More and more people are turning to a vegan diet. Veganism ranges from observing a vegan diet (a diet that includes no animals or animal products of any kind) to an entire lifestyle that excludes animal products from all aspects of life.
As World Vegan Month begins, find out which ostomates have chosen veganism and why.
Thaila decided to make the switch to veganism in October 2016 after learning about the mistreatment of animals. She used to have two stomas (first surgery was in March 2010) and now lives with only a colostomy as of May 2016 because of Crohn’s disease.
"With my colostomy, I don’t seem to have any problems with the increase in fruit, vegetables, grains, lentils & nuts at all. 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."
Rev. Russell Elleven
Russell Elleven was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2004 and had colostomy surgery in December of the same year. He is an ordained minister and board-certified health coach. He has been a vegetarian, on and off, for many years but the more he learned about the agriculture industry the more he viewed veganism as a moral decision.
"I experienced a second bout with cancer in 2004 (I had bone cancer as a child) and was trying to find out how I might protect myself from another occurrence. I started to read everything I could get my hand on about how diet affects cancer.
After learning as much as I needed to feel somewhat comfortable, I plunged into a plant-based vegan diet 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, and my lipids were great too!"
Rev. Russell has a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and two doctoral degrees. Along with his specialized training in Health Coaching, he earned a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition and is a certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach. He created The Minister of Health to help others get on the road to better health and serves as the Executive Director of The Genesis 1:29 Project.
Jessica had ileostomy surgery in January 2003 because of Crohn’s disease. She’s a model and actress from Toronto, as well as the founder and spokesperson of Uncover Ostomy. She turned vegan back in 2011 after moving to New York City for her Master's degree.
"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.
I had to spend time learning what was considered vegan, researching protein substitutes, and experimenting with adjusting meals to fit my ostomy, (after all, even with an ostomy, I can’t eat every vegetable or every nut all the time) but it’s been worth it."
Like many vegans, Jessica decided to try it out after watching numerous food documentaries that provoke thought about the profound effects of our everyday choices.
Inge Scott had permanent colostomy surgery in October 2011 due to stage 4 colorectal cancer. She is a writer, health food advocate, practicing Buddhist, and well-being coach. Inge became vegan literally overnight after doing research on genetically modified and processed foods.
"Once I went vegan, I immediately felt a lot healthier. Like many ostomates, I was concerned about not getting all the things we need in our diet, but the exact opposite happened to me, so I never looked back. I feel great and I look better now than I did 11 years ago."
Inge chose conventional medical treatments to beat cancer but also included alternative methods to help her get back to good health. She believes a vegan lifestyle is a journey back to wellness and blogs about her experience on Rectal Cancer My Ass.
Canadian-born ostomate, Eric Polsinelli, had permanent ileostomy surgery in August 2013 because of Crohn’s disease. He turned vegan in 2000 for the health benefits, as well as animal rights reasons.
"When I went vegan back in 2000, I did it overnight after facing the reality that the love I showed the dogs in my life was dramatically different from the way I viewed animals raised for food.
This realization came after losing two dogs to illness, and it was an awakening that would forever change who I was. Since that time I’ve learned that the avoidance of animal products can expand outwards, not only for the benefit of animals but for the benefit of us all."
Eric even named his website VeganOstomy to promote the vegan lifestyle he adheres to, as well as "helping to create happy ostomates."
Amy Votta-Fierro had colostomy surgery in April 2014 because of rectal cancer. She works as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and also teaches fitness classes as an aerobics instructor in Santa Cruz, California. Amy became vegan in 2001 after many years of being a vegetarian.
"Being vegan is something I’ve always been very proud of, and I know being vegan has kept me strong during and after my cancer journey. I feel well physically, mentally and emotionally eating this way.
Since receiving my stoma in 2014, I am extra particular regarding the food I choose to fuel my body, much of it is raw. My diet also makes the process of irrigating my stoma simple and effective."
Amy’s primary reason for going vegan was to do her part in ending the needless suffering of animals on factory farms. She believes veganism is connected to compassion, and that peace on the plate translates into a less violent world.
- The term vegan was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson when he co-founded the Vegan Society in England.
- World Vegan Day is held on November 1st every year to mark the beginning of World Vegan Month.
One thing most vegans can agree on is that their health has improved since making the switch. We salute those who are making mindful and eco-friendly lifestyle choices. Happy World Vegan Month!