Stopped period? Here’s everything you need to know about hypothalamic amenorrhea

Stopped period?  Here’s everything you need to know about hypothalamic amenorrhea

There can be many factors that contribute to missing a period.

You may have experienced missed periods or know a girlfriend who has a irregular cycle – is a problem that is becoming more and more common in women. There can be many factors that contribute to a missed period, including lifestyle choices or an underlying medical condition, but it could also be hypothalamic amenorrhea.

Outside of pregnancy or PCOS, hypothalamic amenorrhea, or HA, is the most common cause of amenorrhea (ie, absent period). However, this condition receives little attention.

I didn’t know anything about HA until I missed my period for over 5 years. This led me on a journey of discovery, healing myself and becoming a clinical nutritionist so I could help women better understand their bodies.

If you are someone who has an irregular cycle, equipping yourself with knowledge is the first step to getting your health on track. And the good news? HA is reversible! So let’s break it down.

How do I know if I have hypothalamic amenorrhea?

It’s not uncommon to miss a period here or there, but HA is usually diagnosed when a period is missed for three or more consecutive months in women who previously had regular menstrual cycles, or more than six months in women with irregular cycles.

If this is the case, then a blood test that indicates low LH, low FSH, and low estrogen hormones usually indicates that you have HA. This excludes all other possible causes, such as thyroid dysfunction, hyperprolactinemia, premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), and polycystic ovary syndrome.

What causes HA?

The hypothalamus, which is our body’s hormonal control center, is very sensitive to the environment around it. When there are high levels of physiological stress, excessive exercise, and/or restricted eating, the hypothalamus will decide that it is not a safe time to reproduce, therefore shutting down hormone production as a result. In fact, studies show that approximately 50% of women who exercise regularly experience abnormal menstrual cycles.

When I missed my period in my 20s, I was obsessed with exercise, working out several times a day (mainly high-intensity cardio), restricting my eating, working two jobs, and living far away from my family. Looking back, it’s no wonder my body couldn’t produce a period!

The Effect HA Has on Your Long-Term Health

Prolonged hypothalamic amenorrhea has potential consequences in many other areas of health, including metabolic, bone, cardiovascular, mental, and reproductive health.

Even if having a baby isn’t on your radar, your menstrual cycle is an important health marker, often referred to as your monthly report card, and healthy hormonal balance is critical to our overall health and well-being.

How I cured my own HA

When my gynecologist told me I had to stop exercising, I felt deflated. However, she knew that not having a period was not normal and that she needed help. I began working with a Chinese nutritionist and doctor, and with their support and guidance, I began my path to recovery.

I had to redefine my relationship with food and exercise. I learned that carbohydrates were not bad and that hours of cardio were not necessary. With practice, I finally started listening to my body and giving it what it needed; resting when I felt tired, walking instead of a spin class, nourishing my body by eating more high-quality, macro-balanced, nutrient-dense foods.

It took a while for my period to settle down once I got it back, which is very normal, but today I have such a deep level of respect and love for my body. This experience redefined what I thought it meant to be “healthy” and instead listen to my body and what it needs.

How to exercise for the female body.

Due to the hormonal fluctuations that women experience during their monthly cycle, we respond to different types of exercise throughout the different phases of our cycle. It is important to note that if you do not have a period, you will not go through the different phases (this also includes those who take the oral contraceptive pill).

During the first half of our cycle (follicular and ovulation) we generally have more energy and stamina, are better at burning fat and building lean muscle, and have a greater ability to recover. This is an ideal time for cardio, HIIT, and strength training.

As we enter the second half of our cycle (luteal and menstrual), our hormone levels decline, as do our strength, stamina, energy, and it can take longer to recover. This is an ideal time for lower intensity workouts like pilates, barre, yoga, and walking. the classes in Insight body and mind they center around this conscious movement to empower the body.

Recognizing hormonal fluctuations throughout our cycle and synchronizing the types of exercise we do supports your biological systems, resulting in greater overall health and wellness.

My biggest advice to women when it comes to exercise is that sometimes less is more. Learn how your hormones affect your training performance and results and use this knowledge to train smarter, not harder.

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