Cramps, cravings, bloating headaches, tiredness with insomnia…just a few of the delights women experience as part of our “monthly gift.”
As annoying as it may be to have your period, it’s important to remember that it is good indicator of overall health. For women who experience their period regularly – this indicates that you are in good health and all is well inside your body. Having regular periods means your period is generally around the same time every month,the duration is usually the same, the heaviness of it is usually the same, and the symptoms of it are usually the same. There are even handy apps you can download on your smart phone to help you track the time, duration and symptoms you experience. This can help you determine if your periods are regular or irregular.
*If your period is non-existent and you’re not (post-)menopausal/pregnant, then it is irregular.*
An irregular period can be caused by many things but can be an indicator of underlying problems. These causes can range from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), stress, menopause, etc. However, I want to focus on menstrual irregularity that is caused by extreme exercising and dieting. I am hearing more and more of young women all the time who are losing their periods and thinking nothing of it.
Losing your period is a sign to stop and reflect on what’s going on in your body. When a young athletic woman loses her period she may fall under the category of having Female Athlete Triad. Female Athlete Triad is often observed in women who are in sports that require or emphasize leanness and low body weight (gymnastics, distance running, ballet, swimming, diving, figure skating, physique competitions, etc.) The Female Athlete Triad consists of:
- Eating Disorder / Under Eating
- Amenorrhoea (Loss of period)
- Osteoporosis / Bone Loss
It may be shocking for you to see osteoporosis as part of the triad, as you would generally think of Great Aunt Sue’s tumble down the stairs that broke her wrist in the year of 1998. But I am 100% serious when I say there are 16 year old girls showing up to their doctors with fractures because they have low bone density due to under eating and over training.
Osteoporosis at any age doesn’t sound great to me, but is seemingly worse for someone who should be thriving health wise at a young age. Although osteoporosis, ammenorrhea and eating disorder/undereating are used to diagnose the Female Athlete Triad there is an extensive list of other not so great symptoms that accompany it.
As a young active woman you may think the idea of being period-less is amazing, but losing the ability to menstruate comes with pretty severe repercussions. You lose your period because your body is changing it’s hormonal profile in order for you to survive harsh conditions. Just because your body is surviving, does not mean it is thriving and performing optimally. Human bodies are amazingly adaptable and can survive many things – but not without consequences. When you lose the ability to menstruate due to over training and under eating, you may also find yourself experiencing:
- fatigue and low energy
- poor sleep quality and sleep irregularity
- hair loss
- cold hands and feet (Raynaud’s disease)
- fluctuations in weight, loss of muscle, increase in fat
- prolonged/reduced recovery from training or injuries
- low mood, anxiety, depression
- low sex drive and difficulty becoming aroused
- low blood pressure (especially when changing position from sitting to standing)
- low heart rate
- muscle spasm and cramping
- feeling achy
- experiencing constipation and bloating or other digestive issues
As you can see, some of these symptoms are down right terrifying and straight up suck. I don’t know about you, but having personally experienced the Female Athlete Triad – the most distressful moment I ever had would be when I was in the shower washing my hair and I had what seemed to be a never ending supply of long strands of hair falling out tangled around my fingers…that was more terrifying to me than the fact that I was 17 year old who hadn’t had a period in three months. However, I was able to get back to normal (no more hair loss or absent periods) by limiting my exercise volume and intensity and increasing my food intake.
If you or someone you know is experiencing the Female Athlete Triad, know that it is usually reversed/treated by eating more and reducing training volume and frequency. In some cases, hormonal treatment may also be necessary. If Female Athlete Triad is accompanied with an eating disorder or disordered eating working with professional to treat the psychological aspect is also necessary as this would probably the “make or break” factor in terms of recovering and getting back to being fully healthy mentally and physically.
Have you experienced the Female Athlete Triad? Do you think your periods are irregular because of your diet and exercise?
Did this ruin or make your day?
Let me know.