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Hormone Health for Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, or “HA”can affect women for a number of different reasons.  The underlying cause for all situations, however, comes down to an imbalance of hormones caused by stress. Physical, mental AND/OR emotional.  When the body, or mind, is under any type of chronic stress, the brain will simply not believe it is a safe time to have children.  Mental stress can have just as large of an impact on reproductive function as physical stress.  

Disclaimer: I am in no way a dietician or medical professional.  The following supplements and health guidelines have been recommended to me, personally, by my health care professionals and the remaining information is from my own extensive research. Everyones’ body’s are different and have different needs. Take any supplements only with the advice of a health care professional and ensure you are aware of any side effects that may occur. 

Hormone Health for Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Now.  I am very knowledgable about my Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. I would not for one moment deny the underlying cause and what I need to do to recover.  Above, and before all else, I need to gain weight, to the point where my body trusts me again.  Whatever number that may be.

But to be honest, I’m still some what stuck at “Step 1” – Accept that things need to change.

I’m slowly taking the finals steps to heal my relationship with food and exercise and come to terms with the fact that I need to continue gaining weight.  While I work up to the day where I choose to, with my whole heart,  let go…  I’ve decided to start giving my body a little extra help and start focusing more on its health.  Supplementation certainly will not “cure” hypothalamic amenorrhea.  Nothing beats receiving your nutrients from whole, real foods.  This is, and always will be my main focus. But sometimes a little extra boost can only help. Especially when your body is working extra hard to heal itself.

supplements Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

I’ve compiled a little list of supplements, vitamins and minerals that are especially essential in the function of stress management, mood balance and healthy hormone production.  As you see, I am not taking all sorts of unheard of, crazy medications, but simply choosing to focus on increasing the natural, every day, vitamins and minerals that are necessary for proper body function  – in specific those which show the strongest connection to mood and hormone balance.  When my mood is balanced and anxiety is low, I am able to make more rational/healthy decisions and stay more relaxed. Addressing these concerns is, therefore, just as important as addressing the physiological ones.

HOLY BASIL:  For the ability to manage stress

holy basil tulsi Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Also known as “Tulsi,” holy basil is one of the most sacred plants in India.  It is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a great number of illnesses. The most concrete data, however, suggests that holy basil holds its greatest potential in stress relief and relaxation.

“Stress hormones have other, not-so-obvious effects. They play a role in metabolism, inflammation, and immune system responses. So when our body is continually stressed, that is, continually bombarded by high levels of cortisol and corticosterone, our digestive function can become impaired, our nervous system can be damaged – leading to anxiety or depression, and our immune system can be suppressed – leading to sickness or even autoimmune diseases.  Holy basil functions as an adaptogen, enhancing the body’s natural response to physical and emotional stress.  Adaptogenic herbs do not alter mood, but rather, they help the body function optimally during times of stress.” http://www.medicinehunter.com/holy-basil

I have been drinking Tulsi tea,  and/or taking a supplement,  every night for the past two weeks.  You can never say for sure what may be helping, but I have absolutely noticed a shift in my stress response in these past couple of weeks. I have felt a new sense of calmness – not tired or foggy like some medications have made me, but just a general ability to not feel stressed over “less than perfect situations.”

MAGNESIUM: To help with stress and anxiety

epsom salts stress Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Stress can cause magnesium deficiency.  A lack of magnesium then tends to increase the stress reaction, thus only creating a dangerous cycle.  Studies have shown that adrenaline and cortisol – products of the “fight or flight” reaction associated with stress and anxiety – are associated with a lack of magnesium.  Low magnesium levels can also be associated with personality changes and sometimes depression.  Muscle spasms or cramping can be a result of inadequate magnesium, as it is a required element of muscle relaxation. Magnesium helps take energy from food to make new proteins (extremely important when the body is trying to heal).

Apart from supplements and diet, another wonderful way to get more magnesium into your system, while simultaneously relaxing your muscles, is to take epsom salt baths. Epsom salts are a naturally occurring mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate.  I have been taking these baths as often as possible, especially when my muscles are refusing to let go.  Put on some music and take some time to RELAX. 

Of course, you can get plenty of magnesium from your diet alone. The greatest dietary sources of magnesium come from legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and whole grains. Some dietary sources to keep in mind and try to include more of in my diet include maca (see below), salmon, pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup = 317 mg!!!) and, my favorite… dark chocolate (30g = 95mg!) (a woman aged 19-30 should aim for 310-350 mg per day. Source)

chocolate magnesium Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Common nightly snack:  Dark chocolate + fruit 

Did you know a common reason behind those intense chocolate cravings are indeed due to a magnesium deficiency? Not always, of course, but a good reason to keep on with that daily dose of the good stuff.  

VITAMIN D:   To help mood and bone health.

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is a result of insignificant hormone production, including estrogen.  Estrogen is necessary for proper bone health. Therefore, one with HA has a low level of estrogen in the body, and this, in time, can lead to diminished bone mineral density and osteoporosis.  Vitamin D is very important as it helps to regulate calcium and phosphorus absorption, which is required for the maintenance of healthy bones.  Although there has not been concrete evidence to prove that Vitamin D can also help increase mood or alleviate depression, there have been many studies that show Vitamin D does play a role in the receptors in the brain that link to depression.  Some cases have shown that an inadequacy of Vitamin D links with low mood.

Salmon is a ridiculous source of Vitamin D.  A 2 1/2 oz serving of sockeye/red salmon (canned/cooked/raw) provides 530-699 mg, out of the recommended 600-4000 (IU) mg/day.  Although other types of fish provide a bit less, they are still excellent sources. I am going to try and increase my fish intake, in particular salmon.  Another excellent source is dairy milk, providing 103-105 mg per cup.  I will be trying to increase both into my diet.

sushi Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Lets go sushi.

VITAMIN C:  To help with progesterone production and adrenal support

According to a study published in Fertility and Sterility “A moderate amount of supplemental vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility.  Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and other anti-oxidative substances have been shown to prevent oxidative stress and the production of free radicals that interfere with progesterone production.” http://natural-fertility-info.com/vitamin-c-increases-fertility-and-chances-of-getting-pregnant-by-25.html

For most people, a healthy diet provides an adequate amount of vitamin C (for adults, 75-2000 mg/day).  A large orange (60-80 mg), a cup of strawberries (104 mg), or 1/2 cup chopped red pepper (100-140 mg) provides a days’ requirements.

strawberriespeppers

I am not taking Vitamin C as a supplement, but choosing to be extra mindful of getting enough into my daily diet as well as adding vitamin C packets to my water bottle each day (also excellent for energy and immune support during these busy and cold months).

DIET:  Increase Fatty Acids

Probably the most widely known way to support hormone health is to increase the amount of healthy fats in your diet. Simply put, fats and proteins are crucial for all cell and hormone production and are what run everything in the body. I am making a conscious effort to increase my intake of healthy fats into each meal.

Breakfast: Nuts, hemp seeds, nut butters, 2% yogurt, eggs, butter, maca powder

healthy fats breakfast Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Lunch:  Butter or mayonnaise on breads, cheese, avocado, hummus made with tahini, olive oil salad dressings

egg avocado Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Egg salad made with avocado

Snacks: Trail mix/granola bars with nuts and coconut, peanut butter and fruit, generous cream in my coffee

Dinner: More avocado, cheese, eggs, fish, olive or coconut oil for cooking

These veggie hash stacks are made with a generous amount of butter or coconut oil and sunflower seeds, and these vegan sausage rounds are made with hemp seeds. Both fun ways to get in more of those nutrients.

healthy fats Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Guacamole   // veggie hash stacks // vegan sausage rounds // plantains fried in coconut oil  

Dessert: Full fat ice cream or yogurt, dark chocolate, peanut butter, chocolate covered almonds

This coconut butter fudge, these avocado brownies, my favorite gluten free cookies, my addicting coconut peanut butter bark, and most definitely these raw mint nanaimo bars all centre themselves around coconut butter, coconut oil, butter, nuts/seeds, avocado and almond flour.

healthy desserts Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Raw Mint Nanaimo Bars // No bake chocolate coconut pb crispy bark // Avocado Brownies // Coconut Butter Fudge

MACA POWDER: 

The maca root is an endocrine adaptogen, meaning it contains the nutrients necessary to balance and support hormone production and is known to increase fertility.  It helps the body nourish and balance the endocrine system and cope with stress  (both physical and mental).  It energizes naturally, increases “feel good” endorphins, decreases stress hormone and improves skin.  Maca root contains calcium, iron, magnesium and selenium as well as essential fatty acids and 19 amino acids. I will be implementing Maca into my diet through smoothies, oatmeal and baking.

Maca Smoothie Bowl with Ginger, Cacao and Buckwheat Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

Maca Smoothie Bowl: 1 Tbsp Maca + 1 Tbsp peanut butter + 1 Tbsp almond milk + 1 frozen banana + cinnamon/vanilla

EVENING PRIMROSE OIL and OMEGA 3 FISH OIL SUPPLEMENT: 

Fats are essential for healthy skin and hair, too.  An additional repercussion of HA is Hormonal Acne, which is something I suffer from (especially when my stress levels are high and my diet is depleted).  I absolutely notice a difference in my skin when I am taking an Omega 3 Fish oil supplement or simply incorporating a good amount of fat in my diet.  I have also been doing a lot of research about Evening Primrose oil as an alternative supplement for essential fatty acids, however have not tried it myself.

Evening Primrose Oil contains a high concentration of omega 6 fatty acids which help to regulate hormones and manage cell growth. It also contains a large amount of an omega 3 fatty acid called GLA (gamma-linoleic acid),  which has been shown to increase the production of cervical mucus, a factor in successful reproduction and thus a way to improve fertility.  I have read many testimonies from women who have struggled with hormonal imbalances (specifically Hypothalamic Amenorrhea) and have had positive results by adding this into their diet.

EveningPrimroseOilArticleMeme Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

For more information about evening primrose, try here

Again I say:  Above all else,  I am working towards weight gain and letting myself relax as much as I can.  My hope is that these extra supplements may assist me in this and give my body support. I hope some of this information may be of interest to anyone struggling with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, hormonal or mood imbalances, acne, anxiety or simply feel a great deal of stress in their lives.  A lot of these nutrients are beneficial for many different reasons –  not just for those which I have stated.

TO SUMMARIZE: My Plan

Holy Basil (for stress and relaxation)
Magnesium (for stress and anxiety)
Vitamin D (for bone support and mood)
Vitamin C (for hormone production and nutrient absorption)
Increase fish (fatty acids, vit. D and magnesium)
Increase Maca Powder (for hormone support, stress, skin, mood)
Increase all fatty acids for hormone production, mood balance and skin (nut butters, avocado, coconut oil, hemp seeds)

Hormone Health for Hypothalamic Amenorrhea: My goals and plan to give my hormones a boost Click To Tweet

Do you, or did you once, have hypothalamic amenorrhea? Did you take any supplements for additional support? 

Any additional recommendations? For stress relief, mood, or hormonal acne?

Have you ever tried Evening Primrose Oil?

Is there anything you’d like me to speak more about? 

 

 

32 COMMENTS

  1. Stephanie Leduc | 15th Jan 16

    I have definitely heard of magnesium helping with stress, and I am glad that you are not only looking into the supplements but also looking into natural food sources of magnesium! Sometimes people get caught up with supplements, they seem to forget that it exists in foods! It is also great you are paying attention to vitamin D, in Canada, we are usually not getting enough!! I think tackling stress and anxiety first is a great way to work towards gaining weight :). My boyfriend struggles with anxiety as well and if I could give you one suggestion, it would be to try meditating (if you have not already). He does it on a daily basis thanks to an app and it really helps him in avoiding anxiety attacks and staying calm and relaxed, perhaps it could work for you too. Great and informative post, I wish you all the best with the next chapter of your recovery.

    • mylittletablespoon | 16th Jan 16

      Thank you Stephanie! You are going to be such a wonderful dietitian. :). Yes – I have never, up to now, been one for supplements as I’ve always believed food is the much better way to get everything you need. And yes – meditation and breathing exercises is something I try to do as much as I can. Sometimes it feels frustrating, but in general it is a practice that helps so many areas of life and I’d let to get back to incorporating it on a more daily basis. Good for you boyfriend – very admirable of him. Thank you again.

  2. Kate Bennett | 15th Jan 16

    I love that you are sharing your personal experience to reaching your health goals. I think it’s great that your doctors are recommending supplements too. We all should probably be taking vitamin D. I really hope that you are able to see the return of out cycle soon- even if it means eating more calories. When I was told I still needed to gain more weight, my dietitian recommended that I try to eat more, but just in case I didn’t always reach that goal I add an Ensure Plus everyday. The calorie dense drink wasn’t super filling, but I viewed it as the medicine I needed to get better. I’m not sure that is right for you, but you may consider adding an extra drink/smoothie/protein shake everyday until you reach the goals set before you. It’s scary, but it may be just what you need! I know that step two is just right ahead of you 😀

    • mylittletablespoon | 16th Jan 16

      Ahh, thank you Kate. Oh Ensures. I have definitely had my fair share of them – when I first gained all my weight back in hospital. The thought of incorporating them again is always on my mind, for I seem to be unable to get enough with only food. It is simply the fear of stepping over that “last step” that is keeping me from adding one to my day. But like you say, it can be seen as medicine – and that is how I viewed the drinks when I was having them before. I still have some in my closet, soo its a matter of putting on my bootstraps and taking the plunge to go for it. Thank you for the support, the reminder, and nudging this into my thoughts again. <3

  3. bucketlisttummy | 15th Jan 16

    I have never heard of Holy Basil but I love the name and the fact that it may be helping you. This was a very informational post and I’m sure many will find it helpful! Vitamins are so so important for our bodies to function normally, so eating enough to get them is vital. I love your focus on healthy fats at every meal – that’s my girl. Also, all of your meals look super delicious. Plantains are so so good.

    • mylittletablespoon | 16th Jan 16

      Thanks, Sarah! Holy Basil has been a wonderful find. I love my Tulsi Tea. You are a huge source of motivation for me to get those fats in!

  4. sprint2thetable | 15th Jan 16

    Well, I just learned a lot! I do Vitamins C and D and magnesium daily. Mostly to help with recovery form workouts. I do have a lot of stress though – I need to look into that Tulsi!

    • mylittletablespoon | 16th Jan 16

      I would recommend it absolutely! Great and supportive to hear you are also taking these supplements – super important for athletes and all your kick ass muscles.

  5. Lyss | 15th Jan 16

    I suffered from HA. For me, it was about letting time and gaining weight do the trick. Once I reached my “healthy weight” and was stable there for about a year, my body began to trust me again and I finally got my period. Try and limit strenuous exercise, eat lots of fats, eliminate stress, and most importantly take care of yourself! (all of which you probably know) But your period will come girly, I promise you that! And I love your blog, love your posts and I think you’re doing an awesome job on here! xoxo 🙂

    • mylittletablespoon | 16th Jan 16

      Sigh. Oh “time.” Why must you take so long. My problem is, I was able to reach a healthy weight (in terms of BMI) but simply did not agree with “time” and did not hold it long enough. Or perhaps it still wasn’t high enough for me – I’ll never know. The fact you were able to sustain it for a year is vital – and fierce. Amazing job. And yes although I may “know” these things, I am constantly needing to hear it! So thank you thank you thank you. You are inspiration.

  6. Ellie | 16th Jan 16

    Magnesium is a great vitamin for everyone to take. I had no idea that the average person was deficient in it. You are ahead of that game. I actually rub magnesium oil on my legs after a hard workout. Topical magnesium is absorbed faster and there is less chance of fillers that are commonly found in pills. Thanks for the informative post.

    • mylittletablespoon | 16th Jan 16

      Oh wow Magnesium oil!? I never considered this. When gaining weight you can have muscle cramps and soreness just as if you had just had an intense work out – so I am going to remember this! Thank you!

  7. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets | 16th Jan 16

    I suspect I will find this post extremely helpful in the months to come since women who breastfeed are more at risk of getting H.A.. As is, my hormones are already out of whack and I find myself craving the most unusual of foods (for me that is). I tend to believe those cravings are a sign of your body needing something so I try to accommodate them whenever feasible, even the less than healthy ones. I also know pregnant women need lots of extra iron (hello spinach salads and smoothies) and magnesium. I take a prenatal but haven’t been able to find a good alternate source of magnesium. I love the Epsom slat bath idea and I’m adding it to my shopping list right now. I also take a good dose of D every day since almost everyone in the northern hemisphere is deficient.

    Keep on keeping. You are doing great. Thanks for the wonderful info.

    • mylittletablespoon | 16th Jan 16

      Yes. Hormones say everything – and their messages come at us in the form of cravings. They really do know whats best so we need to listen to them (no matter how crazy they may seem). Vitamin C is required to absorb iron so I try to always have some lemon or acidic something with my spinach etc. Epsom baths are an excellent way to relax! I’m sure it would feel nice for you and the baby :). Thanks Meg.

  8. hungryforbalance | 16th Jan 16

    You know I love this post!! When I was trying to balance my hormones naturally, I used to take cod liver oil, vitamin D, and Natural calm magnesium powder. However, I never tried evening primrose or holy basil.
    Thank you for sharing all of this! I need all the help I can get!

    • mylittletablespoon | 16th Jan 16

      Cod Liver Oil – wow, that sounds brave of you. I’ve had “calm” powder recommended to me as well, and would like to see how it is. I’d definitely research into and ask about both primrose and holy basil. I’m really loving my Tulsi Tea. And the more I hear more about primrose, the more I see it as something I would definitely want to incorporate when/if I try to get pregnant. Thanks Heather!

  9. Joyce | 17th Jan 16

    I had HA for a good five years and am only just starting to get regular periods back. What I’ve heard is that when you have HA for that long, it can take a while for your period to come back, even after you’re at restored weight. I know nutrition is super-important, but I think you’re really wise to also think about how stress plays a role in our health. Thanks for this post–I’ll bear what you’ve said in mind.

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  11. chasetheredgrape | 19th Jan 16

    It’s so refreshing to read about how someone else is dealing with HA. I must admit I have been sticking to dietary changes more than anything but I know I need to start looking into supplements as I need to try something new – diet alone is sadly not working for me.
    On the plus side, since moving to Australia and having constant access to the sunshine, my vitamin D levels have sure had a boost! My hair, skin and nails and strong and healthy so I know my body is getting there as it wouldn’t give nutrients to these areas if it was more needed elsewhere.
    I have heard good things about evening primrose oil so that might be a good place to start! 🙂

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  20. Lily | 10th Jul 17

    This was such a fantastic post Cora!

    I’m dealing with this issue at the moment, & truly appreciate you speaking out about it.

    I would love to know how eveything is going for you, & if any of these tips in particular have helped.

    Keep on posting, you are amazing 🙂

    Love & hugs

    • Cora | 10th Jul 17

      Lily. Thank you – so – much for this. I appreciate it hugely. It’s also quite ironic that you brought me back to this post, as I’ve actually just started writing a new post on my HA journey as it is currently standing. Things that are going on me with, transitions of thought, hard feelings etc. It’s a really, really hard journey, and it can feel unending…

      Not sure if this interests you at all – but I belong to a Facebook group full of women for HA support. It’s been a really nice community of support and continued encouragement.

      https://www.facebook.com/groups/448231538718207/

      I hope you are well and I wish you all the love and grace through this! Please feel free to email me anytime if you want to just chat about things going on. It helps me too.

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