Doctors and dietitians have slammed vegan health bloggers who are promoting an extreme diet to eliminate periods, which they claim is a sign of toxicity.
Menstrual cycles may come with unwanted symptoms of bloating, cramps and general discomfort but they are instrumental to the woman’s reproductive system.
However, some vegans claim the process of shedding uterine lining is caused by a ‘toxic diet’ – and can be eliminated by eating only raw vegan foods.
They boast to their thousands of viewers about losing their periods. One insists it is safe because she ‘instinctively felt’ that she was still ovulating.
Now gynecologists and vegan dietitians have stepped into the conversation to warn against the unhealthy practice, reiterating the fact that periods are natural and necessary.
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FreeLee the Banana Girl (left) and Miliany Bonet, 19, (right) are two vegan bloggers who said their extreme raw diet helped stop their periods which they claimed was a sign of toxicity
WHAT ARE PERIODS?
A period is the lining of the womb falling away when there is no pregnancy.
A ‘normal’ period comes every 21-35 days and typically lasts for five days.
The flow is light for the first day or two, heavier for two to three days and then tails off over a day or two.
Blood flow may appear heavy in a period but in the majority of cases, the amount of blood lost is around five to 12 teaspoons.
Most women have fairly tolerant periods, give or take a few cramps, but it’s important to know when problems can become more serious.
Amenorrhea is when a woman stops having periods altogether.
There can be many reasons for this, including excessive exercise, stress, excessive weight loss, lack of nutrition, medications and hormonal problems.
Vegan vlogger FreeLee the Banana Girl, from Australia, made headlines in the past for scarfing down 51 blended bananas and surviving on a low-fat, high-carbohydrate vegan diet.
In a YouTube video posted in 2013, she claimed she lost her period for nine months after switching to the extreme diet and cutting out meat, dairy and junk food.
Speaking of losing her period, FreeLee said: ‘A lot of people are like “that’s unhealthy” and “that’s terrible.” But is it? It felt good. It felt right.
‘I just instinctively felt that I was still ovulating because I felt so good. I still believe that, largely, menstruation is toxicity leaving the body.
‘So a lot of people are having these heavy periods and painful periods because they have a toxic body or have a toxic diet.’
Dr Jen Gunter, a gynecologist and pain medicine physician, quickly shot down this notion and said periods are not toxic.
Dr Gunter said: ‘This is a very dangerous idea and displays a complete lack of understanding of female biology and the human body in general.
‘Periods are not bad or filled with toxins. This trend is alarming because it comes from someone who clearly has no understanding of periods or even biology in general and is just another form of body shaming.
Miliany Bonet, a 19-year-old who runs the Raw Vegan Living blog, also praised her vegan diet for eliminating her period for months because it was ‘detoxing’ her body.
She said to Broadly: ‘If a woman or young girl decided she wanted to stop menstruating or lighten up her heavy periods, then I would recommend a raw foods diet to help them with that.
‘The industry has done a great job of brainwashing too many women into thinking that if they do not get their periods on a monthly basis, that something is wrong with their body and hormones.’
Dr Gunter admonished Bonet’s suggestion to use an extreme diet to ‘lighten up’ or to completely stop periods.
She added: ‘Dieting to get rid of your period is unhealthy and anyone promoting this should be ashamed of themselves and take a first year biology course.’
In a YouTube video posted in 2013, FreeLee claimed she lost her period for nine months after switching to an extreme raw food diet and cutting out meat, dairy and junk food
EXTREME EXERCISE CAN ALSO STOP PERIODS
Eating disorders can obstruct menstruation as well as over exercising.
Exercise addiction is a compulsive disorder in which a person feels the uncontrollable need to exercise excessively.
It can occur independently from or in conjunction with other disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia.
Signs and symptoms
Based on the Exercise Dependence Scale created by Drs Heather Hausenblas and Danielle Symons Downs:
Dr Gunter isn’t alone in her opinion and even dietitians agree that this practice is harmful to the body.
Vegan dietitian and lead author for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Vesanto Melina discouraged raw vegan diets that mainly consisted of fruit.
She said: ‘These diets are low in protein and zinc. It’s not an ideal vegan diet because the nutrient intake is very insufficient.’
Referring to a 1999 German study, Melina said these diets are proven to lead to a partial or complete loss of menstruation of women in their childbearing years.
Melina said: ‘These women believed it was good thing. They made a mythology out of it. But it’s not a normal thing. You need different food groups.’
Menstruation is when the uterus sheds its lining because there is no pregnancy.
Dr Gunter said: ‘When women are very thin and don’t have a period they may not be ovulating, so they have very low estrogen and this is a risk for osteoporosis. This kind of weight loss has other health concerns as well.’
Women with eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, also miss their periods due to extreme weight loss and insufficient nutrient intakes.
Around seven million American women and around 645,000 women in the UK have an eating disorder.
The obstruction to menstruation is harmful because it can increase the risk of infertility and can cause great damage to the body.
Eating disorder charity Beat says: ‘Amenorrhea, or the absence of periods is a sign that somebody is at a low weight. Although taken out of the new diagnostic criteria for anorexia as it excludes men, amenorrhea has in the past been used to diagnose anorexia nervosa.
‘Being at a low weight and restricting intake for a significant lengths of time can have other serious side effects – low blood pressure, osteoporosis, organ failure, infertility, restricted growth among others.’