Do you have light, short, or missing menstrual periods? Although an “easier” or missing period may sound nice, abnormal periods are just that…not normal.
As we always say, our bodies are extremely smart. When something isn’t quite right, our bodies will let us know one way or another. For women, our periods can be a great indicator of our health and whether or not our nutrition and lifestyles are supporting us.
There are several indicators that something isn’t quite right with your periods. One symptom to look out for is short periods that aren’t coming every 21-35 days. Another can be periods that are very light. Finally having missing periods altogether, which is also known as amenorrhea, is not normal for healthy females of childbearing age.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time to reach out to your doctor. Especially if your symptoms are a change from your usual or typical periods. But what causes abnormal periods? Here are a few possible causes…
A common cause of abnormal periods, especially in active individuals, is underfueling. Many active individuals may intentionally restrict calories, or may simply struggle to meet the high energy needs of their sport. Excessive exercising and restrictive dieting is often advertised to us as the norm in a culture that encourages us to continuously strive for a smaller body. Unfortunately, these habits, whether intentional or unintentional, will eventually negatively impact our health.
RED-S or relative energy deficiency in sport is a condition that describes how over exercising and underfueling damages our health. If you are highly active and don’t consume enough to fuel your exercise and daily activities, you end up in a calorie deficit. With a lack of fuel, especially if chronic, your body will prioritize fueling the essential body processes that keep you alive. As a result, the less essential processes take a hit including your bone health, immunity, metabolism, heart health, mood, and yes…your periods. Check out our other post HERE to learn more about RED-S.
Yes…we said it. It is possible to eat TOO healthy.
So many diets and “clean eating” trends encourage cutting out laundry lists of foods and sometimes even whole food groups altogether. In their place, these diets often place a LARGE focus on fruits and vegetables. Firstly, cutting out foods and food groups for purposes other than medical reasons is NEVER a good idea. All foods can fit into a healthy diet and variety truly is the key. When cutting out foods, we may be missing out on important nutrients and more importantly, we are probably missing out on enjoyment. Not to mention, restricting foods leaves us wanting them more leading to a binge more often than not.
Second, although fruits and vegetables ARE healthy options, again…balance is key! Fruits and veggies are very low calorie. If they take up the majority of your plate at all meals and snacks, it is likely that you are going to end up undereating. Something else to consider, these foods are high in fiber and a large amount can lead to GI distress… Either way, as we discussed above, undereating can lead to abnormal periods. Thus, having a balanced diet that includes all foods is often the healthiest for your body, digestion, hormones, and your soul.
Although it is not necessary to count or track your macros in order to have a healthy diet, having a proper balance is important. Again, many diet trends out there recommend avoiding foods high in carbs and often also suggest staying away from fat. However, all three macronutrients: carbs, fats, and proteins, are important for our health.
We know that many of our hormones, including the sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, are made up of fats. Further, glucose from carbohydrates is actually required to stimulate the production of LH for ovulation. The menstrual cycle and having a baby is not considered an essential function to our bodies compared to keeping our hearts beating and lungs breathing. Thus, if we cut out these macronutrients or do not get enough of them, what is left goes towards essential body processes. As a result our menstrual cycles may not function properly leaving us with abnormal periods. So yes, you can have the real tortilla and skip the lettuce wrap…UNLESS that is truly what you enjoy.
Although periods can be a pain at times, they can be such a great tool to help us assess our own health. Further, having a normal period is actually very important for many other aspects of our health.
Abnormal periods are not normal and should raise the alarm bells that something isn’t quite right. It can be a good idea to reflect on your diet and lifestyle as there are many factors other than those mentioned above that can affect your cycle. For example…stress.
If you are concerned that your periods are abnormal, seek advice from a medical doctor. See our non-diet dietitian services HERE for advice on how to fuel your body to support your activity and hormones. You deserve healthy hormones and a healthy relationship with food, exercise, and your body!