on the weight loss.
I feel good
and have plenty of energy. Should I be concerned about the lose
to a vegan diet may often cause these symptoms because of the high
fiber content. As you know fiber is mostly cellulose. Higher animals,
us included, lack the enzyme cellulase that splits glucose molecules
off the ends of the cellulose polymer. The fiber also shortens intestinal
transit time with the result that not too long after eating, a large
bolus of poorly digested high fiber food will pass the ileo-cecal
valve into the colon where there are bacteria that do have cellulase.
The bacteria then digest and utilize your dinner with the evolution
of large amounts of gas. Diarrhea follows.
There are various
medical syndromes that can also cause these symptoms so it might
be wise to get stool specimens for enteric pathogens and parasites
such as Giardia lamblia. However, your history suggests that the
problems are due to your vegan transition so I would suggest the
1. A week trial
with no grain products. About 5% of the population has celiac syndrome
(non tropical sprue) due to gluten intolerance. From my own experience
I suspect that the vegan diet is likely to unmask this condition
in a person who previously had no symptoms, since the pre-vegan
transit time was long enough to hide it. If this seems to help,
reintroduce grains slowly and in this order: white rice, oats, brown
rice, corn, and (with caution) rye, barley, and wheat, the gluten
sources most likely to cause the problem. Be aware that you can
permanently exclude grains from the diet with no ill effects.
that legumes such as beans are also notorious for causing gas and
digestive problems since they contain two indigestible 5-carbon
sugars, raffinose and stachyose.
3. Try frequent
small feedings rather than three large meals every day. Although
a vegan diet based on vegetables easily meets nutrient needs, vegans
must eat ~ 1/3rd more food by volume than omnivores to meet Calorie
requirements. Large vegan meals simply overwhelm digestive resources
leading to the symptoms you describe. Chew your food thoroughly
in a tranquil environment. I'm seldom in such an environment so
I run it through a Vita-Mix.
4. For the insomnia
problem consider not eating after 5:00 PM. Peristalsis can be a
severe inhibitor of sleep, so it's good to give the GI tract time
to settle down before you retire. You can reset your appestat easily
by just skipping dinner one evening. In the morning you start eating
earlier and have your food intake done 6 hours before bedtime and
without nocturnal hunger pangs. In the event the insomnia doesn't
respond to this you might try 50 mg of diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
about an hour before you plan to retire. It's not as fast or as
powerful as a prescription sedative but it works, has little addiction
potential, and can be bought OTC.
I am a registered
nurse and promote this way of eating to my patients and peers and
would hate to have to give it up.
I hope you won't
have to. Let me know if this advice helps or if you have more questions.
Harris MD received a degree in physics from the University of
California Berkeley, where he earned Phi Beta Kappa honors. He received
his degree in medicine from the University of California at San
Francisco, and received his postgraduate training at San Diego County
Hospital. He holds a Medical License in the State of Hawaii. He
has been an Emergency Department physican since 1963, and the Director
of the Kaiser Permanente Vegan Lifestyle Clinic on Oahu until his
retirement in 1998. Dr. Harris is the author of The Scientific Basis
In addition, he was the 1950 Big Ten Trampoline Champion, is
an accomplished hangglider and commercial pilot, and at age 70 became
a skydiver with 108 jumps to date. Dr. Harris has been vegetarian
since 1950, and vegan since 1963.