Most of us remember our 30th birthday. No longer young, yet neither old, the third decade is said to be a period of clarity, bringing heightened self-awareness and confidence.
For me, it certainly felt like a transition: finishing up five years of graduate school, I was preparing to embrace change. Yet, I was also preoccupied with another deadline – around 30, we stop building bone.
At 26, I went to see my gynecologist, hoping to change my birth control. Feeling healthy and strong, I expected a routine appointment. Yet, over a series of visits, I discovered that, despite no noticeable loss in energy, strength, or weight, my bone density had been silently decreasing for years. It was severe enough that I had osteopenia, a condition in which the body does not make new bone as quickly as it reabsorbs old bone. Were it to continue, I would certainly develop osteoporosis, an irreversible disease in which bones are brittle and fracture easily.
I was diagnosed with relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S), a condition where the body does not take in enough energy to meet the demands placed on it. For women, this results in hormonal imbalances that reduce estrogen, a hormone critical for bone health.
The conversations I had with doctors and specialists remain muffled in my memory. But, the numbers are glass, clear and sharp: In parts of my body, I had 81% of normal bone density; I had around four years (until I turned 30) left to build the bone back.
I read a number of personal accounts of men and women diagnosed with RED-S, yet, never found a story of recovered bone density loss. It was easy to feel alone in my journey without a timeline, without benchmarks, and without a roadmap. I had to trust that my body would set itself right, if I was on its side.Continue reading “RED-S: Part III”