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Diarrhea Causes: Diarrhea and Fatigue - Fishing for an answer
Vegan Nutrition with Marty Davey

Marty Davey

I have been a fish-eating vegan for 4 years now. I transitioned from vegetarian to vegan (with the occasional white fish or shell fish once every two months or even longer) beautifully. In fact, after transitioning, my life became better; I had more energy, more enthusiasm, could function better on less sleep, and gained significantly improved hair skin and nails. Six months ago, however, two huge differences came about. I started getting regular diarrhea, and I continued to need more sleep. At first, I attributed the bowel problem to antibiotics I was on for 7 days. But since, it has become more frequent. The sleep I amounted to a new job, which I began a year ago, but my workload finally leveled out two months ago, and I'm still finding my body is requiring 10 hours of sleep per night (which was how my body was before I went vegan years ago). The dietary changes in my life? I used to track my vitamin intake and food group diversity nearly obsessively. When I started getting tired more often half a year ago, though, I began taking multivitamins, extra calcium, and a B complex. Which, by the way, did help considerably at the time. I have also increased my fish intake to 2-3 times a month, and have almost completely taken tofu out of my diet, and instead using more seitan and textured vegetable protein, for better meal substitutions. I still eat a considerable amount of beans though, usually raw garbanzo and cooked black beans. The question I have, now, with all the relevant background, is: Should I be concerned about such regular diarrhea? Especially with such recent arrival? And is there anything I could do to avoid it?

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Dearest Writer of this Question - You know I love you, but there is no such critter as a fish-eating vegan unless you are a shark who is particularly fond of eating vegans. Vegans do not eat any animal flesh or by-products. Period. You are an omnivore who eats a fairly vegan diet and fish. This is not a judgment on you, or how you eat, just a clarification of the term. We don't want anyone thinking that vegans sometimes eat animals.

Second, there are a lot of reasons you could be having diarrhea. I would get your stool checked for parasites or a variety of bacteria/viruses. At the same time, I would take a good look at your diet.

I don't know who told you that TVP was better for you than tofu, but run away from further advice spouted by this source. Why is TVP not a better choice than tofu? The soy isolates in TVP can increase cancer risk. TVP is a further step away from the naturally balanced, whole soy bean than tofu. This means whatever issue you thought about tofu, is escalated with TVP. Now, if you want to have a veggie burger once a week or add some TVP to a soup, that's fine. But having it on a daily basis is not a good idea. I have another article on this website, Meat Analogues. Check that out for more specific information and resources about the soy isolate factor.

I would also cut out the seitan and all fermented products [including tofu, tempeh, vinegar, sugar, yeast, soy sauce, alcohol, yeasted breads, wheat, cous cous, any sweeteners including maple syrup, and anything made with any of these aforementioned products] and fish. The reason for this is that you may have knocked your stomach flora out of balance from the antibiotics, bacteria and such from fish [shellfish in particular], a wheat or yeast allergy, or a host of other things that I don't know about your diet and stress level. In addition to being a possible cause of diarrhea, when the flora of the stomach is disrupted you can feel sluggish. You need to eliminate anything that can mess with your stomach flora and let it re-build. I would eat this way for at least a month and note any differences. If you do have improvement, begin adding one type of food at a time. For example, have some plain pasta. If you have a reaction, then you know you have a wheat allergy. If you have reaction to vinegar used on a salad, it is a yeast allergy. When your body is clean of an allergic food, ingesting that food usually gives a rapid reaction.

What are you going to eat? GRAINS, BEANS, VEGETABLES AND FRUITS. I love tofu, seitan and such, but I keep them at the periphery of my diet. I have some tofu or tempeh two to three times a week at the most. I mainly work at getting my fiber [which improves diarrhea], protein, B vitamins and other nutrient goodies from grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Today I had oatmeal made with enriched rice milk, flax meal and strawberries for breakfast, 1/2 grapefruit for snack, 2 cups of bean and veggie soup with a small pita for lunch, Clementine orange, 1 oatmeal cookie and 4 dried apricots for a snack and the black bean squash chili [recipe on my website, http://martydavey.com] with kamut/couscous, steamed kale and swiss chard, a 3 cup salad with 1 oz walnuts, and 2 oatmeal cookies. No tofu or TVP.

Marty Davey is a Registered Dietitian and has a Masters degree in Food and Nutrition from Marywood University. She became a vegetarian in 1980 when she discovered that the chemicals in American meat made them unsellable to Europeans. She and her husband have raised their son as a vegan. She teaches nutrition and has a private practice specializing in assisting clients transitioning to a plant-based regime step by step. Her website is martydavey.com

Get your own personal nutrition consultation with Marty here.



Disclaimer: The advice given here is for eductional purposes only. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified health care provider.

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