Veganism is one of the world’s most popular dietary alternatives, but how does veganism affect a person with hemophilia? As a hemophilia patient, I need to be mindful of my diet and the way in which the foods I eat affect my joint health, ability to build muscle, and the energy I need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I’ve decided to try a vegan diet, and for anyone else interested in the subject, I’ve done some research as to how a hemophiliac should go about approaching the change. I want to be clear in saying that I’m not a nutritionist or medical professional, so I think anyone making a big change like this should ask the advice of his or her doctor. However, I am a hemophilia patient, and I know how my body works and what it needs, and I have done extensive research into this subject, so I want to share my journey into veganism with you. Even if you aren’t interested in a vegan diet, I hope you find this article interesting, and maybe learn a little more about veganism.
My official commitment to veganism is about to begin, come January 1st, and I’ve prepared as much as I can to make sure that I can maintain a healthy lifestyle through such a drastic shift in my diet. I’ve decided this year that I’m going to significantly change my eating habits, and I’m excited about the changes to my life that will come along with it. There are many reasons to try veganism, and it appeals to me in a number of ways. The ethical aspect is perhaps the most popular reason people choose to go vegan, and I have to say that it’s something that appeals to me as well. I love animals, and I believe their lives should be valued, but this isn’t the only reason I decided to try it out. Veganism can also have a significant impact on the healthiness of a person’s diet, which is what interests me most. For someone like me, a vegan diet will force me to make better choices with food. It will help me maintain a healthy caloric intake by eating foods that tend to have less calories than my normal non-vegan diet, save me money by forcing me to shop for more groceries, rather than just grabbing something from a fast-food restaurant, and force me to think more about the foods I’m eating since I’ll have to plan meals. After thinking critically about my eating habits, it was easy to conclude that sticking to this diet could have significant impact on the way I feel, and the way my body works.
I’ve always tried to eat healthy, as I know how important it is for a hemophiliac, however, I feel like my diet will never be as healthy as it could be while eating animal products. This is admittedly a problem with me specifically, and does not necessarily have anything to do with the inherent difficulty of a more typical, non-vegan diet, but I think it’s something with which a lot of people struggle. For me, it’s simply easier to take in more calories than I need while eating this way. I find it incredibly difficult to eat healthy consistently when I have the option of going to McDonald’s and getting a quick bite-to-eat. Now a lot of people would say, “Well, why don’t you just cut that stuff out?” And that’s a valid question. In fact, it’s the reason I haven’t gone vegan in the past. I’ll try to just cut out the unhealthy options, but the truth is that I simply am not the type of person who can just say no to those unhealthy foods when I have no restrictions on the types of food I eat. I know it sounds a little silly, but I’ve found that I’m an “all or nothing” type of person when it comes to food, and I think dedicating myself to veganism is the only way to truly make a change in the way I eat. The ultimate goal for me is to stick to this strict diet for the year, perhaps allowing myself some days here and there where I allow myself to eat animal products again, and developing healthy eating habits as a result. I hope that it reprograms me to crave fruits and vegetables as snacks, instead of those unhealthy alternatives. The point to sticking to a strict diet for a little while is to actually help my body adjust – changing the cravings for burgers to cravings for cucumbers. Then, if I decide to go back to an unrestricted diet, I’ll be more likely to choose those healthy options.
So, now that I’ve explained the reasons why I’m going vegan, I want to explain how I plan on staying as healthy as possible while I do it. The main concern people have with switching to a vegan diet is being deprived of the healthy things they get from foods. They feel like restricting their diets to fruits, vegetables, and plants will mean they won’t get enough protein, omega-3 fatty acids, or calcium. This is a legitimate concern, as those things are incredibly important to keeping your body healthy. Particularly for hemophiliacs, it’s important to keep your joints as strong as possible. You don’t want to allow your joints to weaken, as that can make bleeds more prevalent. Keeping them strong is what allows you to exercise and maintain a normal life without having to worry about a bleed starting as a result. But there are plenty of ways to get those things without eating meat, fish, or drinking milk.
Let’s start with protein. This is an incredibly important part of any diet, but quite frankly, I know that I get much more protein than I actually need with my current, unrestricted diet. The Vegetarian Resource Group has a wonderful article about veganism, and how vegans get the nutrients they need. They say that protein can be found in many different vegan foods. They write, “Almost all foods except for alcohol, sugar, and fats provide some protein. Vegan sources include: lentils, chickpeas, tofu, peas, peanut butter, soy milk, almonds, spinach, rice, whole wheat bread, potatoes, broccoli, kale…” You can see from this list that there are many options for vegans to get their protein. As they say in that article, as long as your caloric intake is adequate, you shouldn’t even have to worry about getting enough protein.
Next, we’ll talk about calcium. This is a particularly concerning one for some people, as calcium is practically synonymous with milk and other dairy products. However, there is an article on PETA’s website about where to get your calcium on a vegan diet. They say that calcium is, “abundant in collard greens, kale, broccoli, beans, sesame tahini, and almonds. It can also be found in calcium-fortified soy or rice milk, orange juice, and some brands of tofu.” So, it’s clear from this list that calcium is also something you don’t have to worry about when changing your diet to be more vegan, as long as you’re knowledgeable and know which foods are able to replace dairy products.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
I also want to talk about omega-3 fatty acids, as they are often cited as being important for joint health. Commonly found in fish, omega-3 provides a unique nutrient that’s incredibly important to hemophiliacs in particular, as joint health is really what we need to focus on when we pick our foods. For me, it’s the most important thing. I mainly bleed into my ankles and knees, so I know my body needs as much help as I can give it when it comes to my joints. PETA also talks about ways to get Omega-3. They say flaxseeds, walnuts, and canola oil are all great sources of Omega-3. But because they’re so important, patients may also want to consider taking Docosahexaénoïque Acid (DHA) capsules. These capsules are vegan, and the Omega-3 is derived from algae. You can find them quickly and easily on Amazon.
Switching to veganism is not for everyone, and I know for some people it might not be the best option. It might be too tough to stick to for some people, and for others it may just be unnecessary in living a healthy life. For me, however, I think it’s going to improve my life significantly. While some people may not need the dietary restrictions in order to eat healthier, I believe that I do, and I’m grateful that I can also feel better ethically about what I’m eating while doing it. As hemophiliacs, we need to pay particularly close attention to our diets, making sure everything we put into our bodies contributes to maintaining healthy joints, and gives us the ability to exercise and keep ourselves as healthy as possible. After reading article after article about veganism, I truly think it’s possible to live a healthy life as a hemophiliac while being vegan. I’m excited to continue this journey, and I’ll be sure to keep updating you on how it’s going!
Do you think you can get everything you need to live healthy as a hemophiliac on a vegan diet? What does your diet look like? Let us know in the comments below!