Alright friends, this is going to be a long one. I’m going to split this into a little series of blog posts to not overwhelm you. So here is part one of The Amenohrrea Files.
just a little disclaimer.
I firstly want to start by expressing the difficulties I faced while deciding whether or not to share this part of my life with you all. As a holistic nutritionist, I pride myself on helping others along their own health and wellness journeys (whether that be balancing hormones, maintaining weight, fighting disease, recovering relationships with food, etc). So it can feel quite hypocritical to admit that I too, suffer from some of these things. At the same time, I think that my story can be a powerful tool in my practice, as others can see first-hand what I have done, and continue to do, to heal my own troubles. So, sit back, grab a snack (or two!), and let’s get the ball rollin’.
the amenohrrea files: What is Amenohrrea?
I suppose we should start off with the basics. What is Amenohrrea? Amenohrrea occurs when a women misses at least three menstrual cycles. This may not seem like a big deal, and hey, to some may actually seem pretty amazing, but what most do not understand, is the detrimental impact it is having on one’s health. Not only does Amenohrrea cause the loss of your period, but it can cause hair loss, acne, vision problems, headaches, pelvic pain, and even difficultly conceiving children later on in life. Low body weight, hormonal imbalances, excessive exercise, and stress are the most typical causes of the condition.
The Amenohrrea files: How it all started.
Simply put, women are built to conceive children. Our bodies, to function optimally, need extra fat. When we become too low in body fat or aren’t consuming enough food, our bodily functions begin to suffer. Our systems begin to shut down and in lame-man’s terms, the body is only receiving enough energy to just “live”. Our reproductive system kind fo turns off, we stop menstruating, and we aren’t able to conceive. It is your bodies way of telling you “Hey, you aren’t healthy enough, or have enough energy, to have a child.” Imagine what this is doing to our hormones? Our bodies are out of whack, confused, and MAD. And boy, do you feel the symptoms of it being mad..
My particular case, was due to lack of body fat and under-fueling my body. So I was experiencing all of this. I was fatigued and tired CONSTANTLY, barely had enough energy to get through my day, let alone have any left over for activities I love. My free time was always spent outdoors with my dogs, hiking, snowboarding, surfing, etc. I couldn’t do any of that. My hair started falling out. I couldn’t sleep at night and suffered from insomnia. My digestion was TERRIBLE and I was absorbing nutrients. I was moody and grumpy and didn’t feel like myself. My personality had dissipated and my relationships suffered because of this. When things got this bad, I had been without a period for almost two years. The first year, the symptoms were almost nonexistent. But then, when the symptoms began, I knew I needed to see a doctor.
the amenohrrea files: A little backstory..
In 2016 my boyfriend was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. This caused us to essentially live out of a hospital room for an entire year. I was sleeping on a cot, working two jobs, and going to school. His health was my priority, so my own fell to the back burner. I actually gained weight and weighed the most I had weighed since I was a freshman in high School. It by no means was overweight or unhealthy. But for ME, this was one of the highest weights I had seen.
Once he finished treatment, and I dove deeper into my studies, our health became an obsession. I never wanted to see this cancer return and I never wanted to go through it myself. So, I went a little overboard with our restrictive diets and at this point, developed a spout of orthorexia (We’ll get into this another time). Within a year I had lost almost 30lbs and on a small frame, this is a LOT. People started commenting and the worries rolled in. I remember thinking “well suzy is my height and my weight and she still has her period?” Well, Suzy’s body may not need what I NEED to function optimally. This was a hard concept for me to grasp.
My doctor put it pretty bluntly to me – You are underweight, under-fueling, and malnourished. To see my period again, I was going to need to gain weight and increase my BMI. I am not going to lie, this terrified me. And I know it is hard to admit, but I’m sure this would terrify most women. Women don’t want to hear they need to gain weight and in this circumstance (and I have learned through working with other women suffering from Amenohrrea) it can seem quite scary. It is almost like your health doesn’t matter, because you finally have that six-pack you’ve always wanted. But let me tell you straight up; I was the leanest I had ever been, yet I was the UNHAPPIEST I had ever been.
Walking to my car, I just kept thinking how important it was to start healing my relationship with food, my body, and myself, to better my health. It was not going to be as simple as “just eat more”. This is where it was going to have to start. I think that more women than not, suffer with some degree of disordered eating – big and small. This is why I wanted to share this story and start the discussion of the importance of hormone balance and having a menstrual cycles. I remember having a long talk with my Thomas and him saying “Do you really want to look back years from now and realize you waisted half of your life worried about your body? And to see all you missed out on? You’ve seen how precious life is”. That has always stuck with me.
can you reverse amenohrrea?
So, the healing process began and it has and will be a long journey. In the next Amenohrrea Files post, I’ll discuss what I have been doing, and done, to get my period back. I’ll go over foods i’ve increased, herbs and supplements i’ve began, myths behind it all, and lifestyle changes. And just as a last little reminder, one of the biggest issues I see today with girls I work with, is under-fueling. If you struggle with this, remember – eating enough calories can help with fitness plateaus, increase muscle mass, decrease fat, and promote a healthier you all around. You are more than your body, more than a 6-pack, more than 14% body fat. You are loved because of your personality, your ambitions, and your mind! Stay tuned and don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re going through something similar and need support! xoxo.