In this article we will take you through step by step our FUTURE WOMAN approach to hypothalamic amenorrhea treatment and getting your period back.
What is Hypothalamic Amenorrhea?
It is first important to understand exactly what hypothalamic amenorrhea is and why it occurs.
Hypothalamic amenorrhoea (HA) is a condition that stops your periods due to disruption of the hypothalamic pituitary ovarian axis (HPO). HA predominantly impacts women in their teens and 20s as the HPO axis has not yet developed a strong connection, although it can impact women at any time in their reproductive years.
HYPOTHALAMIC AMENORRHEA TREATMENT
Treatment in the UK via the NHS
Let’s take a look at the two main hypothalamic amenorrhea treatment options in the UK.
Typically, if your period has been missing for more than 12 months, the oral contraceptive pill is suggested. We believe that this doesn’t constitute a “treatment”, since it does not address the root cause of why your period is missing. In fact the oral contraceptive pill can worsen the dysregulation of the HPO axis and can therefore lead to more problems with your hormones and health when you later come off the pill.
Oral oestrogen, a type of hormone therapy, is also sometimes recommended by GPs but again this is a band aid solution and does not address the root cause of why the HPO axis was disrupted in the first place, therefore will not be long-lasting.
If you have been recommended these options by your GP we encourage you to first come to speak to us about how we can address HA from a root cause level and get your periods back naturally and sustainably.
The FUTURE WOMAN approach
At FUTURE WOMAN, we are passionate about identifying and addressing the root cause of your hypothalamic amenorrohea.
Hypothalamic amenorrhea treatment at FUTURE WOMAN involves a combination of comprehensive hormone testing from home and preparing for you a personalised health plan to get your periods back.
Step 1: Comprehensive Hormone Testing for Hypothalamic Amenorrhoea
Firstly, it is very important to establish that you do in fact have hypothalamic amenorrhea. This can be determined by symptoms, lifestyle factors, duration and your results of your FUTURE WOMAN hormone test. Once we have confirmed it is likely HA through testing then we can begin to address it from the root cause.
We always recommend the Advanced Hormone Test for women with suspected HA.
Other factors such as PCOS, thyroid imbalance and stress can cause missing periods, therefore it is essential to ensure you have the right diagnosis before creating a treatment plan.
The most important factor when looking at hypothalamic amenorrhea is to understand the root cause for you. Our FUTURE WOMAN Advanced Hormone Test looks at all aspects of hormone health, and so can help to uncover some of the root drivers of HA. For example we look at the functioning of the HPA axis and your stress hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. Very often cortisol is dysregulated in those with HA. Testing cortisol and adrenaline are therefore vital in providing a concrete answer as to what is contributing to low hormone levels and HPO axis dysfunction.
We also look at other factors that might be contributing to irregular or missing periods or stress on the body such as underlying inflammation in the gut, low nutrient levels, low neurotransmitter levels and more to assess if these factors are contributing to irregular or missing periods. All of these are included within the Advanced Hormone Test.
Step 2: Create your personalised plan
Based on your results, one of our FUTURE WOMAN hormone experts will create a personalised health plan in order to help get your period back. Here are some of the goals we address for those with HA (remember this is just an example and will differ from person to person).
Support and reconnect the HPO axis
1. Medicinal herbs
The HPO axis can be supported in a number of different ways.
Some of the most effective techniques are using herbs such as vitex agnus-castus to support the HPO axis and the communication of the pituitary gland to the ovaries. This herb can stimulate the healthy release of LH and FSH to invoke a healthy and regular cycle. Once the HPO axis has regained active communication then you will begin to have regular and proper signalling of LH and FSH. This means your ovaries will start to produce oestrogen, triggering ovulation, progesterone and eventually your period too.
It is important to note that Vitex is not recommended for PCOS, which is why testing first is so important.
When it comes to hypothalamic amenorrhea treatment at FUTURE WOMAN, we take into account your test results but also the symptoms you are experiencing in order to provide you with hyper-personalised supplement recommendations.
Some of the common HA supplement recommendations include providing the body with vital nutrients for a healthy cycle such as zinc and B vitamins in a therapeutic dose. Zinc for example helps to nourish healthy ovarian follicles and support regular and healthy ovulation which is essential for a regular period.
At FUTURE WOMAN we also look at supporting the ovaries with antioxidant support such as the supplement NAC, reducing inflammation with supplements such as curcumin, and much more.
Remember it is important that these supplements are prescribed for you by a practitioner to make sure they will work for you in the correct dosages.
3. Supporting Adrenal Health
Although it is the HPO axis that is dysregulated in HA we also need to address the HPA axis. This is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The adrenal glands are the glands on top of your kidneys that produce your stress hormones and some sex hormones. As HA is caused by variations of stress on the body, the HPA axis must also be addressed. This can involve lifestyle practices such as diaphragmatic breathing, yoga nidra meditations and more.
Supporting adrenal health can also involve supplements such as ashwagandha, B vitamins, vitamin C and more to support healthy cortisol and stress levels to support a healthy period coming back. This supports the body feeling ‘safe’ and supports your ovaries regaining their full function.
4. EXERCISE CHANGES
There are a number of ways to support the functioning of the HPO axis through lifestyle. The most effective is a reduction in HIIT and cardio exercise.
High intensity exercise can result in a disruption of the HPO axis and is one of the leading causes of HA. Therefore switching to low intensity exercise such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates will help bring your period back faster.
This should be followed until your period comes back and then continued for a further few months until it is regular again. The general rule of thumb for us at FUTURE WOMAN is not to do more than 30 minutes of running or high intensity at a time and no more than 1-2 times a week in order to regain your period. Again the goal is to make the body feel safe through increasing food intake and decreasing high intensity exercise.
5. DIET CHANGES
The main goal with diet in HA is to increase healthy fat, protein and ensure healthy carbohydrate intake.
Many women tend to cut out a macro group such as fat or carbs in order to attempt weight loss. This can actually lead to weight gain (due to the body being under stress), low energy, imbalance hormones, low mood, HA, irregular periods and more. Therefore it is vital to ensure you are eating enough. In fact if you have HA and are struggling with weight gain it is beneficial to eat more protein and fat in each meal and exercise less and this will result in a balanced weight! This is because the body will no longer be stressed and will find its natural balance.
As a rough guide, if you have HA it is important to be eating at least 2,000 calories a day minimum, although at FUTURE WOMAN we teach you to count nutrients not calories.
These are just a few examples of how we support HA at FUTURE WOMAN.
The main goals for treating hypothalamic amenorrhea
- Ensure the right diagnosis through testing with the Advanced Hormone Test
- Receive a personalised plan tailored to your results and your symptoms
- Support a varied and healthy diet of fats, protein and complex carbohydrates
- Prioritise low intensity exercise over high intensity or long bouts of cardio exercise
- Support the adrenal glands and the body’s stress response
- Implement lifestyle support for balancing the nervous system