Article #3: Ballerina Syndrome? Or Medical Ignorance?
In July 1981, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published an extensive study made of ballerinas by the Harvard School of Public Health. The Harvard School is mystified by a phenomenon known as "Terpsichore's Syndrome" or "Dancer's Syndrome."
What is this syndrome?
It is "delayed" menarche, irregular or nonexistent "menstruation" and other "abnormalities" among ballerinas. Many ballerinas do not start "menstruation" until 18 or later and even then a very high proportion "menstruate" only infrequently.
First, let's understand what these researchers of the Harvard School of Public Health mean by menstruation.
They do not mean the "sloughing off of the menses" which is what menstruation is, but "bloody discharge" which is not menstruation even though it accompanies menstruation almost universally in women of childbearing "age" in the modern world.
The article is primarily devoted to "reasons" and hypotheses as to why delayed menarche or menstrual abnormalities are characteristic of ballerinas. If the researchers had been looking on a broader scale they would have researched the subject more and discovered this same syndrome among the following: female tennis players, runners, swimmers, gymnasts, and in fact, all female athletes who exercise regularly and consistently. Further they would have found this syndrome among primitive females in certain areas of the world, most notably among Hunza women and among women who live thoroughly in accord with our biological adaptations per the health system advocated by Life Science!
If the Harvard School researchers had looked even farther, they might have noted that female domesticated dogs and cats often have bloody menstruation whereas their wild relatives do not.
Does not all this evidence begin to paint very plainly that the medical concensus on the subject is off-base?
In trying to explain why ballerinas do not have "normal" menarche and menstruation the following hypotheses were offered:
We'll comment on these "reasons" and hypotheses after presenting the gist of yet other discussions held at the Harvard School of Public Health. These discussions focused on the physiological agencies that triggered the onset of puberty.
The foremost hypotheses advanced were as follows:
In presenting these hypotheses the health officials made an observation that has a very vital bearing on the study: it was noted that ballerinas who had an injury that prevented further dancing very soon thereafter realized menarche and/or "normal menstruation."
Let's examine these hypotheses one by one in the light of established biological principles and see what truths, if any, have emerged from this study.
Saying "late maturers" choose to be ballet dancers obviously wins the dunce's award! You might as well say that people not inclined to be ballet dancers choose to mature early. Such an asinine observation implies that females have preset menarche times which would start from nine to nineteen years and only mothers whose daughters' menarche are set for the upper teens enroll their daughters in ballet.
But this first suggestion "late maturers choose to be ballet dancers" is flatly contradicted by the observation that ballerinas who sustain debilitating injuries speedily begin menarche. Don't these researchers see their own inconsistencies? Why do "late maturers'' become early maturers when they are injured?
Because ballerinas eat frugally does not justify saying they are undernourished, as the article implies. Ballerinas exercise long and hard. As any fan of ballet or other dancing will tell you, ballerinas are wonderful specimens of superb femininity, fitness, beauty and health.
If our researchers wanted to see the effects of undernourishment among young women, they had only to observe certain-parts of India where undernourishment is perpetual. There, young girls consistently menstruate at ages eight to ten! America's average age of puberty onset is now ten to twelve! Does this observation point to undernourishment or something else as a cause of "late onset of puberty"? Obviously this hypothesis is unwarranted conjecture.
"Hard physical exercise delays puberty." is another witless statement though it is closer on target than the first two statements. Yes, exercise does "cause" delay of menarche and it does "cause" abnormal and irregular menstruation. I have put "cause" in quotation marks because these researchers are using the word "cause" in a misleading sense.
The statement "the low fat/high lean ratio of body tissues may delay menarche and cause menstrual disturbances" is as illogical as the attribution of undernourishment. Skinny and malnourished young Indian girls begin menarche and menstruation at eight to ten years with the same dispatch our young girls enter into it at ten to twelve years of age. So it is plain our researchers are wrong here too.
The next two hypotheses about what triggers puberty are without a great deal of relevance although both contain some truth.
Puberty does, indeed, occur in humans and all other animals in clocklike fashion at almost identical ages where environmental and extrinsic body factors are more or less the same. But, where these factors differ the time of menarche also differs. Just what are these factors that cause onset of menarche? Are they inherent factors or environmental factors or an interaction of both? Menarche, the onset of puberty, is genetically encoded— that's why, obviously, some animals reproduce within a year and others cannot reproduce until an age of many years has been attained. But, when we have members of a given species arriving at menarche with such wide variations as 8 to 18 years of age, something strange is involved. Mother Nature doesn't work that way—ask any farmer and he will tell you how close are his hens in age when they begin egg-laying or his heifers in their first heat.
The hypothesis that the onset of puberty is genetically encoded, controlled by a biological clock, does not account for such a wide variation of age on onset.
Another theory is that puberty onset is triggered by a biological signal outside the central nervous system when a specific weight or body composition is reached. Again, this hypothesis is more or less on target. Though an obviously true hypothesis, these researchers do not come close to the real reason why this hypothesis might be correct.
What is the real story?
Those who have perspicaciously examined and studied the phenomenon of menstruation (the sloughing off of the menses periodically in preparation for ovulation) observe that it is abnormal for this to be accompanied by blood-letting. Yet menstruation accompanied by bloody discharge is abnormal, then why is it so universal?
Let's establish one thing right away. Blood discharge is, indeed, abnormal—it is unnatural. We do not observe in nature a scheme for blood-letting, discomforts, disability or disease under natural conditions. Obviously some unnatural conditions exist among creatures who exhibit variances to nature's norm.
The medical establishment and those with a medical orientation in our society regard bloody menstruation as normal and are mystified and perplexed when that periodic bloody discharge fails to put in its regular appearance. What they regard as normal is obviously unnatural by the criteria we have cited. Hence there are obviously some flaws in medical premises or assumptions on this subject.
Those who have studied the subject know that the age of onset of puberty is advancing one month every five years in our society. Can it be that our genetic encoding is evolving to make puberty in humans an ever-earlier occurrence? Why is not the same accelerated appearance of menarche occurring in wild animals too?
To arrive at the answer, all our researchers had to do was to go back to our biological basics. The foremost instinct in animal life, humans included, is preservation of self. In certain circumstances a secondary instinct becomes primary: the survival of kind or species. Nature has built into creatures a multitude of safeguards to insure against extinction.
Hence we witness under a broad spectrum of circumstances or crises this salient factor, survival of kind, (either family, tribe, community, nation, race or species) takes precedence over personal survival. This happens on a biological basis as well as on a psychological basis. Thus the instinct for reproduction of kind often asserts itself with untoward emphasis when a life-endangering situation exists. This is most dramatically expressed by a farmer's adage: "plants that are sickly go to seed quickly."
This sheds some light on the dilemma the researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health got themselves into. They failed to take cognizance of basic principles that appertain within the biological realm.
Thus it becomes apparent that the earlier the onset of menarche and reproductive faculties, the more a life-endangering situation exists for the organism. And, likewise the longer menarche requires to put in an appearance, up to a point, the more normal and salubrious is the condition of the subject organism.
Once this salient fact becomes a part of our thinking, the sooner we will begin to comprehend what the "ballerina syndrome" is all about. Ballerinas' extraordinary fitness is evident to all. Fitness and health are practically synonymous terms. Thus we begin to ascertain that menarche and "menstruation" (the kind accompanied by bloody discharge) has something to do with the woman's state of health.
A mere 150 years ago our female forebears (young women who arrived at menarche) experienced puberty at an average age of fourteen to fifteen years. In some European countries the average age was sixteen to seventeen years. The same held for some Asiatic countries, notably those ultrahealthy Hunzas whose menarche was not reached until sixteen to seventeen years of age.
The principle is thus revealed: the healthier the female the later menarche occurs, which happens when the genetically encoded biological clock decrees it. The less healthy the female, the sooner menarche occurs to offset the possibility that poor health will evolve into infertility.
In the case of the ballerinas as well as women athletes we witness but one thing: the phenomenon of health. This contrasts with a medically established "norm" of a population that is, on average, pathological!
Reprinted from Better Life Journal, January 1981
Home > Lesson 78 - Reproductive Problems Of Men And Woman
P.S.If you would like to learn more about how to go raw and experience the best health and vitality of your life, please subscribe in the form below or visit Fit On Raw.
In addition to weekly raw food and fitness advice, you'll also receive my free report The 4 Principles of a Healthy Raw Diet and my 5-week mini-course The Fool Proof Transition to Raw just for subscribing: