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Stress Can Throw Menstrual Cycle Off Track, a Holistic Lifestyle Can Help

Stress cramping your style? Dr Kiran Coelho talks about how stress throws the menstrual cycle off track and how a holistic lifestyle can help

Recently, Dr Kiran Coelho, senior gynaecologist, met a patient who had a severe problem with her menstrual cycle. She went into amenorrhea, which essentially means that she had no periods for six to eight months. She was going through a stressful time with her boyfriend. Desperately wanting to lose weight, the girl developed an aversion to food and suffered from anorexia nervosa. Having prescribed basic yoga exercises, a planned diet and meditation, she gained 10 kilos without any medication. She regained her self-esteem and came to terms with the end of her relationship.

Whether it’s exams, job or relationship related, there is an established link between stress and the menstrual cycle. If your periods are irregular or you’ve started skipping them, there is a cause for alarm.

Stress affects the thyroid gland, which is the conductor of the orchestra of the human body. When the thyroid gland is affected, it results in either frequent or irregular periods or heavy bleeding or amenorrhea. In fact, the first sign of thyroid imbalance is irregular periods.


To understand where things go wrong, you should know how it works first:

» There is a finely tuned balance between a higher centre in the brain, the pituitary gland and the ovaries
» The higher centre has a releasing factor that acts on the pituitary gland, which produces a hormone
» The hormone orders an egg in the ovary to ripen
» Once the egg reaches 2 cm, it sends a smoke signal to the brain
» The brain sends marching orders for the egg to release.

If all this doesn’t work with military precision, then there is an imbalance in the body. The thyroid gland is also connected to the pituitary gland. The periods become irregular or stop showing up. If the egg doesn’t rupture, it accumulates in the ovary and ovulation doesn’t occur. Bad news.

This pile up of eggs that refuse to leave home leads to polycystic syndrome. One in five girls in the reproductive age group suffers from this. That isn’t the end of the problems though. The unripe egg is yet to unleash its fury. It produces male hormones which cause acne, weight gain and loss of hair on the scalp. And you can happily, and correctly, blame all this on stress. While it’s easy to moan about a busy schedule, ignoring the alarm signals can lead to severe repercussions. Take a firm decision to step back, smell the roses and calm down.


The first thing that a doctor prescribes to her patients is a holistic lifestyle change. With discipline and commitment, it is possible to be problem-free within three to six months, depending on the severity. This includes a change in diet, a pumped up exercise plan and setting a regular sleep pattern. In fact, for adolescent girls, a lifestyle change is more important than giving hormones. The only time a girl is given hormones is if she suffers from severe bleeding or gross hirsutism and acne.

Here are the few steps you can take:

» Orchestrate a lifestyle change before resorting to medication
» Avoid self-medication, only painkillers for spasms are safe
» Avoid excessive salt and sugar
» Follow a Satvik diet (or Yogic diet) — it includes food that is basic and cooked using minimal heat. Without extensive processing, the food retains its natural form. Cow’s milk is the most complete and nourishing Satvik food, onion, garlic, red chillies and black pepper and other pungent and astringent spices are prohibited. Eat sprouts and green vegetables
» Exercise releases serotonin, a feel good hormone. A brisk walk for 30 minutes, five days a week will do the trick.
» Equip your mind to fight stress with meditation, pranayams and Vipassana. Follow this and your periods will become regular.

Dr Coelho, who deals with infertility, says 30 per cent of her patients suffer from sub-fertility or difficulty in conceiving. Of these, 80 per cent have polycystic syndrome and are stress related. They respond very well to the lifestyle change. They shed weight, have planned intercourse and conceive within a few months.

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