How Stress Causes Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (missing periods)
I have personally battled with hypothalamic amenorrhea for about 15 years, not knowing why I had it until recent years. It was the reason I struggled to get pregnant with Indi which I speak about here..
Hypothalamic amenorrhea is a condition where menstruation stops due to a problem with the hypothalamus (control centre in the brain including reproduction). This happens because of stress, for me the stress was over exercising and disordered eating. For other’s the stress could be other sources such as drastic weight loss, a parasite, going off the pill or a trauma.
The hypothalamus stops signaling to produce hormones which are meant to stimulate the production of more hormones resulting in ovulation and menstruation stopping. This results in infertility.
After I had Indi I thought my body would start functioning normally after doing so much work prior. However, Indi was 19 months and I still hadn’t had a cycle. So I ran a hormone panel and sure enough I was in stage 2 adrenal fatigue again. Being a mum is bloody hard work, you are ‘on’ constantly. I remember somebody telling me once ‘once you have kids you’ll never sleep properly ever again’ Well even though Indi is a awesome sleeper I think you always have one ear open just incase.
So as well as taking on the new role of being a mum I was starting a business and finishing studying, way too much, way too much. Once you have hypothalamic amenorrhea and adrenal fatigue you have to manage it for the rest of your life. It’s like hormonal pathways are ‘burned’ in and your body knows these pathways really really well so it doesn’t take much to snap back into that preferred pathway.
I also discovered I had the MTHFR mutation (blog coming soon) which basically means I don’t absorb B vitamins up to 70%. If you have the mutation it also means your stress pathways are more easily ‘turned on’.
This is what I did to resume menstruation, it took 6 weeks; (However the journey can be much longer and can take years depending on willingness and capability to change your lifestyle.)
Sleep is the best thing you can do to heal your body for any condition. The earlier you go to bed the better. I stopped getting up at 5:15am to train a few times a week and went to bed by 9:30pm.
Diet and Nutrition
I stopped drinking my beloved coffee and changed to decaf coffee. I really noticed how tired I was then. I controlled my blood sugar better and started eating breakfast regularly.
I didn’t necessarily feel stressed, besides when I had Chemistry or Biochemistry exams, but I must have been with so much going on. I started doing more yoga on the weekends, which is like a reset button for me. I added meditation back into my nighttime routine.
I also changed my mindset in just letting go of things so much, if I couldn’t do something I couldn’t do it and that was fine. (I had previously done a lot of work on this and know that ‘just changing’ your mindset is actually the hardest thing to do.)
Dave also took Indi out more on the weekends so I could study and/or rest.
Acupuncture (Angea Acupuncture)
I used acupuncture as a resource in my previous fertility journey and found it to be really powerful. I only had it twice and each time I had a cycle afterwards.
Saw a GP
As much as I respect GP’s for the enormous amount of study they have done this reinforced why I don’t bother going to see them unless I am up for taking pharmaceuticals. I just wanted some bloods done to check any pathology but she wanted to put me on the pill. Which I questioned ‘How is that going to help and not just mask the problem?’ No, I was not going to do that!
I believe whenever your body is in dysfunction you need to supplement to regain homeostasis (normal functioning).
Herbs that help to support stress adaptation and relieve mild anxiety. They support the adrenal and nervous systems and a healthy immune system.
- Magnesium + cofactors
Your body burns through magnesium in times of stress and has been proven to aid nervous tension, energy production, healthy glucose metabolism, cardiovascular health and immune support.
- A high dose multi strain Probiotic
Probiotics have a positive effect on your immune system and show anti-inflammatory benefits.
- MTHFR (Active folate)
Because of the gene MTHFR mutation I don’t absorb folate properly. This will help to support healthy methylation , homocysteine metabolism and DNA.
- Vitex (Chaste Tree)
Has been traditionally used in Western herbal medicine for menstrual irregularities and as a tonic for reproductive health.
The cumulative effect of everything I was and am still doing has helped overcome hypothalamic amenorrhea again. I will forever continue this journey and battle my mind with always wanting to do more, achieve more, take on more, study more….
If this is you or struggle with other hormonal balances I would love to help support you.