Sick From Healthy Food: Exclusive Book Excerpt by Kevin Gianni

Monday Jul 6 | BY |
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Below is an excerpt of my upcoming book: Kale and Coffee: A Renegade’s Guide to Health, Happiness and Longevity – Stay tuned for the book release!

My extreme diet was so “healthy” that I made myself sick. About three years in, I started to notice that I was increasingly lethargic and was having trouble getting out of bed. In fact, I would wake up in the morning and stare at the ceiling, wondering if I was seriously ill: chronic fatigue, maybe, or multiple sclerosis, or cancer. After wondering for a while, I’d turn over and go back to sleep, not waking up again until 10 or 11 or even noon.

A few friends and family members suggested that the fatigue might be related to what I was eating, but I was so deeply indoctrinated in the cult of dietary purity that I wasn’t willing to entertain their theories. It wasn’t until I met a renaissance man of sorts, Dr. James E. Williams, that I listened to advice I didn’t want to hear.

James is doctor of oriental medicine, board certified in naturo- pathic medicine, with a practice in Sarasota, Florida. He and I became close during the RV trip, and Annmarie and I spent time with him in Peru and at his home in Florida. James is the type of guy who can explain in fascinating detail how a viral infection can change your DNA, then follow with a story about dancing all night at a club in Havana, Cuba, while drinking brown rum and smoking local cigars.

I remember the day when he gave me the news that no vegan ever wants to hear: “Your adrenals are in deep fatigue. It’s because of your diet. You might consider eating some animal protein”—meat, fish, fowl, dairy.

In the silence after he spoke, I imagined that I heard a cow’s sad moo off in the distance. Another vegan was being coaxed off the wagon. But what James said wasn’t just an opinion: he had tested dozens of my blood markers. Unlike my friends and family who had warned me about my vegan diet, James believed in science. He didn’t advise on a hunch.

The numbers on half a dozen pages of lab reports didn’t lie. As James ran through his own internal checklist, based on 30 years of practice, he read me in detail. I was shocked he could know so much about how I felt.

“I’m guessing you feel pretty lethargic, yes? Low sex drive? How about aggression? Do you have feelings of anxiety? Do you lash out with anger at things that you never did before?”

He nailed some two dozen more symptoms, but he only scratched the surface of what I was feeling emotionally. I was scared. My father died of brain cancer when I was two years old. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was just out of high school. She survived, but two out of two parents with cancer aren’t great odds. You could say I got into this health thing because of what my parents went through. I wondered if feeling this way and continuing to eat this way would lead to a similar diagnosis.
What I had learned clearly wasn’t working. All the lessons about superfoods, supplements, food combining, macronutrient balance, and more that I had picked up from numerous health gurus had pro- duced the opposite results from what they were supposed to. Instead of being a superman, I had hormone levels lower than most men 50 years my senior. I wasn’t working properly.

I also felt like a fake. Everything I had taught our blog readers and YouTube viewers had brought me here. Had they followed my advice, and were they feeling the same way? I was terrified that everything I had published on the Internet was ridiculously wrong.

So what did I do?

I did what any person would do who felt duped and scared after starting a diet he couldn’t maintain. I quit. I quit raw food. I quit being a vegan. I gave up on everything. I destricted my diet and set myself free.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story! 

Please ask your questions below. 

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. Mintie Dudley says:

    I’m touched by your words. Can’t wait to read the book!

  2. Looking forward to reading your book! I just pre-ordered it on Amazon Smile. Thanks.

  3. Nomi Shannon says:

    OMG I loved this
    excited to see the book

  4. Terrie says:

    I like what you had to say. I came to a point in my life also when I heard distinctly from a higher power the words quote” people who focus on one thing tend to become extreme”. I feel much better when I don’t leave whole food groups out of my diet.

  5. Hilary says:

    I was sick.. I went to a raw, vegan Institute to change my life. At first, it did. I became obsessed with everything raw and started a blog too. It was all so radical and different that I was sure I had found the perfect lifestyle. A year and 1/2 in, I was sicker, had lost alot of muscle mass and strength. To be fair, I have several health issues but the diet was not energizing me, replenishing lost nutrients or making any changes in the beneficial column except weight loss which I did not need to begin with. The Fatigue was profound and I looked and felt awful. I started yet another diet, The Gaps Diet and stayed on that for 9 months. That neither helped nor harmed and maybe I didn’t give it enough time but because of my health issues, making vats of heavy soup and tending to kefir grains and raw goat milk became impossible for me. Now I am eating a little meat/fish, alot of slightly steamed veges, raw vege juices and some fruit, still no grains, processed food or sugar. None of this is enough to heal from what ails me but I do look better according to friends and family and I am hoping This more balanced diet eventually does help. I also do not preach to anyone anymore because everyone is so different and I do not have the authority or knowledge to do so. If I heal, it will no doubt be a synergistic approach that involves diet, emotional work and a very smart practitioner or two.. Gentle movement, alot of rest and a positive attitude.. Supportive friends and family will all contribute. Balance is the key ingredient in my opinion.

  6. I look forward to reading your book. Each of us has to experiment with foods.


  7. Your background story is great and very informative!! A lot of truth here for those that are interested. After reading this description, I want to read more. Maybe have some of this on back cover?

    There are many people that should be the target audience for this book and your personal journey. However, I don’t think the book title or description focuses on these people. The words raw food or vegan should attract many, many potential readers. But the title or description leave these words out. Yes, kale and coffee is catchy, but don’t suggest potential health issues or concerns by following these diets. I would think the title and front cover of your book should be your best advertising exposure?

    Best of luck, Bruce Johnson

  8. Steff says:

    I love the topic of this book- can’t wait to read. I have struggled with the right health diet for me. I understand veganism and the benifits but never identified well as a vegan or vegetarian! I had to be reaponsible for the types of meat I choose as well as eggs and fish i purchase i.e.sustainably raised. Thanks for bringing your honest story into the mix!

  9. Judy says:

    I have been going through similar feelings after being very strict with my diet for almost four years now.
    First I started adding “good” oils. Then I started eating wild caught fish, then organic chicken then rarely some organic lamb and also organic eggs. I try to find pastured every thing I can, all the while
    feeling guilty about the animals. I still eat mostly veggies and small amounts of animal products.

    I am still feeling not as energetic as I would like. By the way I do low impact aerobics three times a week and have started with a personal trainer.

    Now what? Would love to hear comments about this.

    I hope you are feeling much better now. I am anxious to read your new book.

    Thank you.

  10. Paula says:

    Kevin, I think you just described me and Henry, too, only he is not as severe. Can’t wait to hear more.

  11. Judith says:

    I appreciate that a Raw Vegan diet didn’t work for you.
    But this first excerpt makes me wonder if this book will be about convincing EVerybody that it won’t work for them either. Everybody is unique and I do not believe a “One Diet Fits All” is a good approach!
    Let everyone decide for the,selves, listening carefully to Their Body!
    Best wishes for Good Health!

  12. Connie Olson says:

    Hi Kevin,

    The longest I managed to stay on a raw food diet was four months, and my energy level was pretty good, but my stomach was hurting worse and worse, so I had to quit. And I felt like such a failure. I was sure I must be doing something wrong, or was just a big baby. So I really appreciate you sharing your experience with us. I think I can do Dr. Fuhrman’s diet and do pretty good on that. Anyway, thanks so much.

    Connie Olson

  13. I also had adrenal fatigue, stage 3. When I started taking Kelp for iodine, the changes were immediately noticeable in that I had more energy and was not as tired. I have learned that we are all low on iodine. Halogens like chlorine and fluoride in water and bromide in flours, bind to our iodine receptors in cells blocking the little iodine we consume through Morton salt.

  14. Joe says:

    I can’t wait for this book because I also developed adrenal fatigue (low blood pressure, Dizzyness, cold hands and feet, aggression, anxiety, would get easily scared and heart would race sometimes for 2 hours afterwards), while I was on a vegan diet and too much soy. I have learned to give my body what MY body needs and use the information I’ve learned over 20 years in a more specific manner. Fruit was the worse thing I could eat in the morning because of the high potassium, but that’s exactly what I did. I was on a low salt diet, so that drove my blood pressure even lower. The soy affected my thyroid. Our biochemistry changes as we get older and it’s our job individually to pay attention to what is not working for us nutritionally as well as physically and mentally. I look forward to reading your book Kevin. Joe

  15. Mike Maybury says:

    I became a vegetarian ( not vegan) at age 17, after studying and meeting many vegetarians over more than a year.
    I got in touch with both of the national Vegetarian Societies in the U K , and started a local vegetarian society which had visits from experienced speakers each month. Just before committing to the vegetarian diet I met a group of young vegetarians, some from five generations of experience. My father, who was not otherwise helpful, changed my ration book to “vegetarian”, which gave me extra cheese. He was a doctor and did tell me that the British Medical Association had, in 1914, declared that a balanced vegetarian diet was adequate. This was as a result of the many Conscientious Objectors to war, who enlisted in the Friends Ambulance Unit.

    In those early years I knew about the vegan diet. The word was invented by Donald Watson, who founded the Vegan Society. I met many vegan ladies each year at a famous Animal’s Fair in Hammersmith, London, where they ran various animal welfare stalls. I did notice that they looked very grey. Only in later years did I realise that this was because of anaemia, due largely because they knew nothing of the essential requirement to supplement with vitamin B 12. Over the years some vegans died or became permanently disabled as a result of not taking B 12.

    At age 80 I look back on a healthy life, so far, having ‘flu only once in the 1958 pandemic. Although I started with Yoga, which changed my life and opened my mind to these changes, I have tried to lead a balanced life avoiding all drugs, smoking and alcohol. It has meant that I have never had lost hours in an alcoholic haze or had a hangover next day, even though I regularly went dancing. As a result I’ve already had more days of health and vitality that some people who have reached 100 !

    I did read your earlier account, Kevin, in a previous newsletter. It is good that you let us know the mistakes that you made, so that we may avoid them. I’ve always believed in learning from other people’s mistakes ! May your followers achieve good health, and as happy a life as I have had. Every life has it’s ups and downs, but my health, based on a sound wholefood vegetarian diet, has served me well so far !

    Best wishes to all.

  16. Laura says:

    Kevin, Thank you for your honesty. Really great excerpt. Looking forward to reading your story.

  17. Susane says:

    This has been sooo confusing to me..what food plan to use! I still struggle with what to eat ALL THE TIME. I wonder, what someone else mentioned above about iodine…did you use it? Don Bennett mentions quite a bit about those who don’t do well on LFRV needing iodine. So, when they add eggs(has iodine) they feel better but it’s the iodine they needed all along. Don’t kmow. I know folks who almost immediately got better when they added it, slowly.But, If I remember correctly, you tried that also when you were raw? I don’t remember if you did high fat raw(followed you for yrs) but I know many struggle with that as well and things got lot better for them when they reduced the fat, nuts and seeds. So confusing. I’m tired of all the focus I need to pay to my food, but it seems that is so necessary now as so many things don’t digest well. I plan to pre-order your book, but frankly I keep reading more books, reading more blogs, and it only confuses me more. Eeee Gads!

  18. Judith says:

    I have to ask!
    I had been reading your Blog for years, and I really liked the Videos you had of Dr. JOE Williams!
    When did his name become “James”?

  19. KarieO says:

    I absolutely understand! My kids are ND’s and Nutritionists. I actually OD’d on supplements! My body absorbs minerals well so I didn’t need more than half of my supplements and superfoods! I now use a pendulum to determine what I need. It’s amazing the shift that took place after I backed off and just continued eating healthy and organic. Nothing more is really required. Maybe a bit more in winter than other times. But sometimes less is more!…..or at least enough!

  20. Sara says:

    Kevin- I have been following you and your radio program for years and one thing I love about you is that you have a no dogma approach to everything you preach. You test it out for yourself and listen to your gut. I went from vegetarian to raw vegan back in 2007 at the strong suggestion of Matt Monarch hoping to solve my gut problems and frequent skin breakouts once and for all. I jumped in full force- colonics, detoxes, supplements, juicing, raw food prep, etc. I began seeing a difference in my energy and digestion but it wasn’t a quick fix. And unfortunately my skin was still breaking out and digestion up and down. It took a good three years and handful of testing and holistic doctors visits to pinpoint at least part of the problem- a continued battle with candida/parasites/leaky gut/hormone imbalances/thyroid dysfunction. My naturopath insisted meat was necessary but I refused. But at least getting better control over my hormones and fixing my gut finally put my skin issues to rest plus or minus the occasional breakout. But of the course of the past several years, like you first found with yourself I have felt increasing more fatigued, brain fog, ibs like symptoms, muscle ache, pms, insomnia, sinus infections. I began tuning into how sensitive my body had become to certain foods like nuts/sweetners/grains – gluten free or not. I started hearing all the hype about paleo diet so I dabbled with a vegan version of that and feel a bit better but I found I was limiting my food choices way to much. I even attempted to try grass fed ghee per the high recommendation from an acupuncturist which only made me more congested and fatigued. I started feeling an urge for fish so I began incorporating fish on a weekly basis this past year and have seen a difference in my skin/nails. Having said that – my digestion seemed to suffer quite a bit not to mention my energy levels still not perfect. I even went as far as to try a grass fed organic burger for the first time in over a decade and while it tasted good it my stomach didn’t agree. My lack of energy I blame it largely on the fact that I work late nights and lengthy days and physically over exert myself. One thing I can say from all the blogs/doctors/emails/etc is I don’t believe vegan or raw vegan is the end all be all diet. Especially given all the gmos in vegan fare- from soy to rice to beets etc. I do believe some peoples constitutions do much better incorporating animal products. I’m realizing more and more that its important to listen your body and not let your diet take over you. But let it be a part of you as long as its contributing to your health and happiness.

  21. Larkspur says:

    I’ve been a vegan for about 20 years, though I eat cooked as well as raw. Stir fries, cooked beans, lentils.

    always start the day with big dish of salad vegetables, followed by frit, nuts and dried fruit

    Good muscle tone, skin and hair

    Use weights every day 5lb each

    And importantly, keep slim.

    I do use supplements from time to time and make sure my food is very varied, nutritious and appetising, – so its a pleasure, not a bind!

    • Charmaine says:

      Vegan is awesome! I’ve been raw for 9 years and life couldn’t have been better. Was anemic all my life as a meat-eater and vegetarian. Finally had normal number of RBCs last year at age 36, after several years of being vegan even without iron supplementation.

      Superfoods rock. Spirulina, chlorella, chia…I feel the diff when I eat them, and when I don’t.

      I have followed Kevin in the last 8 or so years and am very curious as to how this book will turn out. I know Kevin means well, and hopefully people will not misinterpret the book and sum it up in one sentence: The raw vegan diet didn’t work for me so you will fail on it too.

  22. Kevin: I am very pleased at your honesty and search for health. I am nearly 72 and have been an omnivore nearly all my life except for a few years when I ate no red meat or chicken and ate only seafood for the main protein. I read like crazy to hear and understand all viewpoints but I was always puzzled at how hard it was for vegans, especially, to be healthy. There was too much work involved in choosing just the right foods, or in combination. I was also worried about the nutritional deficiencies–Vitamin D, the Bs, iron, etc. My husband and I are diligent about eating non-GMO, organic, humanely raised, free-range, wild caught fish, and all things that we are aware of. If I could prevent animal suffering and slaughtering, and still eat well, I would do my best to make this happen. I am also aware that we as humans are part of the food chain and it doesn’t make sense that we alone would have to voluntarily withdraw from that process. I know all the arguments that “we know better and have alternatives.” I hear the arguments about our digestive tracts and structure of our teeth–both of those are used by both vegans and omnivores to support their arguments. I am just not convinced that the vegan diet is healthy. I do believe that we should have a plant based diet–lots of vegetables, fruit (in moderation, actually), nuts and seeds with animal products supplementing that in small portions. I’m one of those oddballs who has “zero plaque” in my arteries and I also have the large particle size of cholesterol that does not stick to the arteries. I believe sugar is a far worse toxin than flesh. I believe we can eat healthily including animal products and that it is normal and natural for us to do so. I thank you so much for being honest and informative with your fans and customers. I was impressed when you shared with us that your wife was adding animal products to her diet when she was pregnant and your son also had animal products in his diet as a baby. Keep up the good work. We appreciate your contribution to our health. All good wishes, Anne Foster Angelou in Seattle, WA

  23. Brian Malt says:

    Can’t wait to read the rest of your interesting findings on being and eating too healthy. I had a massive heart attack a year and half ago, under age 40, and I eat pretty healthy, and yet I feel more tired from sticking to the gluten free, nuts, lentils, salads, an no sugars…so can’t wait to see what you have to say because I am not sure too healthy even works because I still had massive heart attack.

  24. Nancy says:

    Kevin, I am so looking forward to the rest of your story. I have believed for so long that a vegan diet was the only way but don’t feel as good as I used to. I am so confused by all the information out there and want to know what is best for my body. Thanks for sharing what you have experienced. Waiting to read more…..

  25. Cilantro says:

    Kevin, I’m sure the book will be great. And I’m sure you will include how you (and many others) mismanaged the diet with things like 4 tablespoons of raw cacao a day. Many vegans miss the mark by eating too many processed carbs. There are many people, notably John Robbins and Gabriel Cousins, who have learned how to manage a meatless diet and thrive! Thanks for sharing.

  26. This post is of extreme interest to me, as my white cell count (CBC) has been topsy turvy for about the last year and a half, and I have just been referred to a hematologist. My diet has been raw, vegan, organic, low glycemic for about 3 years, with occasional home-raised eggs and small amounts of feta or goat cheese. No grains whatsoever. My diabetes is well controlled on this regimen, and my lipids are terrific, but this white cell high-low syndrome is of great concern along with increasing fatigue. Kevin, did you experience similar patterns with your CBC during the time you were a strict vegan? I do take lots of supplements including B12 et al. I have slacked off on the iodine of late but will add that back pronto. Thank you for this post, and I will be pre-ordering this book!

  27. Hi Kevin In my earnest quest for good health I can relate exactly to what you say. I have been eating such a clean diet that my body seems only able to tolerate very few foods and I have made lots of mistakes and am now in a state of such intense suffering I have no bowel function, cannot sleep and am battling to function. I was interested to read what you said about the doctor telling you how virus can change DNA. I know I have serious viral infection which has gone into my brain. I am truly desperate. I have few funds and nobody to help me now. I am in South Africa too which does not help. I would love to be able to speak to Dr Williams and ask him some questions as I cannot find anybody here who has the necessary knowledge. You are very blessed to be able to have all the tests and know what is happening in your body. I know I am severely nutrient and enzyme deficient and have an immune problem plus this functional problem and this viral reactivation.

    I just wanted to share with you and if you have any pearls of wisdom for me I would be so grateful.

    God bless you and your family.


  28. Althea says:

    This looks really. I didn’t want to stop reading. ????

  29. Althea says:

    This looks really. I didn’t want to stop reading. ????

  30. Althea says:

    This looks really. I didn’t want to stop reading. ????

  31. Dear Kevin,

    Sorry to hear of your misfortunate experiences on a vegan diet,
    I know you have great admiration for Dr. Williams, but there are
    thousands of vegans who have not had bad results as you have.
    For us, in our family, vegan for 46 years, no one has ever been sick!
    Our vegan lifestyle was very well balanced. Was yours?
    I would love to know exactly what your weekly dietary habits were
    like> Did you follow Doug Graham/s approach to diet? Or?

    Please let me know, I am curious,! We are raising third generation
    vegan children, who have not had to see a doctor or dentist,
    Could it be that your were not assimilating your foods?
    Could it be that you were toxic?

    Our bodies were designed to eat plants, fruits, nuts, seeds, etc,
    we do not have the physiology to handle meat fish fowl, and animal
    products, all of which have no FIBER!

    I would love to hear what your dietary habits were like as a vegan?


    Dr Halanna B. Matthew

    • Susan says:

      Excellent post. Great to hear from some who are doing well on the plant based lifestyle! May I ask if you were raw plant based? Fruit based? Cooked vegan? I love hearing and learning from others who have and are doing well!

  32. I’m curious what your blood type is. Type O do better with more meat, but Type A’s especially do better on a vegetarian diet.

    • Holly T. says:

      Wow, I never knew about the correlation between blood type and diet. That explains a lot! Is there a website that talks about this so I can learn more?

  33. BEVERLEY says:

    Always keep your words soft! You never know when you’re going to have to eat them.
    I’ve also stopped forcing my ideas down my friend’s throats which I thought were gospel as far as food goes.

  34. BEVERLEY says:

    Colleen in South Africa – Dr Mc Donald 0823399799, Dr Jackie 0728881000,0865778777. Doctors Across Borders -Website
    Regards Beverley

  35. Laura says:

    Thank you for writing this book and telling the truth about your journey. Your health, the health of your family and being honest is more important than following “rules”. Thank God you went to Florida!

  36. Ling says:

    We try not to kill another’s life to sustain our own life. However, if one is really sick and need to eat meat to cure, so as to carry on one’s duties, then he/she might really have a tough choice to make… Always pray and seek wise teachings. No matter how healthily we eat, we can probably live only about a hundred plus years here. Most important is to eat enough to have a body to do what’s right and gain wisdom along the way. Only by gaining true wisdom, we can help ourselves and others. May you be blessed with good health and wisdom.

  37. Karen says:

    People can still eat Vegan consuming Plant Protein and Food Combining To
    Get Enough Protein. Vegan BodyBuilders Who May Or May Not Build
    Overly Huge Muscles Do It All The Time! How Would They Be Able To
    Pack On Muscle if they Had To Eat Animals To Do That. Study What others
    have done, to do what others can do.

  38. Sharon says:

    I experienced the same thing when I became ill. Was diagnosed with candida (actually turned out to be only one of the problems – Lyme disease, took 5 yrs to diagnose). I was put on a strict diet. I immediately started to lose a lot of weight (I was thin to begin with), went down to 78 lbs from 125 lbs. With so much restriction, it boomeranged on me and I became allergic to foods – almost all of them. The more I became allergic, the more doctors took away from me – one doctor told me to only eat one food a day. I would not do that as the weight was such an issue. I went on like this for years, not getting better, only getting worse.

    Finally, I said “enough of this madness”. I knew that when you take whole food groups away, that is not good. Whole food groups had been taken away…..dairy, fruits, grains, etc. I decided to incorporate foods back into my diet that had been taken away. When I did this, I got better. No more food “allergies” reactions. Weight gained back. Strength returned. I still eat a mostly organic diet. I even started going out to restaurants again (I am careful there, though of what I eat and where, mostly because of GMO’s etc.) A very restrictive diet does more harm than good as Kevin found out and I also experienced.

  39. Elizabeth says:

    I think it is most important to find through sound testing what food allergies/intolerance you have and tailor your diet around that and to what you intuitively know is right for you, not what worked for someone else or what you WANT to believe is the right thing to eat. I have seen people with needlessly restrictive diets who have convinced themselves they feel good, until they abandoned the protocol and realized they didn’t know how “not good” they were really feeling. We can talk ourselves in and out of most anything.

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