Can a Raw Vegan Lifestyle Affect the Health of One’s Blood?
My raw foods journey began with a fractured elbow. After receiving an operation to pin, screw and plate my arm back together, my surgeon told me that I needed a transfusion of magnesium, because my mineral level was lower than he desired. I thought to myself, “How could this be? I eat turkey on whole wheat, fish with lemon, cottage cheese and cantaloupe. I never drink soda. I live by the ‘healthy diet’ rules.” I wondered why my hematologist hadn’t shared this information with me sooner.
In case you were wondering, I’m under the care of a hematologist for a rare genetic anemia that I was born with. The medical name of my illness is beta thalassemia major, also known as Cooley’s anemia. The disease is the result of faulty genetic messaging that directs my bone marrow to create misshapen red blood cells that cannot carry oxygen throughout my body. Because of this, I receive donated red blood cells from other people to survive. I’ve been going to the hospital for blood transfusions around every other week since I was nine years old. Prior to the age of nine, I received one transfusion every single week to keep my hemoglobin level normal. My diagnosis came at the age of six months.
My elbow fully recovered after undergoing one more surgery to move my ulnar nerve to a new location, and two long months of excruciating rehabilitation. As I rejoiced over my ability to properly drink coffee while talking on the phone, I also started to think about how to get more nutrients into my body. That’s when a small miracle started to manifest itself. I turned on the television, which I rarely do, and came upon a documentary called “Crazy Sexy Cancer,” which is about a young woman’s journey into the raw vegan lifestyle as a way to treat her stage 4 cancer diagnosis.
During the film, the woman, Kris Carr, gets a blood test after converting to a raw vegan diet. The blood sample displayed cells that were freely floating and not coagulating, which was different than when she tested her blood after eating a purely macrobiotic diet. My eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw how Kris’s diet affected her blood cells. I couldn’t believe it. I thought, “If a raw vegan diet affected Kris in this way, what could it do for me?”
The next day, I became a vegetarian and immediately bought a juicer and a high-speed blender. I weaned myself off of coffee and cheese. I began drinking 16 ounces of organic vegetable juice every morning before breakfast. Some of my first juices tasted terrible, but I eventually learned which juices I liked best. My favorite juice is made with four carrots, one green apple, one celery stalk and half a lime.
My interest in the raw vegan lifestyle gained momentum with each passing day. I devoured books and classes on how to thrive as a raw vegan. I even went as far as becoming certified in gourmet raw food preparation by a local raw food restaurant owner.
In about three months, I was 100% vegan and 80% raw. Then, several months later, something profound happened: I went to my regular hematologist appointment and was told that I could go 4 weeks without a transfusion. I couldn’t believe it! The freedom that I felt in that moment brought me such tremendous gratitude, my eyes flooded with tears.
Several more months have since passed, and I’m happy to say that I have been going to the hospital every three weeks, instead of every other week. While I realize that complete healing through raw foods is probably not going to happen for me, I do feel that my food choices present me with a greater sense of control and personal power. I have also become more empathetic to the plight of our Earth and all of her inhabitants.Of course, I have tried to share my discoveries with fellow patients, but none want to alter their diets. They say, “If I give up my food choices, what will I have left?” My answer to them is, “LIFE!”
Josephine Bila, M.S.W., is an author, speaker, and creator of “Think, Feel, Be Happy: Obtaining Personal Power Through Mind Body Awareness.” Her upcoming documentary will be called, “What’s My Count?” Her upcoming book is titled, “Mind, Body,Veins.”
Photo credit: Michael LoRusso