My Hormonal Struggle
To be honest, I am not one to usually talk about my personal problems. I have a habit of keeping everything in and keeping everyone out. But I really feel this is a battle I have struggled with for quite a long time, and I need to share it with the world.
Sadly, like many women, I have hormonal problems. But it gets worse; I have had hypothalamic amenorrhea for 2.5 years.
And you must be wondering what that is?...
Amenorrhea is a condition whereby a women’s menstrual period stops for at least 3 cycles. Amenorrhea can occur for a number of reasons. It’s normal in pregnant, breastfeeding and menopausal women, but when it comes to women who should be fertile, this isn’t healthy!
An absent menstrual period in a women of fertile age can occur for a number of reasons, some of these include:
Extreme physiological or psychological stress
Insufficient nutrients – this can be not eating enough of a particular nutrient/macronutrient, or not eating enough in general (as seen in eating disorders)
Frequent strenuous exercise
Low body weight
Low body fat percentage
Mental health problems
Certain medications and therapies
As we can see, looking at the problem holistically, a missing period is due to a range of unhealthy factors. The reason we as women have our periods is to give us the opportunity to reproduce. Reproduction is one of the many purposes of human existence. Having a healthy period every cycle ensures that we have the best opportunity to conceive, even if we don’t want to conceive right now.
Like many systems in the body, the female reproductive system must be within an equilibrium in order to work effectively. The system is regulated by a number of hormones, one of these being gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which is released by the hypothalamus (a gland in the brain that regulates body systems). GnRH stimulates the pituitary gland to release follicular-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, initiating the menstrual cycle. If we throw in a stressor that affects this mechanism, the release of GnRH slows or stops, and therefore the process does not take place. This is our body’s protective mechanism stopping a menstrual period from happening, therefore telling us that it is not safe enough to have a baby.
In terms of my situation, 2.5 years of waiting has been a very long time. A have a history of undereating, overexercising, fatigue and holding onto excessive stress, all of which I know have contributed to my infertility. But I am finally on the mend. I’m in a much better headspace, eating well, exercising less and taking the path of which I want to follow. It has been a long road, but I’m almost there. My hormones are back to normal, I have some signs and symptoms, and I feel like I’m a moody teenager again. It’s just a waiting game!
In terms of changes I have made in my lifestyle there are so many. These include:
Cutting back on exercise in general (some days I was exercising twice a day – not healthy!)
Choose calmer, or what I like to call, feminine forms of exercise. These include pilates, yoga, body balance and walking
Stopped running and other excessive cardiovascular exercises such as boxing and body pump
Having rest days – some rest days I walk, others I just stretch. This gives our bodies the opportunity to adapt to stress, repair damaged tissue, and replenish glycogen stores
Getting adequate and good quality sleep – I cannot suggest this enough! Many theories exist out there as to why we need sleep. These include for restoration; repair and rejuvenation purposes (vital for fixing those hormones), conservation of energy, and inactivity
Eliminating stress – my body was constantly in fight or flight mode!
Eating more in general – originally I was burning more calories through exercise and metabolic activity than I was consuming. I still eat really healthy a lot of the time, but I just eat MORE!! Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy dessert every now and again
Eating more carbs – carbohydrates are vital for women with hormonal disturbance. Our adrenal glands rely on glucose in times of stress and we rely on glucose as our main energy source (for energy storage and use)
Eating more fat – dietary fat not only provides more calories but also assists with the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E and K) for the the building of hormones
Enjoying more ‘me’ time – this includes watching my favourite shows, relaxing, taking a bath, reading, meditating etc.
Putting on some weight – this was hard for me to accept. I’ve put on 12kg since my lowest in January 2016, and now I look in the mirror and am happy with how I look (acceptance is your best friend!). By having a normal body fat percentage (18-32%), this ensures that a women has enough energy reserves in the anticipation of future pregnancies
Talking to someone – talking to my friends, family and health practitioners has assisted me with developing a better mindset and developing goals
Seeking out hormonal help – I cannot recommend seeing a Naturopath enough! My Naturopath assisted me with choosing certain supplements with nutrients and herbs to assist me with boosting my hormone levels
Consulted a health practitioner – when I first became worried about my period being missing, I visited my GP who monitored my hormone levels and eventually referred me onto a specialist to rule out any other issues
Getting acupuncture done – I have been having acupuncture every few weeks for the last 2 months, which has helped with improving circulation to my reproductive system and relaxing my nervous system
Using essential oils - essential oils are amazing for relaxing the system. I really love Doterra's Clary Calm Monthly Blend. It can assist with balancing a women's menstrual cycle
Whilst I continue to wait for the return of my period, if you have any questions about my experience, need any advice or would like to know more about the changes I have made to my lifestyle, please do not hesitate to drop a comment below or hit the ‘Contact Me’ tab, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!