Exercise associated amenorrhea, occurs when a woman doesn't have a regular period either because she exercises too much, eats too few calories to support her activity or both. This phenomenon can be a serious problem for adolescent women who are in a major bone-building phase of development.
Sports medicine researchers, physicians and athletes are just beginning to understand the long-term consequences of amenorrhea. More and more evidence links the lack of a menstrual period due to excessive exercise or low calorie intake to a whole host of problems, including the irreversible bone loss that may lead to osteoporosis.
One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that teen girls who run cross-country and restrict their food intake are at high risk of developing weak bones during their teenage years. It was also more likely that these girls had a condition called the female athlete triad, a combination of:
- Low energy availability (eating disorders)
- Menstrual irregularities (amenorrhea)
- Weak bones (increased risk of stress fractures and osteoporosis)
An attempt to reduce body fat by extreme measures can lead to severe health complications including, nutrient deficiencies, fluid/electrolyte imbalance, increased risk of fractures, illness, loss of reproductive function and dehydration.
Also see: The American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand on the Female Athlete Triad