Newsflash: Losing your period doesn't mean your body Is 'clean'. An ob-gyn explains why this idea suggested by some "health" bloggers is total BS—and why your monthly flow is nothing but natural.
Getting your period can be a bummer, especially if you experience severe PMS or painful menstrual cramps. But aside from trying out different methods of hormonal birth control and popping some Midol, there's not much you can do to make them go away. That's why when we saw certain vegan bloggers (like Freelee the Banana Girl, who also advocates a dangerous mono meal plan of 50 bananas a day) suggesting that eating a low-fat vegan diet could make periods lighter, less painful, and even non-existent, we were more than skeptical. (FYI, this is the best way to reduce your PMS symptoms, according to science.)
As Broadly recently reported, there's a group of vegan "health" bloggers with alarmingly large followings of young girls and women who advocate extreme diet changes—like going raw vegan—as the best treatment for painful, heavy periods. Their reasoning? Your body sheds and releases toxins during your period, and the cleaner you eat, the less you'll have to shed. You might even have so few "toxins" that your body stops producing a period altogether. Hmmm. Bloggers who advocate this approach are careful to point out that losing your period from malnutrition is different from losing it because you're toxin-free, since *obviously* they wouldn't suggest starving yourself. Sadly, what they fail to realize is that, as you probably know, there really is no "healthy" way to lose your period.
"At the end of the day if you're having a heavy period, then get on a 100 percent high carb raw vegan diet as soon as you can," Freelee said in a popular YouTube video. In fact, she evens says she lost her period for a while several years ago, and that she felt "awesome" during that time, since her periods had been so painful before. What's more, she goes on to say that periods that are not light and painless are not normal or natural. Someone sound the BS alarm, please?
"There's no scientific basis to the idea that your period is your body shedding toxins," says Lauren Streicher, M.D., associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and author of Sex Rx: Hormones, Your Health, and Your Best Sex Ever. "A menstrual cycle is natural—the purpose of it is to achieve a pregnancy. That's it. Period." So yeah, your body does *not* need to use your period as a way to get rid of toxins in your body that are caused by your diet. (Side note: Here are more detox myths dietitians wish you would stop believing.)
Now that that's out of the way, what does it mean if you don't have your period? And are they actually necessary? "It's really important to note that there is a complete difference between someone who is not using hormonal contraception (like the Pill or an IUD) and someone who is," Dr. Streicher explains. If someone is using hormonal contraception, it's perfectly fine not to get a period, she says. But if you're not on the Pill or a similar method of birth control, the absence of a period is a problem.
"If you don't get your period (and you're not on hormonal birth control), you can get an abnormal buildup in the lining of the uterus, which can become cancerous down the road," Dr. Streicher says. Missing your period can also put you at risk for bone loss and other health problems, she says. "There's nothing good about not getting your period." (Related: Why Is Everyone So Obsessed with Periods Right Now?)
As for whether you can change your period by eating a certain way? "People will tell you all kinds of anecdotal things like 'Oh, I cut out eating this food group and now my period is so much lighter,' but anecdotal experience is not science," Dr. Streicher says. "It's dangerous for someone who has no idea what they're talking about to be giving out medical advice."
While fitness, lifestyle, and food bloggers are super fun to follow, this whole fiasco is an important reminder that your fitness and health advice should be coming from those who have real credentials, whether it's certified trainers for fitness, registered dietitians for nutrition advice, or a physician for medical concerns. The Internet is an amazing resource for getting information about pretty much everything, but it's crucial to check with a professional before taking any life-altering health advice from someone who isn't qualified to be doling it out.