Hi Everyone! If you've been following me on Instagram or Facebook, you may have noticed that I have not been posting about any races, training, or running. To be honest, I have been dealing with a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea. Some of you, might be thinking, what is that? Hypothalamic amenorrhea is a loss of my monthly period that may be due to weight-loss related to stress and exercise. I know many women might think not having a menstrual cycle is something good because you get away from cramps, headaches, hot flashes, or not having to stress over your period on a race day. Unfortunately, there are side effects that can result in not having your period. So I did a little research and also spoke to my boyfriend who took a class on the female triad and focused on this topic of hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Women who are athletes or who has had one, two or all three of the female triad have a likelihood of having some side effects. What is the female triad? The female triad are women who has had an eating disorder or a decrease in food intake, amenorrhea (loss of period), and osteoporosis (low bone density). The consequence can be unrecognized and can result to bone injury. It is estimated that women who exercise regularly have a 50% chance of experiencing menstrual disorders while 30% experience amenorrhea (Hobart, Douglas, and Smucker, 2000).
In my late 20’s
The last 5 months, I had the absence of my menstrual cycle. After competing at the California International Marathon in January. I have had issues with not starting my period. Missing my period made me realize that there can be some health risks such as having low bone density problems and having a difficult time wanting to start a family in the future. Low bone density problems can lead to stress fractures and can cause serious injuries that may become long term. Currently, I am dealing with a bone stress response in my foot which is one step below a stress fracture but can result to a stress future if I try to run through the pain. Therefore, I currently must take some time off to deal with this issue, including my future races like this coming weekend at Grandmas half marathon. I have been feeling disappointed and cried yesterday because I have been hopeful. My coach and I decided that it is best to take some time off and look at the long-term goal to running fast and racing healthy.
How to regain positivity and monthly cycle
What I’ve been doing to stay positive and start my monthly cycle. At home, I watched an encouraging movie called “Remember the Goal”. My body speaks to me and if I have pain, I must take care of it and make sure that I recover 100%. I have a goal and that goal is to be the best runner that I can become, so it’s important to make sure I’m consuming the an adequate amount of calories, resting, and recovering. You do not need to have an eating disorder to suffer from the female triad. If you are eating like you regularly do and suddenly increase your exercise load without increasing your food intake, you will not have enough calories (energy) to help build strong bones. This was the problem that I had. I increased my mileage but did not increase the amount of calories I was eating.
This is what I have been doing to start my period:
1. Decreasing Mileage and Increase food intake:
My miles were decreasing because of preparing for grandma’s half marathon. When I was not hungry, I ate a lot more snacks which helped with my energy availability. I know, It is tempting to cut down the calories when you are running less but that isn’t necessarily the best thing to do. Your food intake is your fuel to build a healthy and strong body and decreasing your mileage or taking days off can help offset the amount you need to eat to replenish your system. The foods that I choose to eat more of were almonds, avocados, salmon, and steak. As for snacks, I ate a lot of fruits.
2. Removing Stress
Removing stress is a huge part on not having your period because of hormone factors. Remember, tomorrow is a new day and when you are feeling upset or sad, know that everything is going to turn out okay. You may not know it then, but the best advice that my mom told me is, "Be still and let God help guide you through".
Things you can do to help with stress:
- Sleep; Sleep is the most effective way to rebuild and recover your body and mind.
- Meditation; it takes 5 to 10 minutes, once a day to think, breathe and to be thankful that you are alive.
- Care for yourself; get a massage, dress up, get a pedicure/manicure, or buy new clothes.
Maybe these things aren't what helps you be stress free but when you find ways to relieve stress. Your body and mind will be thankful for it.
3. Take your supplements:
These past few months, I haven't been taking my vitamins. The following is what I've been taking and I hope this helps you too:
Vitamin C- Supports your body’s response to stress
Magnesium- It helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, supports a healthy immune system, keeps the heart beat steady and helps bones remain strong.
Calcium- helps with bone structure and strength
Vital collagen- helps with skin, nails & hair growth, and bones
4: Overcoming Injuries
Injuries suck, I know. I never thought I would have a problem with my foot because I am always used to having issues with my IT Band. When finding out I had a bone stress response in my foot, I didn’t want to believe it because I never thought it'll happen to me. If you ever feel a small pinch in your foot, immediately seek a chiropractor or physical therapist. Taking some time off sucks but getting treatment, recovering, and strengthening my feet will help in the long run so I can enjoy running and setting personal records in the future.
This is just my journey. Everyone's journey is their own. If you need support or help, feel free to send me a message and seek advice from your Doctor. This is by no means a treatment protocol for your symptoms. If you are experiencing any type of pain or discomfort, call your Doctor.
Hobart, J. A., & Smucker, D. R. (2000, June 01). The Female Athlete Triad.