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Estrogen and Protein deficiency in my 20s
plantbasedproblems posted:
Besides being a late bloomer, I have always had a normal and consistent period up until I went off of birth control last March. I never saw my period again until December when I went on Birth Control for a month. Last summer I started a plant-based diet (no meat or dairy products), and I recently had my blood tested to see what the problem is. My physician told me my estrogen levels are hardly on the chart and I need more protein. She also said that I am not underweight, but I need to gain 5 pound in the next 3 months. What is the best way to do this? Which food are the best for me to eat? I noticed too that this my be why I am losing so much hair and sometimes have headaches and trouble sleeping. Do I need to start exercising or will that only decrease my estrogen levels? I want to have kids sometime within the next couple of years, so if need be I'll ditch the plant based diet so I can get my hormones back to where they need to be!
georgiagail responded:
Ditch the diet or modify it (i.e., add dairy back in for a start).

Jane Harrison Hohner, RN, RNP responded:
Dear plantbasedproblems: Georgiagail is/was a registered dietitian (RD) so I think her advice is excellent. I am not trained as a RD so I would just add some information about your low estrogen level questions.

You mentioned normal periods until going off birth control pills (BCPs) last March. For it to take up to three months after stopping BCPs for regular, natural cycles to return is not unusual. In November or so,a month's treatment was given in the form of BCPs, you then had a "pill period" when the Pill was stopped--hope I am tracking you correctly. It sounds like your MD did lab tests to work up the cause of the absent flows. These might have included: TSH (thyroid), prolactin (pituitary), estrogen, and possibly FSH/LH (premature menopause).

There are several explanations for a low estrogen:

1. Elevated prolactin from benign pituitary lesion--blood test would diagnose this condition.

2. Premature ovarian failure--this would show up with an elevated FSH level on blood test.

3. Hypothalamic amenorrhea--this is a diagnosis when FSH/LH are normal and all other blood tests are fine. In this scenario, severe stress (physical or emotional) impacts the hypothalamus and the body turns off ovulation then ultimately estrogen production. One extreme example of this would be starvation. Normal levels of exercise rarely create marked decreases in estrogen. Elite athletes/ballet dancers can get this however as a result of intense training coupled with decreased calories.

My best GUESS is that your GYN is hoping that increasing caloric intake will somehow improve hormonal levels through this mechanism. So eat healthy, exercise reasonably, try to decrease any stress. If your absent periods persist some additional testing might be indicated. You had normal periods until a year ago so one would hope that you will go back into that pattern.


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