A few weeks ago I was at home alone, scrolling through movies on Netflix. I’d been hearing all about the latest health-related documentary What the Health, so when I came across it, I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about.
In case you don’t know, the movie’s premise centers around the reasons why a vegan diet is good for you, and why eating meat is considered to be downright dangerous.
Needless to say, by the time I was 10 minutes in, I was screaming at the TV. And not in a good way!
Before you pounce on me (if you’re a vegan or vegetarian), please know that I have nothing against a vegan diet. There are many reasons to choose vegan, and I respect them. In fact, I’ve been vegetarian and vegan in the past, and so have tons of my clients, which is why I take issue with this movie.
What is up with the documentary “What the Health”?!?!
This documentary is FULL of misinformation and hype. There is so much fear-mongering, propaganda, and bad science, I honestly didn’t know where to begin when I first started writing this post.
Kip Anderson, who also brought us “Cowspiracy,” appears to spend a disproportionate amount of time calling the 800 numbers for various health organizations, and talking to some poor customer service rep who can’t and shouldn’t have to answer his pointed questions. When they obviously can’t answer his questions, he declares to the camera, “yet another organization that can’t answer my questions about the dangers of meat.”
Yeah, no kidding dude.
There is only one interview with an official spokesperson on camera. Kip shows up for the interview in casual clothes and a baseball hat, and immediately/aggressively makes it clear that he has an agenda.
He also makes a number of “factual” statements about the dangers of meat and other animal products, without anything to back them up.
He interviews a number of experts who appear very credible – several are physicians, including Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Michael Klaper, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. But all of these experts are vegan advocates, which hardly creates a balanced approach in the film.
For instance, at that 10-minute mark that I mentioned, Dr. Neal Barnard declares with exasperation that “diabetes is not caused by eating a high carbohydrate diet, and it’s not caused by sugar”.
What??? And this is where I began shouting at the TV.
There is literally no research showing that this statement, and many of the others made in the movie are factual, or that the experts’ opinions are in line with what has been shown in more recent studies. These people are just citing outdated science – and that is dangerous!
The misinformation about animal products
So let’s clear up some misinformation about the dangers of eating meat, eggs, and other animal products. Then we’ll get into how a vegan diet can affect your period and hormones.
Red meat first gained a reputation for causing heart disease after the Framingham Heart Study in the 1970s. At that time, cholesterol was singled out as a significant cause of heart disease and stroke.
Cholesterol is only in animal products, so meat, eggs, and dairy were quickly labeled as unhealthy. The recommended diet became low fat, moderate protein, high carbohydrate, with an emphasis on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
And that’s where the trouble began – because the Framingham Heart Study pointed out the wrong problem, as it turned out. They identified a connection between cholesterol and heart disease. Further studies laid the blame for cholesterol problems squarely on the only foods that contained cholesterol. The conclusion was that cholesterol caused the blood vessels of the heart and to the brain, to narrow with plaque.
It was a simple equation, that failed to take into account the extraordinary complexity of the human body.
Then that finding changed – cholesterol didn’t cause high cholesterol in the body. Saturated fat did. Meaning that not only meat, eggs, and dairy were bad, but coconut was bad too. Oh, those evil coconuts!
Over time, it was found that the cause of heart disease was NOT cholesterol. It turned out that inflammation was what caused thickening in the vessels of the heart and to the brain. And what caused inflammation was, among other things, a high carbohydrate diet.
So avoiding animal products is not necessary for good heart health. And those facts that are quoted in the movie are no longer true.
Conventional vs organic/grass-fed meat and inflammation
The way that animals are raised has a MASSIVE impact on their health. The meat that we ate a century ago is not the same as the meat we are eating today. For the most part, in conventional farming, the animals are kept in very tight quarters, fed poor quality genetically modified grain, and given a vast assortment of medications including growth hormones and antibiotics.
This produces extremely poor quality meat with high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids, which increases inflammation in the human body, and causes painful periods amongst other problems.
It’s imperative that if we’re going to have meat in our diets, it come from the very best organic, grass-fed, hormone free sources. Otherwise the health AND environmental risks will far outweigh the benefits we hope to get from these animal proteins.
Most of the research that has been done on animal products does not take into account how the animals were raised. On the few occasions when grassfed meat and dairy were singled out, they showed improvements in health. 
How vegan diets can affect your hormones
As I mentioned earlier, I was vegetarian and then vegan for a short time in my 20’s – the good old days of extreme experimentation! Within three months, my period had gone from five days down to three days, my hair started falling out, and I developed horrible melasma (all of which I’d experienced when I was on the pill).
It literally took me years to reverse these issues even though it only took a few months to cause them.
I often hear some version of this story from women who come to me. Many times it’s much worse. They not only lose their hair, but they stop ovulating and lose their periods completely. Their blood sugar becomes dysregulated because they have too many carbs and not enough protein and fat in their diets. Their thyroids go haywire, and their moods plummet.
I’m not saying this is the case for every woman on a vegan diet, but it is the reality for every single one of them I encounter. Here are the reasons why:
Nutritional issues related to vegan and vegetarian diets are…
#1 Often too low in complete protein, fat and cholesterol which are needed to make sex hormones.
Protein is an essential structural component of all hormones, which means you’ve got to consume sufficient
protein to make enough hormones. There are 8 essential amino acids that our body cannot synthesize, so we need to get these from our diets. Eating animal protein is like a one-stop shop for these essential 8. They’re all there in one piece of grass fed beef. But if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’ll need to work harder and go to more sources to get all eight of these.
Also, a low protein diet (less than 15% of total calories – or about 50 grams per day) decreases levels of prolactin, growth hormone, estrogen, thyroid hormones, and insulin. And it stimulates a stress response, which drives the
body toward fat storage, increasing both body fat and fatty liver. [3, 4]
High protein diets can damage the kidneys, so consuming too much is no walk in the park either.
#2 Full of anti-nutrients…
…like phytic acid and oxalic acid (grains, beans and soy are especially high) which bind to minerals in the GI tract and prevent them from being properly absorbed. This can lead to deficiencies in iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium levels.  PS. Few plants contain zinc, so it can become very deficient.
#3 Low in B12, and vegans are notoriously deficient.
The only way to get B12 is through supplementation or fortified foods, which is not ideal. Also, vegans tend to have lower stomach acid, which is a side effect of not having any animal protein in their diets. You need adequate stomach acid to break down B12 and utilize it though, so this is problematic. A chronic B12 deficiency is no joke!
#4 Missing the right omega 3 fatty acids.
While there are vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids, they are not well absorbed by the body. Chia, flax, and walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, but they don’t contain DHA or EPA, the most bioavailable and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. The body converts ALA to DHA and EPA very inefficiently, plus there are certain gene SNPs that affect the conversion as well. Interestingly, women convert ALA to EPA and DHA at much higher rates than men, probably because they make babies and these compounds are crucial for a healthy pregnancy.
I recommend taking this at home Omega 3 Test to check the omega-3/omega-6 levels in your blood. And be sure to use code Hormones20 to get 20% off the price of the test.
#5 Lacking in vitamin D and iodine.
Both of which are critical for healthy hormones, a proper functioning thyroid, and normal periods. I’ve even dubbed vitamin D as the “period vitamin”, because of its impact on PCOS, PMS and irregular periods. Iodine for the thyroid is like gas for a car – it’s NEEDED. Here’s info on how the thyroid affects your menstrual cycle.
You can test your Vitamin D levels and Thyroid Function at Lets Get Checked. Use code Hormones20 to get 20% off all tests.
#6 Lacking in iron, because the most bioavailable source of iron comes from animal sources, such as liver and red meat.
Animal-based iron (heme iron) is already in its usable form, so no further processing is required for the body to utilize it. The iron in vegetables, on the other hand, requires the body to break it down into a bioavailable form. This means that the dietary recommendation for vegans is up to twice as high as the recommendation for meat eaters.
This at home Iron Check will identify any iron deficiencies you might be experiencing.
#7 Lacking in real vitamin A
Did you know that beta carotene is just a vitamin A precursor that needs to be converted in the body into the usable form of vitamin A (retinol). And unfortunately some evidence suggests that up to 50% of the US population has a genetic profile that reduces the conversion rate. These people must consume animal sources of vitamin A to avoid deficiency.
Vitamin A plays a critical role in fertility, promoting full-term pregnancy, and fetal development, in particular facial bone structure. Widespread deficiency is the reason soooo many kids have to have braces now. Liver and egg yolks are the highest sources of vitamin A. I also recommend Rosita Real Foods Cod Liver Oil because it contains vitamin A, along with vitamins D and K, which will help protect against any chance of vitamin A toxicity.
#8 Zinc and selenium deficiency
Zinc is mostly found in oysters and meat, so I’ve found that vegetarians and vegans are almost always deficient. While it’s found in nuts and seeds, those sources are often accompanied by phytic acid which inhibits the absorption of zinc. A deficiency often shows up as hair loss and period problems – at least that is what I see the most, along with frequent colds or sickness. Other factors that affect zinc are use of the birth control pill, alcohol consumption and small intestinal disorders (the place where zinc is absorbed).
Ways a vegan diet can affect your period & health:
- Irregular periods – periods that come very infrequently, every 35 days or more. This is an indicator of sputtering ovulation, caused by lowered estrogen and progesterone.
- Shorter, lighter periods – if your period has suddenly dropped from 5 days to 2 or 3 days, like mine did when I went vegetarian, caused by lowered estrogen and progesterone.
- Missing periods – it has disappeared for more than three months. This indicates that ovulation is not occurring anymore, and is linked to lowered estrogen and progesterone.
- Hair loss – means that certain B vitamins and minerals like zinc have become deficient
- Low thyroid function – unexplained tiredness, weight gain for no apparent reason, cold hands and feet, dry brittle hair and nails.
- More frequent colds or infections – this is a sign of zinc deficiency
- Blood sugar dysregulation – sugar and carb cravings (gimme the pasta!), feeling hungry within an hour after a meal, mid-morning or mid-afternoon crashes that only caffeine and carbs can cure.
- Acne or other skin conditions – acne, keratosis pilaris (those rough bumps on the backs of your arms), eczema and psoriasis are often signs of vitamin A and zinc deficiency.
- Urinary tract infections – this is a sign of lower levels of estrogen, which is common in vegans.
In my coaching practice, I continually come back to the fact that each of us is built differently. Some people thrive on a vegan or vegetarian diet, whereas others become really ill. This is why I don’t recommend one particular diet in my Fix Your Period Program – I hate trying to fit myself into a box, and I don’t want you to either.
There is no one diet that works for everyone. Most diet proponents whether they are vegan, paleo, raw food, keto, etc. have an agenda, so it’s up to you as the boss of your body, to do the detective work to figure out what is right for your physiology.
I will say this though, collectively we can and should be doing as much as we can to eat more vegetables and fruit!! EVERYONE can benefit from this, and the simple truth is we’re not even near where we should be when it comes to vegetable intake. This is what the documentary should have focused on more…but I get that telling people to eat their veggies isn’t super sexy or provocative! 😉
If you want to eat a vegan diet, do it. Just make sure you’re getting complete protein every day, and taking care of your nutritional needs AND supplementing. If you start to experience any of the symptoms I described above, that’s a clear signal from your body that it isn’t getting enough of the nutrients it needs to function optimally.
Then it’s up to you to decide if this is indeed the right diet for you. As I said before, I 100000% respect a person’s decision to not eat animals, but my question is, if it’s going to cost you your health, quality of life and potentially even your fertility, are you willing to take that risk? Even a tiny bit of animal protein will go a long way towards correcting underlying imbalances.
If you’re currently eating animal products, make sure you’re eating the best quality meats, dairy, eggs, and fish available. For fish, buy wild caught. Make sure to buy grass-fed meat and dairy, and for chicken and eggs, stick with free range or pasture-raised. Quality realllllly matters. It’s up to us to support farms and sustainable companies whose values align with our own.
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39 thoughts on “Does being vegan affect your period?”
This was an excellent article! I am mostly vegetarian and have been so for several years. I am 34. I never liked meat much..just never sat well with me. I feel as though I am healthier than ever! I do get regular labs to check my thyroid, nutrients levels, and supplement. One thing I think you nailed is the QUALITY of meat we eat. I do, upon occasion eat meat, but insist its local, and raised in fresh air eating what the animal would naturally eat. I think people often forget about the vegan protein sources of quinoa and mushrooms. They are a great way to keep protein intact with lots of minerals and vitamins. Also the people in the BLUE ZONES studied for their health and longevity eat meat as an add-in to their veggie diets. Not a 22 oz steak with a few string beans on the side. 1/8 of a pound of grass fed local beef in a veggie stir fry is a complete different nutrient profile. I recently read a great book about Mitochondrial health and supplementation by Lee Know, ND. He mentions studies about L-carnitine in vegans. What they studies are finding, is that the human body is great at recognizing and recycling nutrients. Basically the study showed that vegans were better able to recycle nutrients that the body knows it doesn’t get much of. Where a regular meat eater would excrete more. The blood serum levels of the people tested were very similar to each other regardless of how much meat is eaten. I think this should be a consideration for people trying to figure out what is best for them. Our bodies can reuse nutrients requiring less intake if we have properly functioning atoohagy and mitochondrial function. Thank you for sharing an overview that was aiming for un-biased and for helping people access information to make more informed decisions for their personal journey.
Thank you for this well-rounded and concise summary of why a vegan diet may not provide the complete range of nutrients for hormonal and overall health. I ate a vegan diet twice in my life, for 2 years in my twenties and two years in my forties. In the first few months of each stint I felt great, before succumbing to cravings for sugar, weakness, fatigue, IBS, food intolerance, etc. It was worse in my 40s because of hormones and perimenopause. Upon resuming an omnivorous diet, things got much better quickly.
My sense is that as more people become vegan, they will encounter similar health issues. When people say they feel better on a vegan diet, I wonder how long they have been pursuing a vegan diet, because the diet can feel good in the beginning before one goes into a decline. The length of time before declining varies by individual.
And then when people resume omnivorism (hopefully an ethical, grass-fed omnivorism) after depletion on the vegan diet, it is my hope that they will have learned more about themselves, their bodies, and what makes a healthy diet for them. This includes awareness of what is healthy for the animals and our environment. There are many valid motivations for feeling called into veganism, such as health, ethics, and environmental sanity. These are truly needed in our world today. May these motivations inform us as we move forward and find what ultimately works for us and our Earth. I see the vegan movement as a possible stepping stone for some along this path as our human society experiments to find new ways of being in harmony with our bodies and the body of the Earth. My hope is that this experiment is not performed on fetuses, babies and growing children because of the risk of nutrient depletion.
I love this useful information, I recently decided to stop eating specially meat, eggs or chicken. Still occasionally eat milk and fish and my ovulation stopped I know it because I do take my basal temperature and noticed in my ovulation calendar a shift on my temperature did not persists as needed to ovulate and had a temperature drop. I assume I did not ovulate and have not ovulated this period that will be my next after my diet changes. I do think it can be linked to my somehow vegetarian diet and reading your article and other sources it can be a deficiency that is not visible until we can check our menstrual cycles. I do not want to go without ovulation so I am introducing meat in some of my dinners. I will like to ask you about the benefits or no benefits of taking mushroom adaptogens like: Siberian Ginseng, Reishi, Lions Mane, cordyceps and others and maybe the popular MACA. What do you know about them. Thank you in advance. I am truly believing a balance diet not extreme is the best. Not too much not too little.
I recently went mostly vegetarian. I eat clams once a week. I also learned the b12 deficiency vegetarian thing is a myth and in studies meat eaters were more likely to be B12 deficient. B12 deficiency is linked to a problem in the gut. You can take all the supplements you want but if you don’t fix your gut its not only pointless but high dose b12 is linked to lung cancer in men.
I do not eat grains or soy ever. I don’t think either of those things are healthy and a lot of people that go vegetarian seem to subsist on a dough & starch diet.
I eat nuts, fruits and vegis with a ounce of clams thrown in weekly. I lost 10lbs in my first month and I wasn’t even trying. I was not overweight to begin with.
My period came right on time. I had mild cramping that was typical.
I never got bloated before my period as I would turn into an uncomfortable human ballon every month on my former diet. I felt great before during and after my period. In fact I have never felt better.
I was anti vegeterian forever because the people I saw that were vegan/vegitarian did not look healthy. I on the otherhand glow. I easily look 10 years younger too.The main difference I have found is that many vegans and vegetarians eat a lot of soy and grains.
My hair was always pretty nice and it still is. More shiny maybe and grows faster I think. If I notice negative changes I will surely eat more meat.
I generally feel lighter than ever. I am an accidental vegetarian. I started on a low acid diet to deal with a kidney infection gone bad. I have nothing against eating animals. Humans require very little b12 in their diet and there is a lot of research ongoing as to how its manufactured in our bodies. A lot of advice I read is misinformed or over simplified. I don’t supplement b12 and have better levels then when I was on a primarily meat and diary based diet. (I also learned dragon fruit has B12 in it as a side note.)
Also iron can more readily be pulled from foods if you have high levels of vitamin C. I have never taken iron suppliments but I get a lot of vitamin C in my diet and my iron levels are as high as they are safely allowed to be.
I hope I can keep to this diet because its made me fell like a million bucks. I may supplement more animal protein come winter to but a little fat on the bones.
I also learned that marinating pork and beef in apple cider vinegar is better for you. Otherwise is gives you sticky blood which is what makes you feel lethargic after eating. Wheras lamb meat won’t do this…basically lamb is a superior meat for the human body. Just another note for those going back on the meat wagon.
I eat the clams because they are one of the highest sources of b12. I also eat fish based omegas. I don’t believe humans are intended to be animal protein free but I do believe thanks to govt and corporate propaganda we have been conditioned to eat too much of it. An easy guide is to look at the protein content of breastmilk…3 to 5% as I recall. My kids were breastfed and they were little fatties and grew up big strong smart and healthy so I imagine that ratio is just as good for me as it was for them. And yes we all require different diets due to genetics…my husbands genetics require him to drink gobs of coffee and chocolate whilst mine prefer kale and mushrooms 😉
Until recently (just over a month ago) I was a vegan for 10 years and vegetarian for 25 years. My symptoms had become gradually worse over the past 5+ years. After lots of research I cut all soy and gluten from my diet hoping that would resolve the growing number of symptoms I was experiencing which included, extremely heavy menstrual cycles, hair loss, teeth and gum issues, skin conditions, frequent urination, constipation, chronic ear infections, chronic fatigue, anemia, etc. I was trying everything from 10 day juice fasts, to cutting out all grains. I decided to try adding meat back into my diet. I ate primarily grass-fed beef, although it took time to build up to that after not having meat for so long (it was really gross in the beginning, now I actually crave it!). My cramps have nearly disappeared, my hair loss is slowing, my digestion is much better with regular movements, and NO BLOATING (which I didn’t realize was a problem until not experiencing it!), my ears aren’t hurting anymore. I’m hoping my gum disease and skin issues clear up, but overall so glad I caved and decided to give meat a chance. I agree completely that everybody is different and you need to find what works for you, but I can’t help but think that after extended amounts of time with 0 animal products you will inevitably develop some deficiencies that no amount of supplementation can fix. They certainly didn’t work for me!
This is funny because I have experienced the opposite. I have been trying veganism for about a month now and vegetarianism a month before that and my periods so far have been more regular and have come a bit early actually. I came to this article looking for an answers for this. I’m not sure whether to be worried or not since I haven’t been tracking them so I don’t know how big the difference is. So far as a vegan my moods have improved significantly (something people around me have noticed) – my theory is the lack of dairy in my diet. My eczema has also gotten so much better and I’ve heard that dairy is bad for people with eczema. I think overall dairy is bad and we are not meant to drink it. Most people in the world are lactose intolerance. Also about the hair loss, I was actually losing quite a bit of hair BEFORE I became vegetarian and vegan and if anything I’m losing less of it now. My sister has been vegan for six years now and she looks so much better than when she was a meat eater. I don’t know why your experience was so bad but I’ve heard way more positive stories about veganism than negative ones.
I agree. I’ve also only heard good things from my vegan friends. It’s been 2 months for me since I gave up meat and diary. My periods since turning vegan have been heavier, actually. I feel like I’m cleansing my body. My skin is glowing (my coworkers have noticed) and overall I am more excited for life. I wake up happy. I don’t yawn throughout the day. I’m not longing for sleep. I will never go back to eat meat and diary. Worst case scenario, if I am deficient in something I will eat fish once a week. But I mean worst case… because commercial fishing is disgusting. And all the waste in the oceans…
I have been almost completely vegan the last year and I have lost my period for the last 4 months. Before that , last summer I lost it for 3 months. I ate meat for about a month and it returned (last summer for 6 months before it re-disappeared) but I also wonder if I haven’t been eating enough calories for my exercise level, so I’m currently ruling out whether I have H.A based on my history with an E.D.I am really thankful you made this post because I’m starting to question whether a vegan diet is right for me.I’m seeing a naturopath in my area who recommends adding fish back in a few times a week so I have been trying to do that as well as taking supplements to lower my cortisol levels and eliminating high intensity exercise for a bit. My GP is not being very supportive and just wants me to go on birth control which is frustrating but it’s refreshing to read about other women who went vegan who had some health issues. Thanks 🙂
Im a portuguese girl, 20 years old and Im a vegetarian for almost 3 years. I really liked your post, i think that is very helpeful for a lot of people not only vegans but also for meat eaters. I had already watched “What the Health” and i liked it very much but like you said it as a lot of missinformation, first of all, about the sugar causing diabetes that isnt a lie at all, sugar causese diabetes but not the convetional way and in the documentary they explain that what causes it its the food that the cows and porcs etc. eat than what is in there stays in the meat we eat, i think in the documentary they should explain in more deped whats in there food but anyway. About periods in my experience i have the same cycle as when i ate meat, the only thing that as changed its the cramps, about 5 months ago it started to be really painfull with vomits,at first i thought that i was eating to much carbs, so I starting reducing, but that hasnt change a thing then after weeks of trying to understand what i was going through i finally came to the conclusion that the body is constantly changing and like you said for some people plant based diet helps and others make it worse. I just wanted to speak for my experience if someone was going through the same.
And i wanted to say something about B12, when i started being vegetarian i searched a lot and everywhere says ” vegans have B12 deficiency” and i am so tired of earing that, so i wanted to say that our body as storage of B12, some people more than others obviosly and like i said our body is constatly changing so it depends on the person. In this link is an post about that:
I will watch again “what the health” to see if I can see some explanation that i didn’t understand when i saw it for the first time.
Thank you so much for your post it is very interesting.
interesting that you and the other naturapath did not have success with vegans, while vegans including me and other people I know in person, and all I read online from other women tell the opposite.. Me for example.. I have grown up on meat and dairy based diet till this November.. I have always been health conscious all my life, therefore my meat based diet did not have excessive carb, it had veggies still, no deep fries.. whole grains mostly, not sugar filled either. But I had the most severe PMS that I could basically go insane emotionally, also, physically, every other 3 weeks.. The PMS became quite a big problem in my life, seriously affecting my job, other relationships etc. I was insomniac, bloated crazy all the time during this period. Tried everything, a dietician, all kind of tests, candida diets, juice diets, ancient hormone balancer herb, best quality vitamins.. you name it.. Nope, almost no result, may be minor changes with some. However, I switched to a vegan diet last october, as soon as I did, from the very first month on, I forgot even my periods, no PMS, sleep fine, no bloating, no crazy emotional waves.. not the tiredness and muscle aches. Vegan diet immediately within a month became light but normal light, and just fine to continue my life! I read and heard the same from soo many women, including one who wrote under your article.
Hey Suzanna!! I am so happy to hear that switching to a vegan diet helped you so much. Here’s to finding a diet that works for your unique body 🙂
I’m 34, now off bc (using Daysy for about 8 months which I love) and using some bioidentical progesterone and testosterone to rebalance my hormones. I have low thyroid function (taking nature-throid) and just found out I have the MTHFR heterozygous variant, my Dr recently started me on Methyl Pro and I’m getting good results from it. I have been following a paleo diet (except with organic meat only making up maybe a third of the meat I consumed becaise of finances) for 2-3 years now and while it originally made a big difference for me in terms of my gut, it seems like I sort of plateaued and always struggled with constipation and mild cramping, frequent gas/bloating. I was taking good quality probiotics, prebiotic/fiber (acacia senegal) daily just to have a daily bm with occasional help from Betaine hci. I saw “What the Health” and thought maybe I would try vegan reluctantly to see if it helped any of my digestive issues from the standpoint of eliminating all the antibiotics/pharmaceutical residues and increase of bad bacteria, since I was pouring money into trying to improve my gut health/brain fog. I have followed a vegan diet now for about a month and have been a little torn about it, which is why your post resonated with me, especially in reference to your own MTHFR variant. The good side is that I no longer have constipation that lasts 3 days at a time lol – every day Im having the most beautiful (LOL) healthy, s-shaped, no-foul-odor-sort of bms we all attain to LOL…without needing the religious daily prebiotics (or any enzymes of course). I dont tolerate gluten, or dairy at all, and dont do well with soy or peanuts so the real only change in my diet was the elimination of meat and eggs, and the reintroduction of potatoes, rice, quinoa, corn, oats that I avoided on paleo, and the increased quantity of veggies I’m eating now. I try to have them lesser ammounts, but if you’re a gluten free vegan you dont have a lot of choice but to include those. I love to cook and so my vegan meals are almost all from scratch with a huge variety of veggies. I tolerate those grains better now than when I ate them in conjunction with meat (if I occasionally cheated/had to while travelling etc while on a paleo diet), but I understand the rationales behind avoiding them on paleo, so I am not really all about making them a huge part of my diet again. I’ve only been eating vegan for about a month, have now had fewer headaches, and the first two weeks I had abundant energy and an almost euphoric positivity. On the downside, the last couple of weeks, I have felt like I’ve struggled a little more with mood, my energy is fairly normal, I feel like I struggle a little more with keeping my blood sugar stable, and I noticed a few days with lots of tiny acne bumps forming just under the surface all over my forehead when I usually have no problem with acne. The acne went away after 2-3 days. I’m not sure if that was a detox side effect or a sign my hormones are changing. My poor hubby on the otherhand, who is such a good sport and has enjoyed the flavor of the vegan dishes I’ve been making, has been eating mostly vegan too, but he previously had regular bms and now has had soft, greasy stools every day of this experiment, except on the day or two that we went to a restaurant and he had something with meat in it. He likes the lighter feeling in his stomach and has slimmed down maybe 3-4lbs, but isnt sure that the GI effects are going to resolve on their own like many vegan websites suggest. His main health struggles are low thyroid, slightly low T, migraines, seasonal allergies, and a sensitivity to dairy. I don’t feel this is the right diet for his body at all. I think though, that when we were eating paleo, we were probably much highter on the protein spectrum than we should have been, with eggs and bacon every morning, meat and veggies at every meal. I’m thinking that since just 50 grams is the minimum, even 100 grams of meat would be much less than we were eating in animal protein each day – probably making up 1/3 to 1/2 of our diet. I’m thinking a good compromise for us would be to have meat at one meal a day maybe, or halve the quantity at each meal, making it also possible to just have organic grassfed/finished meat and eggs, and fill up on veggies much more than we were doing prior, and eliminate the corn/oats/beans/rice/potatoes again. Im also considering comprehensive food allergy testing since the GI issues and headaches we both have fairly often sort of smacks of some additional unknown allergy perhaps. I know very little about the MTHFR variant as of yet but I’m trying to learn what else may affect it and what I should be aware of. Thanks for the wonderful as always article, I’m interested to hear your hypotheses/ have you weigh in on my thought process and see if I’m along the right track or not/ references you think might be extra helpful? I could then investigate your suggestions in my case further with my functional medicine doctor. Thanks for all your help!
Hi Amanda! Thanks so much for your comment and kind words about the article. I would love to weigh in but can’t do that via the comments because you’re not a client of mine. Sorry! 🙁 But it sounds like you’re doing much better on a vegan diet. I think it’s critical for each of us to find what works best for our physiology, and to constantly monitor ourselves to see how we’re doing. I would definitely explore all of this with your functional doc, and I’m a big fan of food allergy testing, and doing an organic acids test (Genova Diagnostics). Read more about it’s uses here: https://www.gdx.net/product/metabolic-analysis-test-organic-acids-urine
Hope this helps! 🙂
I love it that you always stress the fact that each of us have a unique body, i.e. different people need different diets. There is no The One Diet!
For me, giving up meat many years ago has helped with constipation. I couldn’t stomach it and I was really glad to stop eating it. I was vegetarian for 12 years. Now I have reintroduced fish (I was craving it… and I know when my body craves for smth it really needs, as opposed to unhealthy cravings) and I sometimes have little slices of smoked pig fat with garlic and whole grain bread, a food that my grandparents used to eat in the countryside. I also eat eggs. I take care that everything is bio/grass fed.
Following your program, I stopped eating dairy and processed sweets, and I reduced gluten intake almost to 0. I do notice wonderful changes and this after only one month, so I’ll continue. I still need to find a reliable, vegetarian source of enough iron, because I could never stomach red meat, let alone liver. I could always have it as a supplement (there is a very good syrop that I found), but I already take lots of them: magnesium, SGS, omega 3 and B vitamins.
In regards to “What the health?”. Nutrition documentaries should teach people how to listen to their bodies and encourage them to experiment and research. Anything that induces fear (“You’ll die if you don’t do as we tell you!”) and is very radical, clearly has an agenda and should be questioned. It’s as bad as this whole meat and carbs industry.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kitty! I am always grateful for different perspectives and opinions, and I’m psyched that you feel you’ve found what works at this time. I always like to say that our dietary needs change depending on where we’re at in life, so I’m glad that you listened to those cues from your body. Keep on rockin’! xo
I had debilitating cramps my entire life until I stopped eating meat. I went almost vegan, if that makes sense, but even after more cheese crept back into my life, my cramps never returned.
Awesome Gloria!! It’s great that you got to bring back cheese. It’s the little things in life 🙂
My periods and thyroid went awry while eating an organic and ‘healthy’ veggies meat tofu and raw dairy diet and under emotional stress. I don’t think there is one cause.
The film had a lot of nonsense and could have been made by anti vegans to give the veganists a bad name!
I am vegetarian and not vegan (sometimes accidentally vegan ).
Vegetarians and vegans need to be aware of the nutrient deficits that can arise and supplement or eat accordingly.
For some, the ethical and environmental, spiritual and financial considerations of accessing high quality meat will take it off the table regardless of the health considerations.
I encourage young women to track their nutrient status and supplement or reconsider accordingly.
I think your article is great for encouraging women to think for themselves, adds another perspective, and very rightly slams that movie.
I’m sure everyone needs to do what is right for them on all levels.
Appreciate your take on this Claire! Thanks for your comment! xo
i have been mostly vegan for many years and i have not one health issue. different strokes for different folks. i have no pms, no period pain, no clots, just healthy periods.
to add to the above – i used to eat meat and dairy and i did have BADDDD PMS and painful unbalanced periods
That’s awesome to hear Jac! Thanks for sharing your point of view. Very happy to hear you’ve found the right approach for you. 🙂
I am a dairy free vegetarian and it has so HELPED my period! I’ve had keratosis since I was a teen, eating meat, so that didn’t change but my periods no longer have clots, no cramps and very little PMS. I also want to mention that nutritional yeast is an excellent source of vitamins B12 and B6 and it’s not from animal sources. Actually you can get sufficient B12 from bacteria in soil but people have this obsession with washing their foods. Anyway, I don’t agree at all with Nicole’s article and wish more people would adopt a near-vegan lifestyle.
Hey Viviana, thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad that you’ve found the right diet for you, and that it has improved all those period problems you were having. I want to point out that nutritional yeast is NOT an excellent source of B12 or B6. Nutritional yeast is actually fortified with those vitamins. They do not naturally occur in nutritional yeast or any other plant-based food. Further, the B6, B9 and B12 that nutritional yeast is fortified with are synthetic, which are absolutely useless and even downright dangerous for people like me with MTHFR mutations and other genetic SNPs that prevent my body from converting synthetic B vitamins into their usable form. The label on Braggs says pyridoxine, folic acid and B12 – basically synthetic vitamins that are for the most part useless to about 30-50% of the population who have MTHFR gene mutations.
Folic acid refers to the synthetic compound that’s used in dietary supplements and food fortification, whereas folate refers to the various derivatives naturally found in food. Folate has an active form called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF. Folic acid is much less available to biological processes. For people with MTHFR mutations, it is very important that they don’t take folic acid, because it can actually interfere with their ability to create 5-MTHF.
I’ve not found any evidence that you can get sufficient B12 from bacteria in soil, and as you say Americans are obsessed with washing their fruit and veggies, so that certainly isn’t a solution.
Ultimately, I have yet to see a vegan who has B12 levels even near 800 pg/mL, which from a functional medicine perspective is where you need to be to avoid deficiency.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with me by any means, but it’s very important to know your facts when it comes to diet, and equally important to understand that there is absolutely no one blanket dietary approach that will work for everyone.
I am vegan for 3 years now and still counting, my b12 level is in the healthy spectrum , I recently had my blod tests done in January 2018 by european standards my level of Vitamine B12
Min: 130.0 | Max: 700.0 |
The only deficiency i had was vitamin D, as i was living in Netherlands at the time
.OH vitamine D totaal 47.0 Bepaling per 23 oktober 2017 uitgevoerd met nieuw en verbeterd reagens Min: 50.0 |
As you said every body is unique. Becoming plant based was the best i decision i ever took.
I really think it’s a good idea that you’re making people question this movie, I do think that a lot of movies like this adds fuel to the fire and some people just blindly accept the information as fact. However, this article you’ve written isn’t any more scientific or accurate than the movie. Your comment that “Also, vegans tend to have lower stomach acid, which is a side effect of not having any animal protein in their diets” is based on what? I see some sources listed at the bottom but they’re not cited in the article at all.
Also, I feel that you could have touched on non-vegan sources of protein and what they have to offer as far as amino acids. or other nutrients. But that could be just because I’m vegan myself that I would like to see that.
You are right that being vegan or vegetarian may work for some, but not all. I do think that this movie is helpful at getting people’s attention, even if it is dangerous.
This isn’t an attack at all. I think you’re doing some really good things.
I think it’s sad that you’re no longer working with vegans though, as I just read from your reply to the above comment. I have no plans to go back to eating meat, so I guess I have no plans to stay subscribed to your email list or buy anything from you.
Hey Catilin! Is this the same Caitlin who I met at the Whole Foods immersion? If so, I get why you feel so strongly about this, and appreciate you sharing your point of view.
However, I will say that this post is 100% more scientifically accurate than the movie….Everything that needed a source is cited – see the numbers throughout the article that correlate to the numbered sources. I just chose not to add a million little details and citations into it, because then it would be 4000 words long.
If you want to see an excellent breakdown with tons of citations to back it up, take a look at Rob Wolf’s article:
And here are some well cited articles on nutrient deficiencies linked to vegan diets:
Additionally, it is a well known fact that over time the stomach slows down hydrochloric acid production when there is no meat or animal protein present. Your body learns that it is simply not needed in larger quantities. This is why when people are supplementing with HCL to rebuild their stomach acid, they should only take it when consuming animal protein.
This is also one of the main reasons why a vegan diet can cause so many problems – without adequate stomach acid, it’s very difficult to extract minerals and B12 from food. B12 is bound to protein in food and is released by digestion in the stomach, which requires a normal level of stomach acid. Additionally, zinc and B1 are needed for adequate stomach acid production, but both of these tend to be deficient in a vegan diet.
And there was no need for me to share non-vegan sources of protein because those are listed in a million other blog posts. All of that defeats the purpose of the article – which is to HIGHLIGHT WHAT I SEE IN MY WORK WITH WOMEN WHO HAVE BEEN VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN AND HAVE UNBALANCED HORMONES/PERIOD PROBLEMS.
A movie full of misinformation is dangerous. Period. It’s driving people to make decisions that might have long-term health repercussions, so no, I don’t think it is even remotely helpful. This blog post is not driving anyone to make decisions because I am scaring them into it. I am informing people without scare tactics, because I believe we cannot make an informed decision unless we have ALL the information.
Totally your choice to unsubscribe from my mailing list, and never buy anything from me. It’s all good. Just like it’s totally up to me who I decide to work with. Take good care!! 🙂
No, this is not the same Caitlin you’ve met.
Saying your article is 100% more scientifically accurate than the movie is not accurate. Where are you getting that number? Did you do the calculations by yourself? Is it based on how many references you’ve listed in comparison to the references in the movie?
I will add that I have not seen the movie, and I don’t think that it could be any more scientific than this article either. But honestly this article you’ve written is more just a rant on this movie than a scientific approach to the facts it presents.
When I clicked to read your article I expected much more, but instead I read over generalizations that a vegan diet is not healthy and creates nutritional deficiencies. I was hoping to see more explanation to HOW a vegan diet affects your hormones/period. I’m open to reading about that, not reading about generalizations. Which brings me to the main part of your article that bothers me the most.
The statement about vegans having lower stomach acid than non-vegans. In your reply you state “Additionally, it is a well known fact that over time the stomach slows down hydrochloric acid production when there is no meat or animal protein present. Your body learns that it is simply not needed in larger quantities. This is why when people are supplementing with HCL to rebuild their stomach acid, they should only take it when consuming animal protein.
This is also one of the main reasons why a vegan diet can cause so many problems – without adequate stomach acid, it’s very difficult to extract minerals and B12 from food. B12 is bound to protein in food and is released by digestion in the stomach, which requires a normal level of stomach acid. Additionally, zinc and B1 are needed for adequate stomach acid production, but both of these tend to be deficient in a vegan diet.”
Where is it a well known fact? I want to see it somewhere. I have never ONCE heard this. Not one time in the three years I have been vegan or the time I considered going vegan before I was actually vegan. It’s a generalized statement that comes from your opinion. Which, granted this is your blog, you can write whatever you want. You can even choose not to post the comments. But I do think the title of the article is misleading and I don’t think it’s as scientific as you are saying it is. Those references you sent me in your reply, while very in depth, don’t look like they are necessarily accurate either. I haven’t made the time to read them thoroughly, which I will later, but from first glance they don’t seem to be what I hope for when reading scientific articles.
I will answer your question about why I feel so strongly about this. I was thinking last night about why I felt compelled to comment on this ONE article of yours, when all I’ve done up to this point is read and not actively participate. I’ve never commented on an online article before, which I’m sure you’ve heard before, it was out of character for me. I considered purchasing one of your guides back in January this year, but ultimately backed out because of the cost. I’ve read every single email you’ve sent out and considered applying to work with you and also for your apprenticeship program. I have a full time job, so it wasn’t really a good idea since I don’t plan to leave right now. Maybe in the future I’d love to do what you do, which is why I think I followed your emails so closely for the time that I did. You were a bit of an inspiration to me.
I do think physicians/coaches/health guides should be entitled to treat who they want, however, not treating vegans is kind of a cop out. And this isn’t just you, I think a lot of others do this as well. People don’t know enough about a vegan diet and don’t feel comfortable working with someone they don’t know that they can help. So, I get it. But it also doesn’t feel good to know that there are so many doctors/physicians, etc that won’t help vegans. I believe so much in the way I eat because of where I came from and how I felt before I went vegan, and I would really like to actually find the help that I need. Because I’ve tried a few doctors in my area and they have all dismissed me. I’ve had to find my own way through all of this, unfortunately.
Lastly two more things: I wouldn’t have found you or your website if I wasn’t vegan and maybe some of the nutritional deficiencies you see in vegans are a result of other things in their lives and not JUST from being vegan. Just a thought.
Caitlin, there’s a lot you’ve written here. I appreciate that you feel so strongly about your dietary choices, and thank you for being an avid follower of mine.
You haven’t watched the movie or read anything I’ve cited. Hmmm , okay. I cited information and stated what I know, but I’m not interested in debating the pros and cons of a vegan diet in the comments of this blog. I know what I know based on my own experience, and that of the MANY women who’ve come to me. I don’t need science to back me up on this – I have worked with 100’s of women one on one, and 1000’s of women in my group programs, so I’ve got a pretty good idea of what works for hormonal health and what doesn’t. Ultimately, I am treating the women, not the results of a scientific study.
I have no doubt a vegan diet works for others – it just doesn’t work for the women who are coming to me. And yes, there are of course other factors that contribute to health problems obviously, but the point is that diet is the foundation. If there is something wrong with someone’s diet, then external stress (for example) becomes even more of a problem. Chronic high cortisol depletes B vitamins, so sure, stress could be the problem, but most vegans are deficient in B12 anyways. So the deficiency caused by the diet exacerbates the problem of chronic stress.
Low stomach acid is an EPIDEMIC in the general population, and even more so in vegans. This is not my opinion. Do a quick search online and see for yourself. Or don’t. I know enough about a vegan diet to work with someone who is vegan, but again, after years of experience, I choose not to. I’m fine taking this stand, and I’m sorry to hear you’ve had trouble finding someone who can help you with your health concerns. You should check out Dr. Ritamarie Loscalzo. She’s vegan and teaches about hormonal health, and she’s awesome!
Good luck on your journey!! 🙂
THIS! I’m so happy that you posted on this. I’m not one to have facts to back up my statements like you and I often think back to your course and what I’ve learned so far. The big one is that you really have to struggle to get all of your vitamins if you’re not eating meat. I personally have a sour taste in my mouth from this documentary. I don’t like how in the beginning it was all “don’t eat this… don’t eat that” and I turned to my husband and said “by the end of this we’re going to learn that if we eat anything we might die!” and that’s just silly. The title is wrong and misleading. He comes off as this guy who was just looking for answers but I feel like it’s some sly approach to convince you to go vegan or die. I’ll pass.
Haha, go vegan or die. That should be their tagline! I agree, it’s frustrating to see films like this because people get really scared into eating foods that may not be right for them, or cutting whole food groups out that could be benficial in the right amounts. Thanks for sharing your point of view Christine! So appreciate it love!
Nicole I really appreciate your thoughtful article. For me, I’ve experimented with all kinds of diets (Paleo, Keto) and more recently since about January of this year Vegan. I have had the best results since I finally cut out meat, eggs and dairy products. After two months vegan my endometriosis pain went away. In fact, I kept forgetting I was on my period, I was SO pain free. That result alone has made me want to stay vegan. My periods also became more predictable and lasted a solid 5 to 7 days but no longer. While weight loss hasn’t come as easy as I’d like, I at least feel more motivated to exercise, so there’s that. I can honestly say I think I’ll keep at this plant-based lifestyle unless it seems to not be working for me anymore, but for the time being it’s been a life saver.
Kate, thank you soooo much for sharing your experience! I really love to hear when women find the diet that works for their bodies and symptoms. It really sounds like going vegan has had massively positive impacts on your health. YAY for that! So so happy that your periods have been pain free. That is truly an incredible benefit. Big hugs!!! <3
I usually don’t refer to myself as vegan, although the way I eat would be considered such. I say I eat a whole food plant based diet. And I am sure you would agree there often is a big difference between the two. I actually have very regular, healthy cycles. And I menstruate for about 5 days. I have never been on BC, thank God! I actually use WINK from your suggestion and love it! When I ate animal products I would occasionally miss periods for a month or two and felt much worse symptoms around them. This sounds contrary to what you have seen in your clients, but I thought I would share (since you asked!) my very positive experience eliminating animal products and having a very healthy cycle. I would be curious to know more about the type of vegan diets your clients were eating. I agree almost everyone needs more veggies in their bellies 😉 and I think many vegans ironically don’t eat enough veggies just like omnivores.
Hey Emily! Thanks for your comment! So interesting that you have had the exact opposite experience of myself and most of my clients, but again, this is what I was describing about everyone’s physiology being different. There is also a big genetic component that functional medicine is only now coming to understand – some of us do better on way less protein and fat than others. Some of us don’t break down and excrete estrogen as well as others, which would be one reason that a vegan diet would be helpful. Also, some women have a predisposition to high blood sugar/insulin dysregulation, and they do better on a high protein/low carb diet vs a vegan diet that tends to be very carb-intensive. Thanks, and glad you have found what works for you! xo
DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THIS STUPID DOCUMENTARY! When he said sugar does NOT cause diabetes! ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME! MEAT CAUSES DIABETES AND NOT DONUTS! I yelled at the TV and turned that $hit off lol
I don’t eat dairy, cheese, gluten, grains in general and white potatoes, but if I can get small amounts of animal protein that’s free range, organically grown and fed, that waaaay better than eating hi sugar fruits, flour and dried fruits that are super high in sugar period.
Love you Nicole! You do so much and have the science to back it up!
Nina!! You are awesome!! Thanks for your very energetic response haha. I was extremely annoyed about the approach they took in the film, so I feel ya sista. Love to you!
I am a fellow naturopath over in Germany. I like reading your stuff! Thank you so much about your article on veganism. While I also respect the wish to be vegan, I have stopped treating vegans because I was not having any success with them. I am an ex vegetarian myself. I wished that would work out for me, but it does not.
Hi there Katia!
I am so happy to hear from you. I have also stopped working with vegans because I was not having very much success with them either, so I appreciate you sharing that here. I also wish I was able to stick to a plant-based diet, but my body seems to require lots of protein and fat.