Happy Herbivore Blog

January 22, 2013

Herbie 101 Series: Allergies and Medical Conditions

Before we get into the Q&A, I wanted to share this list, from my post "Herbie of the Week: YOU."

Summarized medical issues, symptoms, and health problems that have been reduced or eliminated by adopting a plant-based diet (as reported by Herbies on Facebook):

- Eczema
- Headache/Migraine
- Bloating/Stomach Issues
- Hypothyroidism
- Allergies/Nasal Congestion
- Acne/Cysts
- Rosacea
- Acid Reflux/Heartburn
- Cholesterol
- PCOS
- Anemia
- Joint/Muscle Pain
- Constipation
- T2 Diabetes
- Asthma
- Overactive Bladder
- High Blood Pressure
- Disordered Eating
- Hot Flashes
- Lupus

Other noted improvements in health and well-being reported by Herbies:

- Weight-Loss
- Mental Clarity
- More Happiness/No Depression
- Improved Appearance (look younger, more rested, etc.)
- Improved Energy
- Improved Immune System (no sickness, quick recovery, etc.)
- Improved Fitness/Muscle Mass
- Improved Physique (i.e., more toned)
- Improved Sleep
- Improved Romance/Sex Drive
- Improved Sexual Function
- Improved Bowel Movements
- Improved Spirituality
- Improved Senses (smell, taste, etc.)
- Improved Teeth (less sensitivity, whiter)
- Reduced/Eliminated Cravings for Junk Food
- Reduced/Eliminated Insulin Dependence
- Reduced Inflammation
- Strong Nails/Hair
- Off Medications
- Enjoy Cooking/Food



Does a plant-based diet help people with MS?

Yes. New studies are showing a plant-based diet is a possible treatment for MS (Source). Dr. McDougall is also studying MS, and you can read about his findings in his newsletter, "The Multiple Sclerosis and Diet Saga" and/or watch his lecture about diet and MS.

Here are two McDougall success stories: Donna McFarland and Deb Tasic.

Dr. Terry Wahls also credits reversing MS through a plant-based diet (and other holistic treatments).

Is there any truth to the myth that only certain blood types are able to be completely vegan?

Absolutely none. The consensus among dietitians, physicians, and scientists is that the theory is unsupported by scientific evidence. (Source).

I know many people (myself included) that are supposed to eat the opposite of a plant-based diet according to our blood type, and yet we're all thriving on plants.

Can you be plant based if you do not have a colon?

Please speak to your doctor and a nutritionist, preferably ones that support a plant-based diet. 

I recently found out I have diabetes. What do I need to know about eating plant based and diabetes?

Please read Prevent and Reverse Diabetes by Dr. Neal Barnard. I also recommend reading The Starch Solution after it.

I went plant-based about a month ago. I feel very tired and run down ever since. Just wondering if that's common in the beginning?

Two things could be going on: You could be experiencing a detox symptoms (many people experience this) and symptoms from food addictions. Or you may not be eating enough calories. I find people who switch to a plant-based diet often don't consume enough calories, particularly complex carbs like brown rice or potatoes. Make sure you're including those foods in your diet and you're eating enough calories. Also drink plenty of water and try to get several hours rest each night. If the chronic fatigue continues, please see your doctor as it may be caused by another medical condition.


Now onto allergies!

First, the good news: A lot of people have reversed or reduced their allergy symptoms with a plant-based diet. A plant-based diet can't cure "all" allergies, though. For example, if you're allergic to cats, you're still going to be allergic to cats :) Similarly, if you're allergic to tree nuts, you're still going to be allergic to tree nuts.

Having a food allergy just requires a little extra patience and substitution.

If you seem to have a lot of food allergies, please talk to your doctor about leaky gut syndrome. My friend Matt was allergic to most vegetables, fruits and beans, but after is diagnosis and treatment, he eats those foods now. (Read more).

My child is allergic to dairy and eggs, as well as legumes and nuts. I'm at a loss how to continue with a vegetarian diet. 

All of my recipes would be suitable for her if you left off the beans :) Her diet can center around fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You can find hundreds of plant-based and vegan recipes (no dairy, no eggs) that are also nut-free and legume-free. In most cases, you just need to leave off the legumes. Don't worry about protein — there is protein in all plant foods. For more info, see Herbie 101 Series: Nutrition.

I'm allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. Can I be plant-based/vegan?

Absolutely. I don't eat nuts (they bother my stomach). Pretty much all of my recipes are nut-free in all three of my cookbooks. I use a dab of peanut butter on occasion (for my husband) — maybe a total of 10 recipes across all three cookbooks. You can skip those recipes or use sunflower seed butter. Soy nut butter might also be an option.

For more reading and ideas: see Engine 2's post, "Allergies: Nuts and Seeds."

I'm allergic to soy, can I be plant-based/vegan? 

Yes! Absolutely. Our meal plans are always soy-free. I also have a soy-free icon in my cookbooks — something like 85% of the recipes in each book are soy-free! (most recipes use a touch of soy sauce, which you can replace with coconut aminos).

You can also see the Herbie 101 Series post on Soy.

For more reading: How to Replace Tofu and Soy and this post by Engine 2.

I'm allergic to wheat/gluten — how can I bake? How do I adjust recipes?

If you're allergic to wheat, but not gluten, try spelt flour. For gluten-free baking tips, see this post. Also see this post for a list of false friends and safe gluten-free foods.

You can also use this gluten-free gluten substitute to replace vital wheat gluten in recipes.

Our meal plans are always gluten-free, and my cookbooks are over 85% gluten-free (with a gluten-free icon). I have several gluten-free testers and I don't publish a recipe that cannot be adapted if it is not already gluten-free.

Engine 2 also has a great post, "Food Allergies: Gluten." 

Is it possible to be allergic to all nondairy milks? I swear, I bloat up no what type of milk i drink — soy, rice, almond, coconut...

You're probably allergic to something added to the milks — perhaps a preservative or something. If you can eat soy, almonds, oats, and rice without bloating, then should be able to drink milks made from them. You may need to start making your milks at home. You can find recipes for how to make almond milk online. Here's my recipe and video for making rice milk.

What about if you are allergic to gluten AND soy?

No problem. Our meal plans are always gluten-free and soy-free.

It's easy to avoid both soy and gluten on a plant-based diet. The key parts to a plant-based diet — fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans and lentils), whole grains (like quinoa and brown rice) — are naturally soy and gluten-free.

I'm allergic to bananas. How can I make recipes without bananas? 

It depends on how the banana is being used. See this post, "How to Replace Bananas."

I'm moderately allergic to tomato, potato, broccoli, cabbage, barley, peaches, and mushrooms and mildly allergic to a boatload of other things like soy, wheat, corn, almonds, peanuts and rice. I'm wondering what to do?

Write a list of all the foods you can have — you'll be amazed at the options. When dealing with multiple food allergies, it's important to think about what you can have, not focus on what you're allergic to. 

With your allergies — especially the soy, wheat and corn — you'll also need to avoid all animal products, as livestock are fed mainly wheat, corn, and soy, and you'll react because it's in their milk, meat,  and eggs. (Read more about this here).

Related posts: 

Ingredient Substitutions & Recipe Adaptiong (And How to Make Any Recipe Allergen-Free) 

Dealing with Food Allergies (Making It Work and Allergy-Free Cooking)

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