrilled, and so happy! My family and I couldn’t believe it!
A year later, with a different doctor, I had my blood taken again and had all my numbers checked. I had told her what happened and how I went vegan and she said she was sure my numbers would be great (Yay! A pro-vegan health care provider!). My numbers were great! Even the nurse reading out my levels sounded surprised at how great my tests came back--but I wasn’t surprised, I knew they would be great because I felt the difference in myself. It was reassuring though to have it confirmed that I was officially fine and dandy! I no longer had hyperthyroidism!
Adam and I are still vegan and will be for life. Not just for health, but for the animals and the health of our planet. All of the benefits a plant based diet gives you for simply eating fruit and vegetables is amazing. Thinking about it all now, having gotten it all down on paper, I mean blog post, I’m still in awe. Partly for how amazing a plant based diet/lifestyle is, and partly for how misleading media (and the health care system) can be about real health solutions. My doctor at the time (the first one) didn’t ask how or what I ate, or even suggest the option of using diet to cure or improve hyperthyroidism. It’s crazy to think that had I not found out about Freelee I could have done the iodine treatment, melted my thyroid, and/or could have been on medication for life for something my body was fully capable of doing itself.
It feels so freeing to no longer eat animals or their byproducts. I’m so happy I can look at a cow, or any animal, without guilt or conflicting feelings knowing I no longer contribute to their suffering. I love that I wake up and instead of a bowl of dairy milk and cereal I drink a large smoothie filled with fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables. It’s amazing to have energy in the afternoon and not require a nap and a cup of tea, simply by eating plant based.
I hope you enjoyed reading about how, why, and when I went vegan! In the next week or two I’ll be posting about my tips for new vegans. Have a great weekend everyone!