Women need to keep their bones and menstrual cycle healthy in order to avoid various ailments, especially after menopause. However, eating disorder can seriously disrupt healthy menstrual cycle and bone health, resulting in serious health conditions. One problem with eating disorder is that people who have it often deny that they are ill. Many also think that only thin people have eating disorder. This can lead to late treatment, resulting in disrupted menstrual cycle and bad bone condition.
Eating Disorder and Menstrual Cycle
There is strong connection between eating disorder and menstruation. Amenorrhea, or complete stop of menstrual cycle in young women, often happens to women who experience eating disorder called Anorexia Nervosa, or in lesser extent, Bulimia Nervosa. About 84% of women diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa experienced amenorrhea or infrequent menstrual cycle. Similar symptoms also present in about 40% of women diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa, which range from infrequent or irregular menstruation to complete stop of menstrual cycle.
Disrupted menstrual cycle in people with eating disorder happens because they get low intake of balanced nutrition, and have their normal physiological and hormonal functions disrupted due to lack of balanced meal. Things that can affect menstrual cycle are not just meal restriction, but also binge eating and excessive exercises.
When a young person experiences amenorrhea, she will eventually develop symptoms of menopause, even though she is still at the childbearing age. This can lead to other conditions that mimic menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, cognitive disruption, mood swings, shrunken ovaries and uterus, infertility, and bone problem. The last one brings us to another effect of eating disorder: decreased bone health.
Eating Disorder and Bone Density
Menopause symptoms that happen to young women who experience eating disorder can result in poor bone health. Eating disorder and bones have strong relation; people with this disorder often develop brittle bones and osteoporosis, similar with women who enter their menopause period at normal age ranges. There is a common myth that says exercise will help women developing stronger bones even when they have eating disorder, but this is wrong.
Poor bone health that comes from eating disorder cannot be reserved, unless the person gets proper treatment and goes back to normal, healthy eating pattern. If a person with eating disorder gets late treatment, this can result to permanent bone damage.
How to Get Help for Eating Disorder
Some people, especially teenagers and young women, believe that birth control pill can help reducing symptoms of eating disorder, such as disrupted menstrual cycle. However, the effect is mostly artificial and does not actually contribute to full recovery. If you suspect that someone you know has eating disorder, here are several recommended steps:
- Talk to the person, but don’t be judgmental. Make the person understand that you will give full support without making him or her feel bad. This is the first step to recovery.
- Contact eating disorder hotline. Check if your area has center for eating disorder treatment, whether in a hospital/clinic or as an individual institution. Start by calling their hotline, or if there is no such facility, contact a therapist.
- Explore all possible treatments with the affected person. There are various treatments aimed at eating disorder, often with the combination of medical, cognitive, and family-based therapies.
Eating disorder really affects important things such as menstrual cycle and bone density, but proper treatments can help affected people reversing the condition.