How to Avoid Amenorrhea While Dieting

by on January 11th, 2010
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Periods can be a hassle–but going without your period could cause serious health problems, such as infertility and osteoporosis. Normally, women who eat an appropriate caloric amount for their weight won’t develop amenorrhea, but women who do–or women who overexercise–run the risk of losing their period, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you’re currently dieting, exercising, or participate in a sport where overexercise or low body weight maintenance is necessary, here’s how you can avoid developing this condition.

Don’t Lose Weight Fast
Chances if you’re losing a lot of weight, or more than two pounds per week, you’re in an excessive caloric deficit. Sure, it’s nice to see the weight on the scale go down, but you don’t want to lose weight too fast–it’s just too stressful and harmful. Low energy availability has been directly connected with amenorrhea, so if you’re dieting hard, there’s a good chance the available energy you have is just not sufficient.

The fix: To keep healthy, go for a slight calorie deficit instead which results in a one to two pound loss per week. Don’t overdo it on the exercise either, which can actually increase your caloric deficit.

Don’t Become Underweight
If you’re naturally underweight, amenorrhea shouldn’t be a concern–but if you’re dieting to get to that level, watch out. Chances are women who try to reach a low body weight often under-eat, which leads to a low energy availability that can trigger period loss. Being underweight can also affect your hormones, which can up your risk of amenorrhea. If you want to get thin, think again: Being thin isn’t always a healthy pursuit.

Don’t Exercise Excessively
If you’re involved in a sport such as basketball, where prolonged exercise is necessary, you need to eat enough calories to support your active lifestyle. Unfortunately, many female athletes consistently do not eat enough calories, and to a lesser extent, fat, which can put them at risk for amenorrhea. Women may be at a higher risk for amenorrhea if they participate in these activities:

– Gymnastics
– Long distance running
– Swimming
– Ballet
– Figure skating

These activities tend to emphasize low body weight or extreme leanness as important factors for excelling in these activities, which, if women don’t keep close tabs on their eating habits, can cause them to under-eat. Eating disorders are also higher for women who participate in these activities, and amenorrhea is often a diagnostic criteria point for diagnosing an eating disorder.

The solution: Your goal here is to avoid a low energy availability, so eat right, eat enough food, and avoid going to extremes with your dietary and exercise habits. If you cannot control your eating habits, or are afraid that controlling them will make you fat, you may want to consider professional help, as these signs are symptomatic of disordered eating or a developing eating disorder.

The Mayo Clinic

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