How I know that it definitely was a reason for my health crisis
…even though I would never have thought that that was possible! The fact that all (!) of my physical symptoms disappeared within one week of eating 2500+ calories (meaning often above, never below) instead of around 2000 and all of my mental patterns changed within one month is evidence enough for me that all my physical and mental ailments were largely caused by a chronic energy deficit and calorie restriction. Even though it was unwanted and unintended. But the body doesn’t care. All it knows is that food is scarce. So it uses energy for vital functions which are not digestion, strong immunity, reproduction, holding on to hair, immune system, let alone initiating and maintaining a cycle. And we haven’t even spoken about muscle recovery, bone maintenance, organ repair, brain function, memory ability… etc. The list is endless. And chances are you’re not even aware that your system runs on low volume as you’ve become used to it and the process of hibernation is slow.
My symptoms come back any time I digress from the minimum
It’s highly fascinating… there are direct correlations that are reproducible and lead to the same outcome every single time: Undereating always results in constipation/delayed gastric emptying/digestion/bloating for me, quite reliably. A day of eating not eating enough (due to being busy, on trips/travels, much going etc., e.g. an extraordinary hike) always, without exception, has been causing days of constipation after. It really is fascinating! And scary at the same time. And really proof for me that my body does need that much energy. And that I can’t restrict – ever – if I want to be healthy and want my body to function even at the most basic levels. Otherwise my system won’t run. Think: It won’t even have enough energy supply for a basic function like digestion and eliminating comfortably! Yikes! Scary indeed.
My short story of digestive, immune & parasite issues
The short version: My digestive issues started in 2016. I went vegan in 2013. I had a severe adrenal burnout in 2014 due to over-exercising and undereating (for that amount of exercise) for many months. Also resulting in hypothyroidism and no period (hypothalamic hypothyroidism and hypothalamic amenorrhea). All diagnosed. It took until 2017 that I could sleep less than 12 hours and make it through the day doing normal errands without being exhausted (because I didn’t eat enough, I know now). In 2016, my husband and I had dengue fever for 1 week which completely weakens your immune system, it took us one month to recover from that.
Seeking relief in food rules and perfect eating & lifestyle
Somewhere around that time, rather earlier in 2015 already, my bloating after every meal, no matter what I was eating, started and soon became normal for me, because it started light but grew heavier steadily over a long time so I didn’t notice and got used to it. I started to eat very carefully and as perfectly as I possibly could. At that time, that meant…
– to follow all kinds of food combining rules,
– eliminating all kinds of stuff like gluten and allergenic foods,
– eating as low fat as possible (big mistake – in fact, all of these were a big mistake!),
– whole foods only (we’re getting into this in detail in the 2nd cause of vegan gut issues),
– supplementing bioidentical hydrocortisone (for lack of cortisol) and thyroid hormones (never do that, not even the tiniest dosage, comment if you want a video on that),
– protein powder (today I know it messes up my digestion the most – or the Roundup sprayed on them might also be the culprit),
– volume eating, intermittent fasting, exercise every day (what was only a bike ride for me back then I know today was far too much).
I did rest, yeah. I did sleep a ton. But I wasn’t eating enough. I know that because I regularly tracked what I ate to make sure I ate enough. And to my understanding, that meant 2000 calories “because I wasn’t moving a lot and had quite some weight on me due to the hypothalamic and adrenal exhaustion. I was never hungry and I always ate when I was hungry. But my metabolism was already so slow that my body maintained weight at around 1800 calories and volume eating took care of feeling full soon on lesser calories. The fact that everyone talks about 2000 calories being the high end peak of female energy requirements and eating energy-dilute foods “because they’re so good for you” and volume being kinda the only one important thing for satiation made this seem logical, healthy and right for me.
Unconscious undereating despite being aware of inaccurate calculators
Sure, I did know that according to the WHO anything below 2200 is considered starvation and that calorie requirements given in calculators are not adequate, especially not on a plantbased diet – due to fiber and the thereby increased energy expenditure through digestion. But somehow I was so caught up in the fact that my body had gained 10 kg after the adrenal crash in 2014 and still had 5kg or so 3 years after, that I was convinced and there was no question for me that I must be eating more than enough than what my body needs. I would’ve laughed at you if you had told me then that I needed to eat faaar more to lose that weight and be healthy, physically and mentally. That the answer to all my physical ailments (look at my timeline, I had to deal with all kinds of shit!) was eating far more and lose all rules and control and restrictions. Of all kind. And eat far more fat and not care about protein at all. I would have looked at you like you were a very funny one…
Take it from me & learn from my mistakes – you don’t want to make them
Today I know it would have saved me 5 years of my life of circling around food and health and healing. The more perfect I ate and lived, the sicker I had become. And that’s where we get into reason #2 for vegan gut & immune issues: the whole food, volume & macro obsession. In other words: There’s a problem with that volume eating that is all too much suggested in health circles of the vegan movement. I’ll see you then. And don’t forget to let me know your thoughts and experiences on all of this here below! 🙂