The Dietary Treatment of Amenorrhea
Amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation – or a woman’s period – for over 6 months without an organic or anatomical cause. It tends to be the result of high stress levels, low calorie intake, or the constant practice of intense exercise. While it may not seem like it, amenorrhea alters the body’s functioning and increases the loss of bone mass. Therefore, the dietary treatment of amenorrhea becomes an essential factor in restoring the menstrual cycle.
Amenorrhea: Frequent causes
Before worrying about the proper dietary treatment of amenorrhea, you first need to understand the causes of this disorder.
First of all, keep in mind that amenorrhea is very common among female athletes and adolescents with eating disorders. It’s also frequent among women who follow a hypocaloric diet and those with elevated physical and emotional stress levels.
On a physical level, this disorder alters the extent and frequency of the hormones that are responsible for ovulation, such as LH, FSH, and estradiol. At the same time, cortisone levels increase and TSG and T3 levels decrease. What’s more, research has revealed low leptin levels. This hormone reduces appetite and is a marker for energy reserves.
At the same time, ghrelin increases, which increases a woman’s appetite. And the opposite is true for prolactin and melatonin, which both decrease.
Over time, bone mineral density diminishes and can lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis. With all of these negative effects in mind, we want to tell you about the treatment of amenorrhea through diet.
The dietary treatment of amenorrhea
Sufficient calorie intake, a key factor in the dietary treatment of amenorrhea
Your body needs energy and nutrients in order to carry out a number of different functions. So, if the body doesn’t get the energy and nutrients it needs, it will begin to prioritize some functions over others.
Therefore, it’s best to increase your calorie intake – progressively, because your digestive system needs to readapt. The best way to do so is by providing 250-300 kcal per day.
Consuming fats and whole grains
Women may avoid eating fats and carbohydrates for fear of gaining weight, and this can lead to amenorrhea. However, quality (unsaturated) fats actually help synthesize the hormones involved in the menstrual cycle. At the same time, they regulate inflammation, helping to reduce the stress markers in the blood.
What’s more, these are the nutrients that provide the body with the greatest amount of energy. Therefore, by eating them, it’s easier to reach the daily goal of an extra 250-300 kcal. Choose nuts, avocado, and olives, and use olive oil to cook and dress dishes.
When it comes to carbohydrates, it’s best to replace refined grains with whole grains. You can even opt for legumes.
Vitamin D and other nutrients for bone health
Just as we mentioned before, prolonged amenorrhea puts bone health at risk. The reason women lose bone mass is because of a lack of estrogen and calcium-binding nutrients. Among these are vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium.
On the one hand, vitamin D is responsible for the absorption of calcium in your diet through the intestine. So, we need to have the right levels of this vitamin. How can we get it? Through continuous and controlled exposure to the sun and through D3 supplements. What’s more, we can combine sun exposure with oily fish, dairy products, eggs, mushrooms, and avocado along with olive oil.
At the same time, vitamin K and magnesium intervene in the production of osteocalcin, the hormone responsible for bone formation. Sources of vitamin K are dairy products, sour kraut (fermented cabbage), and natto (fermented soy). Likewise, sources of magnesium include leafy greens, pinto beans, soy, and nuts.
Other factors involved in amenorrhea
Apart from reestablishing your calorie intake and satisfying your nutritional needs, you also need to reduce your current stress levels. First of all, you’ll need to reduce the number of time you spend exercising, as well as the intensity.
Second, you may want to consider psychological treatment in order to manage your emotions and accept your body.
Last, you should know that menstrual health is a fundamental pillar to our survival. Therefore, as soon as you detect any sign of amenorrhea in yourself or your daughter, you should see a gynecologist. Then, you should also see a dietary nutritionist who can better indicate the dietary treatment of amenorrhea.