Written by Alice O'Brien
Aug. 17, 2015
Do you wonder when—and if—you should try to get your period back? Is losing your menstrual cycle a health issue that will have lasting effects on your hormones and happiness, or is it the price every woman pays for being skinny? You know the answer, but you may not have a solution that addresses the cause of secondary amenorrhea while also allowing you to feel good in your body, have a healthy level of fitness and stabilize those mood swings.
As an registered nurse intent on eating healthy, I felt invincible, as if I could handle anything that life sent my way. The stress culminated when I moved to Las Vegas to start a new job. Though I thought I handled the transition well, I began noticing symptoms: weight gain, fatigue, mild depression and moodiness. Even my overall well being was affected, which led to no longer being a happy person and a traumatic breakup with my boyfriend. Turning points in our lives often force us to look deeper, and that’s exactly when I took action, but in the exact wrong way.
I started “dieting”, I cut my calories like I was taught to. I began to to increase my cardio, and stop lifting weights. I wanted to get by body back. It worked, so I did more of it. At the time I felt good. I lost the weight I had gained, plus more, which helped my confidence and energy levels. That quickly changed. My mood dropped, energy tanked and I lost one of the things that made me a woman, my period
I was hungry, irritable and tired, even though I was eating a “healthy and balanced low fat, high carb diet.” This caused my body more stress than it was able to handle and resulted in an energy deficit forcing my reproductive system shut down and say ENOUGH ALREADY!
I noticed I was eating all the ‘right things’ but gaining weight, so I started eating less and running. That was a recipe for disaster—no pun intended.
I never struggled with irregular menstrual cycles prior to the onset of secondary amenorrhea. Because I always had very painful periods, with day one of menses usually forcing my to miss a day of work, I was almost happy not to have a period to worry about each month. After two years of going without a period, it was cause for concern.
Bone loss. One major problem caused by amenorrhea is bone loss, especially for young women. Once bone loss occurs, there's not much you can do to get it back. Though women may not consider it an issue when they’re young, these are the women who will be more prone to break bones when they’re older, which can lead to hospitalization and even premature death. It’s that serious.
Low Leptin and Estrogen. The loss of menses is based on low leptin. This becomes apparent with low body fat and high body fat and leptin resistance. Both will experience amenorrhea. Estrogen then lowers when body fat drops. Estrogen is a metabolically active hormone and assists with insulin sensitivity, very important for weight maintenance and overall health.
Amenorrhea is common among female athletes or exercisers with low body fat levels, frequent training and not enough recovery, supplements and nutrients to replenish the body.
I initially attributed the loss of my menstrual cycle to a combination of a low calorie diet, excessive exercise and plummeting body fat levels. After getting extensive lab tests done, including a saliva hormone panel, urinary organic acids and stool tests, I found out my body was fighting a parasite. This concoction stressed my body beyond its ability to maintain a healthy hormonal balance. After this discovery, healing became my top priority.
I followed the protocol below to address the cause of my health complaints, to reverse secondary amenorrhea and to improve my overall feeling of well being.
Lab testing. It’s different for each woman, though there are some commonalities in the healing protocol. To identify the underlying causes, seeking out a qualified functional medicine practitioner to do lab testing is one of the first steps. If you skip this step, you may end up addressing the obvious issues but wonder why your body’s reproductive system still won’t work.
Supplements. After doing your lab testing, your functional medicine practitioner will prescribe you a very specific set of supplements to address any deficiencies. DHEA and pregnenolone are often used to support the body experiencing hormone dysregulation.
Lifestyle factors. Women often try to do it all, and that can be detrimental to your health and well being. When you’re working too much, exercising more than you should and are unable to cope with stress, you need to address these issues by learning stress management techniques and doing less.
Nutrient density. For most, a high carb, low fat diet will not provide your body with the nutrients it needs to heal. When you are trying to restore hormonal balance, you will benefit from a lower carb, high fat diet.
What really surprised me was that once I added the fats back into my diet, my brain turned on again, and the moodiness went away.
I was not solely focused on fixing the amenorrhea issue as much as I was on healing my body, getting my energy back and feeling happy in my own skin again. By eating a low carb, nutrient-rich, high fat diet, I felt a decrease in hunger and was “released from my food prison” where I was forced to eat several meals daily to stabilize blood sugar. My hormones became balanced, which eliminated the mood swings and mild depression. My reproductive system began working again, and my periods returned but much less severe than they had been. No more missing work on the first day of menses!
I didn’t put the importance on this, like I should have. I’m sure I am suffering bone loss because of it, though I have not had a DEXA scan. You don’t want to be that 60-year-old woman, who slips on the ice, breaks a hip, ends up in the hospital, catches pneumonia and dies prematurely. Take care of the issue now, before it’s too late.
Are you experiencing amenorrhea but are unsure what to do about it? Many young women strive to make the “eat less, exercise more” mainstream health advice work for them. The problem is that this advice is dead wrong. It’s not about eating less or exercising more. It’s about nourishing your body through giving it the nutrients it needs, balancing life stressors through stress management and thriving once the deficiencies are fixed. By focusing on becoming healthy instead of trying to beat your body into submission, you will notice your weight, health, happiness and moods will stabilize themselves and come into perfect balance.
Let me help you uncover the cause of your amenorrhea by booking a free consultation with me, and I’ll help you restore hormonal balance and feel amazing again—you deserve it!