Two of the distinctives of extreme dietary asceticism that stand out, over my many years of nutritional study, experimentation, and life-witness/association, are:
-- its inevitable nutrient deficiencies, sometimes partially ameliorated with "supplements"
-- its tendency to overstay its welcome versus temporary therapeutic implementation.
A short list of the serious nutritional deficiencies risked among strict vegans, for example, demonstrated in the literature, is as follows:
Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, Biotin, choline, folic acid, inositol, niacin, PABA, pantothenic acid, Vitamins C, D, E, Calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sulfur, vanadium, and zinc, not to mention amino acids and fatty acids.
Partakers of meat, fish, dairy and eggs are getting not only SOME of the above nutrients through their regular, unstudied diets alone, they're getting higher concentrations of them -- in milligrams -- than the amounts of many of the nutrients available in normal dietary (food-sourced) vegan sources.
So: Brewer's Yeast and Blackstrap Molasses for dinner? with rice, beans, veggies and soy? Sitting down to 18 dietary supplement pills with a bowl of sesame quinoa? Constituting the world's first Pill-Nutrition culture? It's obviously not a society that will endure and perpetuate itself en masse: Its diet is only half food!
Soy? Great for As and ABs in particular, but, alone, it doesn't stack up against meat and dairy and eggs and fish when it comes to fats, proteins, and most of the above vitamins and minerals.
Most vegans are normal persons, insofar as they'd choose to pursue lives that center around activities other than the endless measuring-out of the compensatory lecithin, yeast, wheat germ and molasses, etc., that would be required to keep them free of nutritional deficits. Therefore, these mentally normal vegans are USUALLY dietarily deficient in several of the above essential nutrients -- often gravely so.
But vegans aren't the only dietary fundamentalists missing the point of eating-to-live (in favor of living-to-supplement/eat). I adhered very briefly, in the mid 1980s, to a macrobiotic diet, and it was very good for my health, during that circumscribed period). The time came, however, when I'd met my health goals, to broaden my diet; as for its "lifestyle", Macrobiotics had never been my religion, but I did meet hundreds of macros with (similar to hard core vegans') long term dietary narrowness.
People of different blood types and subtypes may have good reason to avoid certain food groups wholesale, during times of addressing serious health crises (Dr. D'Adamo's guidelines stipulate for such crises, even to the point of recategorizing certain "avoid" foods as "beneficial" for short term therapeutic purposes.). Strict vegan parameters have, perhaps, usefulness in such a therapeutic context as well, but MOST people cannot thrive on that diet over the long haul. They become seriously deficient in several crucial nutrients, even if they use myriads of pills and potions, as these are NOT whole foods comprised of infinite intrinsic vital synergies. This is why it's so critical that strict temporary measure, such as detoxifying fasts, not be turned into long-term hair-shirt religions, and not only because of these biochemical consequences, but also because of the mental and spiritual health-risk it poses interpersonally, within the community as a whole.
Attention, Type A vegans and other "Tier Three'ers" (hyper-compliant adherents): Take very, very seriously your water retention, digestive ills, blood pressure hikes, skin eruptions, etc. Don't be tempted to treat each of these separately, so as to pinpoint its respective Band-Aid and participate in its respective chat-group. The same magnesium deficiency, for instance, that causes your insomnia could be related to your depression, kidney stones and dental caries, too! The same iron-deficiency anemia your OB addresses during your pregnancy could have been operative when you'd suffered from irregular periods before, or play its part in blood sugar or intestinal problems later ...
Hopping from one health issue to another, and/or from one supplement-mix to another, may make for a diligent and meticulous practice of measuring teaspoons of powders, soaking and counting and blending exotic ingredients, transforming you into your kitchen altar's High Priest, but that might all be instantly/"miraculously" dispensable - POOF! -- by eating a small piece of fish a couple of times a week, some eggs and/or poultry here and there, and an occasional yogurt. Presto-Change-O: Normal Blood values, shinier hair, bye-bye tremors, pimple-free complexion, etc. More time to enjoy life, less for the Internet?
Let your taste for general good health outstrip your taste for an over-deconstructed diet. If you prefer the 23 different pills for each of your "issues", own up to it as your personal idiosyncracy, not a requisite healthy practice. Beyond that, if you're ready to broaden your view to step back from an ascetic regime originally embarked upon as a temporary therapy, you'll enjoy the following story:
A friend, during my macro days, had raised her two daughters as strict macro's from birth. I'll never forget arriving at her house one day for a macro lecture and group lunch; the front door slowly opened, seemingly of itself, but I looked down to see her little 6-year-old daughter, whose hand held the knob as she grimly said to me, "You're late. And take off your shoes." It was positively macabre.
Only a year or so later, my friend's heart opened when she was bequeathed her grandmother's piano; she and her girls began taking lessons, and some floodgate burst in her soul. Later that year, her children, who'd never tasted turkey or butter or sugar before, fully, gustatorially participated in an extended family Thanksgiving dinner FOR THE FIRST TIME. Then, the girls began actually playing at friends' houses. My friend confided in me later, "When my daughters started eating some butter and sweets, I realized - Wow- they'd needed it all along. And they're, well, SWEETER! We're ALL happier people." And she had a tear in her eye.
What had POSSESSED them to deprive themselves of such pleasures? Well, my friend's husband had had a frightening deathly illness from which he'd "miraculously" recovered, through Macrobiotics, before the children were born. Thus this couple had associated "extreme yin" and "extreme yang"-labels with the foods he'd given up, and those foods with, yes, the Death he'd escaped.
It was, however, Death itself that met me at the door of their organically-perfect farmhouse that day and curtly demanded my shoeless entry.
* * * * * * *
I think we associate Death with messiness and fight it with desperate structures. We strive to organize, measure, categorize and label components (vitamins, esoteric amino acids, e.g.) in a frantic attempt to keep the wild, unknowable wholeness of a threatening realm at bay.
But we can't. There's always another symptom. We no sooner soothe our cough than we find a pimple; we are freed from that as we investigate our heartburn and find out our HDL is low and our VLDL high. So we return to our laboratories/kitchens, where we add soaked flaxseeds to our kefir smoothies and subtract the almond butter -- or was it add soaked almonds and subtract the flaxseeds? And we return to our computers and start a New Thread about Fiber. We read this one's Diet and that one's theory. Why are we counting and weighing and pouring and poring?
Are you afraid to die?
I wonder if there's ever been anyone on a deathbed saying, "If only I'd used more Blackstrap Molasses and less Barley Malt", or "It must have been those poppy seeds", rather than, oh, you know, stuff about hugging your kids more or sharing your gifts with the world, stuff that seemed deathly-scarier at the time, when you found refuge, instead, in a "health-focus".
It's one thing to desire to properly establish a new and healthy regime, to take the time and devote the wholehearted energy to recovering from illness or founding a new and uninhibited way of eating/exercising. Just make sure that, if you're fleeing Death and seeking Life, you don't confound the two!
(Friend: If your escape from Death has tricked you, too, into escaping Life, you can still come back. The door is wide open...and you can leave your shoes on!)