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The Real Connection Between Your Period and What You Eat

An excerpt from The Body Book, by Cameron Diaz

Everybody is always talking about PMS eating, and whether or not women devour chocolate at “that time of the month.” But there is another, much more significant connection between what we eat and what happens when we get our periods.

It’s crucial to remember that our reproductive systems, including our periods, can be greatly affected by stress. And stress doesn’t just mean work stress or boyfriend stress, although that counts too. It includes significant weight loss, malnutrition, obesity and chronic disease.

As discussed in The Body Book, there is a dynamic interplay between the hormones produced in the brain and hormones produced in the ovaries which allows for regular and normal ovulation and hence regular and normal menstrual cycles. That means that in order for your period to run properly, your brain has to work and your ovaries have to work. And in order for them to work at their best, they need proper nutrition and a healthy environment.

Let’s imagine a situation in which a woman suddenly decides that she weighs too much and is going to lose a lot of weight quickly, in a short amount of time. Perhaps our friend will starting eating way too little, much less than her body needs, or exercise way too much, more than she is giving herself the energy, in the form of nutrition, to do. If this happens, she will not have enough energy for her brain and ovaries to function normally and her period will be affected.

What does this mean for her? It means that she may not be getting the estrogen that she needs to develop healthy bones and that she may be at risk for things like osteoporosis and bone fractures early in life. For a young woman this is especially important!!!

Let’s imagine the opposite situation: a woman who changes cities, changes jobs, experiences a loss, and suddenly starts eating too much to comfort herself. If our friend’s habits lead her to become obese, she may put herself at risk for anovulatory disorders such as Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and will have bleeding that is irregular/unpredictable and at times very heavy. This condition can put women at risk for things like endometrial cancer.

And, now, for good measure, let’s imagine the best of situations: a woman who learns about nutrition and understands the real connection between eating and your period, which has nothing to do with how many bags of chips you scarf the day before you go searching for the tampons: that healthy eating and regular fitness leads to healthy periods, healthy bones and a healthy life.

– Dr. Diana Chavkin
Diana E. Chavkin, MD, FACOG is an Ob/Gyn and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist

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