Change the World Wednesday, My Most Serious Health Issue

Today I came across two posts on the same subject, the first was disappointing in that it left out the most valuable piece of information which has helped me but it contained some wonderful recipes, the other was this week’s challenge at Reduce Footprints.


While many of you already know I was born with Muscular Dystrophy, but what you may not know is that I was also born with one kidney which doesn’t work. The Dystrophy was no problem compared to the kidney issues I endured. This led to many hospitalizations, tests and medications in my youth.  When I say it doesn’t work, it doesn’t.  This kidney does allow things to pass through it but doesn’t process anything.  Certain foods and beverages will not move through the kidney in a timely enough manner to prevent infections from setting in, which resulted in years of experimenting rather than agree to have the kidney removed.

This brings me to this week’s challenge:

This week, for at least one full day, go vegan. That means no animal products … no beef, chicken, pork, or fish … not even milk, cheese, eggs, or honey.


OR …

If you are vegan or find this challenge too easy, please share a recipe with your readers and encourage them to try meatless meals … for their health and for the planet.


Living with Kidney problems as a child

I had a wonderful team of doctors who did their homework.  Between their homework and having me keep a food and beverage diary we were able to come up with some of the things which cause problems which resulted in severe infections.  The list was crazy.  For instance, I could drink hard alcohol but not anything fermented.  I had to watch the amount of sugar I ingested and bread was another food I had to be careful of.  Fried foods could also overtax the kidney and clog it up.

But the end of infections came when my doctor and I realized it had been almost two years since I had suffered from any kidney related problems.  The only thing I did differently was to stop eating animal products.  Sure I had the occasional egg and at the time still ate yogurt once in a while (I no longer eat yogurt). But I stopped eating meat, fish and cheese. I never drank milk so that wasn’t an issue for me.

citrus fruit

The final piece falls in place

It was then that I wanted to smack my doctor!  He shared with me the information that we can’t digest animal products so our bodies send them to the kidney to be broken down.  In order to break these foods down the kidney pulls calcium from the body (bones and teeth). He informed me that he knew this could help me but thought a vegetarian diet would be too hard for me to follow.  Let that be my decision!  Nothing could be harder to handle than the constant pain and hospitalizations I had suffered through for the first 24 years of my life!

I mentioned earlier that I had read another article today on kidney health and while it never touches on the elimination of animal products to protect the kidney, it contains valuable information along with some wonderful recipes which would be helpful to keep your kidneys clean and healthy.


Let food by thy medicine ~~ Hippocrates


Would you consider giving up a food group if it meant better health for you and the planet?



29 thoughts on “Change the World Wednesday, My Most Serious Health Issue

  1. This is such an informative Post Lois.. its easy to forget about how our poor bodies have to digest and work harder given the things we eat these days..
    I know my daughter is forever telling me about Dairy produce as she is total vegetarian.. And insists that we digest less cheese, milk etc..
    I used to suffer a lot in my early 20’s with lots of Water infections which then led to Kidney infections..
    I remember drinking lots of water… It can not have been nice for you growing up with a serious health problem… I so admire you Lois.. xxx Sue


    • Sue, I never liked the taste of milk and refused to drink any by age 9, I did try when pregnant with my first child but never touched it after that pregnancy.

      Aren’t kidney infections the worst kind of pain? I’d rather go through labor and delivery than another kidney infection.


      • Yes i had serious bouts of cystitis, constantly.. In the end I had so many antibiotics they failed to work. So I ended up having an operation on my bladder .. I agree the pain is awful.. I would be in such a state it would send my temp sky high. .. Thank goodness the opp sorted it.. But it was years of misery before that. Crazy what we put up with when I look back. And I was working, with the children young too.. It wasn’t until my 40’s I finally had the opp… So I can sympathise totally with you on this one… x


  2. Eye-opening post for me Lois. I really hadn’t realized these things about how living vegan or at least vegetarian can help our bodies so much. I like your challenge! I’ll keep you posted on how I do. Thanks for another excellent post. xo Gina


  3. I am a vegan for twenty years approx but never knew it was so good for my health I was just following Macrobiotics & it ended up as a habit.
    You have valuable info from your life experience & I admire you for sharing it with the world after so many years of ordeal.
    Thank you!


    • I tried a macrobiotic diet at one point but didn’t feel right. I have also followed a raw diet in the warmer months and felt wonderful. The aches I live with most of the year disappear as does the stiffness which is supposed to be a symptom of my disability. Yet the moment I add cooked food (in summer) back in my diet I revert back to the problems. I just can’t sustain a raw diet in the winter, I get too cold and can’t find enough fresh organic food living in the north east.


      • I would think there are greenhouses everywhere which doesn’t stop production in winter…
        It shows how everyone had to find their own food plan but I’m quite surprised macrobiotics didn’t relieve your symptoms I know of people who were terminal in lung cancer that got a new lease on life.
        I wish you the best of health from now on :)


        • Thank you. I struggle to find the perfect diet but that seems to change by the seasons for me. I don’t have access to a greenhouse that grows anything during the winter. The most anyone does here is to use a greenhouse to have the earliest produce in the summer for market but it only makes about a two week difference.


          • Maybe this is how our bodies are meant to be…adaptable according to the season? I wish I could find the answer too but my dilemma is sticking to a three meal plan which I find excruciatingly hard as I’m an emo-eater & my weight has been forever on a roller coasters. As a result my health suffers which logically should keep me in a straight line but doesn’t which infuriates me even more as I’m a very logical person.
            It is hard to accept that we are the authors of our own misery at least in my case…I always thought that at fifty plus I would’ve lived with a bit more serenity but apparently I still have a long way to go as I take forever the scenic route.
            All my wishes go to you for a very healthy life. I’m with you :)


          • I know exactly what you mean. I have had food issues all my life and struggled with anorexia for years. I do think our bodies need different foods based on the seasons but don’t want to add a winter layer of fat even if it does keep the animals warm. :-)

            One thing that does help me when I think I want something to eat is to drink a glass of water.

            Isn’t the scenic route the only way? I too take the scenic route for everything in life. :-) Hope you solve your health issues soon.


          • Thank you for your support it’s much appreciated :)
            The water-trick is something I should remind myself of!
            We do put on quickly in winter if we are not too careful this is what happened to me just now & it can pull the most optimistic quickly down.
            Good luck to you too with everything you need :)


  4. Grrrrr… I can’t believe your doctor would withhold that sort of information. It reminds me of a vet I had once. I had a cat with all the symptoms of hyper-thyroid disease, but she kept testing negative on the “standard test.” I finally ended up taking her to a specialist who performed a different test and confirmed that she did indeed have the disease. I was able to treat her and her quality of life improved infinitely. I asked the original vet why he hadn’t told me about the other test and he said he thought it was too expensive. (It cost about $100.) I was furious! It’s not for him to decide what’s too expensive for me or not! Suffice it to say, we got a new vet after that!

    Anyhow, I think this topic is a good illustration of why there is no “one diet” that is perfect for everybody. I’ve had to give up many, many foods due to food allergies and sensitivities – including soy and almost all nuts & seeds, and I can only handle very small amounts of legumes and dairy. My allergist also suspects that I might be gluten intolerant, so I’m off of wheat at the moment too. Obviously, a vegan or even vegetarian diet would be nearly impossible for someone like me, especially since I suffer from blood sugar problems. But it’s clearly a life saver for you!

    It just seems to me that medicine needs to evolve past the “cookie cutter” mentality about what is best for people and what people can or can’t handle.


    • I can’t believe your vet made that decision for you. The battery of tests and visits probably added up to more than the test cost.

      I too don’t believe there is one perfect diet for all but do believe in “let food by thy medicine”. More so today than when I first heard it. We are seeing the worst health ever in the youth and they are medicated way beyond what anyone in my generation was when children. Then you take a look at the foods available and eaten regularly and can see a correlation between food and health. I feel so bad for those in food deserts where all the have in walking distance is a corner store filled with junk food.

      As for medicine, we need to have a preventive system that looks at the reasons behind the illnesses rather than what we have which is to throw pills at every symptom. Just my 2 cents worth. :-)


  5. Hi Lois, we are on week three of no animal products and loving every minute of it. We are currently reading The China Study which I highly recommend to anyone. Dr. Campbell’s later chapters on why the public doesn’t know about the health benefits of a whole-foods, plant based diet is due to many reasons, one being what you mentioned above – doctors don’t think people will do it. I say give them the information (if they have it, which some don’t) and let the person decide. I think many people would switch to plant-based eating if the meat and dairy industries weren’t so powerful. Thank you for sharing this experience, and I’m so glad to hear you’re doing better.


    • Tammy, I was just thinking about you as I am reading your ebook. I would never have believed the smiling person I see in your picture could have suffered so much.

      I read The China Study when it first came out and agree with you. Everyone should read it then make the decision for themselves if they want to risk the possible health problems by ignoring the data.

      I get asked all the time what I eat if I don’t eat meat and as you are probably finding out there are so many delicious foods out there I don’t miss meat.

      The lobbying by the meat and dairy industry should be stopped and let everyone have access to real facts. I still remember when Oprah Winfrey announced she was never going to eat beef again and they dragged her into court. She didn’t tell the rest of the world they couldn’t continue to eat it, only that she wouldn’t. Thankfully, she won but still the suit should never have been allowed to be filed. If we live in a free capitalist society we can eat, or not eat, what we want.


      • Hi again, Lois! I am so much better than I was “back then” and attribute that to the dramatic shift in diet and exercise. I still had a long way to go (and am sure I will tweak it even more so, for what is life if it’s not to learn and grow?), and I hope you will forgive us the chapter on diet. :) I am honored that you’re reading it.

        We recently saw a friend who told us that his neurologist recommended The China Study to him back when he was struggling with neurological issues eerily similar to my own (though he never took Levaquin). He said, “She’s a brilliant woman.” I wish she’d been my neurologist! All I got were medications. Oh, not true – the best conversation we ever had was when he asked me what I was doing because I was looking so much better. I told him I was walking three miles a day. He said, “How about 4?” The next day we upped our walks a mile. Still, I had a lot to learn about diet at the time…still do!

        Sorry for the tome here, but I also like what you said to EcoCatLady about “food deserts” as I had never heard the term. We have so many of them in this city, and it really disturbs me. Convenient mart on one corner and McDonalds on the other.

        Many thanks for your thoughtful comments.


        • Tammy, I’m really glad to hear you are much better than you were when you wrote your book. Your neurologist sounds like one I had. He wanted to schedule surgery to cut my achilles tendon to allow me to walk longer but having read mythology it sounded like a bad idea. I stumbled on Yoga which stretched the tendon enough I never needed surgery. He asked me what I did an told me to keep it up. I quickly learned to be my own doctor.

          There are so many food deserts, especially in the poorest neighborhoods in the inner city. It’s just like you see convenient stores on one corner and fast food on another. It’s no wonder their health is failing.


  6. Ah, that’s no good. Roger’s brother in law had to have a transplant 2 years ago after a lifetime of poor kidney function, and was told by a specialist if he hadn’t been vegetarian since his early 20’s he’d be dead by now.


    • Wendy, I hope he is doing well now. I was very fortunate that I was trying to heal something else by switching to a vegetarian diet and happened to find my kidneys did better as a side effect. I do have one kidney that works just fine but losing the other was always scary to me.


  7. Wow … I so appreciate you sharing your story with us, Lois! And I’m just shocked that the doctor didn’t share such important information with you. I’ve had so many doctors commend me on my vegan lifestyle and say that it’s the healthiest thing I can do for myself … but when I ask them if they are vegan they all say “no”. So perhaps it wasn’t that your doctor didn’t think you could do it as much as he/she couldn’t conceive doing it themselves. I’m glad that you finally learned the truth and have made changes which have improved your health!


    • You make a good point, Small Footprints. I was having a conversation with a person with diabetes (very severe problems with it) and suggested he talk to his doctor about a vegan or vegetarian diet. His doctor informed him that yes it would help him to stabilize his highs and lows but it’s too hard to follow and suggested he keep doing what he’s doing. My friend was so angry to say the least. He changed his diet and has been able to cut back on his insulin. Just give us all the information and let us decide what we are willing to do for our health is how I see it.

      It is so sad that the doctors you have spoken to commend your lifestyle/diet but that these people we look to for our health needs aren’t walking the walk to set the example.


  8. Lois, You are definitely a survivor. I’m glad that you finally figured out what you needed.

    As far as kidney problems go, the kidneys in cats often start failing in old age. One of the first things you do to help this (besides encourage water), is cut back on protein. It all makes sense.


  9. First let me say Lois, you are amazing!
    A high fat high animal protein diet is bad for IBD (Crohns, Colitis, I have the latter). I am currently experimenting with a low FODMAPs diet to help my IBS. But, I find red meat, dairy, and eggs really disagree with me. I went vegan a long time ago but didn’t feel good, I think it was because I ate too much soy.
    I will try doing a vegan diet one day a week!


    • Katie, I have IBS too. Boy, sounds like my health is horrible doesn’t it? :-) I found the two things that will trigger problems with IBS are crackers and highly processed foods. So I keep that under control for the most part. I don’t feel sickly any more.It’s been almost 30 years since my kidney has given me even a twinge of pain or need to see a doctor.


  10. It’s annoying when doctors think we won’t follow a diet, isn’t it? My daughter was able to go off of her 6 reflux medications (and avoid further hospitalizations) by eating a low glycemic diet, and I eat a high protein diet to stabilize my moods.

    A side: you mention that the kidneys pull calcium to digest animal products. I remember reading that the US has an unusually high rate of osteoporosis, in spite of having one of the highest calcium intakes. I can’t help but wonder if it’s related to the crazy amount of meat people eat here…


    • Bethany, Beanie is so fortunate you decided to tackle diet rather than keep her on six medications. Children today are on more medication than any other generation of children, it’s so sad.

      I have read many studies which shows a direct correlation between the amount of protein (animal protein that is) and the high levels of osteoporosis. When my youngest was little we learned he was allergic to dairy. My family freaked when I put him on a vegetarian diet. His bones would be brittle. When he was 11 he needed x-rays after a bike accident. The doctor informed me he had never seen such dense bones in anyone, child or adult. My family still thought he would end up with ill health later in life due to the diet he was on. So far, he’s as healthy as could be.


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