With a number of vegan public figures quitting veganism in recent months, one vegan dietitian is reminding vegans that their diet is not bulletproof, and shaming sick vegans could be doing more harm than good.
Melbourne, Australia native Ebony McCorkell, an accredited dietitian and chef who operates EB Nutrition in Seaford, Victoria, has been vegetarian since fourth grade and vegan for the past three years.
McCorkell believes there is a misconception that vegans who get ill simply didn’t do it correctly, and this can be harmful.
“There is a lot of health shaming in the vegan community and not a lot of talking about real issues that people face,” she told Vegan World News.
“Vegans feel a great deal of shame when they get sick, they hear messages from prominent vegan figureheads that if they get sick they simply weren’t vegan enough, they internalise this blame and think their only out is to give up veganism.”
McCorkell says that human beings are complex and have a variety of dietary needs, so she recommends a number of different diets.
Vegans, who account for roughly half her clients, have come to the University of Canberra alum for a number of issues, the main one being irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
McCorkell says IBS can get worse when transitioning to a vegan diet because it is triggered by carbohydrates called FODMAPs, and because animal products contain little to no carbs, they don’t trigger IBS the same way.
She added that this is why it’s important for someone with this condition to work with a dietitian who can help them get through the elimination and reduction phases, and help determine tolerance levels and a wide variety of suitable foods.
Another issue some vegans struggle with is low appetite, usually as a result of an underlying health condition.
“Plant-based diets are usually rich in fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, and wholegrains, sounds great right?! It can be, but not for those with low appetite, because while those foods are very nutritious in terms of vitamins and minerals, they are also full of fibre and water, which makes you feel full, but they are low in fat (and calories) so they won’t necessarily provide the energy someone requires if they cannot eat a large volume,” said McCorkell.
For clients in this situation, she tends to get rid of some of the fibre in their plants, add meal-replacement powders, fats and syrups and other foods to increase calories without significantly increasing satiety.
“I know this view sits outside the echo chamber, but I hope it adds value to have a different perspective,” McCorkell stated.
“It is my hope that by showing that there are people like me out there, who will listen and take their issues seriously, who acknowledge illness can happen to everybody, regardless of how well they eat, that these people will feel less alone and more inclined to seek proper professional help from a suitably qualified dietitian.”