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Amenorrhea Talk

 

I have debated this post for a few weeks now because I didn’t want my blunt side to come across the wrong way but then I realized that if this topic and the way I go about addressing it hits you in what feels like an attacking manner, then you probably needed to hear it.

Thinking-Out-Loud

We need to talk about amenorrhea again.

We have discussed amenorrhea many times but it’s time once again to address the seriousness of not getting your period and why you most likely aren’t getting your period even though you are currently scheduling lots of doctors appointments to figure out where it went.

You most likely aren’t getting a regular period because you just aren’t EATING ENOUGH. You think you are but you aren’t.

And deep down? You know this.

Running to every doctor under the sun for every blood test available trying to determine what the heck is wrong isn’t going to spell out what you need to hear: EAT MORE.

You can try to blame your thyroid, pituitary gland, hypothalamus, your mother’s uncle’s sister’s cousin for having a low level of estrogen so it must skip a generation and be your issue too when none of these, 9 times out of 10, are the cause.

What is the cause is your underconsuming of the necessary calories it takes to fuel your body not just for your weekly mileage, not just to keep you moving around from here to there but to keep your organs functioning and hormones in balance.

Your body isn’t stupid.

You think you did a great job by getting through the day (or multiple days) by eating the bare minimum, going to bed hungry, measuring your peanut butter and not going back for more even when you wanted another spoonful or eating just enough at each meal to keep you satisfied.

Your body is wiser and is on to you.

And your body is just that, your body. Saying that you are the right weight for your height according to some chart isn’t always accurate.

Trust me, I know this. I was weighing in at the doctor’s offices at 115 pounds, 118 pounds and even at 120 pounds and not getting my period. I was 5′ 4″ so according to those silly charts, I was fine. I was NOT FINE because I was not at that weight in a healthy way.

It may not happen right away but sooner or later, an alarm goes off inside of you that screams, “Cancel the release of the egg, we do not have enough energy in here to carry a baby.”

But guess what? Even if you aren’t looking to get pregnant, the signal to cancel the baby is much more than that — it’s the signal of stress alerting your organs, muscles, bones and hormones that you are low on fuel thus low on energy which creates complete disarray to your insides.

So what are we looking at as our consequences for not eating enough for our bodies?

female athelete triad

source

In addition to lowering your bone density and the risk of stress fractures (hello Female Athlete Triad) how about a slowed metabolism which means that every morsel of food you ingest is stored more regularly than burned because your body fears it won’t get fed which results eventually in weight gain rather than weight loss.

Happened to me 15 years ago when I dealt with amenorrhea– > suddenly I was gaining weight even though I was eating less. And even worse? As my body returned the normal, it took forever for my metabolism to return to normal!

I had other problems too, all caused by not getting my period.

My blood work showed that my liver enzymes were high BUT I didn’t drink alcohol. Apparently, my liver was eating itself because my body wasn’t getting enough nutrition which played out in blood work results as high liver enzymes.

I had high cholesterol (even though I always had low cholesterol) BUT I ate so low fat that the foods I consumed didn’t contain cholesterol. This happened because I wasn’t eating enough fat/enough calories for my body so it produced cholesterol on its own to make up for it, only it produced the bad kind.

My saliva was weird which made it really hard for me to eat dry cereal/dry foods. Your hormones affect EVERYTHING including your saliva. I would get a really irritated mouth if I ate dry cereal and it would burn pretty bad.

My sugar registered as high. Okay, so yes, I do eat a lot of sugar but this result happened because everything was just out of whack. I swear!

My point here is that your blood work will show all sorts of things while you and the doctors try to determine where your period is when you all you need to do is find some balance between calories in and calories out.

It breaks my heart when I see girls either ignoring this issue completely or racking their brains, running to doctors and trying new diet plans to cure ailments brought on by hormone imbalance, not realizing it’s most likely a direct result of not eating enough.

When you are eating enough, your period is present.

Of course there are conditions aside from not eating enough, aside from the Female Athlete Triad, but most of the time, it’s really this simple.

I do know though that simple isn’t always simple. You are used to what it is you eat, you think you really aren’t depriving yourself and you don’t want to gain weight. I get it.

But we need our cycles to be healthy. If healthy means eating a little more to give our bodies enough energy to do its thing happily, isn’t it worth it?

More posts on Amenorrhea:

Life Without The ScaleMy history with amenorrhea and why I gave up the scale

Life Without The Scale Part Two

Jeans Can Lie/NEDA WeekJeans can lie to you, just like the scale

Be sure to check out what everyone else is thinking about today  — our Thinking Out Loud host has written lots of deep and meaningful posts on the subject of eating disorders/disordered eating. Click here to read more from Amanda 🙂

Amenorrhea Talk #thinkingoutloud #amenorrhea #femaleathletetriad #disorderedeating #balance Click To Tweet

*I am obviously not a doctor or expert in anything other than dessert but I did deal with amenorrhea so I speak from my experience. Disordered eating/eating disorders/female athlete triad is serious. Click here for more info on the topic. 

No questions today; tell me something random or feel free to share your thoughts/experience with amenorrhea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine July 30, 2015, 6:30 am

    I always think its good to bring this up and I hope that this post will help someone who reads it! Luckily I haven’t dealt with this but I know there were times when I wasn’t eating as much as I should have been. It’s amazing how our bodies will respond when we are not treating them well.
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    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 5:56 pm

      Isn’t it something – we can’t fool our body. Sometimes though, we think we are fine because we can’t see what goes on inside of us.

  • Susie @ SuzLyfe July 30, 2015, 7:19 am

    I wish it were so easy for me. I wish that I could just eat more and get a period. Oh, how I wish. But unfortunately, it isn’t that cut and dry for me with Crohn’s. The only time in my LIFE that I have had a normal period was when I came OFF of birth control the year before I met Alex, but then I lost it the Christmas right after I met him because of changing meds and stress. And then I lost weight because of a flare, and really lost my period. It took not only major diet changes but also some pretty major drugs to bring it back. Now, I am on BC and no other drugs, and I get it sporadically. But after conversations with my doctor, we’ve decided that it is okay for now because my other levels are generally ok. And again, the whole Crohn’s business. THANKS BODY
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  • Michele @ paleorunningmomma July 30, 2015, 8:08 am

    100% agree, and activity level factors in SOOO much! I need to eat a whole lot more when I’m marathon training, period (lol!) I skipped one period while training for MCM in 2013, not surprisingly I was injured soon after and reevaluated my health completely. It’s not always about appearance though, I’ve been thin and still had a period and gotten pregnant, but I wasn’t running like I am now. Active women need a lot more food than they believe, and especially if the period is gone, likely they’re under the body fat set point. Also just another reason I don’t like the pill, I like to see what’s really going on.
    Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted…Kids Thoughts on a Mom Who Runs – TOLMy Profile

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 1:29 pm

      Yes, yes yes. Totally agree! We need a ton of calories to keep up with our running. I wasn’t running anywhere near what I am running now when I wasn’t getting my period, I just wasn’t eating enough. If I didn’t eat the amount of peanut butter I do now and keep up with eating every time I am hungry these days, I would not get my period. Our mileage needs food!! I do not like the pill for the same reason and you and I absolutely have a set point that I cannot drop below.

  • Amanda @ .running with spoons. July 30, 2015, 8:56 am

    YES to more women needing to hear this. It kind of kills me when I come across a woman who thinks it doesn’t matter that she’s not getting her period because she’s not looking to get pregnant right then. Like… hi… your messed up hormones are affecting every other system in your body too, you just don’t know it. Kudos for putting this out there. Way more people need to realize how serious it is.
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…. thinking out loud #141 .My Profile

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 10:35 am

      It kills me too. I hope that I can help someone realize what they need to do, even though it isn’t always easy.

  • Lindsay July 30, 2015, 9:04 am

    I had hypothalamic ammenorrhea for years due to previously having an eating disorder. And I was one of those people who went from doctor to doctor looking for answers for years. But deep down, I definitely knew the real answer, especially because I’m a nutritionist. And then one day, I wanted to get pregnant, and that changed everything. I slowly started eating more and more fats and my period came back. All I know is that I feel so much better, on so many different levels, having normal hormal levels again. I think another issue is that for those on birth control, they’ll never know they have a problem until they get off the pill because the pill gives you a fake period. I was never in that boat, but I can imagine the frustration of those who were/are, especially those getting off the pill in hopes of getting pregnant. Anyway, great post! People need to hear this and I feel like saying it bluntly is the best way.

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 10:33 am

      Thank you 🙂 I am so glad you were able to find some balance and get your period back! I hear you when you say that having it back makes you feel better on so many levels. I can definitely relate to that! I don’t like the pill either, for the same reason!

    • Nikki October 29, 2015, 9:13 pm

      Since you went through something similar, can you give me an opinion? I gave birth last year. Stopped pumping in February, my period returned in March with a normal 28 day cycle. I got my period in April, May, and in June with the start of my period I started on birth control pills. My husband and I didn’t want to risk it. My period returned 45 days later. I am like clockwork at 28 days. It hasn’t returned since July 30th, almost 3 months ago. Middle of August we bought a treadmill. I run 10 minute miles but I doubled my mileage. I am not a dieter. I weight 5’8″ and 135lbs. I didn’t lose any weight since starting running more and I eat normally. I eat dessert, steak, pasta, etc. I called the gyno nurses twice last month and expressed my concerns and all they wanted me to do was try a higher estrogen birth control pills. A month ago I just stopped the birth control pills cold turkey. I know I exercise a lot but I eat over 3,000 calories a day, I am at a healthy weight, and got pregnant in 2013 when I was exercising just as much but only with the elliptical. I can’t figure out if my period is gone because of the running or the birth control pills. Both doctors said they would have no way of knowing. When you lost your period, were you on birth control pills? Did the birth control pills always induce a period? I have no food issues but really want to pursue running. Is it possible if I am this sensitive to 10 minute miles?? It’s way too early for doctors to care but I want a monthly period!

  • Heather@hungryforbalance July 30, 2015, 9:16 am

    I lost my period about 6 years ago and have never managed to get it back DESPITE eating more exercising less, and gaining weight. When my husband and I wanted to have a baby 3 years ago, we had to go through multiple fertility treatments in order to conceive our daughter. I am still breastfeeding her, but I hope that my body will finally “reset” itself when we wean.
    Thank you for posting this. It is such an important topic that NEEDS more attention.
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    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 10:32 am

      I am so glad you were able to have a baby 🙂 I actually found that having my son (like 2 years after I dealt with amenorrhea) and nursing him for 16 months helped my body return to normal. After my pregnancy and the nursing, I found my metabolism totally returned to normal. Just keep eating to fuel yourself and the baby!

  • Jamie July 30, 2015, 10:15 am

    I lost my period a year ago, between rapid weight loss due to a Crohn’s flare and high milage, it took me about 4 months to regain a period, and even now it’s rather irregular. For someone who used to have a regular (and heavy ugh) period, it’s scary how much has changed in the last few years – especially looking ahead to wanting kids in the next few years.
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    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 10:30 am

      I hear you on the heavy periods. Mine have always been awful (until I figured out over last few years what to eat to make it better) so when I didn’t get it for a while, part of me didn’t miss it! But we need it, especially to have kids and most especially as a sign of health.

  • Joy July 30, 2015, 10:29 am

    Thanks for this topic, but I have a slightly differ take on it, that I hope you could address! I’m still trying to get my cycle back after 2years of undereating and have just started to break the habit of counting calories and DO NOT want to go down that road again. The only problem is I’m afraid that I’m not eating enough now to keep my metabolism functioning properly and get my period back! I’m 23 & really hope to fix this problem before I get any older and possibly damage my health any more than I already did! Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 1:26 pm

      I may do a post on this to help address the topic even though I know everyone is different and one post can only do so much. I am proud of you for wanting to do the best you can for your body and break away from counting calories! I did a post on not needing to count calories. Here’s the link The best thing I can advise through a comment right now is to keep up the good work and eating to fuel your appetite. So long as you listen to your body, eat when you are hungry and go with a nice balance of healthy foods and your cravings, things should get back on the right track. Easier said than done, I know. Do you like peanut butter? It’s my fave and is highly satisfying with a decent amount of nutrition/calories to help meet your needs.

  • Emily July 30, 2015, 10:54 am

    Wow, this is so true. Often, I thought that if I was at a ‘healthy weight’ I would just get my period back naturally. Well, I was wrong. However, I figured that one of the biggest things for me was eating enough and not over-exercising. My body is extremely sensitive to lots of exercise and stress, even at a normal weight, so I have to always be self-controlled and careful.. I have to admit that missing a workout once in a while is pretty nice. 😀

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 1:22 pm

      The body is sensitive, isn’t it? I know for myself that so long as I eat enough for what I burn, I can keep on running. Stress, I have found, doesn’t affect my cycles so long as I keep on eating. It’s all about the food for me.

  • Sarah @pickyrunner July 30, 2015, 11:14 am

    Yes. This needed to be written. You’re the best. Emailing you shortly.
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  • Niki @ Life With Niki July 30, 2015, 12:37 pm

    Energy balance and proper rest is so important for active women, especially those who, like myself, are prone to perfectionism and type A personalities. I think a lot of girls try to find every possible method on the planet except actually gaining weight and not exercising/eating more. It is really really hard sometimes to have to deal with the fact that maybe your body needs to go above the healthy weight set point the chart on the wall is telling you you need to be at. I dealt with this, and I can swear that periods don’t just come back because you’re at a healthy weight. You need to a lot. You need to rest a lot. And you need to love your body and not stress about it no matter how mentally challenging it becomes. I really hope doctors become more well versed in this topic, and won’t keep trying to push pills and hormone replacements at people instead of treating the actual cause <3.
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    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 1:20 pm

      Agreed. I stay away from the pill just so I know I get my cycle on my own. It’s all about finding balance, which is easier said than done but once you can figure out how much you need to eat and honor it, all should fall into place.

  • Arman @ thebigmansworld July 30, 2015, 1:50 pm

    I’ve never commented on a post regarding…issues of the ladies before but this s!?t needs to go viral. Sharing.

    Thank you M. Someone needed to rip the band aid off and be blunt. Bravo. (not the tv station)
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  • Suzy July 30, 2015, 2:03 pm

    Hey, great post Meredith. This is a tough subject and you handled it well! The only time I’ve missed periods is when I was pregnant, but I don’t really eat all that much. I’m 120lb at an almost 5’7″ which is within the normal range but on the low end. I don’t eat much (even though I run 70-80 miles per week) but I do eat a lot of fat. Lots of avocados, cheeses, salad dressings, chocolate, bread and butter, red meat, etc etc. I read once that upping the fat intake helps the hormones in women’s bodies release eggs but don’t quote me on that. I’m thankful that I haven’t had to deal with this problem as I certainly have a shit load of other crap to deal with.
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    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 5:51 pm

      Yes, fat does help with hormones! Avocado especially, helps to balance them, or at least that’s what is said.

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 5:52 pm

      I replied to your comment but don’t see it – I hate when this happens! But yes, in case you missed my comment, fat does help with hormones. Avocados especially help to balance them out – at least that’s what they claim!

  • Shannon July 30, 2015, 2:48 pm

    This is a serious topic, that many women today struggle with. I find it alarming and sad that today’s health professionals and doctors tend to push it aside and not address the situation for how serious it really is!
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    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 5:50 pm

      You are so right! I also think there are still a ton of doctors who aren’t aware of the real issue and how to deal with it.

  • Alyssa @ Renaissancerunnergirl July 30, 2015, 3:47 pm

    This is something I think is so important for girls and women to understand. I was a late bloomer so didn’t begin my period until 15 and it was erratic the first year which is normal, but I then became concerned during college and again during law school when it was totally absent, the first time for about a year and then during law school for more than 1.5 years. The truth was, despite eating healthier, stopping the yo-yo weight (it went up and down in a 15-pound range which is a lot for my 5 foot frame), and getting into a regular workout schedule, I just was not eating enough to maintain the weight that my body is comfortable at. Although, say, 102 pounds is a “healthy weight” I have a lot of muscle and as it turns out, my body “calibrates” at 105-7 lbs and eating enough to replace all the running calories burned is important to keep it in tune and keep me feeling good.
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    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 5:49 pm

      We all have our healthy weight point. I don’t own a scale and haven’t been on one I think in over a year, maybe two years, but I know that for me, 115 is my borderline healthy point. It’s that number where my period will disappear and is just too low for me even though it’s healthy for some. I need to be a few pounds more than that. Who knows what I weigh now, so much more muscle from running and Pure Barre but the same size as I was when I was not getting my period!

  • Laur July 30, 2015, 4:28 pm

    Did you ever have to get a liver biopsy? I lost my period but get it now; however, I had disordered eating for a long time. Did the liver enzymes ever go back down? I had a liver biopsy, blood work, etc. and everything comes back spotless. Just wondering!

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 30, 2015, 5:47 pm

      I never had a biopsy done – my levels returned to normal as soon as my period came back which, if I can remember correctly, wasn’t long after that blood test (this was 15 years ago so it’s hard to recall exactly)…I got lucky that everything went back to normal and that I was able to have a baby as soon as I wanted one, sometimes, others aren’t that lucky. I hope your levels are back to normal now that you are getting a regular cycle again 🙂

  • Nikki @ will run for pizza July 31, 2015, 11:03 am

    SUCH a great post! I’ve never “lost” my period, but every since I started, at age 12, it was ALWAYS irregular. I could go 6 months without having one. They told me that I would have trouble getting pregnant because of it, but at 16, you just don’t truly get what that means. It wasn’t until 4 years ago, when I gave up meat 100% for 1.5 years, that my period actually became so regular. I mean, I could predict when it was going to be here. It was so new for me and I LOVED IT! I started eating meat again – occasionally – almost 2 years ago, and while I AM still having monthly periods, the last fe months I’ve been noticing they are a little lighter, shorter, etc…so I truly believe that for ME and MY body, meat – even the organic, hormone free, nitrate free, blah blah blah because that is the ONLY kind of meat (BISON mostly) that we buy – is what messes with my period. I KNOW it’s not from eating too LITTLE calories, b/c well, I don’t have a problem with THAT! haha, but from the meats. So I have REALLY been trying to just keep meat eating to once a week, but still wonder if even once a week is too much…we shall see
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    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 31, 2015, 2:42 pm

      It’s amazing how food can affect us. My cycles feel much better when I went meatless so I can understand.

  • Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets July 31, 2015, 1:17 pm

    I like your blunt side. You should show her off more often.

    Good message, very well said.

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles July 31, 2015, 2:40 pm

      ha thanks – I try to be polite but sometimes the blunt has to shine through my words 🙂

  • lindsay August 2, 2015, 8:31 am

    i don’t really run anymore due how sensitive my hormones can get. Especially when stressed or when the gut isn’t healed. But it’s so important for all women/runners to understand. THe frailty of our bodies. I’m constantly trying to NOT BREAK mine. haha. Thank you for this awareness again friend!

  • Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious August 2, 2015, 8:46 am

    As you know, I’ve suffered from amenorrhea for many years and now finally have my period back. http://skinnyfitalicious.com/my-battle-with-estrogen/. I suffered many side effects including kidney disease. Even though I was eating plenty and tons of fat, i was absorbing anything. They realized no calcium was getting absorbed. Through further testing they found out I’m gluten intolerant. Now that I’ve been GF for over a month, my numbers are trending up. My point is, it’s not always a not eating enough problem. It could be an underlying health issue causing it.

    • The Cookie ChRUNicles August 2, 2015, 10:08 am

      So glad you got it back! While the female athlete triad is super common, there’s always other things that can affect our cycle and cause amenorrhea. Amazing how sensitive the body can be.

  • Sam @ Better With Sprinkles August 4, 2015, 11:24 am

    You know that I appreciate this post!! It’s sad how many people think that not getting a period isn’t a big deal, but clearly something in your body is way off in order for that to happen. Just because you’re not trying to get pregnant right now doesn’t mean that your period doesn’t matter! That’s an entire system in your body not functioning – that’s clearly a problem!
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    • The Cookie ChRUNicles August 4, 2015, 2:57 pm

      I knew you would appreciate it 🙂 It’s such a serious matter that I didn’t fully understand when it happened to me many years ago because I never heard of it, didn’t know anyone with the issue and the internet wasn’t what it was to find information. I am lucky that I was able to reverse it and get back to okay and have a baby when I wanted one. Some people aren’t as lucky. I really could have hurt myself which is something I keep in mind all of the time when I run so that I remember to eat enough to fuel my body and keep things working right.

  • Nikki October 29, 2015, 9:07 pm

    Since you went through something similar, can you give me an opinion? I gave birth last year. Stopped pumping in February, my period returned in March with a normal 28 day cycle. I got my period in April, May, and in June with the start of my period I started on birth control pills. My husband and I didn’t want to risk it. My period returned 45 days later. I am like clockwork at 28 days. It hasn’t returned since July 30th, almost 3 months ago. Middle of August we bought a treadmill. I run 10 minute miles but I doubled my mileage. I am not a dieter. I weight 5’8″ and 135lbs. I didn’t lose any weight since starting running more and I eat normally. I eat dessert, steak, pasta, etc. I called the gyno nurses twice last month and expressed my concerns and all they wanted me to do was try a higher estrogen birth control pills. A month ago I just stopped the birth control pills cold turkey. I know I exercise a lot but I eat over 3,000 calories a day, I am at a healthy weight, and got pregnant in 2013 when I was exercising just as much but only with the elliptical. I can’t figure out if my period is gone because of the running or the birth control pills. Both doctors said they would have no way of knowing. When you lost your period, were you on birth control pills? Did the birth control pills always induce a period? I have no food issues but really want to pursue running. Is it possible if I am this sensitive to 10 minute miles?? It’s way too early for doctors to care but I want a monthly period!