What is RED-S?

Relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) is a syndrome in which a person’s energy intake does not meet their energy requirements. It is an umbrella term that encompasses what is known as the female athlete triad (menstrual dysfunction, decreased bone density, and low energy availability). For many people, this can manifest as any combination of irregular or absent periods, stress fracture, and low BMI. Recent research has shown that RED-S affects much more than just those three areas of health though. It can affect immune function, fertility, mental health, endurance, and digestion among others. Equally as important, RED-S can affect both males and females.

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Why is it Important to Identify RED-S?

Since RED-S can affect so many aspects of your health like those listed above, it can have both short-term and long-term effects on the body. This can affect performance, lead to injuries such as stress fractures that can be difficult to heal from or even career-ending, and lead to long-term issues such as recurrent infections or infertility.

What Kinds of Things Would Suggest That Someone Suffers from RED-S?

Examples of issues that might point towards RED-S include recurrent stress fractures, difficult to heal stress fractures, irregular periods, the onset of periods after age 16, or low BMI. Other things such as recurrent infections or poor athletic performance can be more subtle but might be considered a sign of RED-S depending on the rest of the clinical picture.

What Do We Do to Treat RED-S?

It is important to make sure that nothing else is causing some of the issues above. Generally, labs are checked to make sure things such as thyroid function and nutrient levels are in an optimal range. If someone has recurrent stress fractures, it is important to evaluate their bone density. Treatment generally focuses on increasing energy intake to meet energy needs, which often involves coordination between a physician, athletic trainer, nutritionist, and occasionally a mental health specialist.

What Should I Do If I Think I or Someone I Care About Might Have RED-S?

If you suffer from any of the issues listed above, it may be worth having a one-time consultation for RED-S. One of our physicians would be happy to sit down with you and determine if you would benefit from lab testing and setting you up with resources that could help you. To set up an appointment for further evaluation, please call (208) 336-8250.

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“You don’t play sports to get fit, you get fit to play sports.”