Dr. Fritz teaches Obstetrics & Gynecology at the Academy for Oriental Medicine in Austin. In this video she discusses the potential benefits and health risk of a vegan diet as well as how a temporary vegan diet might be beneficial and how to make a vegan diet work for you in a healthy way if you do decide to go 100 percent vegetarian with no animal meat or products.
Hi, I’m Dr. Vanessa Fritz. I’m a naturopathic doctor and a licensed acupuncturist here in Austin, Texas.
Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of patients deciding to go on a vegan diet for their health, so I wanted to talk a little about the pros and cons of veganism.
Some people decide to try veganism, no animal products in their diets whatsoever, for philosophical reasons and for environmental reasons, and I can completely respect those reasons. When people come to me and they’re vegans for those reasons I don’t try to change that, because that’s not in my scope of practice.
That’s not what I’m out to do, but when people come and want to do a vegan diet for health reasons. I really try to educate them on why it’s good and why it’s not so good to not have any animal products in your diet. The main reason people don’t want animal products in their diet is because of the way we factory farm our animals nowadays.
Cows, instead of being able to roam around in fields and eat grass, which is their natural food, instead are stuck in pens and fed grain, fed corn because we over produce corn in this country because corn is subsidized and we just have way too much of it.
They are fed a diet which is not their natural diet. They are stuck in pens but they don’t get to run around a lot so they’re standing in their own feces all day long,so feed is required to, they have to put a lot of antibiotics in the feed so that they don’t constantly come down with illness. Then they plump up the cows by feeding them lots of hormones as well so that they can get the most meat out of them as possible. Also for dairy cows they give them lots of hormones so that they can make more milk. Therefore it becomes a more profitable industry.
Well, the toll that it takes, not only on the animal’s lifespan, but also on our health is pretty big. I can completely understand somebody not wanting to buy in and to vote with their dollars and vote for that kind of treatment of animals as well as that source of food. It’s just not going to be as healthy as from a cow who’s been pasture fed, basically. I think we’re seeing a big movement here, and in Texas we’re really lucky we have a lot of local farms that pasture their animals and cows.
Chickens also from factory farms never see the light of day. They’re raised in drawers stacked one on top of the other. They cut off the beaks of the chickens so that there is no pecking order in the drawer because there is not a lot of space for that, and they’re just not fed the proper food. Chickens are meant to scratch the ground and eat worms and insects.
That’s what gives their eggs the high omega-3 fatty acid content. When they’re not allowed to do that, nowadays they are trying to marketing these eggs as fatty acid eggs because they put flaxseed in their food, but I really question the quality of that flaxseed because those omega-3’s are very heat layed and they go bad very easily.
So again, when you go to a farmer’s market for example, not only are you supporting a local agriculture, but you’re also getting a better quality egg or piece of meat if, of course, that animal has been pasture fed. There is a whole issue with pork as well, but I think you get the idea. So, when we can source our animals that are raised in the way that they are meant to be raised, I think not only is it better for the environment or it’s better for humanitarian reasons or animal rights reasons, but we’re getting a better quality product that’s a lot more healthful. Eating excessive amounts of animal products, on the other hand, do drive some pro-inflammatory reactions in our bodies. Animal products are high in what we call arachidonic acid and this drives a series of inflammatory prostoglandins in our bodies, so there are many health conditions where there is a lot of inflammation in the body. We want to bring those levels down.
Fish oils, Omega-3 fatty acids we substitute for fish oils and some omega-6 fatty acids from other plant sources like evening primrose oil, they drive different prostoglandin reactions that are anti-inflammatory. So, eating a diet that is high in plants does tend to drive more of these anti-inflammatory reactions and you’re not getting that many animal products so you’re not getting as much arachidonic acids so you’re not driving those pro-inflammatory reactions. So, the good part about a vegan diet is that you’re forced to eat mainly a plant based diet and you’re eating mostly vegetables which is very good for you. Most of us are guilty of not eating enough vegetables, so what we recommend every day is five servings of a variety of vegetables. A serving equals half of a cup of cooked vegetables or a full cup of raw vegetables, so five servings a day.
Most of my patients, they might be getting one or two when they come in to see me, and it’s hard. It’s a lot of work to do that because there’s not a lot of servings of vegetables when we eat out and most of the food that we eat out, and most of us eat out quite a lot of the time, most of us say that we have a busy lifestyle and we don’t sit and cook for ourselves at home. It’s difficult. I think, on the con side of veganism, people don’t get enough fatty acids. There is a good amount of fatty acids that we need to getand I think it’s hard to get good protein and good fatty acids from a vegan diet.
It’s possible! I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s a lot of work.
The people that would benefit more from this diet, and maybe just a short term, maybe just a two or three month’s worth of a vegan diet would be anyone with severe menstrual cramps, severe PMS. A lot of women’s health issues are very inflammation based and so bringing down the overall levels of inflammation from this kind of diet would be beneficial. Another example of a kind of patient that would benefit from going vegan, just temporarily, would be people with arthritis, because arthritis is very inflammation based, both types of arthritis, so you can see arthritis levels reduced and the pain levels reduced quite a bit, and even in the matter of a few days when people go on a high plant based diet. I think dairy is another reason people go vegan.
Again, dairy from animals that have been injected with hormones and antibiotics, what is milk but a secretion. When our body is full of things we don’t want we try to secrete it from every source. The cows get rid of a lot of these chemicals through their milk and you’re getting that in you milk, so it’s really important that if you do drink milk or eat dairy that that be organic.
There are still pesticides in the environment. It’s still not going to be one hundred percent free of pesticides, but it will have a lot less than a non-organic milk will. Milk, there’s a lot of issues with dairy. Dairy tends to be very allergenic.
A lot of people don’t tolerate milk very well. Sometimes it’s the lactose, sometimes it’s the proteins that cause an inflammatory process in the body, so dairy is one of those things that I really do agree with people who eat a vegan diet that it’s probably not the best thing for us to know because cheese is delicious, ice cream is delicious, but we really need to limit those quantities, especially in people that have a lot of allergies and are making a lot of mucus, or if you’re sick with a cold or the flu, completely eliminating dairy, temporarily even, can bring down the amount of mucus that the person is producing. People with asthma, too, tend to do a lot better and have a lot fewer asthma attacks when they cut out dairy in their diet. Overall, what I can recommend is somebody can either go through a short course of a plant based diet only. When you go all vegan it is helpful in the sense that it really forces you to broaden your culinary horizons and to learn new ways to cook things. It forces you to cook at home.
You’re going to cook much healthier at home. Restaurants put a lot of additives, put a lot of salt in their food, they put a lot of maybe not so healthy oils in their foods, and restaurants servings are twice if not three times the size of what a serving size should normally be. I think that’s one of the reasons a lot of us are overweight in this country.
Either a short term vegan diet to bring down overall levels of inflammation or eating mostly a vegan diet and when you do have animal products, making sure you have high quality animal products. You don’t have to have it in every single meal.
As much as two or three times a week is sufficient for most people. Again, I would definitely advise you to talk to your own healthcare practitioner to see what is right for you, but generally speaking we can get by with not as much meat as we think we need. And again, there is no one diet for everybody.
There are people with different needs, people with different lifestyles.
Athletes have different lifestyles from people who are completely sedentary. People with different health conditions have different needs as well. Some people do better with a higher protein diet. Some people do better with more carbohydrates in their diet. You have to kind of find out what type or person you are. There are so many diet books out here. There’s the Blood Type Diet, there are vegans versus carnivores, there’s a high protein diet, low fat diet,and sometimes it does take a little bit of trial and error to figure out what is the diet that your body reacts to the best. In addition to types of diets there can be foods, even vegetables, that sometimes cause, or even vegan sources of protein such as soy, that can cause inflammation in some people’s bodies. Anybody can have an allergy or an intolerance to any food at any time, so as a naturopath, one of the things I do is testing to see what are the foods that are causing inflammation or outright allergies. The difference between the two is an allergy is when the body actually makes antibodies to a particular food. I do blood tests, or else stool and saliva testing for that. I think the skin tests for food allergies are pretty worthless, and a lot of doctors still do that. We can do some blood testing for this.
We can also test the blood for inflammation. Sometimes you may not have a allergy to a particular food but your body still reacts to that food by making inflammatory cytokines or secondary messenger stuff. That’s a different kind of test and we would call that a food intolerance or food sensitivity. There’s a lot of different things that one has to look at when considering what the right kind of diet is for them, and if you’re thinking of going on such a restrictive diet that is a vegan diet, you really have to look more closely as to the reasons you are doing that and what you think the benefits of that would be for you.
Lastly, other foods that are very common in vegan diets are wheat based. A lot of vegans survive and fill up on more carbs like pasta and bread, and gluten found in these products is a very common allergen. I think it’s more common than most people realize.
Again, you might not have a true allergy to gluten. You might have a sensitivity or an intolerance to that food, so you really want to make sure that you rule out that you don’t have sensitivities or allergies to the foods that are staples to most vegans. Soy is another one.
You need to look at a lot of things before seriously considering going on a diet such as that.
Thank you very much. Again, my name is Dr. Vanessa Fritz. My website is
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After getting undergraduate and graduate degrees in Biology from the University of Virginia, Dr. Vanessa Fritz graduated from the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, with a doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine (ND) as well as a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine (MSOM).
Visit Dr. Fritz’s Website at;
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