Menstruation or having a period, means the time of month when the uterus sheds its lining, causing vaginal bleeding. Frequently missed periods over an extended period of time is a relatively common condition that affects up to 5% of adult women at any time. Many more women experience irregular periods once and awhile, and it is these abnormal menstrual cycles that can be a complicated issue to rectify, since women’s hormones are impacted by a number of different factors and bodily systems.
The hypothalamus & brain, pituitary, ovarian, adrenal and thyroid glands all work together to help regulate menstruation and balance hormones naturally, so it’s important to pay attention to widespread lifestyle habits that can be negatively affecting hormonal levels.
If you’re having a regular, moderately “pain-free” period each month, that’s a sign that hormones are in balanced and the reproductive system is working properly. But when you have irregular periods, missed periods, or very painful and intense PMS symptoms, that shows hormone levels are either lacking, or are too high. This can be caused by an underlying health condition like chronic stress, a poor diet, too much exercise or low body weight, and are not something to ignore.
A regular cycle, with normal ovary function releases one egg about every 25–28 days, but the time between periods varies depending on the woman, especially during puberty and the perimenopause periods.
When a woman stops getting her period it’s called “amenorrhea” and this is an indication that something is wrong. Irregular hormones and amenorrhea are linked with a number of serious conditions, including an increased risk for osteoporosis, heart disease, infertility and other further hormonal complications.
Common Causes of Missed & Irregular Periods
Beyond being pregnant or going through menopause, that both normally stop a period, here are the other major causes for irregular periods or amenorrhea. Here are some of the most common reasons
High Stress Levels
When you’re under stress for an extended period of time, the body starts to conserve it’s energy, and it can do this by preventing ovulation. A traumatic event can suddenly cause the adrenal glands to work overtime, which disrupts the production of estrogen and other reproductive hormones. When you don’t have a lot of estrogen, you aren’t able to properly build up the uterine lining, which can cause a missed period.
Adrenaline & cortisol are the two major players related to our stress responses. These hormones are what help us get away from threats (whether these threats are real or just perceived), and help us run, climb, sweat regulate our heartbeat. However, too much of these hormones can become a problem.
These stress hormones always take priority in the body, and make sex hormones take a backseat. Severe stress conditions like dieting, heavy exercise training or intense emotional events are all issues that can induce amenorrhea with or without body weight loss.
It may sound strange, but your thyroid could be the cause of your problems related to hormonal imbalances. Some reports show that thyroid disorders can be one of the leading causes of missed periods, with roughly 15% of patients experiencing thyroid irregularities. The thyroid gland, often called a “master gland” and considered a crucial part of the endocrine system, largely controls your metabolism and impacts many sex hormones.
Thyroid disorders, including hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, can cause changes in estrogen and cortisol hormones leading to missed periods. Too much cortisol in the body can lead to overall hormone resistance, meaning that the body becomes desensitized to these hormones, and require more to do the same job.
Hormonal Issues & Imbalances
Issues like Polycystic ovarian syndrome cause a hormone imbalance in women that negatively impacts ovulation. PCOS alters levels of sex hormones including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, that can result in abnormal body or facial hair growth, weight gain, blood sugar problems, acne, and irregular menstrual cycles. PCOS can be diagnosed by a gynecologist testing hormone levels, reviewing symptoms and family history, and examining the ovaries for cysts. It’s also possible to go through “premature menopause” prior to the age of 40, which can cause missed periods, hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness, although this is a less common.
A poor diet is low in nutrients, antioxidants and probiotic foods, while being high in stimulants, a high intake of sugar, hydrogenated fats and artificial additives, or pesticides. This taxes the adrenal glands, and is linked with thyroid issues and adrenal fatigue that can raise cortisol.
Excess cortisol hinders the optimal function of many other essential hormones, such as sex hormones. It can also promote the breakdown of bones, skin, muscles and brain tissue when high over a long period of time. This cycle of excess cortisol can lead to protein breakdown, which results in muscle-wasting and even osteoporosis.
Make sure to eat enough food and make healthy choices like foods high in antioxidant content that are nutrient-dense, offer plenty of healthy fats and proteins.
Food Allergies & Sensitivities
If gluten sensitivity or celiac disease goes undiagnosed, they can both impact hormone levels. Because these conditions can cause nutrient deficiencies, they negatively impact gut health and add chronic stress to your adrenal glands, and also have the ability to affect sex hormone production.
Extreme Weight Loss & Very Low Body Weight
If body mass index (BMI) drops below 18 or 19, you can start to miss periods because you have too little body fat. Fat is important for creating estrogen, which is why very thin women or those with serious conditions like anorexia or bulimia commonly experience absent or missed periods.
Low-calorie, low-fat diets can also result in nutrient deficiencies and lowered body-fat percentages. Very lean vegans and vegetarians, along with those on “raw” diets, can also be at a higher risk if they become underweight, or start suffering from deficiencies.
Although moderate exercise is very important for mood regulation, heart health, sleep and maintaining a healthy body weight, too much exercise can overly taxing to the adrenal, thyroid and pituitary glands. Women who rapidly start exercising at high intensities can just stop getting their period.
Cortisol is released in response to stress that can be physical like exercise. Over-training, in addition to things like getting less sleep, fasting, infection and emotional upsets increase stress and deplete the body of energy needed to regulate sex hormones.
Quitting Birth Control Pills
Women who stop taking the pill may find that their period doesn’t return. A woman’s period should adjust and return within a few months of stopping the pill, yet some experience missed or irregular periods for years afterward. One report published in theAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that about 29 percent of women experience missed periods for more than three months after going off the pill.
A woman’s natural menstrual cycle is composed of rising and falling levels of estrogen and progesterone, but taking birth control pills keeps estrogen at a sufficiently high level, which fools the body into thinking it’s pregnant and results in irregular periods. It takes the body many months or even years to correct this and return to homeostasis.
How to Bring Back Your Period by Re-balancing Hormones
Understanding that a woman’s diet, stress levels, exercise habits, environment, and a host of other factors contribute to state of hormonal health. While hormone imbalances can often go ignored, it’s crucial to pay attention on how each element affects your health. This can help one make choices to eliminate or tweak items that are causing irregular menstruation.
If you’ve been missing your period for a while, speak to your doctor about running some tests. Your doctor will also completely rule out pregnancy and check for signs of PCOS and early menopause through weight changes, acne, hair growth and other signs related to changes in androgen hormone levels.
Use techniques that are a natural remedy for anxiety to combat stress, such as light exercise, meditation, essential oils, journaling, and acupuncture or massage therapy.
Improve Your Diet
Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods is key to keeping hormones in check. You also want to be sure to have plenty of short, medium and long chain fatty acids that are essential building blocks for hormones. Some healthy fats to add to your diet include coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, grass-fed butter, and wild-caught fish like salmon and tuna. Probiotics will also help the body produce certain vitamins that affect hormone levels. Try Greek yogurt, miso, kefir, kombucha, tempeh and fermented vegetables.
Reevaluate Your Exercise Routine
Too much exercise, as well as too little, can be problematic for controlling cortisol and other stress hormones. If you experience menstrual problems, trying gentle forms of exercise in moderation might be able to help the problem. Use your exercise routine as a way of reducing stress, rather than burning huge amounts of calories to lose weight. Walking, yoga, dancing, weight lifting or resistance training, and Pilates are forms of exercise that emphasize and support gentle, yet effective movement of the body. Incorporating 30-45 minutes most days can be beneficial, but more than an hour daily, or not taking long enough rest times, can trigger period problems.
Eliminate toxins in your body by avoiding conventional body care products that are high in hormone-disrupting ingredients like:
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
These items are all related to altered estrogen production and possibly thyroid and adrenal issues. Be sure to check your skin care and household product ingredient labels carefully. Also, try to use glass and stainless steel kitchen equipment and containers instead of plastic or Teflon whenever possible in order to avoid BPAs, hormone disruptors and other chemicals.
If you think this post was useful, Please do share it with your family and friends by clicking the share button below.