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Athletic Amenorrhea

Discussion in 'Female Health & Fitness' started by PAF, Nov 20, 2006.

  1. PAF

    PAF Well-Known Member

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    So I've been studying the female athlete triad and in particular the causes of amenorrhea. The old hypothesis of a low body fat being the cause of amenorrhea has pretty much been refuted and replaced with the current belief that negative energy balance is the caus,. e.g. extreme cutting or an endurance athlete not replenishing her energy.

    How much is too big of an energy deficit? On this board we usually focuses on minimising muscle loss: No more than 2lbs a week, or the more accurate estimate of no more than a certain % of your current bodyfat.
     
  2. Chopaholic

    Chopaholic Well-Known Member

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    i have no idea, but i would guess it's extremely individual.
     
  3. Butterflyer

    Butterflyer Well-Known Member

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    Are you doing an official study? Are you giving a questionnaire to people who have had amenorrhea?

    I had it most of my life, but it wasn't from being below a certain body fat most of that time, though I imagine it could have been from not enough decent nutrition. Hard to tell because I didn't keep track at all.
     
  4. featherz

    featherz Well-Known Member

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    I've had it for almost two years, but not from too low BF or a low weight. I think it would be very hard to name a 'number' - mine didn't come back even when I decreased exercise and increased calories. Of course, it's possible I didn't do 'enough' so that's what I am working on now. I eat well over 2K a day so I am certainly not at an outrageous deficit at my age.
     
  5. PAF

    PAF Well-Known Member

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    We briefly had a few lectures on the topic and I'm just reading up on a few journal articles on the subject. Also interested to find out people's experience with it as research doesn't always tell the whole story when it comes to day to day life.

    Well here's a quote from an article I read earlier today: "Athletes can preserve normal reproductive function up to approx. 33% reduction in energy availability."

    Seems quite a bit! If your BMR + physical activity expenditure comes to 2500 calories, then I suppose you might be able to get away with consuming 1675 kcals. But I think that number is not an average but rather an extreme example.

    Woa! 2+ years! I assume you're both aware now of the negative health implications amenorrhea?
     
  6. featherz

    featherz Well-Known Member

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    Quite. :) Believe me, I have been working on it!
     
  7. FBChick

    FBChick Active Member

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    I don't think it's even an extreme example. I lost 30lbs this spring running close to a 40% deficit (Avg expenditure around 3000-3200, Intake was roughly 1800) and never even once skipped a month. Granted, I had plenty of excess weight to lose and I was very carefully about maintaining a healthy very well balanced diet.

    I imagine it's kind of like everything else, much more dependent on the individual then some hard number.
     
  8. Butterflyer

    Butterflyer Well-Known Member

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    I think it's the other way around perhaps-- amenorrhea is a sign or symptom of deeper health problems.:(

    It's not so much the period itself that is important to health, but the production of hormones, and if a woman isn't getting her period, it's possible that her body has stopped producing any one of several hormones that regulate the cycle. One doctor told me that just because your period stops, it doesn't mean you aren't producing the hormones, but it's one sign that you aren't.

    I guess you're probably finding out in your studies, but the thyroid, pituitary and I think adrenal glands can all have an effect on whether or not a woman gets her period. (That's what I was tested for over the years anyway.) So it's not just estrogen and its effect on bone density or heart health you have to worry about if your period is missing.:confused:

    If you find out any more, let us know!:)
     
  9. PAF

    PAF Well-Known Member

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    Okay well it seems that athletic amenorrhoea is caused by a large enough energy drain that you go into starvation mode. At this point non-essential things like the menstrual cycle shutdown to conserve energy. This appears to be regulated by Leptin, the 'satiety' hormone.

    One thing of note is that studies done with rats where they were made amenorrhoeic, aggressive refeeding brought back the menstrual cycle almost instantly - within a day. So assuming it's the same with humans, if you up your calorie intake by a lot and you're still missing your period then you probably don't have athletic amenorrhoea but like you said there are a number of other underlying conditions that could be the cause like thyroid disorders.

    You said you've been tested over the years for some of these conditions. If you don't mind sharing, what have the doctors recommended you do? Are you taking hormone replacements/supplements?
    Sorry if these questions are too personal!
    Oh, and males can get athletic amenorrhoea as well but it's very rare.
     
  10. Butterflyer

    Butterflyer Well-Known Member

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    I guess the problem here would be that humans seem to be kinda complicated. I wonder if anyone ever gets diagnosed with athletic amenorrhoea outside of a study?:confused:

    I think mine may have started that way-- I was about 12 when I first got my period, had it for maybe a year and a half, then lost it completely for a year and a half. I was around 14 and swimming on a swim team, roller skating, biking, running, and not eating very much. Then I got my period back for 6 months straight, and they put me on birth control pills to make it stop as I'd lost too much blood. That was the first time I'd been to the doctor about that issue.

    Since then, I would get my period a couple times a year, and I'd had doctors act all shocked when I couldn't remember when my period last started. I think they usually ask to see if you might be pregnant. Once or twice a doctor (usually gyn) seemed concerned and I would go back on BC pills.

    Doctors only started bothering with other tests about 5 years ago when I started looking into my bad allergies. One was a midwife at an OB/GYN clinic, the other was a GP at another clinic.

    I currently take no BC pills or hormone replacement. The only thing I take is allergy medicine. I generally eat around 1800 calories a day, and my nutrition is much better. I can't imagine that I was undereating ALL through my 20s though.

    I think there must be a lot of things that can mess with hormones, so I think that it would be pretty hard to determine that a case of amenorrhoea was the athletic variety. They should probably give it a new name too, if it's really about undereating!:p

    I guess those are pretty personal questions!:D I've probably committed an act of TMI, but there might be someone around trying to figure this sort of thing out, and I find reading about other people's experiences helpful. So I didn't mind answering.:)

    With male athletic amenorrhea, what happens??:confused:
     

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