Raise Vegan October 2018 Raise Vegan - Page 49

The Vegan Doctor Helps You Defend Veganism To Your Doctor However, we know it is safe and healthy, right? There is one caveat to this - you do need to carefully look after yourself. To be prepared to defend your lifestyle choice, make sure you can tell your doctor what supplements you are taking (or not) and why. Although I always argue, to vegans as well as omnivores, that veganism is not a medical condition, we do have to admit that we’re at a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies. This is a real risk, but it can easily be managed, so being aware of the nutrients you might be short in, preventing this, and being able to explain it to your doctor is really important. Not only will you be able to reassure your doctor that you are completely on top of looking after yourself and your family, but it might even be a good opportunity to give your doctor a quick lesson in nutrition! The main reason I started my blog, The Vegan Doctor, was because I read so many stories about vegans having bad experiences with their own doctors. It saddened me that a generally compassionate group of people were not receiving that same level of compassion when it was most needed. The medical profession is starting to become more accepting of the vegan movement and of the benefits of a plant-based diet. However, many vegans may still come up against tough barriers and opinions when discussing their vegan lifestyle with their doctor, and even more so when talking about their vegan children. Firstly, in order to be prepared for a potentially difficult chat with your doctor, I think it’s important to consider why they might be concerned that you or your child are vegan. Doctors generally receive very little training in nutrition, and the resources to which they often refer can be rather outdated, or even influenced by the pharmaceutical and agricul- tural industries. Obviously, those who are interested in veganism will be keeping up to date with the latest plant-based research, but how many doctors does this include? Think about how many vegans are in your family or your community. Compared to the rest of society, we’re still quite few in number. It is safe to say that the same ratio translates to the number of doctors that are vegan - so not all that many. Of those who are not vegan, many may share the same, dated viewpoints as the skep- tical meat-eaters you encounter day to day. If doctors aren’t taught and trained that a healthy vegan diet is a good and safe choice, why would they have reason to believe otherwise? Doctors don’t know everything, and we are all learning every day. I sometimes have a patient walk into my room with a rare condition that I don’t know a lot about, and I’m happy to admit that they could teach me a thing or two. If you come across a doctor who seems rather anti-vegan, or just complete- ly clueless, why not mention the Physicians Committee for Respon- sible Medicine (PCRM) or the Nu- trition Facts website? Not only will you be able to defend your healthy lifestyle choice, but you’ll also be providing your doctor with a scientific evidence base with which you can back yourself up. You will also be offering them a wealth of resources from which they can learn about the benefits of a plant- based diet. If they are worried that your child is being raised vegan, refer them to the statements made by both the American and British Dietetic Associations; both advise that a well-planned vegan diet is healthy for people of all ages. And again, be prepared to inform the doctor how you are supplementing your or your child’s diet. Another difficult conversation you might end up having with your doctor is one about medication. Very often there are non-vegan ingredients in medication, such as lactose and gelatin, and negoti- ating a vegan alternative can be tricky. This may not be as much of a problem for your child, as many liquid formulations don’t contain these animal-derived ingredients. We also have to bear in mind that all medication will have been tested on animals at some point in its production, but until the scientif- ic community starts investing in humane research, we have to accept that medication is often a necessity we can’t compromise on. The Vegan Society’s stance on this is that we can only avoid using animals “as far as is practicable and possible.” Of course there might be an alternative medication that is free from animal products, so it is always worth ask- ing your doctor. And if you come up against serious confrontation to this request, always remind them that veganism is a protected belief under the Human Rights Act. I do find it rather ironic that vegans are the one group in society who everybody seems to worry about, in terms of our nutritional intake, but the group who is more likely to look after our diets. More and more evidence is emerging about, not only the safety, but also the health benefits of a vegan diet. So I say we should walk into our doctors’ rooms with our heads held high, feel ready to describe our healthy, wonderful lifestyle, and give a little bit of education to our doctors when they need it. RAISEVEGAN.COM Raise Vegan 49