Question: My 17 year old daughter has recently (over the past 9 months) adopted a vegetarian diet and has not had a period for the past 3 months. She is very active (running, volleyball) and has also lost about 50 lbs. She has a lot of energy and seems otherwise very healthy but is concerned about the change in her cycle (no she's not pregnant). If you have any information you could pass along, she'd appreciate it. Thanks.
Answer: As an exercise instructor and fitness counselor, I have met many women who reduced their body fat to such a level that they stopped having their periods. At first, they thought it was great. However, it can cause long term negative effects to their cardiovascular system and fertility.
In my experience, these women who no longer have their periods and exercise a great deal are sacrificing their health for their appearance. What concerns me about your daughter is that she has lost so much weight in a short amount of time.
I do not advise women to lose any more than 2 pounds a month. Any more than this is not healthy. It causes stress to the body, metabolism and adversely impacts hormone levels. This can lead to amenorrhea (the absence of monthly menstruation).
I believe this is what has happened to your daughter. Since she is young, she can recover from this with little to no long-term effects. Nevertheless, you may want to check with a doctor to make sure her weight loss is due to excessive activity and not from some illness.
Severe weight loss is a symptom of many ailments. Amenorrhea can be cause by malfunction of the hypothalamus gland, pituitary gland, ovary or uterus. In this case you may want to check if she has hypothalamic amenorrhea which is caused by stress, anxiety and acute weight loss.
She may need to cut back on her activities or eat more calories to compensate for her high exertion levels. Over exercising without proper nutrition and enough recovery time (rest) can result in this condition.
For more information about...
The Menstural Cycle, read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstural_cycle
Athletic Amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycles due to excessive exercise), read
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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.