How a vegan diet made my menstrual pain disappear
An interview with Keeley Householder
If you’re a person experiencing debilitating PMS, you are likely familiar with the desperation to find some relief. We’re not only asking our doctors, but we’re asking friends, browsing forums, spending hours online, digging for a magic elixir to heal us. Historically, birth control has seemed to be the perfect solution, but for many women, birth control just can’t cut through the debilitating cramps, migraines, and fatigue.
Recently, I started digging into the benefits of a plant-based diet and its impact on PMS symptoms (as well as a whole host of other health issues). This journey started with Keeley Householder - vegan, dog lover and friend. She’s been on a vegan diet for nearly two years and has seen such dramatic changes in her PMS. I wanted to sit down with her and discuss how it’s helped, how you can get started, and why vegan may be an excellent option for women with PMS.
Check out the interview below and let us know if you've also tried the vegan diet for PMS!
Keeley! Tell our readers a little about yourself.
My name is Keeley Householder; I’m eighteen years old. I attend college at the University of North Georgia, majoring in Graphics and I have been vegan and a plant-based food enthusiast for two years.
When did you decide to go vegan?
I always had terrible cramps and insanely awful migraines around the time of my period. So in the summer of 2016, I learned more about the vegan diet from a friend on my lacrosse team. She was vegan and told me how she had zero cramps and even a shorter period, so that’s what initially piqued my interest. Also, I love a good challenge, so I jumped right in - cold turkey. (Tofurky?)
I started out by researching for a few weeks on Google and decided I would just try it for two months because I had heard the buzz about how it improved PMS, energy, and overall health. I used Pinterest for recipes and pins with diagrams of the vegan food pyramid to get an idea of how my protein sources would shift. And THEN I read a fantastic book How Not To Die by Michael Greger after going vegan but I wish I had read before because it would have answered so many of my questions! Highly recommend!
What were some things you noticed right away?
I immediately noticed I had more energy. And after eating meals, I felt satisfied, not weighed down, bloated and in pain.
I was also surprised how easy the transition was for me. I had always said I would never be able to go vegan and stay vegan, but as soon as I was introduced to the amazing variety of recipes and health information, I realized how much of a lifestyle it was.
How was your menstrual cycle affected?
I used to get one migraine a month. I’m not talking the kind where you pop some Advil and carry on - I was hit with the whole shebang. My menstrual migraines meant 24 hours of excruciating head pain, vomiting, loss of vision, numbness in the entire right side of my body, hours of sobbing followed by lack of sleep and shakiness. This had been happening for an entire year straight and following my elimination of all animal-derived products, they miraculously stopped. I haven’t had one in almost two years now. Following the absence of migraines, I also no longer have to stay home from class due to cramps, bloat, and fatigue. My period is a day or two shorter than it used to be.
“My menstrual migraines meant 24 hours of excruciating head pain, vomiting, loss of vision, numbness in the entire right side of my body, hours of sobbing followed by lack of sleep and shakiness...following my elimination of all animal-derived products, they miraculously stopped.”
What was the toughest part of the change?
I would say the toughest part was learning how to eat socially. I would go, but I wouldn’t eat because I didn’t want a salad, and my family would feel bad or get frustrated that It was difficult for me to find choices. It became so stressful that I’d entirely avoid eating out because I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. Eventually, I learned how to order anywhere, but it was a challenge at first.
What are some of the misconceptions from others?
There are many misconceptions when it comes to plant-based diets. Many people assume all vegans eat rabbit food, but I can’t stress enough that ANYTHING can be vegan and I swear just because it is vegan, does not mean it is going to taste like grass.
Another misconception is that vegans are fragile and weak because the only way to obtain protein is from animals. It’s pretty easy to get the daily 50-60 grams of protein needed for most humans. Protein is in most vegetables - one cup of edamame contains the same amount of protein as a hamburger patty! A meal such as a curry, containing broccoli, rice, sweet potato, and chickpea can bring you right to your recommended protein amount in one meal. There is protein in almost everything, and it adds up!
What advice would you give to people who want to try it out?
JUST TRY IT. If you do not try something, you will never know if you like it. Maybe try it for a week before your period, I promise there will be some difference. Pinterest has thousands of vegan meal recipes. And if support is needed, there’s an entire community on Instagram, and it’s nice to follow along and gain motivation from accounts like @minimalistbaker and @vegan. (This helped me because I knew no one vegan at the time.) The less processed food you eat, the better you’ll feel.
If someone is afraid of being judged, what words of encouragement could you provide?
I was very afraid of judgment because I didn’t want people to generalize me as being an intense activist. (And there’s nothing wrong with that at all) Though they still will, the best thing is to arm yourself with facts! Many people will criticize you, but I have realized that people are usually oblivious to the benefits of this lifestyle and that I must accept I can’t change everyone’s mind. Pick your battles; you’re doing what’s best for your body.
What are some of your favorite go-to recipes?
- Minimalist Baker has a great eggplant parmesan recipe.
- Overnight oats are easy and so good.
- My favorite curry recipe.
- These chocolate chip cookies from The Homemade Vegan Pantry are heavenly.
Bonus: Here are a few of Keeley’s cookbook recommendations if you want to dive in!