Having a period is one of the major parts of our life during our reproductive years and it can give us a huge insight into our health each month. However, when it doesn’t come, it can give us a fair bit of anxiety and leave us with many unanswered questions.
The thing is, there can be many causes, but the good news is that your diet and lifestyle can pretty much turn it all around.
In clinic two of the biggest reasons I see for a missing period is undereating and over exercising. It’s widely known that eating disorders can halt periods, but actually just not getting enough daily calories can put a strain on our reproductive system. It’s essentially telling our body that there may be a famine and it goes into survival mode. When this happens, there’s no way that the body is going to think it’s a good time to make babies, and so it can shut down our reproductive system. To be honest we kind of have to thank our body for being so bloomin clever; it’s making sure we survive!
This is also similar to over exercising, especially with the new craze of being “strong, not skinny”, which is causing women everywhere to push themselves too hard. Exercises like spin classes, endurance training, high intensity exercise, cross fit and long cardio sessions like running can all raise our stress hormone cortisol. Again, this is putting our body into stress/ survival mode and reproduction is put on a back burner.
These are both SUCH easy fixes but can lead us women to nervously take ourselves to the doctors thinking there is something terribly wrong.
This doesn’t mean that we need to increase our junk food and chain our self to the sofa to get our period back, it just means increasing our portion sizes and complex carbohydrates, and swapping our exercise from cardio to more restorative exercises or strength training. It’s all about telling our body it’s safe again.
Emotional stress also plays a similar role here and you may find that during a period of intense stress, your period vanishes, but if this is happening for a long time then it may be worth re-evaluating your life to see where things can be improved.
Periods can stop if you’re breastfeeding too, due to an increase in prolactin and it may take a few months to come back after stopping. This is perfectly normal but if after a good few months there’s been no sign of return it may be worth considering other reasons.
An imbalance in thyroid hormones is another reason for missing periods, so once you’ve ruled out undereating or over training, a comprehensive thyroid test is a great idea. Make sure you get your free thyroid hormones (free T4 and free T3) checked, as well as thyroid antibodies. TSH is not enough on its own.
We can’t forget that another reason why periods may have vanished is due to birth control. Some contraceptives can affect hormones in such a way that it shuts down ovulation and your monthly cycle.
Is it Hypothalamic Amenorrhea or PCOS?
Finally, it’s really important to distinguish between two conditions related to a lack of periods. One is hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA), which occurs mainly due to the reasons listed above, and the other one is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is related to an androgen excess and imbalance in blood sugar levels.
It’s completely possible to sort out those periods and bring them back in a really healthy, natural way… it’s just about learning what your body really needs…