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The impact fasting has on your period and fertility

The impact fasting has on your period and fertility

In the dynamic landscape of health and well-being, fasting stands as a beacon of promise, offering a pathway to various health benefits. However, beneath its alluring facade lies a labyrinth of complexities, particularly for women navigating fertility challenges like Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA). So what impact does fasting have on your period and fertility?

 

The Impact Fasting has on your period and fertility

Research illuminates potential benefits of fasting for select groups, including individuals grappling with obesity, certain medical conditions like cancer, and hormonal imbalances in men. Yet, the fine print often escapes scrutiny amidst the fervor surrounding fasting.

 

For women, fasting unfurls a tapestry of health concerns, ranging from excessive calorie deficits to compromised athletic performance and hormonal imbalances. In the context of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, the downsides of fasting loom larger, manifesting in micro-deficiencies throughout the day and chronic stress on the body.


If you are going for long or short periods of time without food, maybe even fasting, you are adding to the stress your body is already sensing. This will cause a downward spiral, where the body is producing even more stress hormones like cortisol. It can be enough to wait too long with breakfast after waking up for your body to detect a famine state, a.k.a. danger. This micro energy deficit will interfere with your recovery.

 

Disrupted Hormonal Balance


Fasting can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance necessary for ovulation and menstrual cycle regulation. In individuals with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, who are already experiencing hormonal imbalances, fasting can further dysregulate hormone production, exacerbating the absence of ovulation.


One study on danish athletes came to the conclusion that energy balance across the day plays a role in the context of menstrual disturbances. The researchers found that athletes suffering from menstrual dysfunction spent more time in a catabolic (fasted), or micro deficit state, compared to participants without menstrual disturbances, although there were no differences in energy balance and availability seen over the day. Those athletes who spent more time fasting showed a lower resting metabolic rate, lower estrogen and higher stress hormone levels (as cortisol). Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is a hormone produced by the hypothalamus in the brain. It is involved in reproductive function by regulating hormones like LH and FSH. GnRH is fired on an hourly basis to check the overall status in the body ("are we safe?"), and thus these micro deficits at specific time points throughout day could be enough for the hypothalamus to detect stress and low energy availability (which causes Hypothalamic Amenorrhea).

 

Nutrient Deficiencies


Fasting often involves prolonged periods of food restriction or limited caloric intake. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies, which are particularly detrimental for individuals with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. Nutrient deficiencies can impair hormonal function, further hindering ovulation and menstrual cycle restoration.

 

Increased Stress on the Body


Fasting places stress on the body, triggering the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. Chronic stress can disrupt the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which plays a crucial role in regulating reproductive hormones. The resulting hormonal imbalance can contribute to the persistence of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and hinder ovulation.

 

Energy Deficiency


Fasting can lead to an energy deficiency, where the body does not receive an adequate amount of calories to support its basic functions. Energy deficiency is the most common underlying factor in Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, and fasting can exacerbate this condition, further compromising reproductive health.

 

The impact fasting has on your period and fertility


Ultimately, the combination of disrupted hormonal balance, nutrient deficiencies, increased stress, and energy deficiency associated with fasting can impair fertility. Individuals with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea may find it challenging to restore ovulation and menstrual cycles while engaging in fasting practices.

 

So what is the impact fasting has on your period and fertility? Overall, for individuals with missing ovulation and Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, prioritizing consistent and balanced nutrition is essential for promoting fertility and reproductive well-being. Fasting may not align with these goals and may hinder progress towards restoring ovulation and menstrual cycles.

 

 

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