My New Diet And Why I Reintroduced Animal Products Back Into My Meals

I “failed” veganism and here’s why – my story.

“To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to the protection by man from the cruelty of man.”

This quote from Mahatma Gandhi would have been somewhat of an unquestionable mantra to me for the roughly 5 years of being strictly vegan (with very few and mostly unintentional exceptions). However, I have experienced some health struggles in recent years that made me see the world in a more nuanced way, rather than through a narrow-minded black and white lens.

But let’s start from the beginning. I decided to go vegan at the age of 21 after being vegetarian for around 5 years prior to that. I mainly did it for ethical reasons, as I discovered that simply not eating meat still causes tons of harm to animals through the dairy and egg industry. I soon realized that cutting out dairy brought me the tremendous health benefit of reducing my migraines to basically non-existing. This was the best proof for me that I was doing the right thing for my body AND the animals at the time.

I was only able to enjoy my migraine-free time for about three years. When I hit 24, they came back worse than before. I was suffering from terrible migraine attacks at least once a week. They were those types of attacks that would leave you bed-bounded for the entire day, including horrendous headaches, severe nausea, vomiting, vertigo and sensitivity to sound. In a nutshell: I felt like somebody had poisoned me on a weekly basis.

As you can imagine, this is no way to go about life. Migraines can have a huge impact on your performance at work and how much you are able to socially interact with others. I did a lot of research through medical articles (which, sadly, I found the least useful), blog posts and podcasts. I came across a naturopath that specialises in migraines and the corresponding triggers. She brought the whole diet matter back on my radar.

I ended up getting myself tested for a bunch of things. For one, I got a screening of my hormone levels done as my migraines would usually be worse around my period. Second, I did some tests to measure certain levels in my intestines to see if there are any signs for a leaky gut. And – probably the most important one – was a food sensitivity test.

The results came with no surprise. I did have a slight progesterone deficiency, which mainly manifested itself through short luteal phases (the second half of your cycle between ovulation and your period) and lots of bleeding before my actual period. This was also an issue that only arose after going vegan. I suspected it to be related to my stress levels (and maybe also my diet since this issue has improved since I reintroduced animal products back into my diet), as the only recent time I had a “healthy” cycle was when I came back from my holidays in Greece where I chose to eat (almost) everything I fancied and got the chance to relax properly.

The gut test showed no signs of a potential leaky gut, which was bueno! The food sensitivity test, however, showed quite a few foods that my body would possibly react to. I have to make one thing clear here: Many doctors don’t support this kind of testing, as there is no evidence that the antibodies against certain foods in the body that we test for actually mean that there is an immune reaction whenever we eat those foods. Some believe that it’s necessary, since food is a foreign object entering our gastrointestinal tract. But since I just wanted my migraines to improve, I gave it a try.

I cut out all the foods that came back on my screening for three months and didn’t have a single migraine attack during that time. Interestingly, I was also slightly sensitive to most dairy products, which could explain why going vegan improved my situation in the first place. The bigger issue, however, were grains. I was pretty much highly sensitive to all of them.

Now you can imagine that being on a vegan diet without grains is extremely difficult, which is why I decided that – for the time of checking this diet out – I would reintroduce fish and feta cheese back into my diet, as those didn’t show up as sensitivities.

After a lot of trying (and failing), I found that my migraines are mainly triggered by grains, dairy and well, my period. Which is something that I don’t really want to change (just yet 😊). But by fully cutting out those trigger foods shortly before and during my period AND trying to slow down and give my body enough rest, I either get a manageable migraine (which is already much better than before) or no attack at all. I still get some very intense attacks but they are way less frequent than they used to be.

I guess what I’ve learned over the past few years is that you can love animals, but you can also love being healthy. And I now do believe that it is okay to be selfish in some ways when it comes to our well-being.

From an ethical point of view, there is no doubt that killing animals is wrong. And there is absolutely no good reason – ethically speaking – to cause them even the slightest harm. But sadly, it’s not just about ethics.

Over the course of the years, I had to learn that there is no “one-size-fits-all” diet – as much as I wish there was. A study found that 84% of vegetarians/vegans eventually quit their diet. The qualitative findings of the same study show that 26% of former vegetarians/vegans abandoned their diet primarily due to health reasons.

From observations I’ve made myself and seen in many people on Youtube I conclude that a vegan diet can especially be difficult to maintain a healthy digestion. That actually comes with no surprise, since numerous frequently ingested plants contain different compounds that can potentially irritate the gut, such as traces of lectins, oxalate, FODMAPs, gluten, or phytic acid.

Stories like the one of Mikhaela Peterson suggest that for some people, eating anything but meat can even be truly detrimental for their health and well-being.

I’m no doctor and neither am I a nutritionist nor an “expert” (even though even those disagree on the subject). I’m also not here to tell you what to eat or to educate you on a topic I don’t confidently understand but this is what has been working for me.

I now eat fish several times a week and some occasional eggs from our local farmer and dear friend as well as organic goat cheese. On top of that, I mix a scoop of collagen powder into my daily morning teas. I do feel better since I reintroduced some animal products back into my life. My migraines have improved significantly as well as my gut health.

The older I get, the more I realize that no activism feels as good as the feeling of being pain-free, healthy and well overall. You are allowed to change your believes and ideologies. In fact, I think you should challenge your current ones frequently and check in with yourself what still feels right for you and what ideas can be discarded. Who knows what I’m going to think of it in the future.

As an article in India Today points out, even Gandhi deviated from his steadfast principles. Initially, he had sworn off consuming milk entirely, but he decided to make an exception for goat's milk. This progression from refraining from goat meat to embracing goat's milk illustrates the intricate and sometimes frustrating nature of Gandhi's journey towards a vegan lifestyle. This journey ultimately disclosed one of the most significant lessons arising from his lifelong struggles with dietary choices: the pursuit of a flawless diet is an elusive goal that remains beyond anyone's complete attainment.