How To Get Your Period Back After Eating Disorder

Having an eating disorder can, unfortunately, often mean that many girls and women lose their period. Their reproductive hormones stop working properly since the body is not getting an adequate amount of energy and nutrition. This can mean you lose your ability to have a baby, but also that your body will suffer from serious health issues.

Some of the main causes of losing your period can be:
  • calorie restriction
  • overeating, binge eating
  • purging, overexercising
  • being underweight, low weight
  • low body fat
  • deficiency of vitamins or minerals and macronutrients such as fats
  • too much stress (dieting and overexercising also includes as stress)
  • fast weight loss, unhealthy weight loss
  • hormonal imbalance (dieting is a recipe for hormonal imbalance)
  • having an eating disorder

If the body is constantly running on a deficit and is under stress (restriction, dieting and overexercising are very stressful to our body!), then it will stop producing enough reproductive hormones and, instead, will focus on keeping you alive. It figures that the environment is not safe for pregnancy. Your body is not strong or healthy enough to carry a child.

Many girls who have lost their period may think that having no period is preferable and life is much easier because they don’t have to worry about cramps, bleeding, or PMS. Many who have written to me don’t see the big deal about losing their period, and some don’t care if they have it or not.

Low bone density

However, losing your period is a clear sign that something is very wrong and your health is in decline. Not having menstruation means you can’t get pregnant, but it also means that if not treated ASAP, you can develop osteopenia, and if that progresses, you will have osteoporosis. Osteopenia and osteoporosis both mean low bone density. The first one is curable, but if it develops into osteoporosis, then it’s not.

Osteoporosis is a disease which breaks your bones down over time. As your bones lose mass, they become very thin and brittle and are easily broken or fractured. Something as simple as sneezing can result in a broken rib, and a little stumble may lead to a fractured spine. In a nutshell – you become fragile as glass. While any bone in your body can be affected, the most common areas for fracture in people with osteoporosis include the hips, spine, wrist, and ribs.

Now, before you panic, it’s always best to first go to see your doctor for professional advice and get a bone density scan. The best is the DEXA scan.

Female Athlete Triad

Another big risk factor for losing your period is exercising too much while having an eating disorder. This is known as Female Athlete Triad.  It is a combination of three conditions: disordered eating, amenorrhea (loss of menstruation) and osteoporosis (low bone density).

A female athlete can have one, two, or all three parts of the triad. People with disordered eating are trying to use exercise as a way to compensate for calories and control their weight. But when you don’t eat an adequate amount of calories to make up for the exercise, it leads to a decrease in the hormones that keep your reproductive organs healthy and regulate your menstruation cycle. As a result, your period becomes weak or irregular, or you lose it altogether.

Then, as a result of poor nutrition and energy-burning through excessive exercise, there is a decrease in estrogen and the nutrients in your body that are essential for good bone health – and your bones start to deteriorate. When the illness is in the beginning stage (osteopenia), it can be curable, and you can reverse the damage if you start recovering as soon as possible. But if you wait too long, it can progress to a much more serious illness (osteoporosis), and at that stage, it becomes incurable.

Even when you increase your calories to compensate for the calories lost in exercise, your menstruation and bones cannot recover if you continue to exercise. You have to completely refrain from any exercise and continue to eat enough calories to recover your menstruation and bone health.

Low weight and restoring a healthy weight

Sometimes, for a person with an eating disorder losing their period can really be a major turning point and a red flag that something is really wrong. And they finally realize that what they are doing is not healthy. But, it does not mean that when you do have your period then there is no major damage happening to your body or it is okay what you are doing. Still having your period does not mean automatically that you are “fine”.

There have been some rare cases when women lose weight until underweight (below BMI 18,5) and still have their period. So from outside they may think nothing is wrong or at least it is not so bad, right? But still having your period does not mean you are healthy at this low weight. Your body is still suffering and your hormones are not working properly and you likely experience many other starvation symptoms. Also, a woman’s body needs an adequate amount of fat on her body to be hormonally healthy. Fat is a hormone-producing organ, you need fat to be healthy.

Being on the birth control pill can also be a reason you may still have your period. This, however, does not mean everything is ok. Or when you have lost your period and you decide to take a pill to get your period back it does not mean your hormones are actually working. It is a fake period. That is why just taking a birth control pill without proper recovery and weight gain won’t make you healthy or produce an actual normal period.

Also, when you finally get your period back after eating disorder, it does not mean you are completely finished with recovery, or when you hit the healthy BMI range starting with 18.5 + you are automatically weight restored. Being truly weight restored and getting hormonally healthy can mean different things for different people. Only your body decides!

How to Get Your Period Back
  1. Eat enough calories, and eat them regularly. Make sure you eat the MinnieMaud calorie guideline amounts plus pay attention to any additional hunger or extreme hunger. And do not skip meals. Eat frequently, every two to three hours.
  2. Eat enough carbs and enough fats and concentrated sources of calories. Do not get your calories only from watery fruits and veggies, but eat more calorie-packed foods such as bread, pastry, pasta, rice, potatoes, cookies, chocolate, oils, nut butter, nuts, and seeds, avocado, coconut milk, etc.
  3.  Skip all calorie compensation! No purging, dieting, fasting or exercise. Rest as much as possible, and sleep as much as possible. Only light walking or everyday tasks are okay. Walk to the fridge to get more food and then back to the couch – you get the point.
  4. Lower your stress. The biggest stressors in an eating disorder are, of course, not eating enough calories, restricting, overexercising, purging, etc., so if you avoid those things in recovery, it’s a good step forward. But also, limit any other stress as much as you can – school or work stress, stressors within relationships, and so on. If you have a lot of stress in your everyday life, then maybe find some things that will help you relax or de-stress such as meditation, listening to soothing music, taking a hot bubble bath, reading a novel, or anything else you can think of. This is not the right time to start running an hour a day to “relieve stress.” Remember point 3!
  5. Give it time. Do all the above things, continue doing it, and just give it time. Some women may get their period back in the first weeks and some in a few months – it really depends. The information here is quite general, and every case is different. When you get at least three consecutive periods (the more, the better, of course), you’ll know that things are working properly again.

Next is a short interview with a girl who got her period back after 7 years not having it!

Recovered after 7 years of amenorrhea (no period)

“My story is probably a little bit different from other women because it didn’t start with a simple diet. After a liver disease, I lost a lot of weight and also experienced some changes in my personal and professional life that lead me to a depression. I never recovered the lost weight and besides the depression, I started to have an abnormal behavior with food (orthorexia).

When you’re undernourished your physical body and also your mind can become very sick. And if you don’t try to do something about it, it can become a cycle and it’s very difficult to get out of it.

I felt tired and sad and without hope in myself. I was living like this for years and now I look back and ask “How is this possible and why did I live like this for so long? Why?” I just didn’t have the strength to get out of that cycle that was continually pulling me down. I wasn’t able to see what others were seeing.

Only after a big and scary episode I realized that if I didn’t do something about it I could have a tragic end because my body was so weak.

I decided to do my own research. However, this doesn’t mean that I advise other people to do it alone especially if they’re severely underweight!

But the truth is that I was able to conquer my freedom again with the help of some brave women like Elisa Oras that inspired me to keep on fighting! You really have to want it! You have to make an effort! Nobody can help you if you don’t want to live free again and regain your health. Yes, it can be hard but it’s worth it!

For me, the biggest struggle was the physical symptoms that came with recovery. All the pain and the bloating. I was so-so tired all the time – even more after eating! I thought it’s supposed to feel good!
That was definitely the biggest challenge but reminding myself that it was temporary made me keep on going.

And whenever I had my doubts I just listened to Elisa’s words: “It’s ok. Everything is going to be ok. It takes time but it will happen”.

I also recovered from a 7-year amenorrhea and I still have some digestion issues but I think I’m getting better every day.

What do you have to do to recover? What I did? I would say #1 is to EAT with no restrictions and #2 just relax and try to live your life fully as possible with your love ones. Those are the major aspects that you’ll have to keep in mind.

We can’t be too hard on ourselves and we must realize that there are no perfect people with a perfect health and living in a perfect world.

It is ok being “just” NORMAL :)” – Ana

I hope this little story and testimonial inspired you for your recovery. As you can see your body is able to recover its hormonal health and restore itself if given the right conditions. You have to stop listening to the eating disorder fears and instead fight back by giving your body what it desperately needs – enough food, rest and a big gulp of LOVE.

Image from HERE.

 

16 thoughts on “How To Get Your Period Back After Eating Disorder”

  1. Oh my! Thank you for sharing Ana’ s story. Hit home- I’m going on 7yrs of no period that all started from a liver disorder too, which pushed me into a unhealthy relationship with food. I’m really in a tough spot like she was(though no longer underweight), and it’s great encouragement to hear this girl push through it and won 🙂 Go Ana! Thanks for sharing 😉

    1. thanks for sharing that you had a similar experience. hope it helps you in your recovery and you get your period back too! 🙂

  2. Hi my name is kimberly and i am 13 years old i havent gotten my period in 1 year and 4 months so i was kinda worried my doctor told my mom to make an appointment with the gynocologist but my mom didnt think i was ready for anyone to look at my vagina yet so i got my period today 1/12/17 and see i had eaten madarins at school and ate hot chips at home and a mango snapple so i dont k ow what to do cuz i wasnt aupposed to eat fruits on my period and i am worried it is gonna go away again please tell me how to get my period again if i loose it thank you for your time sincerly kimberly sky Rodriguez if any questions call my mom at 956-620-4538 thank u very much

  3. Hello, my name is Chris and I have had anorexia for 6 years 5 years no period. I follow a meal plan now and have been out of treatment for 1 year no period still. I don’t excerise eat healthy but do eat not healthy as well I feel balance but I still have no period . I ask still don’t really get hungry or full I just gollow meal plan . If u have any insight I would appreciate it so much 5619974938

    1. you might still be undereating, your body can still be suppressed. im wondering if you ever just let go and ate to your full hunger, a meal plan might not provide you with the amounts your body actually needs.

  4. How much fat would you recommend? From sources such as nut butters and avocado? How much should I aim for if I am underweight and am looking to get my period back?
    Thank you <3

  5. I don’t know what to do. I had Anorexia for 2yrs, and had amenorrhea also. I started recovery about a year ago, and ate completely without restriction- I had a lot of extreme hunger and ate however much I wanted- and I haven’t done much exercise at all in this time. I gained weight- I went from a BMI of about 17 to about 23- and then I got my period back, but only for a few months. That was seven months ago, and I haven’t gotten a period since. I still eat without restriction, I still don’t exercise, and I haven’t lost weight, in fact I have gained weight (because BMI 23 was NOT weight restored for me). I am now at a BMI of about 27, so I’m definitely not underweight or low body fat, and I DEFINITELY eat enough, but I still haven’t gotten my period back.
    Do you have any idea why I got my period back before I was weight restored, but lost it again, and haven’t got it back even after months of being at my healthy weight?

  6. Hello!
    I’m 13 and lost my period almost one year ago and I’ve had anorexia/orthorexia for a little bit longer. I’m currently recovering for 2 months, eating at least 3000 calories per day. However, I still excersise quit a lot (take about 24 000 steps a day) and I can’t imagine stopping that completely. I want to have great cardio health and muscles. Will I get my period back if I continue this way? I am constantly gaining weight with a BMI of 19.5 right now. Also I don’t really have professional help with recovery, but
    I can’t seek help (I have a reason) and I feel like I’m doing good on my own. I no longer feel like I want to be thin and I just excersise to get stronger.

    Sorry for the long post, but I really appreciate your help for others and need it myself!
    //Mimi

    1. Hi Mimi, with the exercise you do you are definitely sabotaging your own recovery. you are recovering from a serious illness and for recovery to refeed and rest are the 2 most important things. your body is under enormous stress already so exercise and walking so much definitely don’t help you. if you cannot rest and need to keep on exercising/walking so much it’s an ED behavior, otherwise you would stop. if your body is starved its not gonna build up your muscles in a healthy way, you are just keeping your body starved because it needs to fuel your exercise, not the recovery, restoring your body, hormones etc.

  7. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and give someone hope.

    I‘m 34 years old and haven‘t had my period since at least 7 years (maybe longer because I were on birth control pill). My Gyn said it’s „just“ hypothalamic amenorrhoe, so i was in treatment at a fertility center (ivf and stuff like that); but nothing works 🙁

    I have Never excercised (bc i am to lazy) and my cortisol levels are normal but i‘m still underweight.

    Do you see and hope for me to ever have children? I still do not have my period, Nobody knows whether and when i will geht it back and it also would take time to get pregnant…

    So do you think i am to old. Is it to late? It is hard to keep fighting when i think it is too late for me and maybe no chance anyway

  8. Thank you so much, Elisa. That really gives me hope. I‘m exciting to read your book. So you don‘t see my age as a Problem?

  9. Hej
    I am 13 years old and i am recovering from anorexia, i dont have a reglular period, only one day here and there. I am bmi 26 and i am overshooting my pre ed weight…. i know its my ed telling me this but i am so scared i will end up obese.
    I have a huge hunger and i still have mental hunger even though i had that for 6 months… is this normal? Am i doing the right thing? Andd is it okay to start exercise again?
    Hugs from Alma❤

  10. Hello, my name is ashlynn and I am 15. Transitioning from 7th grade to 8th grade was hard. I was severely depressed in 7th grade for numerous things that were happening. The main reason would be the hatred I felt for myself. Once I hit eighth grade, I started to starve myself by limiting my intake of food. Most people thought I was skinny enough, 115.8 pounds, but I did not think that. Now that I am in 9th grade, it started to get worse. To the point of me not eating at all some days. Two months ago I started experiencing dizzy spells, passing out, etc everyday. Whilst at school, I probably went to the nurse about four out of five days. I was terrified and I wished to have someone to talk to besides my parents who have more important things to do. So, I tried keeping it a secret. Yesterday, I was forced to go to a doctors office. I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and anorexia nervosa.

    Sorry for those who had read this dumb message. I needed to confide in someone other than a therapist or family. Anyone have any ideas to help calm me? Thank you.

  11. I’m recovering from an ED and have been without a period for almost 6 months. I have been recovering only within the past 2 months or less and worry about how this break in my period will effect my chances of being able to have a baby when I am older. How can i prevent this other than following the above steps to get my period back? How would i know if it’s too late?

  12. Asshlynn, oh my goodness. I share the same exact experience.
    Do you want to reach out to me and have a support system? (im in recovery and want some help as well)

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