Can Losing Weight Affect Your Period?

Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and nutritious diet is important, but losing weight can affect your period.  Doctors across the globe have recommended exercise for females experiencing menstrual cramps and functional medicine states that exercise is needed to reduce the severity of symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome or PMS.

Regular exercise offers many benefits and is important for women of all ages.   Exercise has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, stave off cancer and eliminate osteoporosis.  There are, however, problems associated with exercising too much or too often.  Overdoing it in the gym can greatly affect a woman’s menstrual cycle.  Also, overdoing it, in terms of weight loss, can significantly impact your period.

Losing Weight Too Quickly
Dramatic weight loss in a rapid amount of time can impact a woman’s period.  If you find yourself dropping weight too quickly you may experience irregular menstruation.  Women who drop a lot of weight in a short amount of time may experience a lighter period or even skip a period.  It is rare for women to go without experiencing a period at all but this can occur if intense exercise is being accompanied with the weight loss.

It is unhealthy to lose weight too quickly and better to stick with the national guidelines of no more than 2 pounds per week.  Significant drops in weight, virtually overnight, can greatly affect the menstrual cycle and in fact, some women trying to conceive experience temporary infertility.

Too Much Exercise
Too much of anything is not always good for us and this is especially true with exercise.  Working out on the treadmill for an hour is great, but if you follow that workout up with an hour long spin class, Zumba and weight lifting you may be overdoing it.  Too much exercise, whether in terms of length or intensity, can greatly impact your period.

Women have reported that too much exercise actually causes them to miss a period or develop a series of irregular periods.  Marathon runners who train for months out of the year before competing indicate that most months they experience amenorrhea, a condition in which a woman of reproductive age experiences an absence in menstruation.

A study conducted in the mid-1990's and published in the US National Library of Medicine reported that women who exercise heavily experience a condition known as “runner’s amenorrhea". Women who ran an average of 70 miles a week in preparation for marathons reported not having a period for up to one year.

Water Retention
During a woman’s menstrual cycle, particularly the week prior to the onset of the period, water retention is at its highest in the body.  During this time you may experience a fluctuation in your weight.  Women who are trying to lose weight find that during that ‘special’ time of month, they may actually gain weight.  This can be disheartening when you have done all you can in the gym and not cheated on your diet.  However, the weight gain is not fat, but actually water weight.

The weight gain that comes from water retention is temporary and usually not more than two to five pounds.  There are helpful tips to limit the amount of water weight gain that occurs during menstruation or pre-menstruation such as reducing sodium intake, increasing fluid consumption (preferably water) and following a highly structured meal plan.  It is important to not get discouraged and lose the motivation you had for losing weight.  The effect water retention has on your weight loss is minor and temporary – it will be gone before you known it.

Major fluctuations in weight can affect the menstrual cycle, including menstruation.  Losing weight slowly and healthfully will keep the body’s systems functioning the way they are intended to operate.  Studies show that losing weight the wrong way can greatly impact your period.

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