Is Your Daughter Eating Too Little?
Many girls who play sports don’t eat enough to keep their bones and bodies healthy.
By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
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When a girl goes to the doctor for a sports injury, her doctor may ask her about her period. That’s because irregular menstruation is one sign that a young athlete is not getting enough calories.
Regan, who runs track for her High School in Columbus, Ohio, can log up to 40 miles in a week. A girl who is training at that level may need 3,500 calories a day, more than the average adult male, but Regan wasn’t getting them.
She ignored the early signs of trouble, including an irregular period. Then she was sidelined by shin splints in her legs.
“What other people were saying about calorie intake and the consequences of not eating enough, I didn’t think those things really applied to me,” Regan said. The result was that she missed an entire season of track, but the consequences could have been worse.
The condition is known as female athlete triad syndrome because it is characterized by low energy, irregular menstruation, and weak bones. Untreated, it can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant.
Anastasia Fischer, MD, a sports medicine physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital says the syndrome is more common than people realize.
“Some girls who have this syndrome do have serious eating disorders, but most do not,” Dr. Fischer said. “We have girls who are competing at a very high level who aren’t even meeting the minimal requirements for health. They might be only eating 600 to 800 calories in a day.”
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