Can Low Caloric Intake Affect Your Period?

Young woman holding a fork in a bowl of salad
Less calories may affect your period. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Watching your caloric intake is a good way to lose unwanted pounds or maintain a healthy weight. However, if your intake is too low, this can result in unwanted side effects, such as missing your period. If you have skipped a period or are concerned that your caloric intake may be too low, talk to your doctor. She can help you determine how much to eat and discuss any menstrual irregularities you experience.

Healthy Caloric Intake

The amount of calories you need in a day will depend on multiple factors, but in general, women need fewer calories than men. Your caloric intake will also vary according to your activity level and fitness goals. For example, people who are more active will require more calories than those who are less active, and if you are trying to lose weight, you will typically need to consume fewer calories than someone who is trying to maintain her weight. But in general, women should not consume fewer than 1,200 calories a day, unless they are under the direct supervision of a doctor. Eating less than this can result in potentially harmful side effects.

Adverse Effects of Low Caloric Intake

A caloric intake that is too low can cause you to skip a period or otherwise alter the regularity of your menstrual cycle. But a diet that consists of 1,100 calories a day or fewer poses additional health risks such as fatigue, hair loss, intolerance to cold and gallstones. If you have an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, your caloric intake may be even lower than 1,100 calories a day, and it is likely that your period will stop altogether. The severe caloric restriction that accompanies an eating disorder can also result in symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, fainting, brittle nails, constipation, dry skin, low blood pressure and dehydration.

Other Causes of Menstrual Irregularities

Following a low-calorie diet does not necessarily mean that you will adversely affect your period. If you consume 1,200 calories or more a day but still notice changes in your menstrual cycle, this could be occurring for other reasons. Pregnancy, polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and uterine fibroids can all cause changes in your period. If you are concerned about your menstrual cycle, have skipped a period or noticed any recent irregularities, see your doctor.

Additional Considerations

To maintain your weight while still keeping your health intact, it is important to eat the right amount of calories, as well as follow a nutrient-rich diet. If you need assistance determining the caloric intake that is right for you, consider working with a licensed dietitian. If you have recently begun a diet and are now skipping your period, see your doctor to determine if you need to eat more calories or if another factor is altering your menstrual cycle.

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