In search of a vegan-friendly pediatrician

I honestly never thought that in a city as large as Los Angeles finding a doctor who is familiar with a vegan diet would be a problem. Turns out it is. (Part of the problem is that in the US there is a frightful lack of nutrition training in medical curriculum, and often Doctors just defer to the USDA which is funded in part by the meat and dairy industries. I’m not going to spend much time on that here, but the point is there is not a lot of info out there in the “professional” world about this, and there are tons of books and documentaries that have been released recently digging into this.) Trying to find a pediatrician is proving to be an even bigger problem.

That might seem like a crazy idea to some people, but it really shouldn’t. Dr. Benjamin Spock who many people know as the author of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, one of the most influential books on pediatrics and child care was himself a vegan and starting with the 7th edition of the book stopped recommending dairy and meat to children instead advising vegan diets. That alone would make me think more pediatricians would be familiar with the diet but so far I haven’t had much luck. I did track down Dr. Jay Gordon in Santa Monica who, from his site seems very supportive of the idea. Unfortunately after speaking with his office I found that he doesn’t accept any insurance and charges his clients a flat “subscription” fee every month on top of office visits. If money is no issue to you that is probably fine, but for people like Tara and me who are on a budget and already paying a lot for insurance there is no way we can work with something like that.

The truth is we don’t need some crusading super-vegan doctor, we just need someone who is familiar with and open to alternative diets, and perhaps has an interest in nutrition themselves. A doctor who understands dairy, egg, nut, wheat, or other kinds of allergies should do the trick but even that question has been getting lots of “um… uh… well…” replies from the people answering the phones in the offices I’ve called. There are shockingly few vocally vegan Doctors in the LA area, Heather Shenkman is one but I have to say I’m really surprised how hard this search has become.

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20 Replies to “In search of a vegan-friendly pediatrician”

  1. I was also totally shocked when I began this search. One thought I just had–have you tried finding veg*an-friendly/focused nutritionists in Los Angeles? There may be more of those, and maybe They have leads on pediatricians, etc. Thanks for this important post!

  2. Isn’t organic dairy and meat an option? The NY Times article you referred to has quite a few points raised against a completely vegan diet for kids.

  3. Jodi – Thanks a ton!

    Adriaan – Nope. Organic meat and dairy is still meat and dairy. There are two sides to every argument of course, but I have my side and it’s worked exceptionally well for me so I’m sticking with it.

  4. I have some tips, I’ll email them (or direct message!) to you. I was just practicing family medicine in los angeles until a few months ago and still have a few rad doc friends there who I’d recommend. Congrats again to you two! -anjali

  5. A couple of ideas–

    Try Dr. Fleiss’s office. I’m not sure if he is still practicing but there was at least one other pediatrician there last time I checked.

    Try looking for a family doctor instead of a pediatrician. Maybe a homeopath? I’m not sure how much overlap there is with homeopathy and veganism.

    I have never, ever consulted a doctor about feeding my son. Ever. So you really might not need a doctor who knows a lot about a vegan diet. Not that it wouldn’t be nice and possibly helpful, but it may not be necessary.

  6. I am in exactly the same position, but in Las Vegas. I need a pediatrician who is familiar with veganism. But I don’t want someone who doesn’t practice medicine. I need an MD who takes insurance.

    I have called around and not only are doctors naive about it, they’re also rude about it, too.

    I am considering making up packets of information to send to all my local pediatricians with the ADA position paper on vegetarian and vegan diets, the section from the Dr. Spock baby book, and a list of resources for anyone who asks about veganism.

    It just boggles my mind. This is 2010 and there are MILLIONS of vegans. Doctors should be better informed.

  7. Todd – In the US or the world? If you are talking the world, and considering devout Buddhists are vegans, and considering the populations of Asia, yes there are millions. If you are talking in the US, you are right there probably aren’t millions but there are tens of thousands most of which are clustered in major cities. NYC has a ton of pediatricians who come right out and say they support vegan diets, my point was I was shocked how that wasn’t also the case in LA.

  8. For anything after infancy I’d be inclined to agree with Annika. I actually did go to Dr. Gordon and I’m not sure if he was doing a subscription at the time but the fact that it was so expensive for visits meant that my visits were pretty rare and were in response obvious ailments. Unfortunately I can’t remember those earliest experiences with him but I think you’re right to be placing such an emphasis on it at this stage because of how important early development is. Also, it was nice to have a doctor who was so conscious of diet and wary of pushing medication on kids. A pediatrician can have a pretty solid influence on a kid (I know he really affected my view on medicine in general and how serious it is to add foreign elements to your system)so I’d see why having one with similar values is important. I don’t really have any great suggestions beyond perhaps trying to speak directly to him for referrals if you haven’t already. I wish you good luck with your search.

  9. I don’t want to seem like I’m advocating racial profiling here, but maybe you should try finding doctors that are likely to have personal experience with vegan or at least vegetarian diets. I’m thinking of Indians, perhaps other doctors of South Asian descent.

    And sorry, but dumb question…you mention Tara in the post. Are you guys having a kid together? Congrats if so, apologies if I read that the wrong way.

  10. Thomas, thank you for the kind words. You wouldn’t happen to be the family I knew ten years or more ago with a child also named Thomas, would you?

    Annika, Paul Fleiss has advocated a vegetarian diet and other conscious nutritional and medical care for nearly fifty (!) years. He’s a fine man and a fine doctor.

    Yes, my office visits are not inexpensive and insurance has chosen to disdain the amount of time it takes to care for children and families: We allot no less than one hour for appointments. And, yes, I have chosen a “24/7/365” model for my practice. My RNs, staff and I are all available by cell phone all day every day.

    I would be thrilled if someone here knows of another vegan-friendly pediatrician. Anywhere.

    Best,

    Jay

  11. Jay, thanks for the comments here, we’ll be in touch.

    Annika, Several folks messaged me privately about Dr. Fleiss as well so more votes are great.

    Everyone else, thanks for the support, will keep you posted.

  12. “I’m not sure how much overlap there is with homeopathy and veganism,” said a commenter above. The answer is none. Many homeopathic remedies are made using animal products, even though the ingredients are diluted out of existence in the final remedy. Homeopathy is a crock.

  13. Elaine, try my doctor (who is also a pediatrician) if you don’t mind driving to Summerlin. His name is Victor Bruce and he practices with Swanlake Medical Center on Hualapai Way; if you need more details, you can get my e-mail addy at my blog.

  14. First… super blessings and congratulations!!! What a wonderful journey you are embarking on.
    My son went to Paul Fleiss when he was young… and he was really great. I had a lot of friends who went to Dr. Jay Gordon… and he was wonderful too…
    but now my whole family goes to Dr. Sorom Khalsa, who feels diet is integral to life health… and he is VERY on in terms of nutritional needs for vegetarian/vegan diet. He is a top internist who is also alternative in his approach to medicine. He has cured things that no other doctor I have run into could deal with (I have direct experience in this… I went to 13 doctors before I found him and he cured a pesky bout of parasites I had lived with for 3 years!!!) He’s not cheap. He’s expensive… but health is worth it. (to me.)

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