In food heaven Singapore, not many are vegans. But the vegan trend is on the rise (globally even), boasting massive natural health benefits. It’s no wonder then that we recently heard that going on a vegan diet may eradicate serious cramps.
You sure bo? (Source)
That was my reaction too…plus, I love vegetables but I’ll never give up my meat either! Especially in Singapore.
But it did intrigue me, so we went to do some research on it so that you don’t have to.
The Science Behind It
In summary, chemicals called prostaglandins are the main culprits behind menstrual cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea. They’re bad because they promote inflammation, which brings along muscle contraction, blood vessel constriction, blood clotting and pain. And when the lining of your uterus breaks down during your period, the cells in the lining release prostaglandins, causing menstrual cramps.
Basically this means, less prostaglandins = less pain.
So how to reduce prostaglandins?
The solution behind having a vegan diet is to reduce the number of cells in your uterine lining so that less prostaglandins will be produced. To explain how this works, we need to bring in the hormone, estrogen.
Estrogen is a hormone that promotes cell growth, and nearing menstruation, estrogen levels will increase so that you will produce more uterine lining cells.
That means: estrogen increases = more uterine lining cells = more prostaglandins produced = PAIN.
So if you can somehow DECREASE the amount of estrogen, the uterine lining won’t thicken as much. Less prostaglandins will be produced and the end result is that you will be in much less pain than before.
A Diet That Reduces Estrogen
Your diet can adjust estrogen levels in your body. The key is having a low-fat and high-fibre diet.
This is because fibre acts like a sponge and absorbs all the excess estrogen that your body wants to flush out as waste. If you don’t have enough fibre, the problem is that the excess estrogen that’s supposed to be flushed out will get reabsorbed into your body, increasing even more the amount of estrogen in your blood…even more pain!
This could be the main reason why vegans, who consume very little fat and oils but a lot of fibre from all the fruits and vegetables, may experience less to no cramps. All their excess estrogen gets flushed out of their body by absorption from all the fibre.
This study here also shows some proof of a vegan diet’s efficiency in lessening menstrual cramps!
Where Do I Start?
The misconception of starting a Vegan diet is that one only has fruits and vegetables to eat, in other words – salad. That’s not entirely right. Vegans get to enjoy foods such as waffles, pancakes, pizza, pasta, burgers… basically everything just Veganised. Most people think that Vegan food sucks till they have tried it.
Transitioning to Veganism is not easy especially when you start craving for meat. While I was transitioning, I had my own setbacks like having to give up salmon and eggs and it was honestly hard for me. But after more than a year of being on a Vegan lifestyle, I stopped craving for them completely. My close friends are also amazed that I’m able to say ‘NO’ despite them eating those foods in front of me – after all, I had salmon at least three to four times a week, no kidding. I thought being on a Paleo diet was the right thing for me, until I went Vegan.
Here are a few tips from me to help you transition to a Vegan diet easily.
1. Do not rush into it
Yes of course you would like to spare as many animal lives as you can, but the thing is if you jump straight into it you will most likely jump right out of it in a few days. What I did was cut off salmon first by eating them twice a week, then once a week, and eventually stop eating them completely. The same went for eggs, after I stopped eating salmon, I slowly cut eggs off too.
When you cut these foods out from your diet slowly, your body will not crave for them as much compared to stopping them straight away. It works for some, but for most, it is better to cutting down on animal products slowly. When that happens, your body naturally stops craving for animal products and you will also not salivate over them.
2. Don’t go all superfoods on your wallet
When I first went Vegan, I would spend a ton of money of superfoods like Acai and chia seeds. Sure they’re good for you, but you would not need to eat them every day. Once in a while, have an acai bowl or sprinkle chia seeds over your smoothie, that works fine too!
Your wallet will also thank you for that.
You see, a Vegan diet is not all that expensive, you just got to buy the right foods.
3. Eat your rice and potatoes
The misconception of carbs being your enemy or carbs making you fat has been proven false by Vegan doctors like Dr Mcdougall. Carbs are actually a form of energy and being Vegan, that is where we are going to get our energy from.
You cannot solely eat vegetables and expect yourself to push through the day like a bull. You still need to fill yourself with carbs so you will not feel sleepy or lethargic throughout the day.
A good book recommendation that can help you understand this term better is ‘The Starch Solution’ by Dr Mcdougall.
In the book, it also explains to you why you should be cutting oils off instead of carbs and it also shows you true stories on how many cancer patients recovered just by switching their diet.
Plus, it’s more affordable when your staples are rice and potatoes 🙂
4. Head out to Vegan cafes
When you first transition to Veganism, you will still crave the chicken cheese burger you always had, or the char kway teow from your favourite hawker center. You know what? That’s still possible even when you’re Vegan. Yes you heard me right.
But there’s nothing to worry about! There are so many Vegan cafes opening up in Singapore now that you have so many options so you don’t have to feel deprived.
My favourite burger from NomvNom is the ‘QQ cheezy’ burger. It’s extremely tasty and flavourful. My close friends know how much I love noodles, especially Kway Teow, so I love heading to Loving Hut to get my ‘Char Kway Teow’ and ‘Cheesy Ham Sandwich’ fix.
These Vegan options show you that even though you are on a Vegan diet, you don’t have to eat just fruits and vegetables. You can still enjoy eating like you used to, beating the stereotypes of being a Vegan.
5. Find Inspiration
The thing about maintaining a Vegan lifestyle is to surround yourself with positive vibes and finding something that inspires and motivates you further.
For me, I follow Vegan foodie accounts on my Instagram and I love seeing the creative ways they prepare their food. I also love reading Vegan cookbooks and finding Vegan recipes so I will never get bored of the foods that I prepare or eat.
Many times, people fall off the wagon because their friends or family members pressure them into eating meat again. When that happens, always remind yourself why you are Vegan and tell yourself that being Vegan, you help to save billions of animals each year from being slaughtered.
So there you have it – a guide to a Vegan diet and how it affects your menstrual cramps. Do eat more veggies for fibre to reduce your estrogen levels (lower estrogen levels means less prostagladins produced means less pain).
This article was co-written by Roe Curie and Jaslyn Goh. Thank you Jaslyn for contributing a large segment of the article! 🙂 If you wish to find out more about a Vegan’s lifestyle or delectable Vegan recipes, head over to jaslyngoh.com or you can follow Jaslyn on Instagram at @jaslyngoh or on Facebook.