If you’ve stopped getting regular periods, it could be a sign of a health condition called Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. Hypothalamic Amenorrhea occurs when you’re not getting enough calories into your body due to cutting your caloric intake and/or over-exercising. Hypothalamic Amenorrhea can lead to deeper rooted health issues such as increased anxiety and depression, threatened bone health and infertility. Check out our Hypothalamic Amenorrhea recovery tips if you have been diagnosed with this condition, and of course, be sure to follow the advice of your health care practitioner.
What is Hypothalamic Amenorrhea?
Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA) is a condition in which menstruation stops for several months due to a problem involving the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is in the centre of the brain, controls reproduction and produces gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). When the hypothalamus stops producing GnRH, it reduces the amount of other hormones produced, such as FSH and LH (which signal the ovaries to produce oestrogen) as well as oestrogen itself. It often occurs due to chronic stress, poor diet or too much exercise. If you have HA it means that you’re not getting enough calories in your body, so proper diet and exercise management is essential.
7 Causes of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
1. Psychological or chronic stress
2. Excessive exercise
3. Disordered eating
4. Food restriction
5. Weight loss
6. Energy imbalance (from under-eating and overexercising)
10 Dangers of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
1. Low oestrogen and accompanying hair thinning or loss
2. Brittle nails
3. Skin problems
4. Low libido
5. Vaginal dryness
6. Mood swings and irritability
7. Absence of ovulation and infertility during reproductive years
8. Heightened cardiovascular disease risk
9. Threatened bone health and bone loss
10. Increased depression and anxiety
8 Hypothalamic Amenorrhea Recovery Tips
1. Regular, Unrestricted Eating
Nourishing your body and increasing your caloric intake is top priority if you have HA. Eat regularly, eat what you want and don’t hop on any diet trends. If you have HA, do not restrict yourself on when, what and how much you eat. If you restrict yourself, you risk putting yourself in a negative energy balance where your body senses there isn’t enough energy available to support regular periods. Eating a greater variety of foods from all macronutrient groups, including fats and starches seems to stimulate more hormone production.
2. Focus on Fats and Carbs
Building off of the above point, fats and carbs are key for HA recovery. Dietary fat is involved in regulating appetite hormones and producing sex hormones we need for normal periods. Full fat dairy options like yoghurt, whole milk and cheeses, as well as fatty meats and fish, nut, seeds and nut butters can really help get you back on track. When it comes to carbs, eat them at meals and snacks as carb restriction can ramp up the stress hormone cortisol. Starchy foods like bread, pasta, potatoes and peas are all great foods for increasing your caloric intake.
3. Stress Management
Since chronic stress can be a key cause of HA, it’s important to manage it as best you can. When you’re highly stressed, your body sends a signal to your brain to register this stress, which can negatively affect female hormone levels. Figure out your stress triggers and try to keep clear of them as much as possible. You can also try things like therapy, yoga, deep breathing and meditation to reduce your stress.
4. Moderate Your Exercise Regime
HA recovery can also be facilitated by eliminating intense exercise from your routine. You can cut exercise out entirely if you want a faster recovery, but if you still want to do some form of physical activity, gentle exercise is best. Intense exercise, such as high intensity workouts and long distance running causes stress on the body and can make it difficult to return to a regular menstrual cycle.
5. Get Quality Sleep
Not only is quality sleep one of the best ways to reduce your body’s stress load, it also comes with other health benefits such as improving your mood, helping you maintain a healthy weight and boosting your immune system. Turn off electronics an hour or two before bed, try a restorative yoga or stretching routine, and turn the temperature down in your house to help cool off your body before sleep. You can also try taking a bath or shower, reading a book or drinking chamomile tea to help relax you.
6. Find Your Support Group
It’s important to have people around you that are going to support you on your road to recovery. Spend time with family and friends who understand and respect that you’re making changes and don’t try to pressure you otherwise. Doing fun things and laughing with great people is one of the best ways to de-stress!
7. Stay on Top of Your Bone Health
If you have HA, it’s possible that it could affect your bones. Your healthcare provider can send you to get the right tests to get your bones checked. Eating a balanced diet and ensuring adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is crucial!
8. Mindset is Key
The relationship you have with food, exercise and your body is key to getting your period back. If you can, talk to a therapist, non-diet dietician or nutrition counsellor to help create healthier beliefs around these things and to get back on track to a healthy lifestyle.
Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is a serious condition that can lead to significant health issues down the road. It’s important to get it under control as soon as possible to get your period back and get you back on a healthy track.
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