I apologize to all the fellas out there, but this post will be about menstrual cramps. Why in the world do I want to talk about cramps? Because I had the worst cramps ever just this morning, that’s why! This post might be a little TMI and I do feel some embarrassment and shame in sharing this with you, but it was a learning experience for me that I wanted to share.
Before changing my diet, I would have a bad day here and there with my period. After the change in my diet, I didn’t have anything beyond minor discomfort and annoyance. Oh, nature, you scamp! Today, though, I thought I was going to die. I was brushing my teeth when all of a sudden, I broke out in a cold sweat, my legs started to ache, my hands got numb, and let’s not even talk about my uterus. Now, I suppose it’s possible that something else was going on with my body, but I’m 99% sure that this was a total menstrual issue.
I managed to get into bed and thought weird things like, “Ugh, this is punishment for eating non-vegan holiday desserts!” and “Maybe I need a steak!” and “Am I hungover? But I’m never hungover…” and “I wish I would just pass out.” and “I’m glad I’m at Mom’s house and I hope she gets home soon because I need my mommy!” Mostly, I was moaning in pain and whispering, “Help me!” but only the dog was home so I was out of luck for awhile. Mom finally did come to the rescue. She put a hot water bottle on my abdomen and I was relieved and resting almost instantly.
After more snooze time and some buttered toast, I hopped on the computer and quickly googled “vegan menstrual cramps” thinking that there might be some sort of vegan explanation for my sudden issue. I should have know that a vegan diet has actually been found to reduce pain and menstrual cramps. It is related to the amount of estrogen in our bodies: more estrogen in the body will likely result in more painful cramping and PMS symptoms. Vegan diets, because they are low in fat and high in fiber, help reduce estrogen levels and also helps promote estrogen elimination. Not only can this help reduce menstrual cramps and pain, it may also reduce cancer risk: estrogen helps promote the growth of cancer cells.
Next, I googled “vegan iron deficiency” just for some peace of mind even though I’m aware that one does not need to eat steak for iron. Spinach is an outstanding iron source and far better for you in every way than beef. You would need 1700 calories of a sirloin steak to get the same amount of iron that’s in one cup of spinach. I’m usually really good about eating spinach regularly, but I’ve been bad about it lately. In general, I’ve been eating a lot of carbs, so I won’t surprised if I’m running low on iron at the moment.
On a somewhat related note, I’d like to talk about multivitamins. A month or two ago, I switched to a vitamin that is marketed as being vegan. It was kind of expensive, though, so I bought a bottle of the generic drug store vitamins that I used to take which I believe to be vegan even though it doesn’t specifically say so on the bottle. Anyway, I was surprised this morning to see that the vegan vitamin only had only a 10% daily value of iron while the other vitamin had 100%. The vegan vitamin was also comparatively low in calcium and a handful of other minerals. Hmmm.
Thanks for reading and tell me, vegans: what has been your experience with menstrual pain and cramps since changing your diet? And what are your thoughts on iron deficiency and multivitamins? What do you think caused my episode this morning? Lemme know in the comments! –Melissa
Love your honesty! I knew about the whole estrogen thing, but hadn’t considered that less estrogen would affect cramping. …
I am currently of the opinion that multivitamins can’t hurt and might help but I sometimes oscillate to the perspective that they constitute pharmaceuticals and indicate you aren’t taking as good care of yourself as you would if you weren’t relying on them for your nutrients instead of food.
Stress is the biggest factor for me in terms of my stomach (and Brent’s) being not-so-bueno. Is that a possibility? I’m sorry your uterus is bugging you.
I’ve had something similar happen to me a couple times since going vegan about five years ago, although my PMS has decreased significantly from what it was before going vegan. I was shocked when it first happened and worried that it would be a good reason for not going vegan, so I started doing some research. I found that being calcium deficient causes the chemicals that cause your uterus to contract (called prostaglandins) to hang around longer because you don’t have enough calcium to neutralize them. So I started making sure I got enough calcium, especially before my period started. Then about a year later it happened again, which confused me because I had been making sure to get enough calcium, so back to the computer for more research. I found that vitamin D is essential for our bodies to absorb calcium, so if we’re deficient in D, we won’t absorb calcium even if we’re eating enough. I live in Alaska, so being deficient in D is pretty much a given, especially in the winter. Now I take a multivitamin and a D supplement.
Hey, great article! I’ve recently converted to veganism for the last month, and i honestly thought it was a miracle the mornning when i realised i had gotton my period because it came without the killer cramps that usually make it un bareable to walk, i even passed the regular routine of taking advil twice a day for the first 2 days of my cycle, this had been the first time in my many years of the manstrual cycle that this has occured. I am convinced this is the reault of my converting to veganism, i have honestly never been happier about a decision more in ny life