The endocrine system has always fascinated me…from experiencing a rush of hormones back in those awkward teenage years, to studying them in more detail while at university, and now experiencing them again with my pregnant wife.
As complex as the endocrine system can be, it cannot be ignored. A lack of sufficient calories and nutrients can be all that’s needed to shake up the body’s hormonal balance…and when it comes to the female body; the effects can be even more serious.
Let me explain in more detail…for example, when it comes to young female athletes (regardless of whether they’re elite professionals or amateur gym enthusiasts who workout every day) and postmenopausal women, sometimes there’s no difference between them…at least as far as their estrogen levels are concerned.
Why is this?
Well, young female athletes need to ensure that their diet is full of the right nutrients and optimal amount of energy-giving calories in order to fuel the body’s metabolism which can usually be a furnace in female athletes…especially those who specialize in endurance sports.
If they don’t, the exercise-associated health risks can start building up, beginning with a decrease in estrogen levels. Low levels of this hormone are often a common symptom experienced by postmenopausal women which can often lead to further health conditions like osteoporosis and bone density loss.
Over time insufficient energy and nutrients, coupled with a significant reduction in body fat can cause the onset of amenorrhea (irregular menses or no menstruation at all). One of the first researchers to identify the complications of athletic amenorrhea was Dr. Barbara Drinkwater. She found that female athletes with amenorrhea had significantly lower bone density than women athletes who had normal periods.
When these women resumed regular periods by decreasing their training or increasing their calorie intake, they did regain a small amount of bone density, but never completely returned to normal mass density levels.
It is now clear that exercise-associated amenorrhea can lead to irreversible bone loss. This was ground-breaking research because at the time it was thought that weight-bearing exercise would increase in bone density and protect women from bone loss.
The prevalence of exercise-associated amenorrhea is surprising. In fact, a study by Dr. Hoch conducted at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee, USA, revealed that 54% of varsity athletes were currently or had a history of amenorrhea.
Dr. Hoch’s most recent study showed that folic acid supplementation may help improve blood flow-mediated dilation in the brachial artery which correlates with increase blood flow to the heart…ultimately improving vascular function in the amenorrheic female runners who took part in the study.
Folic acid is a great form of vitamin B and is necessary for the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. It’s also beneficial in helping to reduce high levels of homocysteine, which is often implicated in the development of heart disease. (Note on methylation…This is a very important process in the body. The most effective methylator is SAMe which is present in Total Balance as well as folic acid.)
However, when it comes to young female athletes and postmenopausal women, folic acid alone cannot provide the necessary health benefits and the balancing of female hormones.
Women with low estrogen levels could consider various natural options. I say ‘natural’ because too many opt to go down the HRT route without having been properly informed of the hormones they’re ingesting. The standard estrogen product used is Premarin which is horse estrogens and foreign to the human body and in implicated in a number of potentially fatal diseases. Warren will be writing an article on this soon.
Bio-identical hormones on the other hand are identical to those found in humans and if they’re prescribed by an expert in the field, they can be safely used to restore and balance hormone levels.
Another natural alternative for women could be to use specialized herbal extracts in order to help stimulate the body to naturally balance female hormones. Products such as Total Balance Women’s, Total Balance Women’s Premium, and Female Rejuvenator each contain a unique formula of bio-active nutrients and hormone balancing herbs to help support feminine health and improve overall wellbeing.
With the risk of bone density loss and osteoporosis on the increase for young amenorrheic women and those who are postmenopausal, Bone-Protec could help strengthen the skeletal system. It may even help improve bone density as well as increase calcium absorption directly to the bones.
These natural alternatives should be considered by all women who have experienced (or are currently experiencing) exercise-induced amenorrhea, and especially those who have postmenopausal symptoms. Following a healthy balanced diet, maintaining your ideal weight and body fat percentage, as well as getting the right amount of calories each day is also very important.
Hormonal issues such as low estrogen levels can affect many women…even elite endurance athletes. Instead of using pharmaceutical drugs to improve your condition, why not seek out natural solutions instead.