Cramps, bloating, PMS–induced mood swings—the arrival of your period every month can sometimes be a major pain in the butt. But is it toxic?
That's what these raw vegan bloggers claim. Miliany Bonet, who gave up all animal products and had her periods vanish shortly thereafter, penned a post on her blog, RawVeganLiving, which explained that menstruation is a sign of a "highly toxic" diet and lifestyle.
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“If there is nothing to clean, there’s no reason to menstruate," wrote Bonet. "And since a raw foods diet IS clean, your period naturally becomes lighter and/or disappears altogether.”
Another vegan blogger, who goes by Freelee the Banana Girl, shared a similar view in a 2013 YouTube video that's racked up more than 400,000 views. She says she was thrilled when her period hit the road for nearly nine months. "I still believe that, largely, menstruation is toxicity leaving the body," she explains. "So a lot of people are having these heavy, heavy periods and painful periods because they have a toxic body or have a toxic diet."
These sentiments, which have been in the news cycle lately, sound ridiculous to anyone who is even remotely biology-savvy. But to make sure that no one falls for this whole toxicity thing, we wanted to set the record straight. We consulted two top gynecologists, who helped us put together a four-point rebuttal to these bloggers' beliefs.
Your period is not toxic, it’s natural
"Toxic" is synonymous with harmful or poisonous, and your period is neither, says Lauren Streicher, MD, an ob-gyn in Chicago.
Here’s what’s really going on when you get your period: Every month, your uterine lining thickens in preparation for pregnancy, explains Westchester, New York–based Alyssa Dweck, MD, author of The Complete A-Z for Your V. When ovulation passes and you haven't become pregnant, the lining sheds, since it's not needed to support an embryo. Voilà! This is your period. “It's all hormonal and there’s nothing toxic about it—it’s healthy to have this happen.”
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Losing your period can mean something's not right
If your period stops for no reason—you're not pregnant, breastfeeding, or approaching menopause—consider it your body's way of telling you something is off. You might be stressed out, have a thyroid condition, or be on certain meds like the Pill, which can make your flow vanish because you're no longer ovulating, says Dr. Streicher. “If someone has gone more than 3 months without a period and no explanation why, then that would be the time to see your gynecologist and find out what’s going on,” she adds.
But often when your period pauses, it's because of lifestyle factors like excessive exercise, drastic diet changes, or extreme weight loss. The latter two are the likely reasons these vegan bloggers stopped menstruating. “When your BMI drops below a certain amount, the body says, ‘Uh oh, starvation time, it’s time to stop ovulation so you don’t get pregnant in a time of starvation,’ and the period stops,” explains Dr. Dweck.
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Diet and menstruation are linked—in a different way
In her video, Freelee the Banana Girl claims that heavy periods and menstrual discomfort are due to a toxic “fatty” diet. And Bonet wrote in her blog, “it’s often advised that to get your period back, you should stop exercising and eat more calories and incorporate more plant-based fats in your diet."
However, adding more healthy fat, protein, and calories to the diet—whether they come from plant or animal sources—is what Dr. Dweck recommends to her patients who have very low BMIs and are missing their periods. Of course, it's totally possible to get adequate calories and nutrients on a vegan diet; it just takes a bit of extra research and planning. “There’s nothing wrong with being vegan if you do it in a healthy way,” says Dr. Streicher.
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You can ease your period without getting rid of it completely
Freelee the Banana Girl also asserts that she never felt better than when her periods disappeared. And we get it; between the pain and PMS, having a monthly flow isn't always much fun. But rather than drastically changing your diet so you stop menstruating all together, it's healthier to take steps that can ease the discomfort—by getting rid of cramps via a yoga class, for example, or fighting PMS with a little chocolate.