Has your menstrual cycle been a bit less regular than usual? Or maybe it’s lighter or heavier? If it was previously regular, you might be wondering what’s caused it to change… You may be wondering ‘can diet affect my menstrual cycle?’ Well the answer is yes. In this blog, I’ll explain how.
Can diet affect my menstrual cycle?
A regular menstrual cycle is a sign of good health. Your menstrual cycle is regulated by hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Changes in these hormones will therefore affect your menstrual cycle. Research shows that our hormone production can be affected by our diet… so a change in diet can affect your menstrual cycle.
Let’s have a look at some of the ways this could happen.
Number 1 – Restrictive eating
Excessive calorie restriction has been strongly associated with menstrual change. Restrictive eating (such as in the case of Anorexia Nervosa, rapid weight loss or famine) often means that calorie intake is inadequate compared to energy burned. This calorie deficit may disrupt the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle and can cause shorter cycles or amenorrhea (which is a technical name for an absence of periods).
Number 2 – Following a vegetarian diet
A vegetarian diet can be a very healthy diet to follow, if you ensure you are meeting all your nutritional requirements. However, a study by Baines and colleagues suggested vegetarians have a higher rate of self-reported premenstrual and menstrual symptoms, as well as irregular cycles and heavier periods, compared to non-vegetarians. Furthermore, if you experience heavy bleeding during your cycle and are on a vegetarian diet, it is very important to ensure sure you are meeting your iron requirements to avoid anaemia.
Number 3 – Too much alcohol
Some studies have shown a relationship between excessive long-term alcohol consumption and cycle irregularities. If your menstrual cycle is irregular, it may be worth considering how much alcohol you consume.
Number 4 – Changes the amount of isoflavones in your diet
Isoflavones (also known as plant estrogens) are substances that occur naturally in plants, but have a similar structure to our own body’s estrogen. Some common foods containing isoflavones include soy products (like tofu and soy milk) and legumes (like lentils and chickpeas). Some studies suggest that isoflavones may improve symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes and night sweats.
The impact of isoflavones on the regularity of our menstrual cycles remains controversial. Most studies suggest that a diet high in isoflavones has little impact on the menstrual cycle, including length, amount of bleeding or hormone levels. However, if you’ve tried everything else, increasing or decreasing your isoflavone intake could be considered.
Number 5 – Weight changes
Being both underweight or overweight can impact your menstrual cycle…
If you are underweight you may experience irregular menstrual cycles, or in severe cases, amenorrhea. If your percentage of body fat is too low, your body will simply stop producing estrogen and therefore stop menstruation. Regaining weight safely with the guidance of a health professional and a diet rich in healthy fats from sources such fish, nuts, oils and avocado and can help restore your estrogen levels and resume menstruation.
On the other hand, being overweight can also lead to menstrual disruptions or amenorrhea. Problems occur when you have too many fat cells as they can produce an excessive amount of estrogen. And although there is no ovulation, blood continues to line the uterine wall and builds up to such an extent that, when you finally do get your period, it will be heavier and longer than normal. Losing body fat may help get your menstrual cycle back on track.
So you can see that a regular menstrual cycle is a good indication of hormonal balance. It’s even more important when you are trying to conceive, as ovulation obviously plays a big role in falling pregnant. If you need help restoring your menstrual cycle while trying to conceive download my free fertility meal plan at melaniemcgrice.com/fertility.
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