For 10 years, I experienced debilitating menstrual symptoms—fainting, throwing up, and incredibly painful cramps. It felt like my body was under attack for a week every single month. I relied on heavy doses of painkillers to get through the day. I’d never given much thought to the food I was putting into my body. But in 2012, after seeing my mom use nutrition to help treat a painful chronic bladder disease, I was inspired to take another look at the role that diet might play in my own health issues, including my PMS symptoms. A lot of online bloggers who I followed recommended a raw vegan diet, so I decided to try it out. 

Mixed Results on a Vegan, Mostly Raw Diet

I transitioned to eating mainly fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and oil, with no animal products and no whole grains or legumes. Eventually I cut out oil, too, though I still ate some processed sugars. While my energy increased and skin cleared up, I still experienced extreme mood swings and very painful periods. 

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I felt lost and discouraged. I didn’t understand why the diet I was always told was the perfect one by many online media publications and bloggers was not helping me reverse my PMS. I knew that there must be a way to do this naturally, without surgery or heavy doses of medications. Yet because some of my symptoms had improved, I continued eating this way for four years. 

Then, in 2017, I revisited a documentary I’d watched a few years earlier, Forks Over Knives, which presented compelling scientific data on the health benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet. I have always been attracted to science, as I have a master’s degree and have done social science research myself. So I found the case presented in the film to be compelling. I decided to adopt the whole-food, plant-based way of eating, incorporating whole grains, legumes, and cooked veggies back into my diet, while eliminating processed sugars.

Newfound Health, Clarity, and Freedom from PMS

Within a few months, I saw a dramatic changes. All my PMS symptoms completely dissipated. This gave me a newfound clarity of mind, and I started to incorporate practices like meditation into my daily life, to give myself more control of my mood and behavior. I also started a journey of personal healing and discovery that helped me with post-traumatic stress disorder, which I’d been experiencing since being sexually assaulted in high school. I began to see myself as a powerful survivor, rather than a victim. 

I was so inspired by my own personal transformation that I changed career paths—from a political scientist to a whole-food, plant-based health coach. I find great fulfillment in supporting clients through a combination of nutrition education, cooking lessons, and powerful mindset work. I love watching them flourish 

Today I remain free of PMS symptoms, and it still feels like a miracle. All of this started with one simple yet extremely significant change: the food.

Ready to get started? Check out Forks Meal Planner, FOK’s easy weekly meal-planning tool to keep you on a healthy plant-based path. To learn more about a whole-food, plant-based diet, visit our Plant-Based Primer.

Two photos showing Julie Tomlinson before and after adopting a plant-based wfpb diet for weight loss, blood pressure, and cholesterol - on the right, she's lost 100 pounds
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