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Why I Quit Being a Vegetarian with Food Allergies

Why I Quit Being a Vegetarian with Food Allergies

Being vegetarian with food allergies

Is it hard Being vegetarian with food allergies
At 16, I decided to become vegetarian. I had spent three months in France as an exchange student, eating a lot of meat and what I was eating dawned on me. We consumed a lot of charcuterie, and it was this texture that made me aware of “eating flesh”. At that point, I was allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, sunflower seeds, and poppy seeds. I was still able to eat a lot of fruits and most importantly soy! So being a vegetarian with my set of food allergens wasn’t too bad.

Around a year after becoming a vegetarian, I was drinking my favourite Starbucks soy milk chai latte when my mouth started to get itchy and lips began to swell. I didn’t think much of it. Then I had soy sauce, and the same reaction happened. It happened again and again and well the rest is history. I was officially allergic to soy.

Being a vegetarian with food allergies

My primary sources of protein became legumes, fish (not shellfish), and cheese. Lots of cheese! I was doing pretty well for many years after developing the soy allergy until I started to train for a marathon. I was feeling tired and wasn’t building muscle. It took a lot of hemming and hawing, but it became apparent that I would have to start eating meat, especially if I wanted to get to the next level of fitness. Also, food was becoming a little uninspiring. And “what should I cook!?”, became a constant dilemma.

After 8 and a half years of being a vegetarian, I went back to meat. It was hard to start eating meat again. I couldn’t get into the texture and couldn’t think too much about what it was I was eating. Chicken was the hardest.

That was three years ago and two marathons later! I can proudly say that I am a regular meat eater and enjoy it.

Being vegetarian with food allergies, how eating meat lifted a weight off my chest

Being a conscious eater

We are very particular about the meat we eat, making sure it is organic and from the butcher. I have not yet eaten beef because I am a little afraid. I gave it up when I was 9 when my father was diagnosed with a beef allergy, as an act of solidarity. Quite frankly I am to scared to try in case I am also allergic.

Weight off my chest

Having multiple allergies and being a vegetarian on top of that became very challenging. It made dining out a nightmare and going to other people’s for dinner very hard. Eating meat was one of the best choices I made in coping with my food allergies. I am healthier now because I can easily maintain a balanced diet.

I sometimes think of the vegan ironman and feel sorry for going back to meat. And then I remember that his diet is based primarily on all my allergens. We have to eat what is best for us. At the end of the day, when the dishes are done, and my tummy is full, I am thankful for what I can eat, meat now included!

View Comments (6)
  • i have no idea how old this post is but thank you so much. i have felt so guilty but after eating salad without any protein when i go out because i basically can’t eat anything at all when i’m trying to have a vegan diet. it annoys people im with when i cant eat anything at most restaurants but when you say the vegan diet based on all my allergens like that is so true so i’ll try not to beat myself up if i decide not to be vegan anymore thank you!

    • Liza, thank you so much for your response. It was so hard to come to terms with starting to eat meat again. At the end of the day it is about what makes you feel the good and healthy. I wish you the best in what you chose to do. xx

  • I was vegetarian for about 12 years, during which time I developed multiple allergies to: soy, nuts (many), seeds (hemp, pumpkin, sunflower), raw fruit (almost everything except citrus), and many raw vegetables (all a fun part of Oral Allergy Syndrome). It wasn’t a rapid onset of allergies, but a gradual onset and shifting severity. Prior to eating a vegetarian diet, I did not have any known food allergies but did have asthma and known allergies to pollen, dander, and mold. For related or unrelated reasons, I experienced health problems including chronic anemia, autoimmune issues, repeat and pervasive viral and bacterial illnesses, and precancerous cervical changes. I also experienced depression, which can be tied to imbalanced nutrition but I feel was more directly related to other parts of my life. I tried to be pescatarian, but soon after developed allergies to fish.

    I resumed eating meat 3 years ago, and have since reintroduced some nuts, small amounts of soy, a lot of raw vegetables, and a selection of raw fruit. Part of me wants to say I’m now much healthier… my lab values are stable and normal for the first time in my adult life, and I seem to shake colds and other illnesses like “normal” people. However, I’m not really sure how much of it is true cause and effect. Did eating meat cure several of my food allergies, or did I just grow out of them over time? Did eating meat improve my immune function, or have other parts of my lifestyle changed enough to improve my health? Unfortunately the cervical changes came back worse than ever, and I’ve tried to rationalize that its probably unrelated to my diet.. but it does still tie in with immune health so who knows?!

    I now have a partner who eats a vegan diet, and I’m still involved with a lot of friends and communities that eat plant based or plant prioritized diets. Being vegan is something that I wish I could do for personal moral reasons, but I’m not willing to hurt my health (again). I keep hearing from the vegan community about how being vegan is healthier and could be protective against cancer. I’m eating meat purely because I feel it is a healthier option for me at this time, despite it causing some moral distress. My partner is supportive of my choice to eat meat, but I do feel pulled in different directions by different information.

    I have a good friend who experienced a similar onset of allergies after eating a vegetarian/vegan diet for several years. Finding your story was interesting as it builds on a similar storyline. I’m really curious how common it is for vegetarians and vegans to develop allergies DUE to their chosen diet, as opposed to the allergies developing regardless of their diet. Maybe those of us that are already susceptible / highly allergic are at increased risk of developing issues, but the general population isn’t? I hope you are enjoying good health these days!

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • That’s really interesting. I know that after eating meat for 5 years, I too, feel the call for going back to being a vegetarian, but know how much my body feels better when I eat meat. It’s all about finding the balance. It feel like diet has a lot to do with intolerances and inflammation definitely has a role to play in our overall health. I hope that you are are also feeling healthier 😀

  • Thanks for sharing your story. I tried going vegan for a while but I have nut and soy allergies, including oral allergies from a few fruits. Some of my vegan friends told me the lightheadedness and fatigue was just my body getting accustomed to a new diet and spressured me to keep eating vegan, but I also don’t have a very big appetite. I had to eat so much more to get even close to my nutritional needs from a meal with meat, so I went back. Seeing someone else have to quit a plant-based diet for their health took the weight of feeling like I disappointed everyone but at the end of the day, I’m happy and energized again.

    • At the end of the day you have to look out for yourself and your health. I know it can be hard and Ive definitely had my fair share of playing around with diets. Now I am trying to practice intuitive eating and mindfulness. I’m glad that you are able to feel more energised, the worst is when you feel limited or fearful of food.


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