My doctor tells me I have Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, what does that mean?
Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA) is a medical condition experienced by many women in which menstruation stops. This occurs when there is a disruption in the signal sent by the hypothalamus to the ovaries.
The hypothalamus is a small area of the brain that plays a very important role in controlling several processes within the body, including the release of reproductive hormones.
In women who have been diagnosed with HA, the hypothalamus no longer releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GTH), a key hormone involved in reproduction.
What causes Hypothalamic Amenorrhoea?
HA is typically caused by one or a combination of three main factors: significant weight loss, stress or excessive amounts of exercise.
Will it affect my ability to have children?
Left untreated, HA can affect your ability to have kids. For teenage women, this can delay their first period and impact the normal development of female sex characteristics. Impacts of HA for adult women include harmful changes in reproductive organs.
Is it reversible?
Fortunately, there are things you can do to get your period back, including achieving a normal weight, reducing stress, and making changes to your diet.
Managing HA through diet
Research shows the benefits of dietary strategies in improving health for women diagnosed with HA. These strategies include making sure you are eating enough as well as choosing foods that are nutrient-dense. Eating enough calories can be done by including foods that are both energy-dense and nutrient-rich.
Some options for energy-dense nutrient-rich foods include:
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds
HA impacts bone health because of a reduction in oestrogen, an important hormone in maintaining healthy bones. Vitamin D and Calcium are useful vitamins and minerals in supporting optimal bone health. Some suggestions for including Vitamin D and Calcium in your diet include:
- Fatty fish (tuna and salmon)
- Eggs (in particular the yolk)
- Fortified soy milk
- Dairy foods including milk and cheese
- Fish with bones e.g. salmon/sardines
- Edamame beans
Regular periods are an important sign that your body is healthy and a safe place to reproduce, so don’t hesitate to seek help and get in touch with a Women’s Nutrition dietitian.