Some vegan bloggers think periods are "toxic," and we need to set the record straight
We all know that starting menstruation is a normal part of puberty, and it should happen for the vast majority of girls before age 18 (at the latest). But according to a group of vegan bloggers, profiled this week by Broadly, your period is actually “toxicity” leaving your body, and a heavy period is a sign of an extremely “toxic” diet or lifestyle.
The bloggers — Australian lifestyle vlogger Freelee the Banana Girl and Miliany, author of the RawVeganLiving blog — insist that only super-light periods are “natural,” and that menstrual discomfort and heavy bleeding are the result of a fatty diet.
In a 2012 YouTube video, Freelee said that after she began a raw, vegan diet, her period stopped altogether for nine months. When it returned, she claims, it was much lighter. “If it’s so unhealthy for me to go through a period of not having my period, then why did I feel so amazing?” she says in the video, which has been viewed nearly 400,000 times.
“At the end of the day, if you’re having a heavy period, if you’re having a painful period, then get on a 100% high carb, raw, vegan diet as soon as you can,” she continued.
According to women’s health expert Dr. Jennifer Wider, diet can have an effect on menstruation. Indeed, a restrictive low-calorie, vegetarian, or vegan diet can reduce flow or stop a period altogether. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Absence of a normal period in women who have up ’til that point been menstruating is usually cause for concern — and a trip to the doctor’s office. Contrary to the bloggers’ assertions, monthly menstruation is not “unhealthy” or “unclean,” and stopping your cycle is not something you want to mess around with.
As for heavy periods indicating “toxicity” in the body, Dr. Wider wholly disagrees.
“Heavy periods are not a sign of ‘toxicity,'” she tells HelloGiggles, “but rather, a possible sign of common causes, like hormonal disturbances, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, infections, or an IUD, among other causes.”
So what’s “heavy,” and what’s normal? The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that a normal flow is about 30 mL per menstrual cycle, or about three to six pads or tampon per day.
If you’re changing your menstrual products every one to two hours, that’s considered excessive, as is menstruating for more than seven days. “Chronic loss of more than 80 mL [per cycle] is associated with anemia,” ACOG reports. Otherwise, you’re in the perfectly normal range.
If you are struggling with heavy or painful periods, some changes to your diet can reduce PMS symptoms. Says Dr. Wider, “Increased fruit, vegetable, and water consumption can…regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce symptoms of PMS.” However, if your period stops altogether for more than three months, call your doctor — it’s not normal, and it might be a sign that something’s off with your body.