Vegetarianism with Dr. Anke R. Zimmermann

To Tread Lightly and Dr. Zimmerman

Dr. Zimmermann is an extraordinary individual; not only is she a Naturopathic physician but she is also a Yoga teacher. She has been practicing medicine since 1991 when she received her accreditation from the Ontario College of Naturopathic Medicine. While living and working in the centre of the universe [just joking I love Toronto and Ontario in general] she operated a multidisciplinary health services centre for over a decade.  Her area of specialization is homeopathy which is a form of alternative medicine that seeks to treat both mind and body, according to her informational brochure by: ” support[ing] the body’s own immune system and healing ability by using natural, scientifically tested methods.”

Those in her field, believe that all organisms are designed to heal themselves and that physical pain is often aggravated by mental anguish or other emotional hangups. This is where, she emphatically makes the distinction between natural medicine and conventional medicine. Naturopathic medicine  heals the body from a macroscopic  and preventative approach. In their professional philosophy, Naturopathic doctors believe that each organism has an innate capability to self-heal, if given the appropriate support to do so. In opposition to this, mainstream medicine, according to Dr. Zimmerman treats illness by treating only one of many symptoms. To her this a reactive approach, that does not have much lasting benefit to the patient. Her main role, as she sees it [and arguably, how all doctors should] is to be a teacher in addition to a healer; apparently the origins of the word ‘doctor ‘are from Latin, which literally means to teach. Therefore, it looks like I came to the right place to learn about becoming a vegetarian.

As an epilogue to  yesterday’s blogpost, I have since decided to become a vegetarian rather than a vegan for a month, mostly because a Vegan diet and lifestyle is too  inflexible and too stringent. While I do agree with the concept and aims of a vegan diet, my goal in this newest personal challenge is to get people to reconsider their own daily meat consumption habits. In doing this, I want to get you, to start eating less meat. One thing is for sure I do not what you to think I am becoming some back-to-the earth wacko by giving up all meat and associated byproducts.  To be a true Vegan, I  would need to stop wearing all my shoes and belts, to begin with. The danger for anyone, who self-identifies as an environmentalist in this way, is that they will be perceived as being an extremist by the mainstream. I don’t want to do this.

Getting potatoes the old-fashioned way.

Dr. Zimmerman is of the mind, that less is more and that we unnecessarily make eating overly complicated in the present. She agrees with author Michael Pollan, who preaches the benefits of eating mostly plants, but not eating too much in general.  When I ask her, what I will be needing to do, in order to eat a more balanced diet, she tells me to avoid the fad diets and instead look too how my ancestors would have: prepared, stored and ate food 300 years ago. As an example, say states that the Indigenous people in British Columbia, historically lived on a diet of foraged plants and berries as well as fresh fish. Dr. Zimmerman states, that the science unequivocally proves that when we eat fresh we feel better. An orange, according to Dr. Zimmerman increasingly loses its nutritional content, the longer it sits on the shelf in the produce aisle.

An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.

Furthermore, she is absolutely baffled by the fact, that while we live in British Columbia, one of the greatest apple producing regions in the world, we decide to import apples from New Zealand. Rhetorically, she seems to be asking where is the logic in this? She goes onto explain that: ” the fresher something is, the better it is for you. We can’t fool mother nature; we’ve got it all backwards and upside down”. This is true; so if you are what you eat, then things are not looking especially good for humanity at the moment.

Dr. Zimmerman, tried to explain to me the implications of the relatively new scientific field of Epigenetics and how our exposure to negative environmental conditions can have lasting effects.  Apparently our genes can interact with environmental conditions to determine what will become active and recessive genetic expressions. This means that ambient environmental factors, that we are exposed to on a daily basis, can effect our genetic makeup.  This will impact the heritable genetic material, that we pass on from generation to the next. So before you sitdown to eat, that next Big Mac, consider this, do you want to increase your grandchildren’s risk of developing adult onset diabetes or high cholesterol?

So onto the vegetables; what’s in it for you, if you make the switch to a vegetarian diet? Veggies are high in antioxidants which may or may not [according to the web, which never lies, right?] boost your immune system and decrease your risk of getting cancer. Also by eating more vegetables, you will have better digestive functions and better skin. Dr. Zimmerman says that by eating two carrots a day, this will give your skin a nice glow.  But while vegetables can be good for you, any substance in excess can be bad for you.

Dr. Zimmerman states, that as a vegetarian there is a tendency to eat more high protein foods which can be troublesome later in life. Excessive protein will create kidney damage and accelerate the natural aging process. This means those UFC fighters, are in for a rude awakening when they hit 50. One of the most important things, that you should do is to keep a dietary journal and monitor your iron and B12 intake, vegetarians if they don’t monitor their meals can become iron and B12 deficient.

Dr. Zimmerman  explained the need for B12, because I was ignorant about it. Apparently B12 is an important nutrient that is required in the production of red blood cells, without sufficient B12 you can develop blood anemia, this happens when red blood cells become abnormal in size. B12 affects our nervous system, by not getting enough B12 in your diet it can lead to things such as Depression. B12 is typically found in the soil, that clings too our food when harvested. In the old days, Dr. Zimmerman says that she would go out to the family garden and pull a carrot out of the ground brush it off and eat it right there. Nowadays, this hardly happens at all because we have collectively  become germophobes- failing to realize that some bacteria is beneficial for us.

Also of importance, is the need to ensure that you get iron within in your diet, as a vegetarian iron is available in leafy green vegetables especially within legumes, tofu for example is an iron rich legume. In Dr. Zimmerman’s opinion, there are a lot of ignorant vegetarians out there, especially young people who don’t understand that why they feel so bad is linked to what they are eating. She says, that they aren’t realizing that being a vegetarian requires more dietary diversity, then living off of a combination of a: high alcohol, pizza and chocolate diet.

In closing, Dr. Zimmermann thinks that society has come a long way since she was a teenager. She recalls that back in her native Germany, she had a high school physics teacher that was a vegetarian. At the time, this was almost unheard of and as such, all her classmates made fun of him. Ironically, many of them are likely vegetarians themselves today. In the end, her biggest tip of advice is to use your common sense and rely on your own thinking and not on flashy television and magazine advertisements because they are just trying, to sell you things that you do not need.

Dr. Zimmerman is available and willing to take on new clients, most medical plans including Green Shield [at UVic] will cover her consulting services. To make an appointment, she can be contacted by phone at: 250-590-5828 or by email at: drzimmermann@shaw.ca. For more information please visit her website at www.drzimmermann.org

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One thought on “Vegetarianism with Dr. Anke R. Zimmermann

  1. You know, I have to admit that when I saw that you were going down this path, I made the assumption that you were going to be taking the “crazy vegan” approach, but a lot of what I see in this article is pretty well balanced stuff.

    I especially love Dr. Zimmerman’s critique of our health care system, as it can really be labeled a reactionary disease fighting system, instead of promoting health.

    I also agree with the assertion that we are germaphobes and the fact that we should look to the past for diet advice.

    The only thing I have to really disagree with is the assertion that protein intake causes kidney damage. This is one of those health “facts” that came into being decades ago and really took hold. Many of today’s doctors were trained using textbooks which stated this fact, causing the myth to prevail. Many modern studies dispute this connection, however. Google ‘protein kidney’ and you’ll get a lot of information.

    What isn’t answered in this post is what you will be eating for protein sources. You allude to fish at one point. This sounds like a good start to me.

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