Having been Vegan for 39 years next month, I’ve heard most of the arguments and warnings about eating as I do. When my daughter was young and prone to respiratory and bronchial infections, I got it from both sides. On the one hand, the Vegans gossipped that she couldn’t be in this predicament unless she was getting dairy products somewhere. And on the other, an acupuncturist told my then 11-year-old, “You wouldn’t have these problems if you weren’t on that crazy, limited diet.” (Yes, I stormed in, read him the riot act, and did a pretty good impersonation of a mother bear.)

My daughter Adair today, still on that “limited diet”

But Vegans still run into this kind of criticism from many, although certainly not all, functional medicine doctors, chiropractors, naturopaths, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, dietitians, clinical nutritionists, and more. It’s an odd juxtaposition that many people are adopting a whole foods plant-based diet to save their lives, while others are being told by healthcare providers that it could make them sick. When I was contacted recently through my website about a Vegan’s being told by his TCM doctor that he needed meat, I was thrust back decades to the day my daugther was chastised by that acupuncturist.

What I’ve come to see over the years is that healthcare systems are, in many ways, belief systems, just as religions are. Everyone understands that religion is about belief, but healthcare is supposed to be about science. How, then, can there be so many different takes on it?

Chinese medicine believes that some meat is necessary in every diet. It’s said to build up life energy (ch’i or Q’i) and blood structure. It’s thought to nourish the weak and warm the system. And the TCM docs are not alone in sanctioning animal protein. If you consulted a Western medical doctor who believes in the keto diet, that person would not tell you not just to eat some meat but to eat it in quantity. The average ayurvedic practitioner would probably tell you that being vegetarian is fine but you absolutely need dairy products, especially ghee, clarified butter. And an old-school MD would likely tell you that what you eat has nothing to do with how you feel and that you either need medication or psychotherapy.

This tropical fruit is Buddha’s hand. Confession: I’ve never had it.
Cherimoya, also called custard apple
Dragonfruit, or pitaya, is arguably the prettiest fruit on earth.

Unless they’re Vegan or plant-based themselves, or working with a patient whose condition precludes certain items, dietitians and nutritionists tend to allow for every kind of edible. You’ll often hear, “There are no bad foods” and “The important thing is to eat a wide variety of foods.” There’s much to be said for nutritional variety and yet, in some ways, the concept as presented is absurd. A truly wide variety of foods would include insects — 25 percent of the world’s population consumes them — and it would certainly contain healthful fruits like Buddha’s hand, dragonfruit, starfruit, and cherimoya. These aren’t recommended, however, either because they’re taboo in our culture (the bugs) or because they’re unfamiliar or hard to get (dragonfruit). Healthcare professionals and paraprofessionals wear the same blinders we all do. It’s up to us to remove them as often as we can, look at all possibilities, and make our choices based on the best that’s in us: our good sense, the knowledge we’ve sought out, the intuition we’re trusting, and the values that make us who we are.

When somebody says “There are no bad foods,” I think they mean that two French fries won’t kill you and you really ought to have a piece of cake on your birthday. Okay, that’s cool, but when you’re Vegan, there are some really bad foods. They’re so bad, we can’t even think of them as edible because their procurement causes unbearable suffering and violent, premature death. No one who has spent any time in a slaughterhouse can blithely recite the line, “There are no bad foods.”

Making matters even worse, most of the healthcare folks who tell us we really ought to be adding back eggs or “at least eating fish” claim to be “holistic.” This means that they see health as a continuum and the human being as a body-mind-spirit whole, here to grow and contribute in a harmonious connection with others and with nature. How, in the name of all that’s gracious, can anybody claim to be “holistic” when recommending the consumption of violence? And when their recommendations contribute to environmental destruction? It’s like the old Quaker line that a man says to his wife, “Me thinks the whole world is crazy except for me and thee, and sometimes I wonder about thee.”

Healing fare during panchakara – small portions, but lots of color and spice. The treatment was holistic, but I was not told I was wrong.
I’m shown in one of the panchakarma treatments I had at the Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine in spring 2021.

My suggestion is this: Do all you can, within the confines of location and insurance, to seek out healthcare practitioners who at least respect your beliefs and ideally share them. You can find such people through the Plantrician Project and the American Academy of Lifestyle Medicine. And even in specialties that traditionally praise and prescribe an animal-heavy diet, some Vegans are practicing already, and more are coming along all the time.

It’s also helpful to remember that people get well through many systems. I know of folks who have healed themselves with macrobiotics, raw food,  fasting, and with the Ayurvedic pull-out-the-stops treatment, panchakarma (which can be done without dairy products). Of course I know plenty of people who are currently alive and well, thanks to Western drugs and surgery. And I’ve known a few who regained their health because of a Christian Science practitioner. There is no one size fits all, but there is One Life in All. When we honor that, and when our choices reflect it, we have an indestructable moral baseline. Once that is in place, we can make our own healthcare decisions.

Victoria Moran, CHHC/AADP, RYT-200, is the author of Main Street Vegan and The Love Powered-Dietand host of the Victoria Moran Podcast: Meetings With Remarkable Women. She is also the founder and director of Main Street Vegan Academy, and cofounder and codirector of the Compassion Consortium, a spiritual center for animal advocates. Please check out her brand new author website, www.victoriamoran.com, and sign up there to receive messages. Also, consider tuning in for Compassionate Film Night at the Compassion Consortium October 11th. It’s recommended that you first treat yourself to a rental of the classic and glorious feature film about St. Francis, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, and then join us for a panel discussion about Francis and his relationship with animals and nature, featuring Rev. Janet Chapman, Vegan historian Elaine Hutchison, and Rev. Fr. John Dear, the noted peace activist who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Bishop Desmond Tutu.

9 thoughts on “When a Holistic Doctor Says You’re Wholly Wrong, by Victoria Moran”

  1. THIS WAS AWESOME, INFORMATIVE, ENCOURAGING & ESPECIALLY TIMELY FOR ME, A STRUGGLING – IN THE SENSE OF HEALTH CONCERNS – ETHICAL VEGAN FOR ALMOST 8 YEARS. THANK YOU, MS VICTORIA. BLESSINGS, ROBERTA IN SOFL

    1. Thank you, Roberta. I hope you find the answers to your health problems. Since you’re in South Florida, you’re near Dr. Frank Sabatino. He is one of the best. You might want to look him up. However you proceed, may you find the perfect solution.

  2. Veganism is a completely valid approach to healthy living; I can reference studies and evidence with plenty of peer-reviewed articles. Acupuncture, naturopathy, keto diets, the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine and chiropractic are quack belief systems with no foundation in factual observation. Who cares what a quack says?

    1. Hey, John … I’m not quite as willing to put non-MDs into ‘quack’ category out of hand. My late husband had a Masters in biology before going to National College of Chiropractic, a 5-year program with intensive scientific as well as clinical training. It is important to understand that, in those days, a vegetarian or vegan would have been laughed out medical school, if not forced out. Dr. Joel Fuhrman was the first to take on that challenge, but many other brilliant young people at the time chose the chiropractic route — among them Truth North founder Dr. Alan Goldhamer, and Dr. Frank Sabatino, who went on for a Ph.D from Baylor University Medical School.

      I have sought help from alternative practitioners for the two reasons I think most people do: (1) as a last resort because medicine (and in my daughter’s case, both medicine and a whole foods plant-based diet) didn’t fix the problem), and (2) as a first resort because I was trying to avoid the side effects of drugs. I have experienced great help from both ayurveda (it cured the chronic fatigue syndrome I developed after a bad reaction to a vaccine) and acumpuncture (it kept me from neurosurgery after a 1997 car accident). True, I don’t always hear what I want from these practitioners either, but they often seem to be closer to ‘First, do no harm.’

      In any case, thank you so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts. I wish you every good thing.

  3. Especially loved your powerful words, “No one who has spent any time in a slaughterhouse can blithely recite the line, ‘There are no bad foods.’”

  4. Dear Victoria,

    I LOVE seeing how gorgeous and fit Adair is on her “limited vegan diet!”

    I have a ‘regular doctor’ I see once a year. She told my friend who is a vegan to eat fish again and he is–but he never went vegan for the animals, but, rather for his health.

    I had anxiety leading up to our visit in August. I knew beforehand that if she told me to incorporate any meat, dairy or fish back into my routine, I was running for my life!

    She did not. My doctor applauded my daily exercise and healthier diet.

    When I first opened the blog post, I did not see that it was yours. I was thinking this MSVA grad had a wonderful writing style and his/her vocabulary is outstanding lol

    What a helpful and reinforcing post.

    Virtual hugs,
    Cherie

  5. thoughtful, informative and helpful. i’ve learned about john d rockefellor sr’s take over of the medical industry, (1910’s 20’s) pushing drugs over any alternative as it is lucrative for the petro industry. i try to stay away from drug pushers including in the form of doctors. nonetheless, i’m faced with the curious predicament of dentists and dentistry and whether or not to trust them as they emerge from the same mold. i wonder if there are any truly alternative dental advisors. my dentist calls herself “alternative” and yet i’ve undergone procedures that truly seem extreme, not healthy (including the ‘necessary’ x-rays) and always seem to involve more and more procedures. any references would be helpful. thanks for your wise words and thoughts.

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