If you have recently switched to a raw-foods diet, especially if this is a drastic change from the way you were eating previously, you may see changes in your menstrual cycle. For one thing, the changes your body is going through are pretty drastic. Raw foodism is intended to detoxify and rebuild healthy tissue, so it should be no surprise that your system will be thrown off balance. Hopefully, you are seeing many of the positive changes that usually occur with this new way of eating and living, such as weight loss. Just one caution: make certain your raw-foods diet includes all the nutritional elements you need to be healthy.
Menstruation and the Menstrual Cycle
Called “a period” by most people, this is when the uterus sheds its lining. For most people, this lasts from three to five days. Your cycle is the first day of one period to the first of the next one, which averages 28 days but varies drastically from woman to woman. Hormones rise and fall during the month, the causative agent for the cycle. The first two weeks, estrogen levels rise and the lining of the uterus grows and thickens. While this is going on, an egg in one of the ovaries, where the eggs are stored, begins to mature. Ovulation occurs about midway in the cycle–the egg leaves the ovary. This mature egg travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. Meanwhile, the lining of the uterus is being prepared for this egg. This is the prime time for fertilization. If it is not fertilized, the egg will break apart, hormone levels will drop, and the lining will be shed.
Raw Food and Menstruation
A number of women on the raw-foods diet have reported the lack of a menstrual period (amenorrhea). This can be caused by a number of things including extreme weight loss. Hormonal problems that may result from a nutritional deficiency can also bring it on, but so can stress or extreme exercise. If you are on a raw-foods diet and are experiencing amenorrhea after having regular monthly periods, you should be concerned but not alarmed. It may simply be the result of the drastic change in your diet and may solve itself after awhile. However, amenorrhea is not normal, and you should explore what is causing yours.
Extreme Weight Loss
If you've been eating a standard American diet and have suddenly gone all-raw or mostly-raw in your diet, you have no doubt lost weight and that may be reason for your amenorrhea. Extremely low body fat levels cause hormonal imbalances, since a certain amount of fat is required for the production of hormones, especially in women. If that's the case, it doesn't mean you can't stay on the diet; it simply means that you need to plan your diet to include more foods that have higher caloric content such as avocados, nuts, and dried fruits. A figure of 2,000 calories is usually cited as the ideal calorie consumption number for most people. However, few women need that many calories. You will need to take into account your build and height and how active you are to determine just how many calories you need to be healthy. Less active women may need as few as 1,600 calories.
Your amenorrhea may be the result of a nutritional deficiency even if you haven't experienced a severe weight loss. Your raw-foods diet should include the following every day:
- Two cups of fruits
- Two and one-half cups of vegetables
- Five and one-half mixed cups of, nuts, peanut butter, seeds, peas, or sprouted lentils, (a complete protein combinations is very important...)
Yes, 5 and ½ cups of beans, peas, seeds, nuts, peanut butter etc sound too much. But these are 5 and ½ cups of fresh, raw beans, peas, seeds, nuts, peanut butter etc together. We did a portion breakup for your convenience (or you can adjust the portions according to your taste) – 1 cup of peas, 1 cup of beans, 1 cup of sprouts, ½ cup of lentils, ½-1 cup of nuts, ½ cup of seeds, 3-4 Tbsp of peanut or other nut butters. Now, remember the beans/peas/lentils mentioned are fresh and raw ones, and not dried ones that are soaked. If you are using dried beans/peas/lentils that are soaked, then you would need to reduce the quantity, as dried ones absorb water, swell up and increase in volume when they are soaked, and they are also nutritionally more dense.
Beans, peas, lentils, seeds, nuts, peanut butter etc, not only provide protein, but they also provide good amounts of dietary fiber and carbohydrates and very good amounts of other vitamins and minerals.
But as each person's nutritional requirements are unique depending on their age, weight, metabolic rate, amount of daily activity and any health other conditions there may be, these amounts can be adjusted according to what suits you best. The 5 and ½ cups are just a general amount that is suggested, give or take.
Keep a diary to be sure you are getting the nutrients you think you are. Are you feeling full and satisfied? Perhaps you need to add a little more food to your daily intake.
Having amenorrhea is neither healthy nor normal. If you regain some of the weight you've lost until you've reached a healthy weight for your height, body build, and age and if you continue to eat a diet that includes all the nutrients your body needs, your periods should return. Women on a raw-foods diet who have regular periods often report that periods tend to be lighter, milder, and pain-free. There are many healthy women with regular periods who are strictly raw foodists. Extremely heavy periods are also not normal. When your flow is heavy, you are in danger of becoming anemic, so if you are experiencing this opposite of amenorrhea, you need to take steps to get back to normal. Eating raw foods should make you healthier, not less so. If you are suffering from either of these disorders and nothing you do seems to help, it would be wise for you to visit a naturopathic medical professional who understands the raw-foods diet and its impact on the body. He can help you determine the cause for your menstrual irregularities and will aid you in finding solutions and will help you continue on your raw-foods diet.
By TTS Health Consultant Gabrielle Gingras