Major Causes for Irregular Periods or Amenorrhea


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Apart from being pregnant and going through menopause, which both normally stop a woman from getting her period, here are the other major causes for irregular periods or amenorrhea.

4 major causes for irregular periods or amenorrhea


High Stress Levels Can Cause Irregular or Missed periods


When one is under a lot of stress for an ongoing period, her body can start to conserve energy by preventing ovulation. Experiencing a traumatic event can suddenly cause the adrenals to work overtime, which can disrupt the production of estrogen and other reproductive hormones (a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea). When one doesn’t have a lot of estrogen, she can not properly build up the uterine lining, and consequently she doesn’t get her period.

Why does this happen?


Essentially, the body makes sure that emergencies get priority. Comfort is nice and being fertile is equally important, but it’s still secondary to survival. A built-in survival mechanism that is ingrained in all of us is the ongoing production of crucial “fight or flight” stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two major players related to our stress responses that help us get away from threats (whether real immediate ones or just perceived ones). Adrenaline and cortisol are completely necessary and sometimes beneficial — helping us to run, climb, exert energy, sweat and regulate our heartbeat, for example — but too much can become a problem.

The body always grants priority to producing these stress hormones that will help one survive a crisis, so sex hormones can take a backseat when the body perceives that “times are tough.” Under chronic stress, there’s not enough raw materials available – such as amino acids that help neurotransmitters to work – to make both sex hormones and stress hormones in some cases, so a choice must be made and the body always chooses stress hormones. Severe stress conditions like dieting, heavy exercise training or intense emotional events are all situations that can induce amenorrhea with or without body weight loss.

Poor Diet Can Cause Irregular or Missed periods


A poor diet low in nutrients, antioxidants and probiotic foods yet high in stimulants can tax the adrenal glands and thyroid. For example, a high intake of sugar, hydrogenated fats and artificial additives, or pesticides is linked with thyroid issues and adrenal fatigue that can raise cortisol.

Excess cortisol hinders the optimal function of many other essential hormones, such as sex hormones. It can also promote the breakdown of bones, skin, muscles and brain tissue when high over a long period of time. This cycle of excess cortisol can lead to protein breakdown, which results in muscle-wasting and potentially osteoporosis.

If one is struggling with menstruation, make sure to eat enough food and make it the right kind. Eat high antioxidant foods that are nutrient-dense, especially plenty of fats (even saturated fats) and proteins. Also, choose a high-calorie supplement if an individual is underweight, have low body fat or are an athlete.

Extreme Weight Loss and Low Body Weight Can Cause Irregular or Missed periods


When an individual body mass index (BMI) falls below 18 or 19, she can start to miss her period due to having too little body fat. Body fat is important for creating enough estrogen, which is why very thin women or those with serious conditions like anorexia and bulimia can experience absent or missed periods. Increased physical activity and nutritional demands of intensive exercise can sometimes lead to a low body weight that put one at risk for hormonal problems.

A low-calorie, low-fat diet can also result in nutrient deficiencies and lowered body-fat percentages that may contribute to irregular periods and bone loss. Some reports also show that very lean vegans and vegetarians, including those on fully “raw” diets, might also be at a higher risk – likely because they are more prone to becoming underweight and suffering deficiencies.

Over-Exercising Can Cause Irregular or Missed periods


Although moderate exercise is very important for ongoing heart health, mood regulation, sleep and maintaining a healthy body weight, too much exercise can also put excess pressure on one adrenal, thyroid and pituitary glands. Women who rapidly start exercising at high intensities — for example, by training for a marathon or some other major event that requires a high level of physical excretion — can stop getting their period suddenly.

Like other stress hormones, cortisol is released in response to any real or perceived stress, which can be physical (including exercise) or emotional. Such stressors include overworking and overtraining, in addition to things like under-sleeping, fasting, infection and emotional upsets. Today, with pressure to stay thin and in shape, some women feel they need to exercise intensely and “break a good sweat” too much and too many days per week.

This kind of exertion can actually increase stress and deplete the body of energy needed to regulate sex hormones. One University of Michigan report found that running and ballet dancing are among the activities most closely associated with amenorrhea. As many as 66 percent of women long-distance runners and ballet dancers experience amenorrhea at one time or another! Shockingly, among women bodybuilders, 81 percent experienced amenorrhea at some point and many had nutritionally deficient diets!

“Exercise-induced amenorrhea” can be an indicator of an overall energy drain and is most common among young women. In fact, female participation in high school athletics has increased 800 percent in the last 30 years, and at the same time hormonal imbalances have also risen. Other concerning issues that sometimes come along with this phenomena include bone density loss and eating disorders. That’s why addressing skeletal problems, heart complications and nutritional deficiencies in this population is a very high priority for physicians.
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