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.
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.
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
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
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)
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.
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.
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
Lunch: Butter or mayonnaise on breads, cheese, avocado, hummus made with tahini, olive oil salad dressings
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.
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.
Raw Mint Nanaimo Bars // No bake chocolate coconut pb crispy bark // Avocado Brownies // Coconut Butter Fudge
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: 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.
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)
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?
My journey with hypothalamic amenorrhea continues. My journey recovering from an eating disorder……