Adventures in Dressmaking: My thoughts on the raw vegan diet... if you were wondering

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My thoughts on the raw vegan diet... if you were wondering

Update: As of Christmas 2012, after 13+ years of vegetarian and vegan eating, I now eat a plant-based, real food diet plus the addition of healthy fats and proteins such as grassfed red meat, fatty fish, pastured pork, and grassfed butter (my personal Paleo diet). My health has significantly improved since I ate an unbalanced raw vegan diet. Post about the change here!

I don't talk about food much on here, although I see food and sewing and home dec and clothing trends and crafty projects as all sort of going together--but maybe that's because they're all interests of mine!  But I have a very different diet than most people, and I don't want to weird anyone out.

I've mentioned a few times in other posts that I have a limited diet (like when I shared my exciting VitaMix purchase!).  Sometimes I receive emails from people asking me what I mean about the "limited" part, because they're gluten-intolerant or vegan or dieting or whatever else.  I don't know if I can be much help to those people, but I did figure I'd might as well tell you what my "weird diet" is.  You won't judge me too much, right?

**Warning: looooooong post coming up.

I currently eat an approximately 90% raw vegan diet.  Raw vegans don't eat any meat, dairy, eggs, or other animal products, nor do they eat any cooked vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts, or anything else that's been heated to about 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit   Sounds pretty limited, right?

A brief history

I've been vegetarian since I was 14 or so (except I always ate fish).  It worked pretty much fine for me, I thought; I always ate my veggies and fruits and had a balanced diet.  I had killer IBS, though, and took Tums all the time and went to a gastroenterologist who said nothing was physically wrong with me.  I tried cutting out dairy for a week once in high school to see if it was a lactose intolerance but couldn't keep away from the ice cream and parmesan.  I got tested for celiac disease and didn't have that, either.

I also put on a few pounds in grad school and was a little grumpy about it.  I slowed down on eating cheese since I wasn't sure, but I didn't think it was healthy, and why would I want to eat something that was bad for me?  Oh, and I always used soy milk on my cereal (not knowing the dangerous effects of soy) and never drank actual milk, but ate plenty of fro yo and low fat ice cream and always thought vegans must be weird.

My introduction to raw veganism

But in January of 2010 my then-fiance and I met a new couple who were sometimes raw vegan.  Again, the "that sounds weird..." alarm went off in my brain, but I listened, and borrowed some books about the diet.  Sounded like it had all kinds of benefits, some more believable than others.  Losing weight on it?  Sure, I could believe that, but people also said it took away their migraines, menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia, diabetes, acne, fatigue, etc etc etc!  Sounded great.  I would love to need less sleep and feel great.

Pretty much immediately I tried the diet--it sounded fun!  The recipes sounded delicious.  I have a huge sweet tooth so all the delicious desserts made with raw nuts, dates, agave, cocoa power, fresh fruit, and all kinds of good stuff sounded amazing!  I went to the store and bought raw ingredients, and didn't buy the normal stuff.

In the beginning...

That first week I ate fresh fruit smoothies for breakfast instead of cereal, had a huge salad for lunch instead of stir fry and rice or pasta with veggies or burrito or whatever else I would have had, and made exciting new recipes for dinner.  Faves were cabbage wraps, collard green wraps, kale salad, anything with avocados, dried fruit for snacks... I also borrowed my parents' dehydrator and made dehydrated nut crackers that were WAY more delicious than anything Nabisco ever made.

I lost about 20 pounds over the next few months without changing my physical activity at all.  And my IBS symptoms all went away immediately.  Not since I was a kid have I had such a good... uhhh... digestive situation, if you know what I mean!  I used to be constipated for up to 5 days.  The grain-free, raw vegan diet totally fixed that.  And I was eating all the fresh fruits and veggies and nuts and homemade brownies and fruit cobblers and mousses and chocolate shake smoothies I wanted!

All this was happening at a time in my life when not much else was going on.  I was newly engaged and we were living in a small apartment, and I didn't have a great job like I'd hoped I would when I finished grad school 6 months before.  I was working part time and had recently started this blog, and was spending a lot of time watching 30 Rock while sewing.  Learning new ways to make food was fun and exciting!  And when summer came I went crazy picking berries and peaches, and ate LOTS of them.

Two years later...

It's been almost two years now, wow!  Things have changed a little and I'm not as hard core about the raw vegan-ness of my diet, but I've worked out a system that works for me.  I eat a lot of fresh veggies (I've toned it down on the fruit... all that sugar, even though it's natural, not super healthy), snack on nuts, eat the occasional egg, and make amazing salad dressings and raw vegan dips.  I'm not vegan for moral reasons, but for health reasons, so I've been known to have a bite of something made with a little cooked or dried milk fat.  I've found the things that make me feel bad, and the things that work okay but probably aren't that healthy for me.

What's most important to me now is that I don't eat any grains or dairy.  Any--I can't do rice or gluten-free flour products or anything.  I also don't want any refined (white) sugar, or any potatoes or corn (so starchy).  Oh, or any meat, of course!  I make exceptions sometimes for really good dark chocolate, and this one brand of corn chips made in Portland that are SOOOOO good.  And I sometimes eat hummus, which is cooked.

Some raw vegans drink wine or distill their own alcohol, but I've never been a big drinker so now I just don't drink at all.  I also don't do any caffeine, just cuz... I dunno, it's just easier that way.  I love interesting herbal teas!

Eating out and the social aspects

It's hard to go out to eat, so I don't much (I can eat a few things at sushi track places, I can eat papaya salad at Thai places, and some places have tempting green salads), but I don't like restaurants much, anyway.  And we loooove Thai food so when we have date nights we usually do that.  I can get a green salad anywhere, hold the chicken, hold the croutons, hold the cheese, hold the whatever else, and only oil and vinegar for dressing on the side, but then it's just a $10 plate of lettuce and dried cranberries, and that hardly seems worth it.

I know everyone is different, so you may think I'm crazy, but honestly, it's not that hard for me to eat this way.  I'm really happy with it!

My husband is not raw vegan (he tried it and lasted two weeks--he lost weight but then went to his grandparents' house and ate comfort food and gave up), but he likes everything I make and makes food for/with me.  He doesn't eat red meat or much dairy, and only eats chicken or turkey once a week or so.  And he's been into the weight loss diet from the 4-Hour Body, wherein you don't eat any grains or dairy or sugar including fruit, so he's limited, too right now.
Source: rawmazing.com via Chip on Pinterest

If you want to know more...

I don't recommend raw veganism to anyone because food is such a personal thing, and people won't change unless they really want to.  All I can say is, if you have some weird problem that nothing else has helped, try it out and see what happens.  Why not, right?
It's been a while since I did a bunch of research on raw vegan tips and getting-started ideas, so I don't have a strong list for you there... but I'm sure you can Google it if you want to know more!


Update: As of Christmas 2012, after 13+ years of vegetarian and vegan eating, I now eat a plant-based, real food diet plus the addition of healthy fats and proteins such as grassfed red meat, fatty fish, pastured pork, and grassfed butter (my personal Paleo diet). My health has significantly improved since I ate an unbalanced raw vegan diet. Post about the change here!

47 comments :

Leaving a comment is easy, and I love to read them! No annoying word verification required. =)

  1. I am vegan, haven't really tried the raw diet yet. We have a few raw food restaurants here in Chicago that we go to, other places that have raw food nights that are delicious. I can not eat mushrooms or peanuts, which are in everything, so my diet is limited that way. I've always wanted to try raw recipes, thanks for the tips!

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  2. hi, I'm pretty new to your blog, but wanted to say thanks for this post! Raw veganism sounds like something I'd try (probably only a percentage of the time too, since I'm not one to deprive myself of the occasional non-raw treat either). Thanks for the tips/personal anecdotes (e.g. about how special diets make eating out challenging)!

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  3. Wow! So glad you found a diet that works for you. I'm only trying to cut out processed sugar right now (which I had under control for a good year, but getting married in October meant tons of leftover cake and plenty of holiday desserts all year after...) and finding it nearly impossible, so I have tons of respect for anyone on a restrictive diet. Any particular recommendations for smoothies or desserts to try out?

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  4. There is some really good scientific info at hacres.com that I have been able to use for better nutrition even though I'm not a raw foodian.

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  5. great information! I always like to learn about natural alternatives that might help with health issues. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. I love raw vegan food, but I'm not one myself. But we have all sorts of other dietary restrictions in our house, so we're always making weird/alternative things. I'm not sure the totally raw would work for me all the time, but I always love hearing about how other people are figuring out diet stuff. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Thanks for this post! Even tho I do not strictly limit my diet, I know that cooking destroys many of the nutrients in foods. Raw foods look so much more beautiful than cooked -- for aesthetic reasons alone, it's nice to make raw veggies and fruits the main focus of a meal.

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  8. Thank you for posting on this. This was so informative without being preachy, and thank you for the suggested reading, I'm putting these books on hold at the library right away.

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  9. Interesting to discover about this diet! I love veggies but I'm not sure I could skip cooked food. That said certainly eating less complex food makes my stomach function better

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  10. You're definitive not weird! It sound soo healthy. Living in northern Sweden it would probably be difficult to find enough variety of fresh vegetables. But I would love to try it (also have IBS). Just have to finish of all the Christmas cookies in the freezer first...
    I like it when you mix things up on the blog with things like this!

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  11. Oh man, I have pretty bad IBS too. I love how doctors just say there's nothing really wrong with you, so you have IBS and don't tell you what to do about it! I've tried limiting my diet but inevitably something always upsets my tummy anyway, so I go back. Maybe it's time to try something different... Thanks for sharing! I was always curious why you had a limited diet.

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  12. lool I don't think you're weird at all! I know that when I eat healthier I feel much better but it's hard to do when you're not in control of the groceries and your entire family likes to eat comfort food. Thanks for the post. Don't worry about the length, it's perfect. P.S. That carrot cake looks SOOOO good.

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  13. Thanks for not being preachy. One my hugest issues with vegans (especially moral ones) is that their explanation of why they do it ends up being preachy and judge-y, making you feel like the worst person for not doing it yourself, and it becomes very inconvenient when they make you feel like its your responsibility to accommodate their limited diet (if you invite them to dinner or something). I can totally appreciate finding the diet that works best for you if you have health issues, and I think that--if I had the willpower--I would make an effort to cut out a lot of the refined food in my diet; I'm sure I would feel a lot better. I really admire you for being able to do it and do it without coming across as a holier-than-thou vegan. Bon Appetit! :)

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  14. Sarah S (sshoemakerAThotmailDOTcom)January 4, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    Do you ever read Choosing Raw by Gena? http://www.choosingraw.com/ She writes such a great blog, you might be interested to read it if you're not already :)

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  15. This was very interesting! Did your skin improve to?

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  16. Can I ask why the raw part of the diet is of such importance? I can see the vegan part being super healthy... but I guess I just don't understand why cooking would make such a difference. I'm not trying to sound argumentative, I just want to learn! I'm always fascinated by the choices people make for themselves, and in awe of the dedication it takes. While I could probably go vegetarian relatively easy, I just couldn't give up on dairy!

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  17. I am moving more and more towards this way of eating. My vitamix came a few months ago (a happy and momentous occasion - I LOVE IT) and I drink green smoothies and juice. I do eat quinoa, millet and amaranth but I've cut out all wheat and pretty much most dairy, I barely eat meat. Guess what? My "IBS" has stopped too! I have more energy, my skin is better. My stomach is flatter than ever and I've popped out two children!

    Thanks for the post X

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  18. Thanks for sharing! I don't think that is strange.

    I am wheat and lactose intolerant, but it wasn't until I was in my early 20's that I realized how much of an affect they each had on me physically. Wheat makes me Very tired, and stops me up digestively speaking. Milk makes my nose run, and basically moves through me too quickly, digestively speaking.
    I definitely noticed how much better I felt when I cut both out completely, and I can really feel it if I "cheat."

    My boyfriend's sister Laura was diagnosed with Lyme and she was prescribed a really particular anti-inflammation diet, which made her feel much better when she followed it. Their mother is a Home Ec so she and Laura worked together on an anti-inflammation diet cookbook. http://amzn.to/yOZejP

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  19. I've been vegan for 2 1/2 years and raw vegan for 6 months of it. Let me tell you - I *loved* it and swore it's how I would live forever. But I fell off into "cooked veganism" due to the convenience of it. Now I probably eat about 60% raw, but one day will up it more.

    Going raw changed my WHOLE perspective on food and life.

    The Raw Food Detox Diet book got me on the right path, and www.welikeitraw.com was a site I used to enjoy (although there are some fanatics on there)

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  20. Thanks for this post! I don't think that raw veganism is for me (at least, not right now), but it was great to read about why you do it and why it works for you. You definately struck the right tone with your words. And you're right, food IS a really personal issue. It carries so many emotions and memories for us, and it can be a really touchy subject. I'm hoping to drastically reduce the amount of sugar & refined foods I eat this year. Wish me luck!

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  21. Hello! Just wanted to say, GREAT post! I wish more bloggers would do posts like this about the reasoning behind certain lifestyle choices. You did it so well without sounding like a cheesy/pushy lobbyist for that certain lifestyle. I'll try out some of the recipes (I'm a vegetarian)just because I'm curious. Thanks again!

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  22. This post is great. I am not a raw vegan but love all kinds of veggies and greens. Don't think that my family would not be very open to this diet. I have been thinking that I want to switch to smoothies for breakfast. That would be a good place to start.
    Ruth

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  23. Wow, you guys are all so incredible. Thank you so much for your comments! SO glad you liked it and didn't think I was preachy. I would hate to sound that way.

    It's way cool to hear lots of you have thought about alternative ways of eating, too! It is so powerful to find out what works for your body.

    Thanks for the book and website recommendations, too!

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  24. My husband is OBSESSED with 4-hour body. He's lost about 40 pounds in the last six months. I've always been pretty health-conscious, so since he's so fanatic about that lifestyle, it's been easier for me to eat better. I've always been an omnivore, but am curious to see how my body would react to something else.

    Thanks a lot for sharing. I'm going to look at those recipes!

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  25. I forgot to mention www.giveittomeraw.com - a forum for raw foodies. It's a great place to go when you don't have an immediate circle of friends supporting your raw endeavors.

    I do have to warn once again of the raw food fanatics (although for the most part they are really nice and balanced), and, if you're like me and an information hound, you can spend mannnny hours on the site, reading about everyone's opinions on nutrition. Super interesting!

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  26. I've been venturing into the idea of moving towards more raw and whole foods. Not going completely vegan, we definitely eat eggs and a bit of cheese here and there and we like our meats, but moving to one or two vegan nights a week. It was easier before I got pregnant and started feeling tired and nauseous at night, though! But I definitely noticed a difference in eating 'clean' even.

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  27. What a great post! I think it is very interesting to read about the different way that people do things. If you feel better and are happy then why not - people shouldn't judge what you eat.

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  28. I am dying to know which corn chips you eat! Are they Juanita's?

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  29. I'm reading you from Mallorca (Spain)! I really love your blog. Thanks for sharing! I'm trying to change my diet but it's not easy for me as I still living with my parents. I look foward to have my place and try the raw vegan diet! Unfortunately there still people judging what you eat.

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  30. I don´t know if I could go vegan, but I don´t eat much meat either - like chicken, turkey and a little beef. I am gluten intolerant, diagnosed about 2 years ago, so I feel much better since I went off gluten and milk (I´m ok with cheese). I´ve been reading up on juicing though as it´s something that appeals to me, probably do a few days on and off to detox the system. Love all the food photos you posted.

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  31. Really interesting, and I don't think you are being preachy, you are just sharing about your life which is the way you write your blog. I personally wouldn't follow this diet for many reasons, but I'm happy that you do and that it helps you health-wise and makes you feel good! I think women are encouraged to have really unhealthy relationships with food, to see it as an enemy, a reward, a friend, whatever, instead of the thing you need to gain nutrients and keep existing. I'm glad you like your relationship with food, that's really important!

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  32. Thanks for this post! You are right, food is very personal, which is why I don't think anyone should think you are weird. My husband also has severe IBS and acid reflux (think newborn - he just never grew out of it), this might be something to consider. I don't like to jump into things quickly, but I like knowing what some options are!

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  33. Thank you so much for this!!! It couldn't have come at a better time for me. I have just started reading more about veganism and eating raw. My biggest struggle has been figuring out how to adjust my current eating habits to new ones. This post really helps!

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  34. Wow, even more awesome comments, thanks, readers! Sounds like a lot of you are interested in finding diets that are right for you =)

    @erinkg, YES they are Juanita's! They are THE BEST OMG!! And made right here in Oregon! Soooo good, salty and fatty, don't need salsa or anything! And they only have three ingredients! mmm.... summer salsa parties...

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  35. I really enjoyed this post! I have been contemplating changing some things in my diet for a while. Very inspirational. Thank you!

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  36. I'm wondering what your Thai place of choice is. We're in PDX in looking to try a new one. Thanks!

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  37. I'm a new vegan (vegetarian about 4 months)and although I haven't tried raw yet, my main goal now is to stay fresh and unprocessed. Green smoothies most every day. Every day would be awesome but I don't have the discipline yet. Some additional resources for anyone interested are:
    www.bonzaiaphrodite.com
    www.vega-licious.com
    The documentaries:
    Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
    Forks Over Knives
    The books:
    The China Study (will challenge/change your views with evidence, so don't read if you're not open to that. after reading i HAD to stop eating dairy.)
    Unprocessed

    These are just my most recent resources (the blogs I've been reading for years), and I'd love to hear about others' recommendations!

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  38. I am so happy to hear about vegans who blog. Even if you aren't fully vegan 90% is really good. I am vegan and had super improvements when I made the switch, though I had a second baby and developed IBS so am looking for more changes that might improve this though my doc says my hormones may return to the way they were I don't want to wait and see and I have been reading Dr. Furhman and he says to eat more raw fruits and veggies. It is just hard because the baby doesn't have a lot of teeth or eat nuts yet so I would have to make her special meals from what the rest of the family eats. Yesterday I picked up an Ani Phyo book from the library to try though. I m looking forward to that. I am given hope that it has helped your IBS. Giveing up grains and sugar is going to be tricky though.

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  39. I'm so glad you wrote this post! I've been really interested in foods and diets recently. I've had stomach issues for awhile and the doctor finally diagnosed me with IBS this summer. I'm looking for anything to help with my symptoms!

    Also, both of my grandparents on my mother's side have been diagnosed with cancer. At the recommendation of a nature doctor, they went through a year-long diet which sounds like it was similar to your diet. They are in their 70s and their doctors are now amazed at their health! Food affects so much more than we realize.

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  40. I enjoyed this post. I think you come across as kind and sincere always. Plus, I like seeing how a diet like this works. Question: are there a lot of options that don't include nuts or soy?

    Thanks for blogging!

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  41. More awesome comments, thanks so much, readers!

    I totally agree that Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead was a really good story, really interesting, and the diet they do is extreme raw veganism/juicing. And absolutely, The China Study is a crazy book--good way to describe it, it may seriously change your views so be prepared.

    @Sarah, depends on where in Portland you are! There are Thai places EVERYWHERE! We like Soi 9 on Burnside, and Thai Derm in Beaverton is really good, and Pok Pok is good for fancy Thai/Vietnamese... but there are so many places, and most of them are good!

    @Lwiseblau, good question, the raw diet can include a lot of nuts, although you can often use avocado and fresh coconut as other good sources of fats if you don't like nuts/seeds. I never eat any soy or tofu or anything on the raw diet. Except raw soy sauce, Braggs! Mmmmm!

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  42. I really enjoyed reading your post - thanks for sharing your experiences with raw food, as well as interesting links. I'm keen to integrate more raw food in our daily diet, and am motivated and inspired by your post. Thanks again:)

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  43. THANK YOU for being so incredibly open and honest about the health problems you've had. I feel that GI problems are so common, but people are afraid of being taboo and talking about them. It's important that people communicate about things that help them.

    I personally struggled for years and years with what doctors would only call "IBS." I was eventually diagnosed with celiacs and early onset crohn's disease. I was already vegetarian, but obviously my diet had to change even more to manage my symptoms. Now I like to call my diet "pesca-vegan," sticking to a mostly raw vegan diet but occasionally "cheating" with fish. Now I'm thinner, healthier, and happier than I've ever been!

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  44. I would also like to say to all of you who struggle with "IBS"...

    I struggled with it for years, suffered a battery of tests, and never received any conclusive results. I did tons of research on my own and made a list of things to make my doctor test for. Turns out, most of my problem was celiacs--a very common condition with a crazy simple solution--yet 4 doctors and 3 specialists never thought to test for it!

    Point is, keep trucking! I know how debilitating and frustrating it can be, especially when doctors tell you it's all psychological. Do your research, seek out wonderful forums/blogs (just like this one), find a support group, and make small diet changes until you figure out what works best for you.

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    1. Thanks for your comments!! Always good to hear others' stories!

      I tested negative for celiac disease but I know that my body still just doesn't really like any grains, or dairy!

      It really is empowering and great to find a diet that works for you!

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  45. Great post! I swear by The China Study and Forks Over Knives (I also recommend the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease- even if you know no one with it, and anything written by Dr. Neal Barnard or Dr. McDougall! :) Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn prove what amazing things a whole foods plant-based diet does for the body. It eliminates, prevents and reverses so many unnecessary diseases,ailments and "side effects." Not to mention, the taste and color of the food is amazing! I love being on a whole foods plant-based diet! Once I get my new blog design updated I plan to have some recipes available, and raw ones will surely be included. :) Cheers all!

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    1. Very cool, will have to check those latter two out!! So true that fresh foods taste and look better, too. It'll be great to share raw recipes on your blog and share them with others!!

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