Bulimia-filter, unfortunately: why is my period in overdrive?
October 13, 2008 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Eating disorders can make your period stop. So why does it seem like mine is making my period occur more often?

I know YANAD and YANMD - and I have a great shrink, am in hardcore treatment, and am seriously getting better, I promise - but I have a lingering question about menstruation and eating disorders.

I am currently recovering from bulimia. Over the course of my eating disorder, I've noticed that if I purged a lot (more than 3 times a week) that I would start getting my period twice a month, instead of just once.

The "second" period would come with no warning, no PMS or anything else that I usually feel before proper monthly menstruation. It tends to be a bit lighter but still more than just spotting.

Do any medically-minded MeFites know what could cause this? It's happened to me four or five times. I had a bad week last week and was purging again, and - wham bam - there comes the random period.

Any ideas would be wonderful. Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know a lot about bulimia, but I did have problems with my period when I was very depressed. Stress seemed to make it worse. Could it be possible that part of your bulimic cycle is stress, then bingeing, then purging, then stress again? Stress can do all sorts of things to your body, and this might be how your body is reacting.

Best of luck; I'm sure what you're going through is extremely difficult.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 1:45 PM on October 13, 2008

Seconding mitzyjalapeno. When I'm under a lot of stress I sometimes get my period more frequently - there have been times when it's come every ten days or so. Boy was that great.

Good luck on your recovery.
posted by smartyboots at 1:55 PM on October 13, 2008

IANAD but I have been in treatment for bulimia. It can genuinely screw with your body. I very, very, very highly recommend seeing a physician. Especially someone you trust. Don't know if you have trauma issues but if you have a fear/anxiety about seeing a doctor, talk to your therapist about it and figure out a safe way of going. There could be something going on, esp. with the trauma your body goes through with purging.

Stay safe and take good care of you.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:58 PM on October 13, 2008

I think the part of the eating disorder that makes your period stop (or delays it starting) is dropping below a certain low, low body fat percentage. Some athletes experience the same thing when they're training really hard. Whatever is causing it to come more often is likely due to some other factor.
posted by fshgrl at 2:43 PM on October 13, 2008

FWIW, your period can stop due to very low body fat percentage, but it can also stop just because of the eating disorder. (I've had issues in the past, resulting in loss of period, and believe me, I've never been anywhere near the low end of the body fat spectrum.)

I'm seconding the stress cycle theory.
posted by iguanapolitico at 3:19 PM on October 13, 2008

So during the luteal phase you secret lots of progesterone which helps to thicken the uterine lining.

This study on bulimic women correlated bulimic symptoms during the mid-luteal and premenstrual phases.

The above study, this one and this one found increased cortisol levels in bulimic women. The third study also found the highest levels of cortisol in bulimic women with amenorrhea or ovulatory dysfunction.

Elevated cortisol levels, decreased LH pulse frequency, low plasma progesterone levels, decreased T3 and insulin levels all probably serve to interrupt the 28 day menstrual cycle. I can't find any research specific to whether incomplete ovulation leads to uterine lining shedding before full development, or full development is achieved and only a partial uterine shedding occurs which then potentially regrows and the lining sheds during the next period of bulimic activity.
posted by zentrification at 3:28 PM on October 13, 2008

I've also had exactly this problem (though minus the eating disorder). I asked my doctor about it, and she said it was almost certainly due to stress - however I am having a general check up done anyway.
Though it does sound like it's a stress-related problem, it would probably be a good idea for you to check with your doctor too. Good luck with your recovery!
posted by pocketfluff at 4:49 PM on October 13, 2008

Hmm, are you on birth control? The only thing I can think of is that you've inadvertently purged your pill and consequently have a bit of withdrawal spotting.
posted by mjao at 12:01 AM on October 18, 2008

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