Guest Post: Veganism 101 for IBDers and Ostomates

Saying “I’m vegan“, is something which raises as many eyebrows as saying “I’m an ostomate” or “I have Crohn’s Disease“, but I can say it with confidence because living an ethical and compassionate lifestyle can be highly rewarding (and pretty easy).

When I went vegan in 2000, it wasn’t because I wanted to improve my health, or because my previous lifestyle had a large carbon footprint. I went vegan after losing two dogs to cancer and realizing that they were no different from the animals I was eating, wearing, and using in household products. Their lives are just as important as the lives of my beloved dogs. So my wife and I went vegan almost overnight, but resources were hard to come by back then. The internet didn’t have Twitter, YouTube or Facebook, and PETA seemed to be the only resource out there for new vegans.

It was a frustrating time, but as the web evolved and more websites dedicated to veganism began to crop up, things got a lot easier. Now, you can find vegan foods at just about every store and vegan/vegetarian restaurants are common – veganism is becoming more accepted and people from all walks of life are interested in moving to this lifestyle. Research is also showing us that plant-based diets are beneficial to our health and the impact of a plant-based lifestyles are minimal to the environment.

What does “vegan” mean and how does it differ from a plant-based diet?

In short, a vegan is someone who doesn’t eat or use animal products, while someone on a plant-based diet may still wear leather or knowingly use products which contain animal products. Veganism is a lifestyle choice, and not simply a dietary preference.

Why become vegan?

Eating a well-planned, vegan diet is easy, inexpensive, healthful, and delicious, but ask 100 people why they became vegan, and you might get 100 different answers. For some, it could be to improve health; for others, it might be to lower their grocery bill. Numerous vegans simply want to avoid being part of the suffering we cause to animals for products that simply aren’t needed to live happy, healthy lives. Many people also go vegan to help the environment, since it contributes to far less air, land, and water pollution vs animal-based diets. Whatever your reason, know that it’s a positive step to improving the world around us.

What if you have IBD or an ostomy? Can you still be vegan?

On my blog, VeganOstomy, I detail my experiences as an ostomate living a vegan lifestyle. For the most part, I have no dietary restrictions, but I’ve had to do some research on the ostomy products I use to make sure they don’t contain animal products. I’ve also published interviews featuring other vegans who have IBD, and ostomy, or j-pouch; it’s amazing to read about their transition and how they thrive!

If you have IBD, there is research which suggests that plant-based diets can help to reduce inflammation and can even help to keep people in remission. For family and friends who don’t have IBD, there is research that it may be a way to help prevent it from being triggered. I’m not suggesting that a vegan diet is a cure or magic pill, but it’s nice to see these positive health benefits being published in scientific literature.

vegan-diet-for-crohns-colitis-ostomy

And, don’t think that eating a vegan diet means you’ll be eating carrots all day! Plant foods are abundant, and for every animal-based food, you can be sure that there are at least a half dozen plant-based alternatives to choose from. Gluten-free, soy-free, GMO-free, grain-free, low-fat, low-fiber, high-protein, raw or comfort food – you can tailor a vegan diet to suit your own needs. I’ve blogged about some tips on which foods to choose if you have IBD. Household products, clothing, and cosmetics are also really easy to replace, and there are hundreds of resources available online to help you find substitutes for products in all categories.

How can you get started?
Finding support is the most important thing you can do once you’ve decided to make a positive step towards a more compassionate lifestyle.

I’ve set up a resource page on my blog with resources to get anyone who’s new to the lifestyle up to speed. It includes links to evidence-based education and research websites, sites with recipe ideas, and blogs which I find personally helpful. The vegan community is also very lively and supportive; Look for forums and social pages to get recipe ideas and helpful tips when transitioning.

If you’re stuck, just head over to my site and ask me! I’m always here to talk and support.

This post was originally featured on the Great Bowel Movement website in Feb 2015.

Big thanks goes out to Megan Starshak for giving me the opportunity to guest blog for them. 

Ever wonder where I get my “Ask me about my…” shirts? They come from The Great Bowel Movement, and they’ve been a strong force in the realm of IBD advocacy.

Ask me about my ostomy
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