My periods have never treated me well. While many of my friends were able to function normally on the first day or two of their menstrual cycle, I was usually curled up in bed in the fetal position clutching a heating pad and cursing the world for making me a woman.
Not only were my cramps incredibly painful, but I also struggled with intense mood swings the few days before my period started. I would get into uncharacteristic fights with my boyfriend and friends, and I wanted to do nothing more than hole up in my room and block the world out. Each month was a terribly isolating experience, and I began to wonder if I suffered from some sort of disorder that was outside the scope of PMS.
I initially decided to go vegan for reasons that had nothing to do with my period. I gave up all animal products for environmental and ethical reasons, but I had heard from a few different people that adopting a plant-based diet would ease many of my menstrual woes. I was skeptical, to say the least.
After eating a strict plant-based diet for three months, though, I was shocked to see significant changes in my cycle. I was much less moody, less anxious, and less prone to crying for no reason. My cramps were minimal and my flow was much lighter.
Jennifer Wider, MD, nationally renowned women's health expert, told POPSUGAR that this isn't uncommon. Although there aren't many studies out there confirming this to be true, a plant-based diet is known to have a positive effect on menstruation. "Many women who adopt a plant-based diet have touted the benefits when it comes to their monthly cycles," Dr. Wider told POPSUGAR. "[They] describe lighter periods, less PMS symptoms including, mood swings, cramps, and even bloating."
Fast forward to another six months of being vegan, and I got to the point where, if I wasn't keeping track of my cycle, I didn't even know my period was coming until it surprisingly showed up. There were no warning signs — no debilitating cramps, no strange cravings, and no rage. And I would only bleed for two days, which was a huge improvement from my previous heavy six-day cycles.
Julieanna Hever, plant-based dietitian and health expert, said although there isn't much primary scientific data on this topic, she has heard dozens of anecdotal stories like this before, and she herself has experienced a significant improvement in her menstrual cycle when she changed her diet. "Plant-based diets are anti-inflammatory," she told POPSUGAR.
Dr. Wider agreed. "One of the reasons a plant-based diet may ease symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle is due to its anti-inflammatory effects," she told POPSUGAR. "Many women take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Aleve, Motrin, and Advil while they have their periods to lessen the cramps, etc. A plant-based diet has may work in the same way."
"I think it's always important to consult your doctor before making any major switch," Dr. Wider advises. You may run the risk for suffering from low iron levels or even anemia. You can get a simple blood test from your doctor to see if you need to take a supplement after you make the dietary changes.
I've been vegan for quite a while now, and my period is so much easier to handle. It shows up on time every month and causes me little to no pain. I'm no longer moody or irritable. Rather than stopping me from going about my day-to-day life, my period comes and goes without much of a fuss. There's not a doubt in my mind that this is due to my plant-based diet.