smack up against one of the few real problems on a vegan diet: more
fiber than your GI tract can handle. Fiber is mostly indigestible
cellulose which is a long chain polymer of glucose. The fiber goes
right through your small intestine and then dumps into the colon
where there are bacteria that elaborate the enzyme cellulase. Cellulase
splits glucose molecules off the ends of cellulose and the bacteria
then metabolize the glucose, releasing gas and bowel irritants that
lead to increased peristalsis, cramps, and diarrhea.
I don't know
if your doctors have worked you up for celiac syndrome but even
if they have I would recommend a trial of a gluten-free diet for
a week or two. Gluten is a protein in most grains, particularly
wheat, that generates an auto-immune reaction in about 5% of the
population. If it goes on long enough there's microscopic damage
to the intestinal lining, weight loss, and most of the symptoms
you describe. I believe the vegan diet unmasks celiac syndrome in
more people than the medical profession realizes and since there's
nothing in grain that you can't get along without, it seems sensible
to cut out all grains except perhaps boiled white rice for a couple
of weeks and see what happens. If you're a celiac most of your symptoms
may be gone shortly.
Beans are tasty
and fairly nutritious but they contain two indigestible five carbon
sugars, raffinose and stachyose that can also cause big time gas.
In spite of their reputation as the protein source for veg*ns beans
actually contain less protein per Calorie than leafy greens, the
foods that should make up a large part of any healthy diet.
If you're eating
the customary three squares a day it's possible that the meals are
so large that they are simply overwhelming your digestive resources.
A properly designed vegan diet based on vegetables and fruit rather
than starches and grains and meeting Calorie needs is about 1/3
larger by weight and volume than an equicaloric omnivorous meal.
Frequent small meals rather than three large ones work well for
many people and more closely mimic the feeding patterns of our primate
ancestors who were herbivorous arboreal grazers rather than carnivorous
with your symptoms it's very important to chew your food thoroughly
so that it will be broken up mechanically and mixed with salivary
amylase prior to swallowing. If you can't do that, a Vita Mix blender
can turn out a very smooth, nutritious, and tasty mix of vegetables,
seeds, and herbs meeting the RDA for all nutrients save B12. That
problem can be fixed by adding a teaspoon of Red Star nutritional
yeast. There's also an acidophilus product Töpfer Lactopriv/B
Lactobacillus bifidus powder (vegan acidophilus substitute) available
at health food stores. I haven't been much impressed with adding
it to the blender as a digestive aid but it's worth a try.
I hope this
will be of some help. If not, write again. I had similar symptoms
for my first 25 years as a vegan which ended abruptly when I stopped
eating bread and other glutinous grain products. That was after
a gastroenterologist did a complete workup with tubes and gadgets
in all available orifices and came up with the same diagnosis as
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 of Vegetarianism.
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.