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7 Things About Veganism From Ostomates Who Know

Long live the kale!
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Vegan and vegetarian lifestyles have become popular as more people adopt completely animal-free lifestyles. November is World Vegan Month, a worldwide celebration aimed at promoting vegan diets and recognizing The Vegan Society.

Are you thinking about switching to a plant-based diet? As World Vegan Day kicks off today, here are seven things about veganism from ostomates who know all about it.

1. There are several different types of veganism.

All vegans avoid animal food products like meat, shellfish and eggs. But different types of vegans focus on different aspects of the lifestyle. Some vegans don't eat anything cooked above 115 degrees Fahrenheit to keep their food in as original a form as possible. Other vegans don't care what they're consuming as long as it's animal-free.

Lauren Nastasi had a temporary ileostomy during her 3-step J-pouch surgery in November, 2013 due to ulcerative colitis. She blogs about healthy living and family life on Naturally Lauren. She says eating vegan is all about what makes you happy.

“I always keep it vegan, but not necessarily always healthy. I was sick of being so careful with what I ate for too long, that it was time to just relax. I dropped my ideals of eating “high raw” or “all raw” and starting enjoying food again. I’m not looking to be perfect, just nourishing my body with clean foods and less processed stuff.” – Lauren Nastasi 

2. Did you know that some ostomy products are vegan?

Who better to share information on vegan ostomy products than Eric Polsinelli of VeganOstomy. There is an extensive list (and growing) of ostomy products that contain animal ingredients and which do not on his website. Eric had permanent ileostomy surgery in August, 2013 due to Crohn’s disease and has been living vegan since 2000. He’s an IBD/ostomy advocate and vegan enthusiast from Ontario, Canada.

3. A vegan diet is possible with an ostomy.

Vegan diets contain only plants – such as vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts – and food that is made from plants. Eating this way might have ostomates concerned about some foods that don't completely digest. But what causes a blockage for one person may be no issue for another. Chewing your food well and staying hydrated will help with digestion.

We've been following Laurie-Anne on Instagram the past year during her vegan journey. She wrote in an earlier post, "I wanted to be healthy and vegan again... for my body and my mind."

4. Reports that vegans are healthier are not myth-based.

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet tend to display lower blood cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lessen the chance of getting colon and prostate cancer.

Jessica Grossman had ileostomy surgery in January, 2003 due to Crohn’s disease. She’s a model and actress from Toronto, as well as the founder and spokesperson of Uncover Ostomy. After becoming vegan in 2011 she never looked back saying, “After a week of cutting out all meat, fish, milk, and eggs, the stomach problems I had been plagued with for months (unrelated to Crohn’s) suddenly all disappeared. I felt totally, unequivocally, 100% better. Now five years later, I am still that girl.”

5. Shockingly, every *hour* in the United States 500,000 animals are killed for their meat.

Many vegetarians avoid meat because they ethically object to animal cruelty. Amy Votta-Fierro became vegan in 2001 after many years of being a vegetarian. Her primary reason for going vegan was to do her part in ending needless suffering on factory farms. She had colostomy surgery in April, 2014 due to rectal cancer and works as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, while also teaching fitness classes as an aerobics instructor in Santa Cruz, California. Amy believes veganism is connected to compassion, and that peace on the plate translates into a less violent world.

6. Many people experience reduced inflammation in their body after giving up animal products.

Michelle McMacken, MD, at NYU School of Medicine says that if you’re eating meat, cheese, and highly processed foods, chances are you have elevated levels of inflammation in your body.

In March, 2010 Thaila Skye’s world changed forever when she had ostomy surgery due to Crohn’s disease, but her life was also saved. She credits a vegan diet for feeling better saying, “Cutting out dairy has also helped me feel less bloated and digestion seems much easier for my body. I don’t know whether I was intolerant to dairy and never realised, or whether it’s just a happy coincidence – either way, eating a vegan diet is much gentler on my stoma than a non-vegan diet.”

7. No longer is veganism the diet for hippies and health nuts.

Vegan is the fastest growing food movement in the world. Over the last year, Google searches containing the word “vegan” have spiked dramatically. Even though there's significantly more vegan females, many men have made the change as well. Ordained minister and board certified health coach, Rev. Russell Elleven had been a vegetarian for years before becoming vegan in 2010.

Rev. Russell was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2004 and had colostomy surgery in December of the same year. After experiencing a second bout with cancer, he wanted to learn how to protect himself from another occurrence. 

"I started to read everything I could get my hands on about how diet affects cancer. I was already vegetarian… wasn’t that enough? Well, it turned out that being vegetarian wasn’t enough. After learning as much as I needed to feel somewhat comfortable I plunged in wholeheartedly. I lost 50 pounds and my blood panels were normal for the first time in years… my cholesterol was great, my blood pressure was great, my lipids were great too!" – Rev. Russell Elleven

In addition to becoming certified as a health and wellness coach, Rev. Russell earned a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition and went on to become a certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator.

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