As the joke goes, how do you know someone is vegan? Don't worry, they'll never stop telling you. Vegans often get knocked with the stereotype that their diet makes them act holier-than-thou, more righteous and pure than anyone who eats animal proteins or products. Now, a few vegan bloggers and influencers are telling their followers that a vegan diet will make their periods lighter or even eliminate them altogether, and it's understandably causing an uproar.
It appears the madness began with a vlogger named Freelee the Banana Girl, who posted a video in 2013 explaining that starting a raw, vegan diet allowed her to stop getting her period. "When I took out the meat and dairy and the junk food, my body finally had the energy, the vitality, to start cleaning house," she explained. Then Miliany Bonet, the blogger behind RawVeganLiving, told Broadly that she believes "a non-menstruating body indicates the body is clean."
Typically, a non-menstruating woman's body indicates the woman is pregnant, or past menopause, or ill. In fact, the disappearance of a woman's period is called amenorrhea, which is a symptom of some eating disorders.
"Amenorrhea related to an extreme dietary restriction is an example of how terrifyingly influential non-credentialed "vloggers" can be - and nothing more than that," says Jaclyn London, RD, CDN, the nutrition director of the Good Housekeeping Institute. "Any drastic reduction in daily calorie intake can stop your period, and since a raw, vegan diet is inherently restrictive, it's no surprise that this was the end result."
"But what concerns me the most is that teens who are still growing are losing their period due to malnutrition, and have a platform by which to glorify this completely backwards perspective on the matter. Not only is amenorrhea due to inadequate calorie and protein intake an immediate concern for teens (with devastating effects on academic and athletic performance, to name a few), but it can lead to severe complications down the line, including metabolic complications and osteoporosis," London says.
If you're a woman who does suffer during her period, London does have some dietary suggestions. "I'm keen on drinking an adequate amount of caffeine - about least 300-400mg/day - which can help with alertness and that 'fog' we often feel during this time of the month," she says. "Eating lots of leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, and 100% whole-grains can also help you meet iron needs, which are extra important during this time of the month."
Some other advice? Maybe don't listen to people who call themselves Freelee the Banana Girl.
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