I've lost my period!- What's the cause?
Periods…we often dread that time of month. However, we shouldn’t take them for granted because having regular periods is often a sign that your body is healthy and working normally. Losing your period can also be a scary thing and can be caused for many reasons. Let's get into them!
First thing, let's familiarise ourselves with the term “Amenorrhea”. So what is it?
Amenorrhea is the term given when you miss your period. It’s important to know that it IS NOT for irregular periods and IS NOT A DISEASE. If you suspect you have “amenorrhea” it's important to inform a health professional like your doctor or a dietitian because you may be suffering a symptom that can be easily fixed and get your period back!
There are two-types of Amenorrhea which are;
Primary- This is when young women have not had their first period by the age of 15. This could be failure of the ovaries, issues with the central nervous system or reproductive organs.
Secondary- This is when you have had normal menstrual cycles, but they stop for 3 or more months. This is the most common type of amenorrhea, typically found in athlete women.
What could have caused me to lose my period?
There are some natural causes of amenorrhea which include pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause.
BUT … before we get into the causes it's important to understand how periods work - In your brain there is a part called the hypothalamus which is what controls your period! When working correctly it releases chemicals to stimulate the pituitary gland, which then stimulates your ovary to release the period-inducing hormones oestrogen and progesterone, allowing you to have your period! Our bodies are wonderful! The hypothalamus however, is very sensitive to sleep, stress, gaining or losing weight and exercise!
POTENTIAL REASONS FOR LOST PERIOD:
Missing your period can also hinder stress so it's important to manage your stress levels. WHY? …When you are under stress our body produces a hormone called “Cortisol.” Cortisol can cause destruction on the hypothalamus/pituitary/ovary interaction. Therefore, depending on how your body can tolerate stress, cortisol may disrupt the process of period hormones being released leading to you missing your period. It's important to manage stress- Consider taking up meditation, yoga or brisk walks.
2. GAINED OR LOST WEIGHT?
Gaining or losing weight causes your body to undergo severe changes. It can cause disruption to periods. WHY?… When your body weight increases or decreases in body fat it can create a hormonal imbalance. This hormonal balance causes your period to come late or completely go away.
LOSING WEIGHT: Calorie restriction especially if it's a severe amount can affect the hypothalamus. Reducing the amount of ovulation hormones being produced, causing you to stop ovulating or releasing an egg from the ovary each month - which is needed to have a period! This is often why many women suffering eating disorders do not have a period.
GAINING WEIGHT: Being overweight can cause an increase in the amount of oestrogen found in your body. Oestrogen is needed to help regulate your reproductive system. Therefore, gaining weight creates an excess of oestrogen that your body can’t regulate causing you to have no period!
3. INCREASING EXERCISE OR OVER-EXERCISING?
Many female athletes tend to miss their periods. Exercise itself doesn’t actually cause your menstruation to stop - it is actually the link between under-fueling for the intensity of exercise you are completing.
Intense exercise and low caloric intake puts added stress onto your body. In response to this stress, the hypothalamus produces less oestrogen, stopping the ovaries to ovulate. When you perform strenuous exercise your body metabolism slows down to conserve energy. This stops normal processes such as the hypothalamus producing oestrogen.
Not only can high intensity exercise stop your period and decrease your oestrogen levels combined with not eating enough calories or nutrients can also prevent your bones from getting the energy they need to remain in good shape and strong. If not getting the right amount of nutrients it can weaken your bones and put you at risk for injury or diseases like osteoporosis…so what's even the point in carrying out your high intensity exercise!!
Tips to regain your period:
Good news -getting your period back is possible - do not worry. It just will require some diet and lifecycle changes.
Consult with one of our specialist hormone dietitian's. Click here to make a booking.
Reduce intensity of exercise.
Reduce stress - try to join yoga or even try meditation to relax.
Listen to your body- If it's hungry EAT! Your body deserves to be fueled!
Take supplements such as Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K. Women who do not have periods are at higher risk of osteoporosis, and these vitamins and minerals may help keep bones strong. Always consult with your dietitian before starting supplements.
Work with a dietitian to calculate your energy and macro nutrient requirements to ensure you are thriving instead of just surviving
Try add a quick release carbohydrate before exercise (E.g. fruit/dried fruit/100% fruit juice)
Try to eat within 30 to 60 minutes of finishing all workouts. Post-workout meals should be high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein. Some good examples include sandwich & fruit, bagel with peanut butter and chocolate milk, energy bar and yoghurt with granola, or spaghetti with meatballs, salad and fruit.
If workouts are lasting more than 90 minutes, eat 15 grams of carbohydrates or drink a sports beverage every 15 to 30 minutes.
Our specialist nutrition professionals will not only help you regain your period, but also fall in love with a healthy lifestyle. We work in close partnership with doctors to ensure all the right tests are done, therefor no misdiagnosis occurs.