When I was 32, I had the misfortune of suffering from a life-threatening internal blood haemorrhage. I’d just had just been rushed to theatre for an emergency c-section after the delivery of our third son was not going to plan. During the C-section, my uterine artery was severed, I bled rather a lot of blood, received multiple blood transfusions and it all ended with me having a hysterectomy.
At age 32, that was all quite a shock. I was truly devastated about the whole experience.
It turned my hormones and digestive health absolutely upside down and I suffered for a number of years with terrible IBS, food intolerances and hormonal problems. I tried lots of different ways to overcome the problems including looking in-depth at my food choices, learning about nutrition and practicing meditation for my stress and anxiety.
Food became the enemy as everything I ate seemed to set off my IBS, I lost confidence in social situations for fear of gas, agony from bloating, needing the loo.
It was all pretty dismal.
Simple foods worked best for me like slow cooked beef and fermented foods like kefir and as my gut healed, I started to introduce new foods, more plant foods in particular. I gradually discovered eating more plant-based as during 2016, veganism was becoming very popular. Over time, I was eating a vegan diet because I was sold on the premise of eating more plants = health. After being so unwell, health was my number 1 priority. I ate a diet very high in plants and omitted any animal derived foods without any issues for about 2 years but then I started to feel hungry quite a lot, no matter how much food I ate, it was like I was always searching for something more. I developed noticeable dark circles under my eyes, my IBS returned, my hair started to fall out, and my social anxiety returned together with the digestive issues. I felt pretty rubbish but persevered with the plant-based diet and put the changes down to hormonal, early menopause (which later I discovered was not early menopause).
I wished I just did not need to eat at all because it was such an issue of what I was ‘allowed’ to eat and what would set off my digestive issues. My diet was pretty much lots of fibre – beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, grains, fruits and vegetables but the more I ate to try and satisfy my hunger, the more out of control my digestion became. I felt like I was living a lie after a while because the vegan diet really was not suiting me anymore.
We went to Cyprus on holiday in 2019 and the restaurants over there do not cater much for vegans so I had made lots of lentil dhal in our self-catering apartment and had lots of fresh produce from the amazing choice they have available in warmer climates. I was eating fruit, , oats and seeds, lots of salads and dhal for dinner. I was blown up like a balloon. It was so uncomfortable, especially when it’s hot and you can’t cover up. I had so much gas and bloating that I was nervous to leave the apartment and it was then that I thought, I cannot take this anymore!
I had been having cravings to eat meat for a few months and that night, out of desperation and curiosity for my craving, I ate chicken for dinner at a restaurant, just chicken and lettuce. After the meal, I felt so satiated, no more hunger signals, no bloating, no gas.
But psychologically I felt bad, so guilty that I had got so much hunger and digestive satisfaction from eating meat. I had not touched it for almost 3 years and felt very strongly about not eating meat again. I decided I would try eating meat maybe once a month to give my digestion a break from all the fibre and each time I got the same satiated feeling and no digestive problems.
Gradually I added eggs, meat, fish and milk kefir back to my diet because I remembered kefir had always been very calming on my gut prior to being vegan. Kefir was a game changer for me, and my digestion seemed to be so happy after drinking it. Gradually, over the year, I was adding more animal based foods back into my diet because they just seemed to agree with my body and I never experienced any digestion issues after eating them.
I stopped posting my vegan recipes on my social media and blog by Christmas 2019 as I felt like I was living a lie promoting this way of eating when it just was not working for me.
It was rather crazy that shortly after this, the world was hit by Coronavirus and by March 2020 the country was in lockdown, our 3 boys needed my full attention with being at home full-time and blogging/social media/worrying about justifying my diet, was not important anymore.
2020 and the pandemic gave me a chance shut myself away from the world and for me to just experiment on being me again, come to terms psychologically with eating animal products again without being judged on social media.
It took a good few months to feel comfortable with eating meat but now I eat just like I did as a child & young adult, before my haemorrhage, before my hysterectomy and early menopause and all the terrible IBS and awful experiences I had during those years. I have found a new confidence in knowing exactly what foods agree with my body, avoid those which my body finds hard to digest and eat the ones it thrives on and not feeling guilty for eating them.
My relationship with my digestion after the blood haemorrhage and operation has been rather turbulent, depressing, and difficult but I am happy now that I feel I have reached more settled times and it is so liberating!
We need to eat to live but we also need to thrive! I am so happy now that I feel like I am thriving off the food choices I now make, but it has been a journey to reach this stage!