Ask a Nutritionist: How Do I Get My Period Back?
Though there are a number of reasons a woman might lose her period (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, thyroid issues, weight loss or gain and changes in birth control and other medications), the two most prominent reasons many of my clients lose their periods are nutritional malnourishment (often as a result of being underweight and not consuming enough nutrient and energy-dense foods) and severe stress. Here is what I recommend:
1. Nutrition is key.
Taking birth control increases your body’s chance of having low levels of important nutrients like folic acid, vitamins B2, B6, B12, vitamin C and E and the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc. If you’re on birth control now or have recently stopped, be mindful of these nutrients in your food. While taking vitamin supplements may help give you a boost to replenish what you’re lacking, eating enough protein, healthy fats, fiber, dark leafy green vegetables, carbohydrates and drinking enough water is key for optimal hormone function.
5 foods to incorporate on a daily basis:
a) Healthy fats like coconut oil and milk, avocado, seeds, nut butters and grass-fed butter are crucial for keeping hormones healthy. Do not fear the fat.
b) Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, asparagus and cauliflower support your body in detoxing excess estrogen. Beets are great too.
c) Proteins like wild caught fish, chicken, eggs and organic, fermented tofu.
d) Brazil nuts — consume 1 a day for a boost of selenium, which helps boosts immune systems and the aids the detoxification of hormones.
e) Organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible. The fewer pesticides, the fewer toxins your body will be forced to clear.
f) Supplements that show promise: vitamin C, chasteberry for increasing progesterone, adaptogenic herbs like holy basil and medicinal mushrooms, turmeric, DIM, omega-3 fatty acid and zinc.
2. Stress management (i.e. letting that shit go).
Stress robs our bodies of energy and completely throws our hormones out of whack. So many of my clients regain their periods by addressing this step alone through daily meditation, talking about their stress and seeking help. It’s a very important piece of the puzzle.
3. Eat enough — plain and simple.
Restrictive diets and excessive exercising set you up for poor metabolic tendencies, unattainable weight management and possible mental/emotional stress fractures, but it also sets you up for hormonal disaster. Eat enough calories to refuel, sustain and nourish your body; I recommend women not to dip below 2000 calories a day in order to see hormonal status improvement. This is subject to change depending on where you’re currently at with your health. For example, if you’re underweight you’d be consuming more than 2000 calories a day. Make an appointment with a nutritionist or doctor if you’re unsure as to how many calories you should be consuming. Every body is different.
Sleep is crucial to general health, but it’s especially crucial when it comes to managing stress and hormone-balance. Sleep is like a janitor that clears our minds on a nightly basis. Opt for at least 7 hours a night; 9 is ideal.
5. Move your body, but go easy on the cardio.
Strength training is an important part of maintaining hormone levels. Doing too much cardio further depletes our body of energy and can cause stress in the body — something we’re trying to manage when getting our period back. Instead, try a body weight resistance class like barre3, The Class, or Leandra’s ridiculous exercise-at-your-desk routine? For cardio, try short bursts of sprints and keep it minimal. Also! Take a walk outside. Every single day. Nature is just as healing as gentle walking.
6. Be patient.
These things take time. If you have no idea where to begin with these steps for your situation, I recommend working one-on-one with a health practitioner or dietitian who can help coach you along the way with diet, supplements and your exercise routine. Do also talk to your gynecologist.
I’m sure that before you know it, you’ll be complaining about cramps again.