I am sure it won’t be news to anyone following a purely plant-based diet that this regime benefits your health in numerous ways. However, there is one particular health perk of being vegan which may be quite a surprise to most people, as it was to me, when I found out about it fairly recently.
This issue is highly relevant to me at this point in my life, since I am a vegan lady of “a certain age”, as the euphemism goes. (50 years old actually, but look a lot younger, so I am told!) I have not so far gone through the Change of Life for women, but due to my age I am now in the perimenopausal stage. The thought of the menopause is usually something that fills women with dread: naturally, we have all heard about the hot flashes, night sweats, bad temper, extreme blood loss, weight gain, etc. It sounds like a real hell to go through - only apparently not if you are a vegan woman. Here is a hot (news)flash about hot flashes - I have heard from various sources that vegan women experience none (or hardly any) of the unpleasant and debilitating menopausal symptoms, which are caused by hormones playing havoc as their levels decrease. According to vegan women, it seems that the periods just stop and nothing else. The answer to a prayer!
One reason for the smooth transition is probably the fact that a vegan diet generally consists of a large quantity of fruit and vegetables and soy, which are all high in phytoestrogens (i.e. chemicals in plants chemically similar to the female hormone oestrogen, which help to replace the dwindling levels in our bodies, as the menopause progresses ). Soy is a particularly potent source of these phytoestrogens, and so, it seems, are certain plant foods such as chickpeas, lentils, beans and spinach. The vegan diet is also credited with helping with other health concerns which menopausal women in particular are at risk of, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, high cholesterol and certain cancers (especially those of the reproductive system, such as cervical, uterine and ovarian cancer).
Another explanation for the lack of menopausal symptoms can no doubt be traced to the fact that vegan women are not ingesting dairy products, which cause a myriad of health problems in all humans. Dairy is chock full of all types of contaminants, ranging from hormones to pesticides. Milk in its pure form contains hormones and growth factors, which are produced by cows naturally. In addition to these, commercially produced milk contains synthetic hormones like recombinant bovine growth hormone, which are commonly given to dairy cows to increase milk production. Once these chemicals are ingested into the human body, it appears highly likely that they affect normal hormone function. Cows also have to be frequently given antibiotics to treat mastitis (painful inflamed breast tissue which often becomes infected) which means that traces of these antibiotics have also been found in milk and dairy products. Mastitis is very common in cows, because dairy farming practices force cows to produce much more milk than intended by nature, as well as keeping them constantly pregnant, until they are too old to produce milk any longer.
Cheese is even more pernicious in its effects than milk, since it is a concentrated form of milk: it takes around 5 quarts of milk (that is 20 pints!) to make 1 pound of cheese. So, due to the concentration of chemicals, this means that the effects of dairy on the human body are even more pronounced in cheese consumption than they are in the consumption of milk.
It therefore looks as if simply by being vegan, women can avoid the use of Hormone Replacement Therapy, which itself carries certain health risks, particularly the increased risk of getting breast cancer, and also having a stroke, heart attack or blood clots (DVTs). Another very powerful reason for not using HRT is that it is not in any case compatible with vegan values: the hormones are extracted from the urine of pregnant horses (hard to believe but true) who are kept on farms for this precise purpose, in the same way as dairy cows for milk. Just as in the case of commercial dairy production, this is a very cruel form of exploitation of these animals: exposés of these farms have shown the kind of abuse suffered by the mares. So naturally the use of HRT would also pose a big ethical problem for vegan women.
It is so fortuitous that this kind of medical intervention does not look to be necessary, since, with reference to the anecdotal evidence, most of the disagreeable menopausal symptoms suffered by omnivorous women are apparently not a problem for us vegans. That is certainly something to be thankful for and yet another reason to follow a vegan diet, as if we needed one!
Picture courtesy of www.gynaecologist-kolkata.com