Thanks to all of the research and documentaries we have at our disposal that discuss vegan and vegetarianism, more people are becoming aware of the many health benefits your body can reap simply by going plant-based. I recently made the switch myself, and in addition to better digestion, clearer skin, and having more energy than I've ever had before, my PMS symptoms have thoroughly improved. Of course, every woman's menstrual cycle is unique, so how a vegan diet affects your period will depend on your individual body, and ultimately, how you take care of it in this new lifestyle.
Bottom line: There's a huge difference between eating meat and not. Meeting the necessary vitamins and nutrients through fruits, vegetables, and legumes can be a challenge after consuming meat for so long. It's mostly trial and error, but it's more important now than ever to pay close attention to what foods you're putting into your body.
Whitney Tingle and Danielle Duboise, co-founders of Sakara Life, tell Elite Daily,
Period irregularities are caused by hormone imbalances, so relying on nutrient-dense foods (like plants) is a great way to fight period pains and mood swings. Instead of Advil, pop some vitamin E-rich almonds or dark leafy greens, which contain magnesium. Not getting your period is a sign that something is off internally, but amping up your nutrition offers a natural solution to combat imbalances.
Similarly to how eating a square of dark chocolate might ease your period cramps, eating the correct variation of plant-based foods can greatly benefit your body during that time of the month.
There's a good chance your PMS symptoms will be less severe.
Nationally renowned women's health expert Jennifer Wider, MD told POPSUGAR,
Many women who adopt a plant-based diet have touted the benefits when it comes to their monthly cycles. They describe lighter periods, less PMS symptoms including, mood swings, cramps, and even bloating.
The first thing I noticed after switching from meat-eater to plant-based was my otherwise heinous PMS cramping had dwindled. I still experience subtle pain, and my bowel movements are still plentiful, but I'm no longer cowering in fetal position for seven days straight.
And that water-retention baby I'd be carrying prior to, throughout, and post-period? It shrunk! Normally, I blow up like a balloon on my period, all thanks to the water weight as well as the salty-sweet cravings I give in to. Because I'm eating predominantly natural sugars, leafy greens, and less animal product, the swelling has gone down.
Dairy products, especially, can play a role in PMS symptoms hitting an all-time high. Beta-casein protein found in cow's milk can cause serious cases of inflammation, which triggers physical PMS symptoms. So if you're not sold on going completely plant-based, it's definitely worth it to at least cut back on dairy.
And as for your actual flow, bleeding might be lighter than usual.
However, it could go the complete opposite direction.
Dr. Prudence Hall, founder of The Hall Center in Santa Monica, CA, tells Elite Daily,
All of our hormones are derived from cholesterol, so we need to have adequate amounts of healthy fats in our diet that can ensure that we can make those hormones. If we consume a diet that's primarily plant-based and mostly grain-based, that will negatively affect our menstrual cycle (by causing hormone disregulation with symptoms like moodiness, cramps, irritability, feeling emotional, and bloating). Oftentimes, a plant-based diet turns out to be a simple carbohydrate diet, and that's not good for our hormones. It can cause inflammation, increase PMS symptoms, cause bloating, etc.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with adopting a plant-based diet, as long as you are getting the necessary vitamins and nutrients every human body needs to thrive. That being said, there are ways to take this lifestyle to an extreme and, as a result, put both your menstrual cycle and body at risk.
It all comes back to making sure all of the essential vitamins and nutrients are accounted for. In order to do this, it might be beneficial to review what you ate on a daily basis, take notes, do your research, and figure out what you're getting enough of, and what's missing from your diet. It should be easy to supplement from there.
If you miss your period altogether, though, speak to a physician ASAP.
Missing a period can be normal (stress, a vigorous fitness routine, or pregnancy could all be contributing factors), but generally, it's a red flag that shouldn't be ignored.
Oftentimes women who follow a strict vegan diet have a low body mass index and depleting estrogen levels, which causes their menstrual cycle to significantly lighten up or disappear altogether. Coming from a woman who has had her period for over 14 years, this partially sounds like grounds for celebration, but when you get down to it, it really is a scary thought.
To lead a truly healthy lifestyle, whether you prefer for it to include animal meat or not, it's important to eat enough of the right foods. That means consuming healthy fats, protein, and enough calories to sustain your energy throughout the day. Make sure all are accounted for, and it shouldn't be a problem.