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Menstrual Problems with Weight Loss


Question

I have a female client 37 years old who has experienced dramatic bf% loss in 5 weeks when I put her on a nutrition program.

She went from very poor nutrition and 2 meals a day to a 40-35-25 % (carb-pro-fat) ratio diet and 6 meals a day. She's now eating calcium, flaxseed, protein powders and multivitamins that she hasn't done before. She's lost 2 1/2" on her waist and similar measurement losses elsewhere. She drinks lots of water and we are doing appropriate resistance training.

The problem is her menstrual cycle this month. She has never experienced such painful cramps or lower back pain but this month she has. I would have thought that a drop in weight/body fat and better nutrition would lessen menstrual problems.

Any ideas? I'm wondering if it's the flaxseed.

Answer

NOTE: The following answers have come from the C.H.E.K. Institute web forum. For more information about the Forum or about C.H.E.K. certification and continuing education courses, please visit www.chekinstitute.com

ANSWER #1:

The problem is probably not the flaxseed. However, the lady's rapid weight loss and protein source could certainly be contributing. Let me clarify. The body’s solution to pollution is dilution. Toxins are stored in adipose (fat) tissue. These toxins, including xenobiotics (pesticide residue, etc.) and xenoestrogenic compounds (from plastics to those used in agriculture production) can be strong endocrine disrupters. With any rapid weight loss toxic byproducts are released into general circulation. At this point the body has to address the problem via the livers phase I and II detoxification pathways. The inability to reduce and eliminate them will create endocrine havoc, as your client is experiencing.

The key for this lady is to return to whole food nutrition to maximize her Body’s detoxification and hormonal systems. Protein powders are deficient in a number of factors including high quality saturated fats that are essential for stress and reproductive hormonal creation and stabilization.

Stress reduction is also critical because the body preferentially allocates hormonal production to address stress before repair and eventually reproduction. A close inspection of primary stressors include her diet and hydration (quality, ratios, and amount), sleep cycles, exercise load (balanced catabolic vs. anabolic), toxic exposure and most importantly emotional factors must be identified and maximally reduced.

ANSWER #2:

Your client may have problems with the flaxseed because people of different races will vary with what nutrients make them healthy and vital. If you refer to the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston A. Price, he refers to different people from different nationalities that have varied diets but are extremely healthy. One extreme is the Babira, Alur and Balendu tribes in Africa that subsist on mostly cereal grains (unrefined), and then you have the Eskimos of Alaska who are extremely healthy on a diet that consists mostly of fats and proteins.

Your client may be constipated do to the sudden intake of high fiber in the diet. Constipation can lead to a myriad of problems. According to Elizabeth Lipski, author of Digestive Wellness, she says that constipation is NOT having a bowel movement 1-2 times per day. She also indicates that transit time (time it takes food to enter mouth and out through anus) should be 12-24 hours. If this is not happening Lipski says a number of things can be happening:

  1. Waste materials can sit in the colon, accumulating bile acids that will irritate the colon.
  2. Excess hormones may not be eliminated thus reabsorbing into the blood increasing the amount of estrogen in the body.

If the colon is irritated, it can have effects on the abdominal musculature. The colon and lumbar spine are on the same neurological loop therefore if the colon is irritated because of the constipation then the abdominal wall will not function, thus leaving the lumbar spine unprotected. Along the same line as the connection of the colon/abdominals, the adrenal glands are on the same neurological loop as the low back muscles. Therefore if the adrenal glands are stressed or depleted, this will inhibit the function of the lower back musculature. This may be a possible issue since you said that your client had a "dramatic" loss of body fat.

A dramatic change in the body may have exhausted the adrenals. This can happen a number of ways. If your client came to see you with high stress in her life due to work, relationship, financial, etc., your exercise program could have over stimulated her sympathetic nervous system thus exhausting the adrenal glands.

Remember that exercise is a stress to the body; the adrenal glands must deal with the stress. Depending on the condition of your client, exercise in combination with your client’s other physiological changes might indicate exhaustion of the adrenal glands.

If your client is constipated, excess hormones such as estrogen will accumulate in the colon and be absorbed back into the bloodstream. This may upset the hormonal balance, thus magnifying the symptoms of her menstrual cycle.

You also stated that she was taking protein shakes. If the protein source was from soy, she may have had a high intake of phytoestrogens, a plant form of human estrogen. This may mimic estrogen and may disturb her menstrual cycle. If she is taking any soy products, immediately take them out of her diet and replace them with organic, unprocessed, whole food proteins. Another aspect to examine is dietary fat intake. You stated that her fat percentage is 25% of her diet. Of the 25%, what are the sources of fat? Be careful NOT to exclude saturated fats in the diet. According to Sally Fallon, the author of Nourishing Traditions, saturated fats are important in many physiological processes in the body. They constitute 50% of cell walls, enhance the immune system, and needed for proper essential fatty acid utilization. There are many other important roles that they play but foods that contain saturated fats also contain dietary cholesterol. Fallon states that cholesterol in the diet is vital because it is a precursor to corticosteroids which allow the body to deal with stress and also the precursor to our sex hormones. If the ratio of her fat intake of 25% is devoid of saturated fat, this will not provide adequate raw materials for proper hormonal production thus leading to irregularities in her menstrual cycle.

Good sources of saturated fat are any organic free-range meats, eggs, and raw dairy products (if she is not intolerant to dairy).

In regards to the exercise program, assessing the client is critical. This encompasses checking posture, length tension tests, and screening for red flags. This also includes factoring in the occupation of your client. 80% of the workplace is seated; therefore if your client is working in a seated environment, checking posture is critical before designing any exercise program. If inappropriate resistance exercise is introduced too early in the program, injury may result. Depending on the condition of the client, you should always follow a phase of training in the order of stability, strength and power.

Refer to the C.H.E.K institute for great ideas for exercise videos and correspondence courses.