Your Thoughts Thursday: Doctor’s Orders

September 9, 2010 by Keri

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say something like, “I wanted to go vegan, but my doctor told me abstaining from meat, eggs, and dairy would kill me.” or, “My friend was vegan, but her doctor told her she had to start eating meat again.”  It’s not a surprising thing to hear, walking into medical offices strewn with National Dairy Council and Good Egg Project posters, but we’re still taken aback by the demand.  These are the professionals we have been taught to trust above all others, and no matter how many times we hear doctors have little to no nutritional training, it can feel defiant to go against their recommendations.  So my question is, have you ever been told by a doctor your veganism could be harmful to your health?

  • Has a friend or family member told you their doctor didn’t approve?
  • Have you discussed the dietary implications of your lifestyle with your doctor and if so, what were their thoughts?
  • Or do you not put much faith in the dietary recommendations of Western medicine?
  • Does it bother you that medical professionals are lobbied by drug companies, food councils, and other organizations?
  • Do you think these connections weigh into their medical opinions?
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  1. Kevin McNamara says:

    my feeling is that a lot of today’s doctors were trained a long time ago when not everything was known about veganism, and as such, may disapprove of it for what they think is a good reason. knowing what i have found out about western medicine, i won’t always trust a professional’s advice unless it rings true to me.

  2. Amanda Rock says:

    That argument boggles my mind! My meat-eating doctor told me it was great to be vegan! My dog’s vet said the same thing!

  3. This is a great discussion! I began eating vegan in January and I had my annual physical in May. My doc asked if anything had changed over the last year and I told her my diet had changed, from vegetarian to vegan. She scrunched up her nose and said “Why?” I explained that I had been vegetarian for eight years, did a 2-week cleanse in January that removed all dairy and suddenly realized I was an egg away from being vegan and wanted to give it a try. I told her I was feeling better than ever. She asked what I ate in a typical day. I rattled off that day’s meal plan and she said “I don’t know anyone who eats healthier than you.” Three days later she called with my blood test results. My cholesterol, which was already great the year before, went down over 40 points to 128! She said “keep doing exactly what you’re doing.”

    So my veganism was met with criticism but through a dialogue I was able to influence her. My tiny contribution to the movement 🙂

    • Noelle says:

      Hey this is encouraging! My homeopathic practitioner told me I should add eggs into my dietdespite being vegan, but they were not knowledgable about veganism. HOw can someone say I should add fish and eggs into a diet that they are unaware about? I trust people, especially when they tell you your numbers are low. Low protein, low B12,low iron. I get confused on who to really listen to. Sounds like some people do not know what the are talking about.

  4. veganistmum says:

    simple dokters are not trained in nutrition so what a dr says to me regarding veganism has very little value.

  5. I have had many a friends who have said “I just cannot do it. My doctor wont allow it”, But the truth is it is all about doing it right. Sure, just eating salad all day is not the best nutritional advice. But the more our society is being open to veganism and the more products that are coming out to benefit us, the easier it is becoming. Who knows? We may have a vegan president one day…..

  6. Bess @ I Dream of Greenie says:

    What a great post topic!!!!!!

    I have to say I don’t put a lot of stock into Western Medicine practictioners definitely in part because of American medicine being in bed with the drug companies and also because of my success at treating injuries/illness with acupuncture, Chinese herbs and of course a vegan diet!

    Plus I feel like someone who had not directly experienced a vegan diet is ill equipped to tell us that our diet is sabotaging our health.

    Would be so cool if all doctors were given vegan starter kits upon admittance to practice.

    • Abby says:

      Vegan starter kits for doctors is a GREAT idea…I’d settle for more than a modicum (if any) of nutritional training. I had a doctor who didn’t know there was calcium in vegetables.

  7. Woz says:

    As some others have said, it’s really that the doctors aren’t trained in nutrition. I’ve heard/read on several occasions that they get 3 hours of nutrition classes while in school. Three hours? Seriously? I didn’t even mention to my doctor that I was vegan when finding out I was pregnant…I just didn’t want to hear it and nodded at needing DHA and getting my 3 servings of dairy a day. Sometimes I’m just not up for the argument.

  8. Sava says:

    I haven’t actually been to the doctor since I went vegan (because I’ve been so healthy I haven’t needed to 😉 ) but I had a situation with my boss today who said something along the lines of:

    “You only weigh like 80 pounds, you just eat carrots and lettuce all week!”

    Which is so extraordinarily wrong I couldn’t help but burst into laughter. He was a LEAST 40 pounds off. It isn’t just doctors, but everyone, who seems to think that vegetables are like eating water and air.

  9. Joanna @ says:

    Honestly, my doctor has never taken the time to ask me what I am eating. As far as eating meat for nutritional purposes, in Western society this is a silly recommendation. Vegan athletes show us that it is absolutely possible to get proper nutrition through a vegan diet. Furthermore, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to the USDA recently recommended a shift to a plant-based diet. Veganism may not only be perfectly adequate nutrition, but has the potential to be the healthier choice when done properly.

  10. Michelle says:

    I agree with Woz – sometimes you shouldn’t tell them some things. If you are having medical issues, then definitely share your medical history and current lifestyle. But, if it’s just a checkup and everything is fine, I often don’t feel up for the argument. I’m not vegan, but don’t eat many animal products and neither do my kids. I usually just nod when the pediatrician goes on about how much milk and such the kids need. It’s not worth getting into it. I also know they see so many kids who eat SO bad, that they are somewhat skewed in their preaching.

  11. Danielle (Runs on Green) says:

    I do *not* put much faith in Western medicine!! I had Lyme disease over the summer and it was diagnosed by my dermatologist (skin doctor, not even my regular MD). She was explaining the side effects of the medicine I’ll have to take and that I should avoid dairy. I said “That won’t be a problem seeing as I’m vegan.” She stopped dead in her tracks and looked at me like I had some type of disorder. She proceeded to tell me I need to be taking supplements and that Calcium is so important and blah blah….She clearly didn’t know what I was studying/how much I’ve researched this/my own experiences and beliefs. It was just annoying to have a medical professional ‘look down upon me.’ Oh…but funny how dairy would cause all those complications in the first place… 😉

  12. James says:

    These experiences do seem to be weirdly common. I hope, though, that no one uses it as an excuse to give up on doctors or on “Western medicine.” First, because Western medicine is great, and second, because it has no problem with veganism – after all, there’s American Dietetic Association position we love to quote – so when your doctor is wrong, I hope that you will show him the science rather than give up on science.

  13. sarah-mai says:

    I decided to go vegetarian at the age of 3 (after my mom told me hamburgers are made from cows) and my parents (meat eaters at the time) went to my doctor concerned about my health. Luckily, my doctor was Indian and very familiar with vegetarianism. He told my parents that kids’ instincts are much better than adults’ and they should trust my decision. And that I would be perfectly healthy as a vegetarian.

    I’m now vegan and both of my parents are as well 😉