In my late teens and 20s, I began struggling with body image and disordered eating. I started exercising every day for hours a day and thought that my fitness level made me healthy. But frankly, I was oblivious to all the symptoms that told another story.
I'd lost my menstrual cycle and was dealing with reactive hypoglycemia, which means that shortly after eating I would get a drop in blood sugar that would leave me shaky, sweaty, nauseous and reaching for more food. I also struggled with digestive issues, dry skin, mood issues, and insomnia.
I eventually went to see the doctor about the loss of my menstrual cycle, who took some blood tests and did an ultrasound. I was told at the young age of 26 that I was in early menopause. The doctor also informed me that, "this happens sometimes" and I'd have to take synthetic estrogen for the rest of my life.
I ending up booking an appointment with a naturopath to get a second opinion. This is when I learned about the female athlete triad, adrenal fatigue and hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Hypothalamic amenorrhea is when an established menstrual cycle ceases and is absent for three or more months. Although common in female athletes, hypothalamic amenorrhea is not normal. I had actually known about amenorrhea, as I had been diagnosed with it when I was really struggling with anorexia eight years earlier. At that time, the doctor's only solution was to put me on the birth control pill.
It worked and brought my period back, but it didn't fix the underlying problem. The female athlete triad results from three linked issues. These include menstrual disturbances/amenorrhea, an energy deficit with or without disordered eating, and bone loss/osteoporosis.
I had the amenorrhea and disordered eating, as I'd been struggling with a cycle of restriction and binge eating for years and we just assumed that with my history I had some bone loss as well.