I’ve been a vegan for a little over two years. Eight years ago, after a lifetime of eating what I thought was a healthy, and varied diet, which included meat and dairy, I was diagnosed with fibroids in my uterus. At the time of diagnosis, they were small and were not causing me any discomfort. But over the course of the last eight years, they had grown to the size of a five month pregnancy and began wreaking havoc with my life. When I became vegan, I had hoped that with the discontinuation of meat and dairy in my diet, that they would shrink, but diet alone was not going to do it. I was also hoping that menopause would come along and that my declining estrogen levels would begin to make them retreat. But alas, that’s still a few years off as well.
As much as I did not want to deal with it, and as much as I feared the knife, I finally succumbed to surgery last summer. I underwent a partial hysterectomy to remove my uterus and fallopian tubes. Because of the size of the masses inside me, I had to have it removed via a full abdominal surgery. Having never had any kind of major surgery, I was, of course, terrified. I did all kinds of research and talked to my doctor as much as possible ahead of time.
I found a website called Hystersisters.com that was incredibly helpful and supportive, but there was nowhere on the web or otherwise that spoke to how a vegan diet might support, and from my experience, help a woman bounce back from major abdominal surgery. Before and after the surgery, I spent hours reading the testimonies of other women who had, or would have the same procedure as me. Every single one of them had been told by their doctors that they should be eating things like yogurt, eggs, and cheese during their recovery in order to get enough protein. Every single one of them wrote about struggling with constipation, gas, and bloating after the surgery. I never spent a single day in that kind of distress. I have to say it was because of my diet.
My doctor had very little sound dietary guidance for me, which was not terribly surprising given the amount of actual nutrition education doctors receive. I followed my own good sense before, during and after my hospital stay and I recovered without a hitch. For 24 hours before the surgery, I ate nothing but fruit and drank nothing but water to make sure that my intestines were clear post-surgery. After the surgery, I ate nothing but veggie broth. I basically fasted for a few days while I was allowing all the toxins from the anesthesia to clear out of my system. When I began to eat, I drank smoothies with fruit, some nut butter, spirulina, a probiotic, and slowly introduced solid foods to my intestines.
If I had listened to my doctor, I would have been bound up and miserable within 24 hours of my surgery like every other poor woman out there. I continued to eat lightly, lost 10 pounds, and recovered from this surgery within a few weeks. For many months after the surgery, many women on that same site continue to complain about something called “swelly belly” a condition where their abdomens are swelling up after a long day at work because of the surgery. My guess is it has more to do with their diets, but hey, I’m not a doctor. I just know that it’s not happening to me. And yes, I have shared my story there as well, but as with trying to share vegan insights elsewhere where there are avid meat and dairy consumers, the response was tepid. So, I hope that if anyone here has to face the knife, rest assured that you can stick by your vegan diet with the knowledge that you will not only recover well, but probably more quickly and with fewer side effects.
Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons