Is my vegan diet causing memory and focus problems?
November 23, 2008 3:22 PM Subscribe
My diet is almost totally vegan. I can no longer think straight and my memory is getting worse all the time. I'm struggling to regain mental clarity and control. I'm not willing to give up veganism. But I need solutions.
posted by davathar to health & fitness (63 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
For the last three years I've been practicing a vegetarian diet that is almost totally vegan. I occasionally eat dairy and egg products when other people cook for me as a concession to the difficulty of cooking vegan without experience. That, and I love cheese.
My decision to practice a mostly vegan lifestyle is morally motivated by my feelings about animal treatment. So I don't plan to ever go back to eating meat or fish of any kind. And more and more I'm cutting out dairy and eggs as I prepare more meals at home and seek out vegan friendly restaurants.
The problem is that I've noticed that my mood, mental clarity, and energy levels are poor these last few years. And I noticed the same thing when I was vegetarian about 10 years ago, but my diet was quite loaded with bread and cheese back then, so I figured that accounted for it.
I can read the same paragraph 5 or 10 times before realizing that my mind was elsewhere the whole time and I don't remember what I've read for the last few pages. The feeling that comes with this is the same thing all day long in all activities. My days end up being like a scattered random series of events that I'm in control of, but don't always remember initiating.
My memory has gotten so poor that I can watch a movie that I saw just 6 months ago and absolutely know that I saw it and remember scenes after I see them happen again. But I can't remember anything about what will happen for the rest of the movie at any point. In my programming work I struggle to remember the names of functions and the structure of the framework I'm using, or the code I've written already. In the past I used to be able to remember whole stories in great detail and keep complex programming structures in my mind while I worked on them.
I'm in my head all the time.
I currently take Omega 3 supplement in the form of Flax Seed Oil with added vegan source EPA. I have a spoon full of Lecithin daily, usually with pulpy OJ that makes the lecithin granules almost disappear. I take a high quality but low dosage whole food vegan multi. I take a B complex. And occasionally I take C, B5, Magnesium, and Zinc supplements also.
I have about a cup a day of Soymilk and tofu maybe once a week. Though that will likely increase soon since I just got a Soymilk Maker to save on costs. I'm a little worried about all the contriversy about Excessive Soy consumption.
I do eat a lot of bread, and consequently a lot of Gluten and high starch food. A friend of mine only buys "Sprouted grain bread" saying that it doesn't have the same tiring effect on her after eating that more refined and non-sprouted grain breads do. That stuff is very expensive ($4 or $5 a loaf) though, so I haven't tried it at home.
Due to not living near a good source of fresh foods and usually eating single course meals, I don't eat a lot of greens or other fresh veggies. I eat cereal for breakfast every day. And I eat a lot of dishes with beans and rice. Usually it's black beans or chick peas. Onion and green pepper are about the freshest I get with veggies.
I drink about 6 beers a week (one or two at night occasionally) and a few times a year I might actually get drunk. I drink about 3 cups (8 oz)of coffee per day mostly to keep from getting withdrawal headaches and because I like the taste. I don't think it helps with my clarity. It may even hurt.
My activity levels:
I work from home and almost never leave except for shopping or dinner with friends.
My exercise habits are that a few times a week I'll do a few sets of push ups and maybe sit ups. I stretch almost every day. And I walk my dogs in the yard a few times a day for 5 or 10 minutes. I haven't worked up a sweat in months.
I sleep well most of the time, getting about 8 hours a day on average. My schedule is mostly consistent but I take naps occasionally when feeling particularly down.
My business has been crushed by the real estate economy the last few years and the stress has been overwhelming at times. The business hasn't gotten better yet, but I've settled into a pretty constant stress level. My lack of energy combined with the stress often leads me to feel depressed and hopeless.
What I try already:
I've taken the strategy of isolation from friends and family and even business associates in order to combat the growing challenge of mental distraction that seems to consume entire days and weeks with almost nothing to show for accomplishment. In the process I've given up my personal homes, my vehicles except for an old van, and most of my possessions like my tools. I've broken up with two good girlfriends and resisted new relationships from forming. Thinking about all that adds to the feeling of depression. But if I regain control of my mental clarity, I expect it will be worthwhile and recoverable. And I'm not much help or fun to be around when I'm stressed and scatter brained anyway.
I'm at my most clear when writing something like this or writing to a friend or in my journal. But it's incredibly time consuming. I limit my writing so I don't end up doing it all day long.
I've dabbled with Meditation, but as with exercise I've lost focus to develop the habit and it's a rare thing for me to sit still doing nothing unless I'm going to sleep.
I have almost no emotional content to my feelings lately. I'm holding on to sanity for the most part. But the days are passing and I'm aging with nothing changing for the positive in my life. I only keep going on the hopes of something more interesting being around the corner. But daily motivation to do anything is such a struggle that it's seeming less and less likely I'll get over the hump to that more interesting life I've enjoyed in the past.
The major potential factors I see as being responsible for what I consider borderline schizophrenia and severe memory loss are Lack of Exercise, missing nutritional elements, and stress.
I'm trying to fight the stress by simplifying everything in life and removing the distractions so I can focus better and get back in control of my daily life.
I'm trying to satisfy my dietary needs while staying vegetarian, but there's so much conflicting information out there that it's confusing and I may be missing something critical.
Exercise is probably the area I have the most trouble with. I just never have the energy to "feel like" doing it. I know it's sort of a chicken or egg argument. But I find it so incredibly boring that it takes a ton of motivation to get me to even spend 5 minutes working out. And the whole time my mind is screaming out to be doing something productive instead.
I almost hate to waste the time of readers here with all of this. I feel like I already answered the question of how I can improve my clarity and get my brain back. Diet and Exercise. Just do it. Stress will take care of itself if I take care of myself... But there is obviously something missing. Every time I try to do something, I do it once and the next day I forget, or don't feel like it, or get distracted by something new to try.
How can I become consistent in doing something that works? What mental perspectives may work well enough to stick with this rattled brain long enough to develop good supportive habits? Are there any quick fixes in diet or otherwise that may help in the mean time?