Weight and menstrual cycle – how are they related?

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The monthly menstrual cycle is the result of a well-coordinated communication going on between the pituitary gland in the brain and your ovaries via the hormones. A constant ebb and flow of these hormones regulates the periods. If there is any disturbance in this communication, your monthly cycle goes out of whack. The body is one whole unit, changes in diet and nutrition, stress due to work or relationships, lifestyle changes like night shifts at work or even studying late nights for hours, all of these factors will influence your hormones and consequently your menstrual cycle.

Yes, your weight and changes in it affect your periods. Let’s look at the different scenarios to understand this well.

How being underweight or losing weight affects your menstrual cycle?

First and foremost, dieting is a fad nowadays. Young girls are forever on a diet attempting to lose weight even when it is not required. A girl with ideal weight when suddenly starts losing weight because of dieting or excessive exercise, it has consequences. Your body is an extremely intelligent structure. When you suddenly lose body fat, the body goes into starvation mode because it wants to protect you from deprivation. The basic primal instinct of survival sets in and the body shuts the ovulation process because a female with low fat makes a weak candidate for pregnancy and your monthly cycle goes for a toss.

The same reason accounts for amenorrhea, i.e., the absence of periods in athletes and women who have intense fitness regimes. The body takes intense exercise as a stress factor and starts releasing the stress hormone called cortisol in the body. This disrupts the reproductive function and generation of female hormones in the ovaries, thus disturbing the menstrual cycle. Low levels of the female hormone estrogen for long can also cause osteoporosis or weak bone and even depression.  

Sometimes, a girl with an ideal weight may have irregular cycles. This happens because, despite a standard weight her BMI, i.e., body fat is low. Your body wants to conserve all the energy when the fat levels are low, this makes the woman unsuitable for pregnancy, and your brain stops ovulation.

If you are overweight or suddenly gain weight, it too will alter the menstrual cycle.

Being overweight or suddenly gaining weight also seems to change the menstrual cycle. The female hormone estrogen which is produced in the ovaries is also provided by the fat cells. When one is overweight or puts on weight, the extra fat in the body releases excess estrogen resulting in a hormonal imbalance. You miss your periods, and when you get it, periods can be heavy and long.

What to do?

So if you are overweight, you are probably not getting your periods. Losing weight orderly will definitely help in this case. As you lose the extra weight, the high estrogen levels come down, and hormonal balance is restored. Your start ovulating and your menstrual cycle gets regular.

And, if you are underweight, you need to gain weight to regulate your menses. As your weight increases, the estrogen levels rise, and you start ovulating. Your weight specifically the body fat has a significant impact on your hormones and your periods. Size zero might be a trend, but it isn’t necessarily healthy for you. Nor is carrying around extra weight. The right size is the one where your body and mind function to their best, there is a hormonal balance in the body, and you feel energetic and happy. Strive for that!

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