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Avoiding and Overcoming Problems
in Raw & Living-Foods Diets

by Tom Billings
Copyright © 1997 by Thomas E. Billings. All rights reserved.
Contact author for permission to republish.

Notes for a talk held at the SF-LiFE Expo on June 1, 1997, and updated for website release in November, 1997. SF-LiFE is the San Francisco Living Foods Enthusiasts, the oldest and largest raw/living-foods support group in the U.S. For information on SF-LiFE, check

Thanks to Dorleen Tong, Ward Nicholson, and a reviewer who wishes to remain anonymous, for valuable comments on this paper; the present version incorporates some of those comments.

Note: The medical disclaimer on the Beyond Veg home page applies to this article, as it does to any other article here discussing problems and potential solutions to health conditions.


The reality of raw diets is that many try such diets, but very few succeed on them, in the long run. Problems are common on raw diets--far more common than some of the idealists promoting such diets care to admit. The purpose of this paper is to list some of the more common problems that can occur on raw diets, and to present a list of possible solutions for you to consider. The approach here is a frank and honest one. Because of this, some readers may find that portions of the material here might not agree with their dietary philosophy.

The material here reflects my personal experience in raw-foods diets (since the early 1970s), my observations of, and discussions with, other rawists during that time, and my personal biases. Additionally, although the list below is lengthy, I do not claim that it is complete or perfect. Further, readers should be aware that the author (that's me) does not claim to be perfect.

The preceding claim should be obvious, so why am I explicit about it? Reason: because some people put the dietary "experts" on pedestals and effectively worship them (e.g., those who worship Herbert Shelton or T.C. Fry, for instance). I don't want anyone to do that with me--I want people to think for themselves, to ask questions, and to actively search for the truth. Glorifying "experts" leads some people to just "ask the expert" when, instead, they would be best served by their own experimentation and independent thinking. (There is nothing wrong, per se, with "asking the expert"; my point here is that you should apply common sense to all "expert opinion" and take personal responsibility for your own actions and health. Common sense also provides an excellent defense against the utter nonsense promoted by many raw-food extremists.)

I hope this paper is interesting, and maybe even helpful, to you!

Physical Problems That Can Occur on Any Raw-Food Diet

Detox symptoms

(examples: headache, nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, acne/rashes, strong body odor)

I'm always hungry, even though I overeat! (gluttony)
I have cravings for "undesirable" foods. How can I resist?
I'm underweight and emaciated. How can I gain weight? Help!
I'm always cold!
The food that I eat passes through me and looks the same when it comes out as it did when it went in! What's going on here?
I'm frequently very weak/fatigued.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency
Animals don't brush their teeth, why should I?
I'm hyper sometimes and can't sleep.
Little or no sex drive
Supplement: Increasing Digestive Fire

Physical Problems Associated with Specific Dietary Styles

Dental problems: severe erosion of tooth enamel
(enamel hypoplasia)

Sugar addiction: sugar highs, and sugar blues
I was a fruitarian for year(s), and now my digestive system is extremely weak; I eat food but have real difficulty digesting it. Help!

An alternate, but equal form of this question: I was a fruitarian for year(s), and now I find that I cannot digest raw protein foods like seeds and nuts. Help!

Mental problems

Flatulence (gas)--from sprouts or certain vegetables,
especially cabbage family
Watermelon Juice Fasts Are Not For Everyone.
Mental Problems on Raw-Food Diets

Personal experience and observation: Mental problems are more common in fruitarianism and natural hygiene, less common in living foods and instinctive eating.

Behaviors Found in Eating Disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia) and Raw Foods

The WRONG Motives for a Raw Food Diet

Common but inappropriate motives:

Other inappropriate motives:

The Terrible Mental Poison Called Zealotry

To Avoid Mental Problems

--Tom Billings

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email policy about what types of email we can and cannot respond to.

Appendix: References of Possible Interest

Hatha yoga resources

Some of the hatha yoga practices listed under "increasing digestive fire" are advanced practices which one must work into over time. It is best to have a yoga teacher to learn these practices from; books and videos are nice but are not a substitute for a real teacher.

References that discuss many of the practices mentioned here include:

Ayurvedic food properties

The Ayurvedic properties of foods are discussed in the book, Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing, by Dr. Vasant Lad and Usha Lad. Even though it is a cookbook, and the recipes are of very limited value to a raw-fooder, I recommend the book because it has the most detailed set of food tables and properties (more detailed and much better than the tables in Gabriel Cousens' book), and it has a lot of information on the use of spices, including medicinal uses.

In order to use spices in accord with your Ayurvedic body type, you need to know what your body type is: your prakruti--what you should be; and your vikruti--what you are now (ideally, same as prakruti). The best way to get this information is to see a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner, and have your pulse read to determine this (there are a very few qualified practitioners in the San Francisco area, can give you a referral). Alternately, you can use the various tables/tests in books to determine your type. The best book in this regard is: Prakruti, by Robert Svoboda; Geocom Ltd.

Ayurvedic massage

Ayurvedic massage is discussed in most basic books on Ayurveda, and is easy to do for yourself. Detailed information on self-massage is in the book Ayurvedic Beauty Care, by Melanie Sachs, and the topic is covered in Ayurvedic Massage, by Harish Johari.

Many of the books mentioned above can be obtained at the bookstore at the Integral Yoga Institute (770 Dolores St., San Francisco, CA 94110 U.S.A.).

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