Dietary Treatment for Painful Menstrual Periods

Dietary Treatment for Painful Menstrual Periods
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Women suffering with dysmenorrhea who switch to a plant-based diet experience significant relief in menstrual pain intensity and duration.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful, crampy periods. It “affects almost half of menstruating women.” “Yet despite [the] substantial effect on…quality of life and general wellbeing, few women…[will] seek treatment, as they believe it [won’t] help.”

There are treatments available, though. Modern medicine to the rescue. There are surgical options, such as neuroablation, where surgeons go in, attempting to cut or destroy the nerves leading to the uterus. Or, doctors can just take out your uterus completely, though there are certainly a bunch of hormones in pills and shots that can suppress the menstrual cycle altogether.

Since the pain is caused by inflammation, anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, are the most commonly used, achieving symptomatic pain relief in about two-thirds of women. These drugs are effective, “though women using them need to be aware of the significant risk of adverse drug side effects.”

Though there are a bunch of “non-drug, non-surgical treatments”—like acupuncture, the “evidence for the effectiveness of these treatments is generally weak.”

One of the latest advances in treatment involves the use of a single high dose of vitamin D. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The placebo did nothing. In fact, most women got worse. But, the women who got the vitamin D all felt better.

But, wait a second! If it’s pain caused by inflammation, how about putting women on an anti-inflammatory diet? Thirty-three women suffering from painful periods were placed on a vegan diet for two cycles, and experienced “significant reductions in menstrual pain duration” [from four days down to three days], and a significant reduction in “pain intensity,” as well as an improvement in symptoms of PMS, like bloating.

This was a crossover study, so after two months eating vegan, the women were supposed to go back to their regular diets, to see if the pain would return. But, the women felt so much better that when the researchers said okay, now we need you to go back to your regular diet to test before and after, several said, no way José, and refused—even though they were required to by the study protocol.

Doctors too often patronizingly think that patients simply won’t adhere to therapeutic diets. But, when they surveyed these women during the study, not only did they have fewer cramps, but they were losing weight, reported “increased energy,…better digestion,…better sleep.”

This showed that you don’t have to be in some Ornish or Esselstyn study facing certain death after a heart attack to stick to a plant-based diet. It’s well accepted by people, even when testing more benign conditions.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Thanks to Ellen Reid, Maxim Fetissenko, PhD, and Laurie-Marie Pisciotta for their Keynote help.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful, crampy periods. It “affects almost half of menstruating women.” “Yet despite [the] substantial effect on…quality of life and general wellbeing, few women…[will] seek treatment, as they believe it [won’t] help.”

There are treatments available, though. Modern medicine to the rescue. There are surgical options, such as neuroablation, where surgeons go in, attempting to cut or destroy the nerves leading to the uterus. Or, doctors can just take out your uterus completely, though there are certainly a bunch of hormones in pills and shots that can suppress the menstrual cycle altogether.

Since the pain is caused by inflammation, anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, are the most commonly used, achieving symptomatic pain relief in about two-thirds of women. These drugs are effective, “though women using them need to be aware of the significant risk of adverse drug side effects.”

Though there are a bunch of “non-drug, non-surgical treatments”—like acupuncture, the “evidence for the effectiveness of these treatments is generally weak.”

One of the latest advances in treatment involves the use of a single high dose of vitamin D. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The placebo did nothing. In fact, most women got worse. But, the women who got the vitamin D all felt better.

But, wait a second! If it’s pain caused by inflammation, how about putting women on an anti-inflammatory diet? Thirty-three women suffering from painful periods were placed on a vegan diet for two cycles, and experienced “significant reductions in menstrual pain duration” [from four days down to three days], and a significant reduction in “pain intensity,” as well as an improvement in symptoms of PMS, like bloating.

This was a crossover study, so after two months eating vegan, the women were supposed to go back to their regular diets, to see if the pain would return. But, the women felt so much better that when the researchers said okay, now we need you to go back to your regular diet to test before and after, several said, no way José, and refused—even though they were required to by the study protocol.

Doctors too often patronizingly think that patients simply won’t adhere to therapeutic diets. But, when they surveyed these women during the study, not only did they have fewer cramps, but they were losing weight, reported “increased energy,…better digestion,…better sleep.”

This showed that you don’t have to be in some Ornish or Esselstyn study facing certain death after a heart attack to stick to a plant-based diet. It’s well accepted by people, even when testing more benign conditions.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Thanks to Ellen Reid, Maxim Fetissenko, PhD, and Laurie-Marie Pisciotta for their Keynote help.

Doctor's Note

I’ve touched on this body of work briefly in Plant-Based Diets for Breast Pain. Plants that may be especially helpful include flax seeds (see Flax Seeds For Breast Pain) and the spice saffron (see Saffron for the Treatment of PMS and Wake Up and Smell the Saffron).

For those unfamiliar with the work of Drs. Ornish and Esselstyn, see, for example, my video Our #1 Killer Can Be Stopped or my blog post Heart Disease: There Is A Cure.

The vitamin D results were astonishing. See my series justifying my vitamin D recommendations, which includes Vitamin D Recommendations Changed and Resolving the Vitamin D-Bate.

For further context, check out my associated blog post: Treating Menstrual Pain with Diet.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

93 responses to “Dietary Treatment for Painful Menstrual Periods

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  1. very interesting! although I know of long term vegans 5+ years eating low fat that become effected with amenorrhoea and depression which seemed to potentially caused from primarily extremely low cholesterol levels. (b12 levels were fine as were vitamin d.)

    It’s quite concerning!

    Could it be possible that a whole foods vegan diet may not optimal (in a immediate well-being, thriving sense) for all individuals because of certain genetic predisposition that makes it difficult obtaining and utilising enough various nutrients from the plant foods menu?

    Surely some anecdotal reports of people failing to thrive on a whole foods vegan diet are worth more thought. For the sake of animals!
    cheers :)

      1. …Brian the abstract you present does not support that low fat levels cause amenorrhoea and states, “These data do not support the idea that low body fat per se causes athletic amenorrhea.”

    1. Hi Oliver, I am curious to look at the diets of the vegans you are speaking about to see if they are eating a balanced diet. Every diet (plant based or not) needs to get a balanced amount of nutrients, and may they weren’t eating a balanced diet. As far as the cholesterol, the body makes its own cholesterol and will make up whatever it needs to support body functions. If the body can’t make its own cholesterol or not enough of it, that is another issue.

      As Brian pointed out, it is not low cholesterol levels that may be associated with amenorrhoea, but it is low fat levels and this is not proven.

      Brian the abstract you present does not support that low fat levels cause amenorrhoea and states, “These data do not support the idea that low body fat per se causes athletic amenorrhea.”

      1. Hi AqiylHenry, I can’t be sure of there exact diet, I am skeptical and open to the possibility that their actual eating habits may differ from their proclaimed healthy plant based diet. There was a woman who did have unhealthily low cholesterol levels and depression which seemed to be remedied by added dietary coconut saturated and more plant protein.
        I am aware that usually the human body produces and regulates enough cholesterol, but perhaps some folk need a little help from saturated fat?
        cheers :)

        1. Yes I agree that some may need help getting some more good saturated fat in their diet, which is not a problem at all with a plant based diet, if the person eats a balanced diet. Coconut oil is excellent and I sometimes drink tablespoons of it for quick energy. i have gone towards eating a lot more carbs (fruits) and less fats now though. Oh, I am a vegan and I am very healthy, energetic, and always in an energized mood.

        2. Hi Oliver, I may have read the blog entry that you are referring to. It was called something like ‘Failing Health on a Vegan Diet’. The woman’s liver did not function properly due to years of substance abuse. The symptoms she endured were also quite severe. So if someone had similar extreme symptoms and a similar medical history of substance abuse and organ damage, then perhaps the higher protein/saturated fat diet could be warranted.

          However, regardless of how much better she feels now, other organs like the endothelium and kidneys may be experiencing negative side effects. For her these side effects could very well be worth it, but I would be hesitant to expand on this specific case to say that it would be wise for other people without a similar history to alter their diet in this way.

          1. hi boomer! Thanks, that’s really interesting info, that particular story does sound very familiar!

            Tell me what you think of this site if you have the time, quasi-vegan.blogspot.com, its very pseudo-scientific and some of her sources are suspect, but I think she raises some interesting points/ideas.

            Thanks again:)

    2. Were they on a raw food diet? This study found 30% of women on a raw food diet had partial to complete amenorrhea. As there are cultures that have subsisted on cooked vegetarian and near vegan diets without noting this effect, it may just be low calorie intake from the difficulty of digesting some raw plants.

      Non-vegan women athletes often suffer the same issues of amenorrhea and low-bone density as part of a syndrome called the female athlete triad. Not veganism, just a low ratio of calorie intake to output.

      Richard Wrangham’s theory is that cooking, by making foods (especially tubers) more digestible, made the larger brains and bodies and smaller digestive tracts of Homo erectus possible ~1.8 million years ago. Its plausible that in losing the comparatively large bellies of chimpanzees and gorillas we lost their ability to consistently thrive on large intakes of raw fruit and leaves.

      1. Hi Guest, thanks for that info,

        Some were eating a partially raw diet and others not.

        I will check out those links soon!

      2. I am a vegan, eat 90-95% raw food, and I am in the best shape an health of my life and I am 45. I am at the same energy level as when I was in my 20’s. I am very active. I box, kick box, cycle, power walk, and run. The do eat whole fruits and vegetables, but also blend vegetable and fruit juices.

    3. I have never come across anyone that could not thrive on a whole foods plant based diet when they are consuming an optimal nutrient dense diet. I have however met many unhealthy vegans – they are not eating nutrient dense foods, they’ve merely eliminated animal products. If your body fat is too low, which of course can cause amenorrhea, then perhaps you need to increase your caloric intake? difficult to say w/o knowing your diet, history, etc. There of course could be other issues that are not diet related which are causing your symptoms.

      1. Hey EH&T,

        thanks for your response, I too know vegans who eat poorly, but unfortunately I do hear of some vegans who eat well that still struggle feeling optimal, of course this can not be entirely blamed on vegan eating but does need more thought I think.

      2. I think you hit the nail on the head: some vegans eat junk food, consume a surplus of calories but are micronutrient-deficient, and some vegans consume a very micronutrient-dense diet but fail to get enough calories.

        When I first went no-oil, nutrient dense, I felt great at first but then became fatigued. I figured out that even stuffing myself, I was only eating about 900 calories a day! That’s about half what I need. I looooove telling people that in fact I do sometimes have to count calories… to make sure I’m eating enough! And that I intentionally supplement my diet with stuff like rice and potatoes to increase calories. I’ve gotten a couple partial converts that way. It’s a totally foreign concept to most people who are trying to eat a standard american “healthy diet”. But it feels so much more natural. What kind of animal even thinks about limiting its calories. No wonder people fail at diets.

      1. Hi jim, I don’t understand your comment, could please clarify?

        If you have used the acronym “smh” as in shaking my head, I fail to see the usefulness in expressing disappointment towards my comment regarding other animals.

    4. Your Body produces the Cholesterol you need from a balanced diet. You do not need the cholesterol produced for another animal in your diet!
      You need a balanced diet!! A good balance of Whole Plant foods!!!!
      You can eat a White Bread sandwich with a spread on it and call your diet VEGAN!!!!!!

      If you check Michael Video on depression, all improvements come from the plant kingdom, not the animal kingdom! The races that live the longest and importantly free of disease, Hunzas etc have little or no Animal in their diet.

      I have been vegetarian for 25 years and Vegan for 3 years and the benefits are enormous.
      Also you need to see who is financing the reports as the meat and dairy industry pay for a lot for reports to protect their turf for the people to see that only rely on the media only for their Dietary choices!!!!!

      My Dad died in 1981 from a Massive Coronary at 52 from Blocked areteries.
      I know what he ate!!!!!!

      Tony

      1. Hi tony, I am a vegan and have been for 5+ years now and I’m not a junk food vegan!, I agree mostly with what your saying but if some people can’t thrive being vegan shouldn’t we figure out why it doesn’t work for them?

    5. Hi Oliver you mention that they have low cholesterol but not much else about your female friends. Amenorrhea occurs in female athletes, primarily runners who run a lot of miles and do not eat enough calories. Seen with highschool cross country runners. They are very lean and can have eating disorders. Coaches can contribute by suggesting an already tiny girl be tinier.

      1. Hi Veganrunner, thanks for your input, interesting info :) Some of the women I read about, and others I know personally, I’m sorry I don’t have more specific details about other potential causes.

        One woman I read about did claim she ate a low-fat vegan diet and did claim her tested cholesterol levels were extremely low, her specialist suggested she include more saturated plant fats to raise her cholesterol.

        1. Yeah generally has to do with calorie intake being insufficient. You mentioned satuated fat and coconut oil. Today’s blog (see above) is on coconut oil. You might find it interesting. The current research would suggest that it is not a great thing to consume.

          1. Thanks, I have seen Dr. Gregers videos on coconut oil and mostly every other nutritionfacts.org video. So I am concerned about using coconut oil, but knowing it may help some vegans feel optimal makes it difficult to completely reject.

  2. What if you’re already vegan but still get gawd-awful cramps? Is there anything else we can do? Can you tell us more about the vitamin d thing?

    1. I can only say that my mom in age of 72 became vegan. She used to have cramps in her legs every night. After only few days of vegan diet cramps have gone away! And we were eating just normal polish – but vegan version of food these days, like dumplings with cabbage and mushrooms, soy cutlets with cooked vegetables etc. But we made plenty of smoothies this days and I convinced here to eat plenty of raw fruits. It could be that bananas and water melon took part in it, because she didn’t eat them before at all, for years, I believe. It’s just not a standard old polish kitchen, and it’s a shame!:) We included plenty of them in these smoothies these days.

          1. IIana: I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say anything with authority. But Dr. Greger does have a couple videos on this site about relieving PMS symptoms. This is just one such video. You might check out the one about saffron.

            Also, I’m sure you are aware that there is “vegan” and then there is “vegan”. A healthy diet is not just refraining from meat, dairy and eggs, but eating whole plant foods as much as possible. Maybe you are already doing this. But I thought I would mention it just in case that is an area you could improve on and which *might* help with the cramps.

            As for vitamin D – what’s wrong with supplements? Or another idea is to expose your mushrooms to sunlight before cooking and eating them. You would have to do some research on that to get the particulars.

            I’m not sure I’m any help here, but I hope you are able to get some relief in the future.

            1. Yeah I already do whole plants diet, so not much I can do. Based on his other videos, I don’t want to take too much vit d all month, but I started upping my vit d a few days before my period. Helps a little, I dunno. I wish there was more info on what I should actually do.

          2. I found relief in raw ginger root. I blend a piece about the size of half my thumb in some orange juice. I take it one time at the very beginning of any discomfort and that’s all I need for the week. I eat a low fat plant based diet, primarily fruits and leafy greens, and have been doing so for 7 years. I’m 45. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu

  3. I’ve had the same experience as reported in the study, however, after two years on a vegan diet my ferritin levels hit rock bottom and I was constantly tired (needing a nap during the middle of the work day). This turns out to be a big problem for women on both vegetarian and vegan diets and I really wish some of the men advocating the vegan diet would stop pretending that this isn’t a problem. Half of the young vegetarian women I know seem to end up either anemic or iron deficient, and many of them give up the diet as a result (as an example Gweneth Paltrow, a vegetarian, recently reported that she almost diet from a miscarriage due to her anemia, I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t start advocating the paleo diet next). What I would like to know is how often and how much iron do I need to take to keep my ferritin levels at an acceptable level? The mega B12 dose once a week seems to work just fine, but I have no guidance on the iron issue from anybody. Just trying to eat grape nuts and pumpkin seeds just isn’t working for me. Would love to see a video on this topic Dr. Greger.

    1. Hi rumicat,

      I have always tended to be a bit anemic whether eating meat or not. I take a plant based supplement called Blood Builder.

      There are videos on this topic under Nutrition Videos above with informative discussions in the comments section.

      Didn’t your doctor recommend a supplement?

      1. I’ll have to look into blood builder. I am on a supplement but don’t really know how long to take it, my doctors don’t seem to know either, the plan is to just keep testing my ferritin levels. I’d like to have some kind of well-researched advice on the issue. I had to get myself diagnosed, I walked around feeling tired for a year. The doctors initially tested my for anemia (CBC) but not ferritin. You can actually be exhausted and suffer from sleep disturbance from low ferritin alone even if you hemoglobin is fine. I had to find this out on my own and tell my doctors to test my ferritin level (after walking around for a year felling completely exhausted). Supplements solved the fatigue within a week. The thought is that low iron in the brain messes with your dopamine production (tyrosine hydroxylase required an iron-containing enzyme) Anyway, I seem to have an met an uncommon number of young female vegetarians who have either been diagnosed with anemia or complain about being tired all the time. I’ve become a bit perturbed with the vegan community for glossing over this problem, which seems to be pretty common.

    2. So, lots of people think you got to eat a steak every day to keep your iron up. I think if you did this you’d have a lot worse problems than low iron lol. But people forget about the non-heme iron (primarily plant based). If you’re going
      to consume a lot of something to get your iron up, it’s much more healthy to consume a lot of plants as opposed to a lot of meat; so as to avoid as much cholesterol and saturated fat as possible. Not to mention getting the much needed vitamins from the plants.

      Trick with non-heme iron is to consume with a source of vitamin C to make it more bioavailable. My trick is to make a fruit and veggie smoothie in the morning and either add a tablespoon of molasses to it or just take a spoonful of it like you would cough syrup. I prefer the latter because molasses has a powerful “prune” taste to it that can overpower the smoothie. I add lots of spinach, kale and swiss chard to my smoothie, assuring there is an orange mixed in there too, to get the vitamin c. I also snack on high iron things like pumpkin seeds. Here’s a chart showing iron content in foods from Harvard University:

      http://huhs.harvard.edu/assets/File/OurServices/Service_Nutrition_Iron.pdf

      The chart shows pumpkin seeds closely rivaling beef liver, and I don’t know about all you but I rather eat a handful of pumpkin seeds than beef liver any day. lol

      I’m one of the only women I know who is not anemic and I am also the only vegan. Maybe I’m just a fluke. But it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.

    3. Well don’t get frustrated. Make sure you take with C and no calcium, tea, coffee. Katelyn has great suggestions but for those who don’t absorb iron well a supplement may be needed. As I said I have had this issue whether eating meat or not. When I originally went vegan I stopped the supplements in hope that I would no longer have the issue but still low. And as a runner it is just hard if I don’t supplement. The Blood Builder is easy on the stomach. As far as how long you need to get retested once you start to feel better.

  4. I had severe menstrual cramps since I started my period at 15. It was so bad that one time I fainted from the pain, sometimes I vomited. I couldn’t pass through a cycle without meds until I became vegan 4 years ago. I was also infertile. After becoming vegan, the number of days between my period gone up (my sister observed the same for herself), and the pain slowly went away. Strangely, so did my infertility, baby is 11 months old now.

    1. I too have noticed a change in my cycle. I still have normal cramping, but the time between cycles is a few days longer and the intensity of them is lesser. I’ve been vegan one year and I think the length of my cycle is also shorter now. I say “think” cause I keep thinking it’s temporary, although I’ve noticed it for a few months now :)

      Congratulations on the birth of your baby!

    2. How long did it take to relief the pain? After a month of 100% whole plant based I couldn’t solve my pain. Before this I was like 70% whole plants for a year.

  5. I use acupuncture for dysmenorrhea with great success. Acupuncture is an excellent anti-inflammatory treatment and works on all types of pain. However, I have noticed that when I am eating mostly plant-based diet my menses is shorter in duration and I have less cramping…. My transition to 100% plant-based has gone slowly but I hope to get there one day and this is one of the many reasons why.

  6. I have eaten a low fat/high carb plant based diet for over a year now. My periods remain very heavy (actually even heavier since childbirth 3 years ago) but I don’t suffer from pain any more. I do take a vitamin D supplement.

  7. I have been a vegan (in fact quite closely following the diet promoted by the “Forks over Knives” team.. whole food plant based) for about 6 months now, and did not notice much change in my menstrual cramps. They still incapacitate me for a day or so the same way as before.

  8. well, of course. you are significantly dropping your omega 6s. you could also add a little fish oil. I must confess I did not see your video. Isn’t the result from blocking prostaglandins 2 and 5? thank you for posting, and all the great information you pass along….

  9. My dysmenorrhea has got a lot worse ever since I went vegan about 4 years ago and my periods are also very heavy and lasting about 7 or 8 days. I’m on a whole foods plant-based mostly cooked diet (not low fat) and follow Jack Norris’s recommendations for vegan nutrient intake to the T. So I’m definitely getting enough protein and calories and eat very healthily. I’m still slightly underweight and my cholesterol is quite low, but my B12 and iron is good and I take a Vit D supplement. I love how all the men commenting here immediately jump to the conclusion that if you’re suffering you must be on a junk food diet or doing something else wrong. My theory is that the problem either lies with hormone imbalance due to low cholesterol, or my body not being able to sufficiently convert the plant Omega 3’s to counter prostaglandins. I’m considering adding mussels and oysters to my diet (the mushrooms of the ocean, I’ve heard them being describe as) as I have tried just about everything possible, including eating lots of flax and walnuts, exercising, vit D, natural progesterone cream, etc. to no avail, and the pain is enough to make me almost pass out and incapacitates me for 2 days a cycle. I don’t have endometriosis either.

    1. “I’m considering adding mussels and oysters to my diet (the mushrooms of the ocean, I’ve heard them being describe as)…”

      Actually, mushrooms are fungi, whereas mussels and oysters belong to the animal kingdom.

    2. Hi A, I’m not a doctor, but a woman suffering of dysmenorrhea like you. I switched to a vegan diet 3 months ago, and pain is improving. For me, the key is to stay away from oils, sugar and refined cereals. It’s hard, but you can consider how many of these do you eat and reduce: they are all very inflammatory and very bad for menstrual cramps. I suggest you to go low fat, low sugar, low refined creals and see if you get some results.

    3. I totally get your pain. Going through it this very second. I’ve tried everything you’ve tried to no avail. It’s time for me to get this evil organ taken out. Best of luck to you.

  10. Hi Doctor, my question may be a few months late..but here goes. I’ve followed a plant-based diet (plus on and off vegan diet) for 11 years now. Originally from an Africa where we barely consumed milk in its liquid form (usually it was cultured in some way) and since living in the West still following this diet, I’ve had ongoing and growing pains when I have my cycle. Often I have to fast for a day (or day and a half) from solids in order to keep the pain low. When I eat solids on my cycle the pain is horrible and has me running to the loo a lot. I’ve tried acupuncture, herbs and nothing so far has had repeatedly positive effects. A Chinese herbalist once mentioned that my spleen was out of order. Any idea what I could do/ look into for this problem?

    Thank you in advance.

    1. Increasing pains with your menstrual cycles could be caused by a variety of things. I think trying diet modification is a good first step but if that isn’t working I would see your physician for further evaluation.

  11. Hi! I suffer from dysmenorrhea since I was 16 (now I’m 29) Thanks to this study I decided to switch to a low fat vegan diet from a vegetarian one, gradually. On my first month completely vegan and almost low-fat (I still eat nuts and seeds and sometimes oils when I eat out) I still had a painful period, but I was out of all my medications, and didn’t faint, vomit or had cold sweating, diarrhea or excruciating cramps on my first day (something I’ve ALWAYS had if I didn’t take naproxen pills! Very debilitating!). The overall period was a little shorter and I had more energy.Something incredible and very welcome! I’m looking forward to seeing how it’ll become next months.. Thank you!!

    1. Sara: Thanks for sharing your story. I always felt my situation is bad, but then I read about situations like yours and I know how very luckly I am.

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you! I hope you continue to get improvement. Let us know how it goes over time.

      1. Hi Thea, many thanks for replying!

        I’m sorry you’re passing through this too.

        Things are going better, my periods are shorter (3 1/2 days) and I loose half of the blood. The pain of the first day, more or less, is as strong as it was before I became low-fat vegan, but I don’t feel like I’m dying anymore, I think it’s because of the lighter flow. I’ve had one cycle on which I could entirely skip the medications, then others where I’ve taken a small dosage.

        I hope you are feeling better too.
        Cheers from Italy

  12. I have terrible cramps (already vegan though) and my dr recently told me I was very low on vit D, so I am now taking the super strength vit D pills to get my levels back up. This is the first month I haven’t had debilitating cramps!!!! Dr Greger recommends 2,000 mg/day vit D, but I wonder was the maximum safe levels I can take?? Should I just take it near my period to reduce cramping, or do you think I have to take it all the time?

  13. Hi!
    I have dysmenorrhea and suspect endometriosis.
    I’ve found a lot of recommendations about avoiding gluten and/or wheat (together with soy, sugar, meat, dairy) for this condition, both on forums and official endometriosis associations websites.
    I’ve found only one study that supports the theory of the connection gluten-endometriosis pain:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23334113

    Are there other relevant studies about this subject?

  14. Hello, I have been Vegan for about 3 months, (vegetarian since I was 9, now 23) and I am sitting here, with a hot water bottle strapped to my stomach because I am in so much pain (you guessed what time of the month it is haha!) But yeah, it’s not fair! I want less pain and suffering! I am not on the pill, and don’t want to take pain killers, what else can I do? Is there a strong herbal pain killer out there? (And I am not talking about cannabis) Something instant, but natural? They have always been really painful for as long as I can remember, I cannot do ordinary things during this time! Please help x

    1. @Vegan Girl In Pain – see my post below re: raspberry leaf tea. Cheap, doesn’t taste bad, and works! It seems to relax the uterine muscle! You can try the boxed version first to see if it works for you.

  15. Vegan/high-plant diet greatly reduced my cramp severity and also reduced my number of days of cramp discomfort from 3 days to less than 1 day. Raspberry leaf tea helps amazingly well with cramps. Works best when taken at the first sign of cramping. I like to cold-brew it in a big mason jar, but hot is fine if the cramps catch me off guard. You can buy in bulk or use Traditional Medicinals or Yogi Tea brands (which seem to be more potent than my bulk tea, but the bulk is a lot cheaper and stays good for years, so I just brew a few more leaves of the bulk). I use the tea bags at work and cold brew in a water bottle. I used to take a lot of ibuprofen (600 mg 3x/day) during my period as a teenager. Now I take 200 mg ibuprofen with my raspberry leaf tea perhaps 4 times per year — only if I forget to drink the tea before the worst cramps set in.

  16. My sister had this for 5 year prior to menopause. The pain stopped the day her period stopped. No previous history of pain. I’ve had no history either until 6 months ago. I’m 45. I knew there had to be a better way than taking otc meds all week, like she did, which did little to help. I found relief in raw ginger root. I blend a piece about the size of half my thumb in some orange juice. I take it one time at the very beginning of any discomfort and that’s all I need for the week. I eat a low fat plant based diet, primarily fruits and leafy greens, and have been doing so for 7 years. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19216660

  17. I read an extremely interesting article about the role of histamine and histamine intolerance in a lot of body functions and also in some health issues, such as dysmenorrea.

    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/5/1185.long

    (Please see “histamine and sexual steroids” chapter).

    I’d love to see a video about the role high histamine containing foods (alcohol, yeast, soy products, vinegar and pickled food in the vegan world) play in allergies and in our health in general. This may help people who already eat whole foods plant based diets but continue to suffer from some symptoms, and also people who suffer from allergies.

    1. Hey Sara. Forgive the massive delay but your study it great! I wrote more about it based on what you found. So thanks! Here was my comment:

      “Someone commented on this before, I’ll link you to her comment as she found a study about histamine in foods. The dried fruit may contain sulfites, which can be problematic. The study posted says “Histidine is generated from autolytic or bacterial processes (74). Therefore, high concentrations of histamine are found mainly in products of microbial fermentation, such as aged cheese (75), sauerkraut, wine (76), and processed meat (77, 78) (Table 3⇓) or in microbially spoiled food. Thus, histamine, tyramine, putrescine, and cadaverine serve as indicators of hygienic food quality (73). Tyramine and putrescine also may lead to intolerance reactions in combination with histamine.” Dr. Greger does have info about putrescine, which may also be helpful. Lastly, the Academy of Nutrition of Dietetics published a short review Is There a Diet for Histamine Intolerance? that lists many foods. I hope this is helpful.”

  18. do natural anti inflammatories like curcuma or blueberries increased bleeding during the menstruation cycle? i mean beter circulation also means more blood, i now some risk for pregnant women, but i dont know hot it works during menstruation. (specially for low iron women that lost a lot of iron during the period)
    and what about vitamin K from dark greens may help to decrease the bleeding?

  19. I see a lot of men in this discussion on women’s bodies so I feel obligated to jump in. The only thing I can speak to is personal experience. Do vegan diets help with pain? Absolutely. I instinctively started being vegetarian one year during my period because I found that the lighter the foods, the lighter my pain. A year or so later, I took up veganism with fish on weekends, another year later, strictly vegan (mostly plants and legumes) for three years or so. The result of this personal experiment was not so great with the full-on veganism, as I became severely iron deficient. Severely as in I could’ve died. The initial jump in energy also started to dwindle. In short, I am no longer vegan. Veganism works for a lot of people but not for all. A woman with heavy periods puts herself at danger in being vegan because she loses a lot of iron that needs to be compensated for. Of course, you can always supplement. I’m not sure how much supplementation would be necessary in this case, for me eating naturally and avoiding processed foods is more important than being vegan, so I’d rather avoid the supplementation. As someone mentioned, we should figure out why veganism doesn’t work for certain people instead of always jumping to defense of the diet. That attitude is the same attitude carnivores have when defending meat. Veganism doesn’t work for people with certain conditions. I also used to have a lot of stomach problems which I’ve recently discovered have to do with a chronic illness related to my cycle. This didn’t allow me to eat grains, which may have allowed me to keep more of my iron. This problem was resolved through acupuncture and ironically, a whole foods diet which includes meat. I also have almost 0 pain now, which I had not managed to achieve with a vegan diet. So, there are many paths to healing, and while diet is important, people have to figure out what works for their bodies. I’ve always been a relatively healthy eater and I think my problem was chronic stress not food. That’s a story for another day, but certainly an angle people have to consider in their healing.

  20. I have horrible periods and am trying to get a really healthy vegan diet. However, I already have good/low cholesterol – My total was 140 and my LDL was 50! Is that going to be a problem? Should I add more fats to my diet?

    1. Kat: I’m not aware of any problems associated with low cholesterol. Consider this video from Dr. Greger discussing low cholesterol levels: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/can-cholesterol-be-too-low/ I think you should count your blessings! when it comes to cholesterol levels and just not worry about it.
      .
      If the NutritionFacts video doesn’t satisfy you, consider this post that I copied from a NutritionFacts moderator, Rami:
      “Cholesterol can be as low as the 10 range and you will still live a perfectly healthy life. This is evident in those who have genetic disorders resulting in extremely low cholesterol, thus, the argument that below 150 is too low is simply untrue. I would see this video for the evidence:
      http://plantpositive.com/22-cholesterol-confusion-5-cho/
      .
      Does that help?

  21. What I found REALLY helpful about 3 months ago, was the omega 3 (EPA & DHA) supplementation. I’ve been a vegan for 12 years now (I’m 32) and after quitting oral contraception about 4 years ago, I started to feel heavy menstrual cramps, nausea and diarrhea (symptoms of dysmenorrhea ). Now, after 3 months, I only feel a small discomfort, nothing compared to the previous. I believe this fatty acids are helping to decrease the prostaglandins (associated with the inflammatory process). Every woman should try it. I take 2-3 vegan omega 3 capsules a day. Hope this helps! :)

  22. Hi,
    I have been trying to find information on fibroids. I have been vegan for 3 years 9 months. I had a 10 cm fibroid removed in 2004. I still have small fibroids which cause heavy menstruation. My physician is pressuring me to use Fibristal for 3 months. The side effects worries me.
    Can fibroids be reduce by changing my diet?

  23. Hi! Thank you for this information. I’m writing to ask about whether there’s research to shrink fibroids with nutrition and exercise. I’d like to avoid the knife if possible.

  24. Do you have any insights on the opposite problem: amenorrhea on a HCLF vegan diet? More specifically, exercise-associated and weight loss associated amenorrhea. It could simply be an issue of caloric deficiency on a vegan diet, but do you have any recommendations on what foods could help balance hormones? Any insights would be great!

    1. Hi, Sharon! I am Christine, a NF volunteer nutrition moderator. I think you may have answered your own question. Amenorrhea, as you describe it, is usually associated with body fat that is too low. Adipose tissue produces estrogen, and not having enough body fat may mean not having enough estrogen and other hormones to menstruate regularly. You may need to exercise less and eat more calories. Adding more calorie-dense whole foods, such as nuts, to your diet may enable you to regain some of the fat you have lost. Increasing meal frequency and portion size may be advantageous. Gaining weight in the form of fat may not sound appealing, but keeping your body fat too low may increase your risk of osteoporosis. I hope that helps!

  25. Would love anyones guidance on this….

    I was on a hormonal coil (Jaydess) for 2 years, during which time my periods completely went and also during this time I transitioned to a plant based diet and did lose some weight (not loads though, I’ve always been quite slim).

    I came off the coil 6 months ago but still no sign of my period. Before I went on the coil I had what I’d call ‘perfect periods’.

    Trying to figure out how long it takes for periods to come back after taking these hormones out/whether I should be worried….I exercise most days but not super intensely (a lot of yoga)….and I eat apx 2500 calories a day.

    Advice/other peoples stories are most welcome….anything to help me on my quest to get my period back!! Helena

    1. Helena,

      The short answer, it depends…… It may take a fairly long time for your body to adapt and return to it’s normal self. Remember that you used the hormone therapy for 2 years and the body needs to readjust significantly.

      I would however recommend that you consider using a moderate dose of B6 for a period of time, because of your use of the hormone coil. You might want to read about the other effects, focused more on the pill by Dr. Ross in his books.

      Dr. Alan Kadish Moderator for Dr. Greger

      1. Thanks very much for your advice Dr Kadish. I will buy some moderate B6 supplements and yes, totally agree it may take my body time to readjust.

        Do you think this company ‘Veganicity’ is a good source for supplements? I’ve been using their iron pills for the past year as they are (from my understanding) more natural and lower dosage than what doctors commonly prescribe in the UK http://www.veganicity.com/home.php

        Thanks in advance – really appreciate your guidance.

    1. Thanks for this.

      I’ve given it a read and understand the study but not sure it is relevant for my situation. I can’t see any mention of low iron causing loss of periods? Maybe I’ve missed something. Also, feel this study contradicts Greger’s message as it promotes red meat?

      I do have quite low iron stores but not in the ‘low zone’; in the UK anyway. I eat a lot of high iron plant based foods (greens, lentils, beans etc with vitamin c foods) and take Veganicity iron pills http://www.veganicity.com/Chelated-Iron-24mg.html do you think these are a good, More natural option? They definitely work for making me feel good but I worry of taking pills long term and am wondering if an injection could be a better option?

      Open to any ideas!

  26. Hello! My name is Emily, and recently I found my way into the idea of egg donation. I began to research the pros and cons. I would love to help people, but do not want to hurt myself in the process. I had found a story about egg donation and colon cancer. http://www.jenniferschneider.com/pdf/JS%20FertStert%20Fatal%20Colon%20Cancer.pdf Was curious if you knew anything about this topic? Possibly do a video on it? I have friends interested and want to know more.
    Thank you once again for all the hard work you guys put in. I live by your website and book! <3

  27. Emily, As one of the moderators for NutritionFacts.org I’m glad you have found the site helpful as well as How Not to Die. I did read the article you sent on the possible connection between colon cancer and of egg donation. However, the focus on this site being the connection between nutrition and health, studies being reviewed for videos/ blogs would be looking more at the connection of colon cancer and food or general lifestyle not a reproductive procedure. Not to say your question isn’t important, but it seems this will be a topic for study more by those specializing in reproductive health issues, I hope there will be more study of this area so you can feel comfortable with egg donation.

  28. Dr. Greger & Team: What are your thoughts on the safety of menstrual cups? I have read anecdotes of women saying using these decreased menstrual pain, and they are certainly better for the environment, but is the material they are made of safe to use? Thanks!

  29. Years ago, I was on a strict Macrobiotic diet for health reasons. It was vegan and extremely restrictive, no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol, no fat, no nightshades, little to no fruit. I had no menstrual cramps. It was said that once sugar is completely eliminated then cramps will not happen. I was only on the diet six months before I branched out, including sugar, caffeine, and alcohol again. The pain came back with it. Overall, it is not too bad. Nothing that a hot water bottle cannot handle. I am interested in trying ginger before my period as in one of the Nutrition Facts videos to see if it really does lessen cramping.

  30. I found this very helpful. I know this video was made a while ago, but I’ve been researching options for myself to heal the horrible pain I have had with my period for over 3 decades. (I’m now 45 and want to go into the end of my menstruating years as healthy as I can be!). I’ve been some form of plant-based most of my life, but a year ago, I made the switch to all vegan diet, highly motivated to reduce my period symptoms such as heavy flow and cramps. I have had major improvements, such as only requiring one or two doses of Aleve for a couple of days of the cycle. (Traditional doctors tried to diagnose me with endometriosis and I don’t buy it.) I still suffer from debilitating inability to focus the week before my period and horrible, disabling exhaustion the week after my period. I do take a plant-based iron supplement to assist my fatigue, along with B12, vitamin C, and other supplements. I really would like to see a book written specifically addressing women’s cycles and lifetime hormonal stages and the best nutritional strategies to employ. I feel that fiber and low fat with vegan diet based on whole foods and no refined oils have been some of the missing keys for me. I also feel toxic chemicals that are in our environment from industry and agriculture negatively impact our bodies as women (and men), especially organs.

  31. This video is very interesting. I’m 28 yrs old and I went vegan about 2.5 months ago I was vegetarian prior so I just cut out the diary from my diet and the first thing I noticed was my first menstrual period as a vegan was significantly less painful and then the second cycle I had no pain at all. I used to get breast tenderness, unbearable cramps, bloating and fatigue and I’d have to take paracetamol or ibuprofen 3 times a day just to get through it. I don’t know if it just a random coincidence or not because my diet was really healthy before, centred around plant foods and no processed junk except for the diary products yoghurt and milk I had each day and occasionally cheese which I thought were good for my health at the time.

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