Extreme dieting can be very damaging to the reproductive system. Many women, desperate to lose weight quickly in order to increase their self worth, or perhaps hoping it could lead to pregnancy, sometimes turn to extreme methods–which always have negative outcomes.
Extreme dieters usually restrict their food intake severely, perhaps concentrating on only one food type, such as when following the cabbage soup diet. This can quickly result in nutritional deficiencies which will affect every part of the body, including the reproductive organs. Calcium, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin C and zinc, as well as other nutrients, all contribute in different ways to reproductive health as well as general health. A deficiency in any of these can cause amenorrhea (a stopped period) and can increase discomfort associated with PMS. Nutritional deficiencies can also interfere with the endocrine system, which controls the hormones that make up a woman’s reproductive monthly cycle.
Nutritional deficiency can also affect a baby in the womb. In the first twelve weeks, when many women may not suspect they are pregnant, the fetus is developing organs using the same nutrients as the mother. Low levels of nutrition at this vital stage can lead to miscarriage, low birth weight, premature birth and even birth defects.
Even if an extreme diet does work, it can lead to long term health problems like anorexia. It might also drop body fat to dangerous levels, levels at which the body will halt fertility processes in order to conserve energy. It may not even seem to be affected, as sometimes periods will continue even when fertility has been lowered.
The Yo-Yo Effect
Extreme dieting usually doesn’t work and leads to what’s known as the yo-yo effect. Extreme dieters will attempt to lose weight by starving themselves, and will lose muscle mass in the process, as well as upset their metabolism, which will slow down in order to conserve energy. Then, when the diet is over, they will put the weight back on quickly, and gain even more than they started with, due to the metabolism and muscle mass changes. Weight gain also has negative effects on fertility, so by putting on even more weight they are lessening their chances of getting pregnant. The more times they try a crash diet, the more weight they end up gaining.
Extreme dieting is also very hard to maintain and the failure, as well as the lack of energy, can lead to high levels of stress and depression. This, in turn can effect the reproductive system, and make it more difficult to conceive. Stress and dieting can also lead to other behaviors that limit fertility, such as consuming a lot of caffeine in the form of coffee and sugar free soda, or smoking.
Extreme dieting has many negative effects and very few positive ones. Even if some weight is lost, it will almost definitely be put back on, and it may actually increase your weight in the long term. Following a healthy, balanced lifestyle and avoiding extreme dieting is the best way to protect your reproductive health.