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Menstruation -- Is It Really Necessary?
Posted by Habib to the newsgroup misc.health.alternative
22 March 2001
Habib is a regular contributor to misc.health.alternative, usually writing about how raw foods are good and natural. He was a little upset about being listed here for his opinion on AIDS, and said:
In my mind, it is a mark of honor to have been targeted by that dirtbag.
His previous rant was a little tame, so I thought I would let him have another chance. Now we are being told how menstruation is not a natural function and all those women are just sick and need more artichokes.
Menstruation -- Is It Really Necessary?
Women call it "the Curse" with feeling and good reason - the monthly bleeding of menstruation, with its days of inconvenience, discomfort and pain, is the bane of women's existence from menarche to menopause. So universal in our modern culture is this miserable experience that it is assumed to be inevitable. Doctors and the women's media attempt to cast it in a favourable light with trite comments about "welcoming" it as the sign and sacrifice one makes in "becoming a woman". Yet there is probably not a woman anywhere who wouldn't gladly do away with it if she safely could!
In fact, menstruation as most of us experience it is neither natural nor healthy. Ovulation does not depend on it. And it can be changed very much for the better - even to the extent of not experiencing it at all yet remaining healthy and fertile. How this can be done has been known and written about by health practitioners for centuries, and practised just as long by women willing to make the simple but significant lifestyle changes involved.
So why haven't most of us heard about this before?
It is because the lifestyle improvements involved, although simple, are quite a change from most modern women's habits of living and eating. No drugs or even nutritional supplements are required, but what is essential is the adoption of what health writer Leslie Kenton calls a "high raw way of eating".
In practice this means that each meal contains more fresh, raw foods than cooked or processed foods; that animal product foods are eliminated altogether, along with salt, sugar, alcohol, refined fats and oils, most condiments, artificial additives and stimulating beverages. Many people say that they "would rather die than give up all that tasty stuff!" And indeed they will -- after living years in increasingly poorer health, through menstruation and menopausal "symptoms", and often ending with heart disease and cancer.
If you are a young woman and not yet experiencing the uncomfortable and worr ying signs of hormone imbalance that increasingly plague women from the mid-thirties on, then you may baulk at making such as change. But think back to when you were a teenager, just after experiencing your first period - did you say, as so many do, "I'd do anything if I could get rid of these periods!" Certainly older women who have found out about the connection between diet and menstruation often say, "If I'd known this as a girl, I'd surely have changed - but I don't have the determination and drive now." They are literally worn out by decades of "the Curse", drained of health, vitality and enthusiasm. Some of these women are probably thinking, "It's not long until menopause - I'll put up with it all a bit longer, then it'll be over." Unfortunately, only the bleeding will be over, often after years of miserably irregular menstruation. And the related signs of ill health soon become so dramatic they can't be ignored: osteoporosis, cysts and tumours, and rapid ageing among them. At this point, older women may once again feel motivated to improve their lot, even if it does involve big lifestyle changes.
On the female cycle - especially hormone balance and menopause:
1) Kenton, Leslie * 1995 Passage to Power: Natural Menopause Revolution Ebury Press, London.
On the effect of diet & lifestyle specifically on the female cycle:
2) Harris, Wendy, and Nadine Forrest MacDonald * ---- Is Menstruation Necessary? Life Science Publishers, Austin, Texas. (Reprinted in The Fruitarian Network News, Nos. 16, 17, 18 (1992); back issues available from The Fruitarian Network, P.O. Box 293, Trinity Beach QLD 4879)
On the relation between modern Western diet and ill-health:
3) Horne, Ross * 1996 Cancerproof Your Body Margaret Gee Publishing, Sydney.
4) Horne, Ross * 1992 Health and Survival in the 21st Century Margaret Gee Publishing, Sydney.
5) Horne, Ross * 1983 The New Health Revolution Ross Horne, Avalon Beach, New South Wales.
6) Kushi, Michio, and Alex Jack 1988 The Cancer Prevention Diet: The Nutritional Blueprint for the Relief and Prevention of Disease Thorsons (Harper Collins), London.
7) Robbins, John 1987 Diet for a New America Stillpoint, New Hampshire.
8) Davis, Adelle 1970 Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit Signet (Harcourt Brace), New York.
On the relation between a "high raw diet" and good health:
9) Alexander, Joe ---- Blatant Raw Foodist Propaganda! Blue Dolphin Publishers, USA.
10) Diamond, Harvey, and Marilyn Diamond * 1985 Fit for Life Angus and Robertson (Harper Collins), Australia.
11) Diamond, Harvey, and Marilyn Diamond * 1987 Living Health Transworld, Australia.
12) Honiball, Essie, with T.C. Fry ---- I Live on Fruit Life Science Publications, USA.
13) Kenton, Leslie, and Susannah Kenton ---- Raw Energy Century, London.
14) Kulvinskas, Viktoras * 1975 Survival into the 21st Century Omangod Press, Wethersfield, Connecticut.
15) Kulvinskas, Viktoras * ---- Life in the 21st Century Omangod Press, Wethersfield, Connecticut.
16) Santillo, Humbart 1987 Food Enzymes: The Missing Link to Radiant Health Hohm Press, Arizona.
"Haemorrhage in the uterus is no more normal than is haemorrhage in the brain or lungs."
Why do women menstruate - and what's "normal" about it? During the days before a woman ovulates, the lining of the womb - the endometrium - thickens in preparation for a possible conception. If the egg released at ovulation passes through the womb unfertilised, the thickened endometrial tissues are not needed - and in a truly healthy woman, as in animals in their wild state, those tissues are mostly reabsorbed. What remains is expelled over a short period of time as a slight mucus discharge (2:28-29; 15:227).
The majority of women in modern cultures however, experience instead a copious disabling monthly bleeding - that neither their wild primate cousins nor humans living close to nature do (2:30; 15:232). Insightful doctors have long been aware that nature did not intend the ovulation cycle to be accompanied by cramping, nervous tension, or any of the long list of symptoms we've come to associate with "having a period" - let alone by the days of bloody flow we now accept as "normal", but which they rightly call a hemorrhage:
"...menstruation...is a harmful hemorrhage involving the loss of vital fluid.... [The] conclusions of those [gynecologists] who have studied the subject are that, primarily and fundamentally, menstruation is a hemorrhage. NO authority on earth can successfully maintain that a hemorrhage is natural and normal, no matter in what part of the body it occurs." (2:24)
"Hemorrhage is NOT a condition of health.... It is a pathological state and is always harmful and sometimes dangerous. Hemorrhage in the uterus is no more normal than is hemorrhage in the brain or lungs. It is less dangerous only because the uterus is less vital to the immediate welfare of the body." (2:24)
It has also been long observed that not only do some apparently healthy women, even in our culture, never menstruate, but that non-menstruating women can be fertile and have healthy children. That is, ovulation does not require menstruation (2:28; 15:225). Natural Hygiene teacher Herbert Shelton noted this in his patients:
"I personally know one woman who is the mother of five children and she has never menstruated in her life. I know another who menstruated during her adolescent period, married a man who had changed his way of living to a truly natural life style, she joined him in his health regime and became a fine specimen of health and ceased menstruating. Thereafter she had three children, all delivered naturally and painlessly and never menstruated again in her life." (2:28)
Menstruation as we know it IS common, so common it is "the norm", and in that sense alone "normal". But it certainly is not healthy - or necessary.
So why do most women in our society experience such bleeding episodes? A clue comes from animals. Wild relatives of the domestic animals do not menstruate. They have mating seasons - called heat, rut or estrus - which usually happen only once or twice a year. At this time the females ovulate and their genital organs become slightly congested and moistened with mucus in preparation for mating and likely conception (2:36-37). In the wild, nature has tied ovulation closely to the availability of food, and in times of scarcity estrus may not occur.
But in domesticated animals and animals kept in zoos who have constant access to unnatural and often concentrated food supplies, the picture is very different - these animals experience a periodic bloody discharge the equivalent of human menstruation. This is especially noticeable in normally plant-eating animals made to eat dry high-protein feed. When these captive animals are instead fed on the fresh natural plant foods they'd normally eat, the menstruation ceases.
"Experiments on animals have conclusively shown that the frequency of ovulation, and consequently estrus (corresponding to menstruation in humans), is a DIRECT function of diet. Over-feeding, especially on protein foods (and of the wrong kind of protein), has the tendency to accelerate (stimulate) the growth and bursting of the Graafian follicles [which produce the eggs] by creating an excess of follicular fluid. In women this results in menstrual discharge.... Undomesticated animals do NOT menstruate.... But under conditions of domestication or captivity, these sexual periods become more frequent, and the genital congestion attending them becomes more intense, until it finally manifests as a menstrual hemorrhage. It is now agreed by most observers that the cause of menstruation among domesticated animals is the food they receive at the hands of man. In other words, after the non-menstruating animal is captured, the pro-estrum becomes transformed into a bloody flow as a result of unnatural foods and artificial conditions of living." (2:37)
Is the cause likely to be any different in humans? No. The effects of congestion on womb tissues and the fine capillaries, or arterioles, which nourish them are the same with all creatures who have those structures (15:230). And the key is live food.
What is this connection between diet and menstruation? What is actually happening in the womb to make it hemorrhage? A poor diet, with significant excesses of some nutrients and deficiencies of others, causes a breakdown in the transport of nutrients to and wastes from the cells throughout the body. Blood vessels become more porous, allowing fluids to seep out between the cells of the tissues creating congestion. Residues from improper digestion contribute to a state of body-wide poisoning, or toxemia. Dietary deficiencies and related hormone imbalance combine to increase the fragility of capillary walls so that under the increased pressure of unnatural congestion they rupture when the womb contracts to slough off the unneeded endometrial tissues after the unfertilised egg has passed through.
"It is now agreed by most observers that the cause of menstruation among domestic animals is the food they receive at the hands of man."
Structurally the human body is designed for the same kind of diet that other primates eat. Our teeth, intestinal tract, digestive organs and their secretions are not those of a carnivore like the wolf, nor a herbivore like the cow - but of a frugivore, or fruit-eater, like the apes and most monkeys - whose natural foods are mostly fruits and vegetable matter.
Modern man's diet however includes large amounts of protein foods from animal products and dried legumes and grains - none of which he can easily digest, and all of which leave his normally alkaline body in an acid condition. The body's attempt to neutralise this condition by keeping the blood-calcium high results in badly disrupted mineral levels, with both calcium depletion from the bones and deposition of excess calcium in joints, blood vessels and organs (11:80-87; 5:178, 270-271; 7:196). On top of this, our high fat consumption clogs the blood vessels and leaves the blood thick with sludge, diminishing its ability to carry oxygen and nutrients (5).
The body is over-burdened by the task of dealing with excess protein and fats, with the large amounts of sugar and salt consumed daily, and with the often unavoidable external pollutants taken in day after day in modern living. Overwhelmed with this difficult-to-dispose-of debris, the body stores what it can't eliminate in the fat cells and inside blood vessels, organs and joints, often walling off or "encysting" the rubbish. Debris from incomplete digestion builds up in the intestine and over-worked organs of elimination, blocking normal organ function. A condition of bodily poisoning exists.
This debris attracts trouble for the body - environmental poisons are stored in fat deposits or escape breakdown by the overworked liver and migrate to far-flung organs (including the brain) where the weakened body can't deal with them. These poison-laden tissues and deposits themselves become feeding and breeding grounds for microbes and parasites, natural co-inhabitants in our bodies whose numbers get dangerously out of hand because the weakened immune system hasn't the reserves to deal with them. Eventually, in desperation to survive, the cells revert to primitive forms which can function in virtual starvation conditions. Unfortunately for the body, the more primitive the cells become, the less they heed the "working rules" of the organ they belong to - they begin behaving independently, reproducing rapidly, amenable to no controls: the toxic-laden area becomes cancerous (3; 4; 5).
Most of us living the Western lifestyle and eating a modern diet with its excesses, deficiencies and adulterants, exist in a state of chronic toxemia. Our bodies try repeatedly to clean up the situation, with "colds", "fevers", and frequent discharges of waste-laden mucus. In the womb this commonly takes the form of a whitish discharge referred to as leucorrhea (literally "white flow"). Leucorrhea, like menstruation, is a "catarrhal" condition, a "down-flowing" of mucus due to chronic congestion and inflammation. It has been noticed that women who have profuse mucus discharges of this sort are also likely to have severe menstrual symptoms - and problems with constipation. Like other catarrhal conditions, leucorrhea occurs in an acid body clogged with the by-products of high protein consumption (2:23, 36).
The congestion and inflammation of toxemia cause tenderness and enlargement of the womb, with a raised blood pressure that puts a strain on the tiny capillaries of the endometrium. These - and all the body's blood vessels - periodically become more or less fragile in response to ups and downs in the levels of the hormone estrogen and the nutrients vitamin C, bioflavonoids and beta-carotene (15:227-230; 13:109-110), all of which play roles in strengthening capillary walls.
An important function of vitamin C is to form and keep strong the jelly-like material called collagen, or "connective tissue", that holds together all the cells in the body - including those in the walls of your blood vessels. Bioflavonoids, plant substances which always occur in natural foods with vitamin C, protect that vitamin and reduce the amount of it you need. A deficiency in the diet of the nutrients needed for collagen formation will result in weak, porous collagen and congestion of the tissues with foreign substances that seep through the weak capillary walls - including viruses, toxins, drugs, allergens, and wastes from improper digestion (8:123). This is what happens in the "water-logging", or oedema, that swells ankles and fingers during pregnancy and as you age.
Almost no one in our modern culture gets enough of these essential nutrients from their diet. The amounts in processed foods and drinks are negligible - even their content in fruit, normally the richest natural source, is dramatically reduced after the fruit is picked and left to sit or in storage before eating. Except for those who make a point of daily eating plenty of fresh fruits, most of us exist in a condition of "subclinical scurvy" - with bleeding and diseased gums, easy bruising, poor wound and bone healing, eye problems, and poor immunity (8:122-125). And in women, this state intensifies menstrual bleeding.
Researchers have noticed that a good supply of bioflavonoids in particular seems to be essential for maintaining strong capillary walls. Commercial juices and most vitamin C supplements, which many rely on to keep their vitamin level up, don't include bioflavonoids. In fact, even when people eat citrus fruits, one of the best natural sources of vitamin C, they often throw out the white part of the rind, the very part rich in bioflavonoids! So it's not surprising that so many of us are deficient in these nutrients - nor that our blood vessel walls are weak (13:107-108).
Some research has also indicated that beta-carotene, the nutrient which becomes vitamin A during digestion, may play a similar role. A deficiency causes abnormal growth and early death of the cells in mucous membranes, such as those lining the womb, and the "accumulation of profuse debris" sloughs off and contributes to leucorrhea (8:56). It is suspected that beta-carotene may contribute in still unidentified ways to resistance to bleeding (15:228; 13:109-110). Not surprisingly, this nutrient is also often low in modern diets.
But there's another angle to this story as well. Investigations have discovered that bioflavonoids and the hormone estrogen are surprisingly similar, even interchangeable in some of their functions - including in their use to strengthen blood vessel walls (13:108; 15:228-229). When the womb lining, the endometrium, is thickening each month, many tiny new blood vessels are created. Normally, these would be strengthened by bioflavonoids and related nutrients. But if blood levels of estrogen happen to be high, and/or the supply of bioflavonoids low, the estrogen may be used to strengthen the blood vessel walls instead.
At first glance this seems like a handy little substitution - but there's a problem with using estrogen in the capillary walls. The body always tries to keep the level of estrogen in the blood stable. It can be at a constant low level or at an even high level, but whichever, the body's aim is to keep it steady. When production of estrogen by the ovaries naturally drops around twelve days after ovulation, the blood level of estrogen drops. If it happens to fall too dramatically, the body will try to raise the level by withdrawing estrogen from blood vessel walls throughout the body, leaving them weak and porous. You may have noticed that at this time of month even a scratch bleeds more readily.
When this happens in the womb, the tiny arterioles of the endometrium are left in a very fragile state and are unable to stand up to the minute contractions involved in endometrial regression, let alone to any increased pressure due to toxic congestion and constipation (15:227, 230). They rupture on a large scale, and the endometrial tissues they were nourishing begin to die on an equally large scale. The means by which those tissues could have been reabsorbed is gone, and the lining, blood and mucus are shed in what we've come to call the "menstrual period". As the ovaries again begin to produce more estrogen several days later, the bleeding slows and stops.
Two things are obvious from this: 1) that estrogen in the blood vessel walls would not be withdrawn if blood levels didn't drop; and 2) that a plentiful supply of bioflavonoids and related nutrients would ensure they were used in capillary construction in the first place, instead of estrogen, thereby avoiding the risk of bleeding from estrogen withdrawal (15:229).
After menopause, this drop is naturally avoided with the steady low levels of estrogen produced. It can be unnaturally avoided before menopause by taking certain synthetic hormone drugs which keep it at a steady high level. But before menopause years, it is in facta natural part of the fertility cycle for ups and downs in hormone production to occur and no health benefit is gained from artificially controlling the hormone level. What is not natural however is to experience menstrual bleeding - and this can be eliminated by changing the diet to end the congestion of toxemia and ensure an abundant supply of the nutrients necessary for maintaining strong blood vessels.
What has to change in the diet in order to eliminate menstruation? Foods which contribute to toxemia are no longer eaten. Foods which build health, and especially strong connective tissue, without taxing the digestion are the only foods eaten. The body is helped to eliminate toxic wastes built up over past years of poor lifestyle and diet. Without doubt, the hardest part of this change for most people is the first one. It means no more eating foods which sludge up or acidify the body. This means eliminating animal products - meat, fish, dairy, eggs -- refined sugars and salt, and dramatically reducing grain foods and even processed plant fats (oils). The diet essentially must become "true vegetarian", or vegan, with a predominance of fresh raw fruits and vegetables rather than cooked. In particular, the greater the proportion of raw fruit in the diet, the less likely you are to have periods.
"Women who eat a vegetarian diet containing mostly raw food experience only brief periods, scarcely noticeable, with hardly any loss of blood. Dr. H. G. Beiler in his book, The Natural Way to Sexual Health, explains that women experience troublesome periods only because of the toxic condition of their blood brought about by the high fat and protein Western diet." (5:298)
At least 50% and ideally more of every meal should be raw, and that eaten first. This is so that the enzymes present in the raw portion can help the body digest the whole meal, including the cooked portion.
Enzymes are protein molecules made by every cell and tissue in the body and used in every metabolic process. They break down food and transport nutrients; move cell wastes and prepare them for elimination; attach iron to red blood cells and phosphorous to bone and nerve tissue; dissolve blood clots and permit conception; and as part of the immune system, they attack and break down poisons and foreign substances in the blood and tissues (16).
All foods in their raw state - even meat -- contain the enzymes needed for their own decomposition. If food is eaten uncooked, its own enzymes can digest up to 75% without drawing on the body's reserves. Cooking food at 129°F (53°C) destroys all enzymes in it. If you eat a meal of such enzyme-dead food, your body has to bring enzymes from elsewhere to digest it. Among other things, this weakens the immune system. It's been observed that after a meal of cooked food the blood's white cell count rises because these cells are used to transport extra body enzymes to the digestive tract to help digestion. If those white blood cells had been needed in their normal role as part of the immune system defenses, ability to fight disease would temporarily suffer. After a meal of raw foods on the other hand, or after a meal of raw and cooked food in which the raw food is eaten first, this white cell rise is insignificant.
After years of eating mostly enzyme-empty food, the body's enzyme reserves are seriously depleted. The organs involved - especially the pancreas, producer of many digestive enzymes - become enlarged from overwork, then exhausted, and finally fail altogether. Foods can't be properly digested and end up fermenting in the digestive tract, producing toxins that are absorbed into the bloodstream and deposited in the joints and soft tissues. Conditions like constipation, blood diseases, bleeding ulcers, gout and arthritis appear.
"...binging on fresh, in-season fruits alone is somtimes enough to dramatically reduce the following menstrual flow."
When we eat the plant foods our bodies were designed to handle, digestion is easy and efficient and creates very little waste. Of all the foods, fruits are the most palatable and most easily digested. They provide complete nourishment, including adequate protein, essential fats, minerals and vitamins. So fully usable is ripe fruit by the human body that the only waste products apart from fibre are carbon dioxide and water, completely non-toxic. On a high fruit diet, no constipation occurs; beneficial intestinal bacteria populate the bowel; the body remains in a desirable alkaline rather than acid state; the blood is pure and free of sludge and circulation and blood pressure are good; toxic deposits no longer occur - and the toxins and waste already stored in the body are gradually eliminated (3:137-138).
Fruits especially are rich in bioflavonoids. In fact, if a plentiful supply is available in the diet, so ready is the body to use these nutrients in building strong blood vessel walls that bingeing on fresh in-season fruits alone is sometimes enough to dramatically reduce the following menstrual period:
"British gynaecologist C. Alan B. Clemetson first became interested in the possibility of regulating menstrual flow with substances that occur in foods when a young Italian patient told him that she could easily cure her excessive menstrual bleeding by sucking lemons. It was a standard remedy for the problem in her home village, she said." (13:107)
Clemetson thereafter suggested that his patients eat three fresh oranges daily, complete with the bioflavonoid-rich white pith - and many found that, while this alone did not end their periods, it kept them light (13:108).
Health practitioner Dr. George Starr White, author of The Emancipation of Women, or Regulating the Duration of Menses, believed that menstruation was unnatural and pathological. In his many decades of practice earlier this century he helped thousands of women to overcome this malady so that their cycles no longer involved bleeding, and he did this by getting them to change from eating heavy cooked food to living on raw foods (2:39).
Health researchers and writers Leslie and Susannah Kenton found the same thing happening to them after switching to a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables:
"Women on an all-raw or high-raw diet often report that menstrual problems such as bloating, pre-menstrual tension and fatigue improve greatly after two or three months. For some of them the improvement is so dramatic that they are not aware of their periods until they arrive. This is something we discovered ourselves and at first we thought we were unique. Then we spoke to numerous other women who said they had had a similar experience. Heavy periods become lighter - a period that lasts six or seven days can be reduced to as few as one or two. In some women, particularly those who do not eat meat, dairy products or large quantities of nuts, periods even cease altogether." (13:107)
Here are some examples of what women of all ages have experienced on making the change to a healthier diet.
An American teenager in the 1980s:
"I was a complete vegetarian [vegan] by the time I was 15 (I'm now 18). My periods began to come less frequently (about once every three months) and then stopped altogether by about two years ago [that is, after about a year on a vegan diet]. My parents were really worried about this but I felt better than ever so I wasn't too concerned. Mom took me to a gynecologist who did blood tests etc., and said I was 'amazingly healthy'. But he said he could put me on the pill and get me started again! No thanks! I was getting around to thinking that, since I was feeling so great and not menstruating, perhaps menstruation was a symptom of a 'disease', rather than the old 'normal, natural process'. I got to thinking that on my natural diet, I'd 'de-domesticated' myself and my body was behaving accordingly. So I tried an experiment about nine months ago. I ate dairy foods for a few days to see the effect. Sure enough, I got two periods after that. Since then, I've become increasingly confident that not menstruating is natural and that diet is the key. [I] eat fresh fruit, raw vegetables and sprouts, some nuts and seeds, and very little cooked foods except for some grains in winter occasionally." (15:234)
A West Australian man referring to the Pritikin diet - the Pritikin "Regression Diet" is very high in raw foods:
"A lady friend of my wife has, since the age of puberty, experienced a heavy loss of blood during her period as well as premenstrual tension, but since going about 80% on the [Pritikin] diet, she experiences no premenstrual tension and hardly any blood loss."(5:298)
Dr. G.S.White wrote of one of the many patients he "naturized" to a vegan diet:
"[She] flowed bright blood five or six days of each month [and] had such severe cramps that she could not hold her position as stenographer. [He treated her for six months, after which her] periods changed to half a day mucous flow with no blood at all. She was able to resume her work and did so for two or three years. She married and has had three daughters. Each of them had a mucous flow for about half a day each month and are in perfect health. One is married and had a healthy baby girl."(15:233)
A young Californian woman in the early 1900s:
"Miss Olga Howe suffered severely with her menstrual periods, which lasted from seven to eight days, every 28 days. One of the first things she noticed upon changing from conventional living to a more healthful mode of life was that her suffering ceased and her periods were reduced to three days. During a year on raw foods her flow gradually lessened and this encouraged her to continue. In two years her flow ceased altogether. She says, 'During this entire period I enjoyed better health than ever, and was much stronger.' As a test she included cooked foods, butter and milk in her daily fare, and in one month her menses re-appeared. A return to raw food ended its appearance." (2:39-40)
A 42-year-old American woman in the 1980s who was making the transition to a raw foods diet:
"When I launched into the all raw diet, my next period was eleven days late and the flow was half what it used to be. The following period was sixteen days overdue and a fourth of the usual flow. A few days of bingeing on cooked food would bring back a 28-day cycle, but with shorter and shorter binges, the flow decreased to a tenth and then only a spot. Once I realized that the cravings [for cooked foods] were occurring just before a period, I was determined to make it through this critical time. In April 1983, an emotional upset had me eating cooked food for several days; the period that followed in May lasted 6 days and was half the quantity of former years, convincing me that it is cooked food that causes women to bleed. I stayed fruitarian after that and haven't had so much as a spot of bleeding in six months."(9)
Are there any problems to be expected when switching to a high-raw diet? If coming from a traditional Western diet based on processed and cooked food heavy in protein and fats, plan to spend quite some time eating a TRANSITION DIET before settling down to a raw foods lifestyle. This can involve weeks to years, depending on how toxic you are to start with and how difficult you find dropping old habits. The reason is simple: toxin offloading can be unpleasant, especially if done all at once. Unless serious illness makes change urgent, you want to go through the process as gently as possible -- and that means taking it slowly.
Eating only energy-laden easy-to-assimilate food like fresh fruit rests and heals the body to the point where it eventually feels up to the job of offloading some of the stored rubbish. This often quite toxic waste gets kicked back into the bloodstream from wherever it's been deposited and circulates through the body on its way to the liver and organs of elimination for final breakdown and removal. During the time the toxins are in circulation you can feel awful, with aches, sweats, fevers and discharges as the body works to eliminate them.
If you decide to "go cold turkey" onto a high-raw lifestyle, you'll get rid of the wastes fairly quickly, but the "cleansing crises" (there are likely to be several) can be uncomfortable. If you want or need to change your diet this quickly, do so with the guidance and support of a health practitioner who knows what to expect. This is especially true if your health is poor or you have a serious illness. Retreats where this kind of support is offered during several day to several week stays are ideal. Otherwise, plan on taking transition gradually and meeting the cleansing crises in smaller, gentler episodes rather than all at once. Some people barely notice them.
Begin by dropping out all some or all of the animal product foods, and adopt a vegan diet that at first uses familiar cooked vegetables, grain and legume foods as well as raw fruits and vegetables. You may find this stage more appealing if you incorporate Asian foods and flavours. Be careful not to overdo eating grains - a mistake many make on adopting the otherwise helpful Pritikin diet. Too many grain foods create an acid body and contribute to both arthritis and cancer. Don't overdo use of oils either - they have their own serious health drawbacks (4;5) - and in Asian cooking vegetables sautéed in broth are just as tasty. Avoid the artificial substitutes for eggs or the concentrated vegetable protein "meat replacers" - stick to real, chemical-free whole food as much as possible.
Excellent sources of information and recipes for this stage are the books of Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, including Fit for Life, Living Health, and Fit for Life Cookbook. Have a look in the newsagents' for magazines like New Vegetarian for further vegetarian and vegan food information.
Many women like to move through a vegan transition stage that includes lots of salads of vegetables and "vegetable fruits". These are in fact true fruits - tomatoes, capsicum, cucumbers, etc. It's easy to start off with vegan meals of cooked vegetables and a salad - and over time increase the salad portion while decreasing the cooked portion, all in tune with your own changing appetite. Because many of us start transition with some serious mineral deficiencies (how about iron-deficiency anaemia, after all those years of bleeding!), we often go through a stage of craving mineral-rich greens - which may well be the body's instinct homing on what, at that stage, we need most.
After a while however, the taste buds "clear" and become newly sensitive to even very subtle flavours. This helps turn us off the strong-flavoured foods we used to eat and makes ripe fruit increasingly more appealing. Learn when different fruits come in season and choose just-picked local ones over those which may have been sitting in cold storage or shipped from afar. And of course, if possible choose organically or biodynamically grown produce. You'll find yourself becoming more sensitive to all sorts of tastes and smells and able to detect many chemical traces in your food.
As you move towards a predominantly raw foods diet, several of the books by Leslie and Susannah Kenton offer excellent information and food ideas, including especially Raw Energy and Raw Energy Recipes. For information on the fruitarian lifestyle, read Essie Honiball's I Live on Fruit; Ross Horne's discussion of fruitarianism in Cancerproof Your Body; and back issues of the Fruitarian Network News (available from P.O. Box 293, Trinity Beach, Queensland, 4879, Australia).
If you are interested in in-depth study of how to regain health by supporting the body's own healing ability with right eating habits, find out about the health system called "Natural Hygiene". Best known through the books and teachings of Dr. Herbert M. Shelton and T.C. Fry, Natural Hygiene is also the foundation for the Diamonds' work, and a good introduction can be found in Fit for Life. For more information, write to: The American Natural Hygiene Society, 12816 Racetrack Rd., Tampa, Florida 33625, USA.
It is entirely possible to live long and healthily on just fruit - radical as that seems. In the process of healing and ridding itself of old pollutants, your body will lose the fat it put on while carrying those toxins. You'll drop most weight in the first few months after you start eating mostly raw fruits and vegetables. (Inclusion of grain foods or oils will slow weight loss down considerably.) Once the body has done a fair bit of healing and "housecleaning", and is being sustained only on live foods, it starts to gain weight. If by this point you are eating a modest volume of fruit and leading a normally active daily life, you may gain several kilos and then stay steady at that "lean ideal".
Yes, you will be leaner than people in our society are used to seeing - but you will not be "skin and bones" or look "anorexic"! You will not be carrying any "spare tires", your muscles will be well-defined, your hair thick and healthy, your eyes and skin clear (and not prone to sun damage). Your sweat, breath, urine and stool will have no smell. You'll sleep well - but at the same time will find you need less sleep than you used to - and you'll awake with abundant energy which won't disappear even during a day of working outdoors.
You can overeat on fruit - something that's tempting to do during transition when summer fruits are in season and we're still eating from appetite (mind) rather than true hunger. Overeating on fruit will put excess weight on, although it will be quickly shed once you stop. If you work out, you'll increase muscle mass - and in fact a number of record-holding athletes eat mostly raw diets (5). If you stop doing muscle-building work, the added muscle will be quickly lost. You will feel fit and energetic on a fruit diet regardless of any extra exercise regime - but at the same time, you'll feel more like using your body than ever before.
Ailments will disappear and you'll notice you don't "catch anything" anymore. And of course, menstrual bleeding will end along with its attendant problems, as will the "symptoms of menopause". If you are a young woman who has had irregular ovulation or difficulty conceiving, your ovulation cycle will eventually regularise -- and if you are not taking precautions, you may end up with an unexpected pregnancy!
This brings us back where we started our discussion; as Dr. Shelton wrote:
"The fact that the whole ovulation cycle can occur time after time without the loss of blood, and can and does this in so many cases, especially in women and whole tribes and races living 'less civilized', more natural lives, should cause us to doubt that menstruation is either necessary or normal. The fact that it is in the healthiest and strongest women that there is no loss of blood and that the loss of blood increases in proportion to the decline in physical vigor, should cause us to conclude that this, like all other losses of blood, is abnormal."(2:30)
"Women can realize nothing but good from building such a high degree of health that this 'normal' hemorrhage becomes so 'abnormal' that it ceases altogether."