The “Female Athlete Triad” – When Eating Disorders and Dangerous Exercise Meet


stretching-muscles-579122_640 (1)Sports and exercise are important and healthy activities for individuals of all age, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. It is becoming increasingly common for women involved with athletics to be diagnosed with a set of conditions known as the “female athlete triad” that can be incredibly dangerous.

For female athletes, there is great pressure to be thing or lightweight which can lead to eating too little or exercising too much. This can contribute to long-term health damage and even death if the behaviors and associated health problems go unnoticed and untreated.

When women combine extreme eating behaviors with excessive exercise is a dangerous equation that contribute to three interrelated illnesses.

The three conditions are:

  • Disordered eating – Abnormal eating habits such as extreme dieting or binge eating prevent the body from getting much needed nutrition, which is only exacerbated by excessive exercise.
  • Amenorrhea – Poor nutrition, low calorie intake, high-energy activities, and low percentage of body fat can trigger hormonal changes that that prematurely stop menstrual periods.
  • Osteoporosis – Lack of nutrients and amenorrhea disrupt the body’s bone-building processes and contribute to thinning of the bones, making fractures more likely.

These conditions that make up the female athlete triad are most associated with young women striving to reach the highest levels of athletics and dance, but the triad can hit any woman who combines extreme dieting and exercise.

While it might not sound like the worst deal to have your periods stop in adulthood before you even reach menopause, the reality is much less appealing. The triad wreaks havoc on the endocrine system, and the normal risk of osteoporosis in increasing age is heightened significantly.

While the triple-whammy of disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis are bad enough, they also contribute to numerous physical and psychological symptoms that serve as warning signs that severe damage is being done to the body.

The warning signs for the female athlete triad include:

  • Dehydration
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Hypothermia (cold intolerance)
  • Cardiac abnormalities including low hearth rate or abnormal changes in heart rate
  • Stress fractures
  • Significant weight loss
  • Muscle cramps, weakness, or fatigue
  • Dental and gum problems
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Body dysmorphia
  • Excessive use of the restroom
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoidance of eating and eating situations

Female athletes face unique pressures at any age that their male counterparts often do not, but combining dangerous eating and exercise habits have consequences that can not only prevent you from reaching your goals and dreams. It can do long term damage to your health.

If you or anyone you know are experiencing signs of symptoms of the female triad or dangerous eating and exercise habits, call us at (888) 298-4673. We can help assist you with any questions or concerns you have.

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