For several years I was largely, but not entirely, vegetarian. Then when I started working at a cardiac rehabilitation clinic that was evaluating the research on very low fat vegetarian diets, I tried that diet. It seemed to agree with me and I maintained it for a few years. During this time I became increasing subject to tension headaches. The headaches started interfering with my life. I identified several dietary triggers, including chocolate and orange juice.
I felt like I was becoming increasing susceptible to these headaches and less able to handle stresses. Eventually, I started wondering if my overall diet was a factor and looked at books advocating high protein diets. Those books made sufficient justification for higher protein that I decided to try eating more protein.
When I began eating more nuts, I started feeling better and had fewer headaches. Later I began eating eggs and felt even better. As I got older I felt that I needed more protein and started eating fish and seafood. I’ve known other people who were long-term vegetarians, but felt that they needed more protein when they got older.
This is one of several cases when my medical symptoms were actually due to lifestyle factors such as sleeping habits, diet, or lack of exercise. In general, the medical profession has not been helpful for me in these cases. The medical profession is slowly getting better in understanding lifestyle factors, but I still find that my own initiative in such cases proves more effective than the typical medical training of doctors.
Diet seems to be a particularly controversial topic. To me it is obvious that different types of food are optimal for different people. Also, the optimal diet depends on lifestyle and changes as a person ages. Most people who are knowledgeable about diet will agree in concept with these points, but when the books get written, they usually seem to advocate one diet as best for everyone. Finding an optimal diet is ultimately based on personal experience. The various experts who advocate certain types of diets offer ideas, but not the final word.
[Version of 3/14/2013]
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