Hypothalamic amenorrhea: 3 starter nutrition tips

Are you missing your period? A common reason for this is disordered eating. This is due to not eating enough, exercising too much, and stress.

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As a disordered eating nutritionist, I’ve been supporting those with missing periods due to their relationship to food for a few years. 

In this blog, I will give you my starter nutrition tips for getting your period back while cultivating a more positive relationship with food. We will cover exactly what hypothalamic amenorrhea is, what specifically causes it, and my three tips to recover from it.


What is hypothalamic amenorrhea?

Hypothalamic amenorrhea has two types: primary and secondary. In this article, we’re focusing on secondary hypothalamic amenorrhea (SHA).

Hypothalamic amenorrhea is when you lose your menstrual cycle due to disruptions in hormones. There are a bunch of reasons for losing your menstrual cycle, and many of these relate to your relationship with food.


How does it relate to your relationship with food?

Your relationship to food is a key foundation of your health. Without having a healthy relationship with food, any changes you try to make with your eating will probably not be long-term.

Those with eating disorders, disordered eating, and those who have dieted for a long time have a difficult relationship with food. Often those with an unhealthy relationship with food also have a missing period.

This is because a missing period is common in those who are:

  • restricting food
  • exercising too much
  • feeling very stressed

Let’s dive into three nutrition tips you can implement, while you heal your relationship with food:

1. Eating enough food

If this fills you with dread: that’s a sign you need one-to-one support from a nutrition counsellor like me. If your period is missing, you’re very likely to experience energy loss. This means you will need to eat at least 2500 calories minimum per day to regain your period. This number comes from research and clinical experience. It can vary between people, but it’s the most common go-to. This would likely look like three meals and at least three snacks. I recommend not going more than three to four hours without eating.

2. Eating enough carbohydrates

Eating too little carbohydrates is often one of the underlying reasons someone is missing their period. That's because carbohydrates:

  • Increase serotonin levels - linked to less stress, a common reason for period loss.
  • Are the major source of energy - period loss is often caused by an energy deficit.
  • Are often restricted or skimped on when you are struggling with disordered eating.
  • High-carbohydrate foods contain essential nutrients to regain your cycle.

I recommend having at least one to two servings of starchy carbohydrates with your meals. Starchy carbohydrates include potatoes, pasta, bread, noodles, and rice.

3. Cook with and add fats

Fats are needed to produce hormones. Plus they’re often a restricted food when you’re struggling with disordered eating, so bonus: you’re also tackling food fears. I recommend the “cook and add method” which is when you both cook with fat and add it to your food. This could look like this:

  • In a pasta dish: Sauté onions with oil and then add cheese on top of the dish.
  • In a noodle dish: Cook protein in oil and then add sesame seeds on top.
  • In porridge: Cook with full-fat milk and then peanut butter on top.

I hope these nutrition tips are helpful to get you started in your hypothalamic amenorrhea recovery.

Remember, the key is a healthy relationship with food. Please do reach out to me if you would like to discuss nutrition therapy for your disordered eating, as well as regaining your period.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Edinburgh EH1 & London SW1W
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Written by Shannon Western, Eating disorder & disordered eating, nutrition therapist
Edinburgh EH1 & London SW1W

Shannon is a nutritionist who specialises in helping people recover from eating disorders & disordered eating. She has supported 100s of people just like you.

She is the founder of Ease Nutrition Therapy, a team of online disordered eating nutritionists & dietitians.

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