I wanted to talk about the female athlete triad today. The triad is a serious condition composed of three related health conditions that can affect active women.
The three aspects of the triad:
- Not eating enough for the amount of running/exercise you are doing
- May be on purpose or accidental (forgetting to eat enough)
- Amenorrhea- loss of your period
- Can be related to the energy deficiency
- May be related to low dietary fat intake and low body fat percentage
Low bone mass:
- Estrogen plays a vital role in bone health
- Not having enough estrogen (related to loss of period) can cause a decrease in bone mass causing osteopenia or osteoporosis at a relatively young age
Many girls may think that it is normal to lose their period during the cross country or track season but it is not normal. Additional signs that you may have the triad are being tired and having frequent injuries/stress fractures. If you are not getting your period, please talk to a doctor or a dietitian that specializes in the triad.
Your doctor may prescribe birth control pills and this will allow you to have a regular cycle; however, it is not your body producing its own hormones for a period and it does not fix the root of the problem which is probably an energy deficiency/excessive exercise. It is currently controversial whether birth control pills help improve bone mineral density. You may find that once you come off the birth control pills you may still not get your period.
The solution to the energy deficiency is increasing the amount of calories you are eating and slightly decreasing your exercise—again please consult a doctor or dietitian who specializes in the female athlete triad. Stopping the energy deficiency can help your period come back which can also help improve bone health.
Please seek treatment for the triad if you think that you have it, it is a serious condition that may have negative long-term health effects.
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*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or dietitian, I am a college student interested in learning about this topic and I have done research on the female athlete triad for academic use (writing essays) and personal use.