The link between periods and bone health.
“Have you lost your period or experienced an irregular period?” – A common question health professionals, GPs, and eating disorder clinicians will ask.
The parts of the body system that are responsible for the regulation of the menstrual cycle are the hypothalamus (which regulates all body processes e.g., temperature, appetite, heart rate, blood pressure, hormones), the pituitary gland (which controls hormone release) and the ovaries. If there is a disruption to these systems, for example, restrictive eating leading to minimal energy for the body to produce hormones, menstrual cycle disturbances may occur.
A reason you might be familiar with regarding why having a menstrual cycle is important is fertility. To fall pregnant, ovulation must occur. A menstrual cycle is a monthly series of changes, that a woman’s body goes through in preparation for a possible pregnancy.1 However, what is not as well known, is the influence the menstrual cycle has on bone health.
The menstrual cycle involves the release of the hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen plays a vital role in the growth of bones and closure of the growth plates3.
The consequence of an irregular or ceased menstrual cycle can be reduced bone mineralisation, and therefore reduced bone density, increasing the risk or leading to osteoporosis (brittle, fragile bones) or osteopenia (softening of bones). Adolescence is a vital period of bone formation, as more than half of peak bone mass is attained at this time2. What this means is that there is a critical and precious window for peak bone mass to be met, and a large portion of that window is during the adolescent years. Thus, not having a period during this time places an enormous risk on one’s bone health.
Can I just take the Oral Contraceptive Pill?
The short answer is no. Often they are prescribed with the (good) intent that the oestrogen in the pill, will protect the bones, however, this is not the case. Building bone does not solely rely on oestrogen, it also requires functions like osteoblasts (a cell responsible for bone building) and bone factors that stimulate bone tissue growth, which are suppressed with malnutrition.1
At present, weight gain and return of menstruation are the two most important factors in increasing/restoring bone mass.1
There can be numerous causes for a loss of period, some being (intentionally or unintentionally) a change in dietary intake, under fueling, increase in exercise, or engaging in other behaviors to change body weight/shape.
If you or a loved one has lost their period or are experiencing changes in your menstrual cycle and have noticed changes in any of the points above, reach out to us on 4362 3443.
Note: Myrtle Oak Clinic will always work alongside your GP when delivering treatment and care.