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Intermittent Fasting and Amenorrhea?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 06, 2011 at 11:37 PM

Hey all, hopefully some of you can give me advice about a problem I'm facing. I'm a 20 year old college student, and I've been doing paleo for about a year. Last semester I started doing IF too--it was pretty effective, and I lost about 15 pounds (to 110) pretty easily. However, my periods also stopped during this time. I thought it was because I had too little body fat, but even after I made an effort to gain that weight back, it's still not happening. Basically my version of IF is just to eat breakfast and lunch and simply skip dinner. Does anyone else have a similar problem? Advice? I don't want to stop IF--it's convenient for me and I feel terrific. However, I'm wondering if I'm jeopardizing my long term reproductive health.

As for what I eat on a day-to-day basis: copious amounts of coconut, almonds, vegetables, chicken, fish, and occasionally fruit (kiwis or berries). I do eat at least 1700 calories per day...sometimes upwards 2500 if I eat too many nuts.

7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on August 11, 2011
at 08:15 AM

Amenorrhea is a pretty drastic sign that you should not continue what you're doing. You may not want to stop IF, but early onset osteoporosis is no joke. FWIW, as someone who's lost their period in the past (due to excessive exercise, not IF) even after you stop the "triggering" behaviour, it can take a long time for everything to normalize again. It took almost two years after stopping my overexercising for my periods to return.

183f5c49a7a9548b6f5238d1f33cb35e

(1716)

on May 08, 2011
at 02:26 AM

Thanks for the perspective, I will shake things up from now on - I think that I will hold back on the fasting at the moment because it seems to be a stressor on the body. I guess I just need a lot of patience to lose this body fat :) I lose weight at a snail's pace so I just gotta accept it!

Eecc48184707bc26bce631485b5b7e34

(4764)

on May 07, 2011
at 12:07 PM

Oh dear (nonexistant) god. You're killing me, Stabby. Absolutely killing me.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on May 07, 2011
at 04:20 AM

Awr, thanks guys. No need to kick my ass, I think I'll major in English literature...and then write about people who improve their health through holistic living. I'll be famous and wealthy, I just know it.

Eecc48184707bc26bce631485b5b7e34

(4764)

on May 07, 2011
at 12:48 AM

Grottenolm: variability. Don't skip dinner nightly. Fast *intermittently*, not regularly. Eat. Then *once in awhile*, don't. If your menses is typically regular and you see that changing, pay attention and modify accordingly. Quickly.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on May 07, 2011
at 12:41 AM

Damn good answer there. I'd just add that I wouldn't recommend IFing for a 20 year old either. Still growin some, still capable of a lot of hard physical activity , super fertile, etc etc. This all should be fueled well: big good whole food at regular intervals.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7314)

on May 07, 2011
at 12:38 AM

+1 for the answer, and agreed on Stabby needing to become a leading scientist/doctor.

183f5c49a7a9548b6f5238d1f33cb35e

(1716)

on May 07, 2011
at 12:11 AM

I will watch this thread with interest, because I have been intermittent fasting for the past couple of months (skipping dinner ~ love it!) and my last period was barely there, for the first time ever. I have a feeling that its a leptin issue...

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6 Answers

7
Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on May 07, 2011
at 12:00 AM

The cure appears to be getting enough leptin to signal food availability to the hypothalamus. How to do that is to consistently eat a high calorie diet that spikes insulin several times a day, or leptin therapy works too. If you have been communicating a "food is short, we are starving" message to your hypothalamus, it is going to make you stop your period because getting pregnant when you have barely enough food to feed yourself isn't going to work and is incredibly wasteful in the gene propagation process, so genes that shut down menstration when food is short were selected for, that's evolution in action.

Leptin is an effective treatment for hypothalamic amenorrhea http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/03/28/1015674108

Leptin for fertility http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404151343.htm

Food or an injection. I wouldn't IF. 3 square meals per day, but that's just me talking. Maybe Dr. K or someone will chime in on the best protocol.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on May 07, 2011
at 12:41 AM

Damn good answer there. I'd just add that I wouldn't recommend IFing for a 20 year old either. Still growin some, still capable of a lot of hard physical activity , super fertile, etc etc. This all should be fueled well: big good whole food at regular intervals.

4
Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on June 03, 2011
at 04:57 PM

From what you posted as your daily food intake, I'm wondering if perhaps you don't eat enough fat? I see lower fat animal foods listed, and only coconuts and almonds being relatively higher fat foods. Is there a reason you don't eat red meat? That would be my very first suggestion~eat a lot more more fat in the form of animal foods, and see if you start menstruating again soon.

3
Eecc48184707bc26bce631485b5b7e34

on May 07, 2011
at 12:23 AM

I'll only add in that most probably shouldn't IF more than twice a week, not more than 20-24 hours at a time. Occasional, isolated weeks of "every other day" fasts are probably alright too - emphasis on occasional rather than typical.

More and more I subscribe to the theory that variability is incredibly important.

Oh, and if I could give Stabb's answer a +2 instead of +1, I would. Stabby, I will personally kick your ass if you don't end up an MD or doing something seriously important in science - PhD or no...

Eecc48184707bc26bce631485b5b7e34

(4764)

on May 07, 2011
at 12:07 PM

Oh dear (nonexistant) god. You're killing me, Stabby. Absolutely killing me.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7314)

on May 07, 2011
at 12:38 AM

+1 for the answer, and agreed on Stabby needing to become a leading scientist/doctor.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on May 07, 2011
at 04:20 AM

Awr, thanks guys. No need to kick my ass, I think I'll major in English literature...and then write about people who improve their health through holistic living. I'll be famous and wealthy, I just know it.

0
B14dc4aa1ddefbec3bc09550428ee493

on August 11, 2011
at 04:49 AM

I would try adding that meal back in and see what happens. Maybe the daily IFing is raising your cortisol.

0
595ddc4fa99ac9902dae4c87d53a5a50

on August 10, 2011
at 07:45 PM

Also having this same issue. My last period was in December 2010, spotted a little in January and have had nothing since. I've always been a pretty healthy/low carb eater but around January I started reading a lot of the paleo blogs and went on a bit of a health bender; started juicing, stopped drinking altogether and did some experimenting with intermittent fasting (mostly skipping breakfast and eating my first meal at noon). Sort of eased back into my normal eating patterns as the months progressed and even derailed a bit this summer (strangely started craving dairy and sweets, which I've never experienced before). Finally went to my gyno last week and had some blood work done to check my hormone levels and everything came back normal. She prescribed 10 days of Provera but I'm nervous to take it after reading all the negative side effects and many woman reported that their cycles did not return to normal after the initial menses that the medicine induces (plus I feel like it could screw me up even more)!

I feel like there should definitely be a caveat about all this to any woman looking into intermittent fasting; and I sometimes wonder if low carbing can have a negative effect on insulin resistance over more prolonged periods of time...

0
1f8384be58052b6b96f476e475abdc74

(2231)

on May 07, 2011
at 03:17 PM

what stabby said, as usual... i dont have any insight b/c i am still without a period but i gave up IF and eat big meals and eat starch....leptin is a hormone...it needs and insulin response to work. easiest way to do that is carbohydrates, rest, sleep, sun

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