Tired of always being tired? You’re not alone. We live in a fast-paced world where many of us embrace fatigue as a part of life. But when you are a woman with PCOS, fatigue can take a whole new meaning. For many women living with PCOS, fatigue sets in even before the day can begin. You’re too tired to get out of bed….you’re too tired for your morning jog…you’re too tired to even make a healthy breakfast. And you tiredness only worsens as the day progresses. So what’s going on? Let’s find out the connection between PCOS and fatigue, and can you do something about it?
PCOS And Fatigue: What’s Going On?
Hormonal imbalance lies at the very heart of PCOS. It also makes you more vulnerable to physical, mental and environmental stressors like a poor diet, lack of exercise, sleep deprivation and building up stress.
If you suffer from PCOS, neglecting your own needs can manifest itself in the form of fatigue. That’s when your afternoon slump is more than just feeling sluggish. The hormonal imbalances going on in your body, coupled with stress, cause rapid changes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
PCOS and fatigue may make you feel:
- Too tired to get out of bed in the mornings
- Extremely sleepy and tired by afternoon
- Suffer from shakes and sweating
- Have headaches, migraines, and weakness
- Experience vision changes
- Or a combination of all of the above
Studies have found that approximately 50-70% of all women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) may have some degree of insulin resistance. With insulin dysfunction comes hyperinsulinemia wherein the body pumps out more and more insulin in an effort to normalize blood glucose levels. It’s this hyperinsulinemia and fluctuations in blood sugar that is the primary reason behind periods of profound fatigue in women with PCOS.
What you need is a PCOS plan to beat fatigue! With a couple of minor lifestyle changes, you can boost your energy levels and start to feel more human.
PCSO And Fatigue: Causes And What Can You Do About Them
Always running on empty? If you’re perpetually tired and the very sight of your to-do list makes you want to crawl back into bed, you’re probably dealing with one (or more!) of these problems:
Your Blood Sugar Levels Are Imbalanced
Untreated insulin resistance can cause spiking and plummeting blood sugar levels that worsen fatigue. You may feel your fatigue rise and drop in waves, and always feel a bit better right after you eat.
What Can You Do About It?
The key to correcting imbalanced blood sugar levels is to eat a balanced diet. Make sure you’re getting good fats, complex carbohydrates and healthy proteins in every meal. Don’t worry about calculating the exact macronutrient profile if that simply adds to your stress levels. Instead, try this simple 4-step approach:
- Fill up one-half of your plate with any non-starchy vegetables of your choice. Examples are: lettuce, broccoli, zucchini, spinach, carrots, beans, asparagus, and tomatoes.
- Next, fill one-quarter of your plate with a lean protein of your choice. Examples are: poached salmon, tuna, grilled chicken or turkey breast, and eggs.
- Fill the last quarter of your plate with carbohydrate-dense foods. We recommend white and sweet potatoes, quinoa, oats, brown rice, fruit, and root vegetables like squash and beets.
- Cook or top your vegetables and protein with healthy fats. Good examples are nuts, seeds, extra-virgin olive oil, organic coconut oil, grass-fed butter and ghee, coconut and avocados.
To keep your blood sugar levels balanced, what you eat is just as important as when you eat. It’s important to eat regularly. Ensure you eat your breakfast within 1.5 hours of waking up. If you’re feeling fatigued, it’s a good idea to eat mini-meals every 4 hours. I simply divide my lunch and dinner each into two individual boxes – 1 meal turns into 2 portions. And that simplifies my life! I just have to eat a portion of food every 3-4 hours post breakfast.
Along with regularized meals, you can also try cinnamon and inositol to help balance blood sugar levels.
You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
Lying in bed for 8 hours every night doesn’t ensure a good night’s sleep. If you’re spending a lot of those hours tossing and turning in bed or worrying about next day’s to-do list, your fatigue could be caused by lack of sleep.
Your sleep affects your blood sugar levels. Lack of sleep can lead to insulin resistance, increased fatigue as well as weight gain. If you aren’t getting 7-8 hours of shut-eye, or have trouble falling asleep at night and waking up in the morning, you need to prioritize sleep.
What Can You Do About It?
One of life’s great certainties, you’re not the only one who takes a good night’s sleep for granted. Sleep is not a luxury. Your body needs it to repair, recover and regenerate. So it’s crucial that you prioritize sleep over all else for a minimum of 7 to 9 hours a day. Here are some things we recommend:
- A good bedtime routine can help prepare your body for a night of rest. Follow a strict routine wherein you sleep and wake up at the same time. Erratic sleep hours can throw your natural sleep body clock out of whack.
- Eliminate any blue light exposure a couple hours before bedtime. Blue light emanated from electronic devices negatively affects health and sleep patterns. Even dim lights (from electronics and energy-efficient lamps) can interfere with your sleep. Either banish all electronics from your bedroom or wear blue light blocking glasses when you must.
- While we don’t think women with PCOS shouldn’t drink coffee, it’s a good idea to cut back on caffeine if you’re feeling fatigued. Coffee can exert extra stress on the adrenal glands, weakening them over time. Your coffee addiction could add to chronic lethargy, hormonal disruption, anxiousness, and irritability. Caffeine also interferes with a peaceful night’s sleep, so you want to ensure you have your last cup before 3 pm.
If your sleep rhythm has been thrown off due to PCOS and fatigue, and you’re looking for ways to ensure a good night’s sleep, try natural sleep remedies.
You Are Over-Stressed
Nothing will worsen PCOS and fatigue like being stressed out. While we would all like to avoid stress altogether, that’s a rather unrealistic expectation. Physical, emotional and environmental stress can’t simply be eliminated from our modern lifestyle, but they sure can be managed.
What Can You Do About It?
- Simplify your life. There is nothing worse than wanting to call it a day, but your day-planner telling you that you’re not even half-way through your day’s commitments. It’s time to shorten your to-do list till you’ve overcome PCOS and fatigue.
- Make time for rest. We all need breaks… and you need them even more than others. Schedule a 30-minute break during lunch and another one when you get back from work. This ‘ME’ time can help you relax, unwind, and drink a cup of herbal tea in peace. You’d be surprised by how refreshed you feel after you’ve put your feet up for a little while.
- If stress has taken over your life, it’s time to take mindfulness practices seriously. Make the time to practice yoga and meditation. Feeling stressed-out all the time can stimulate a hormonal response in your body, which you truly don’t need. Over time, this unmanaged stress will give way to adrenal fatigue. There’s a growing body of evidence that shows PCOS patients have a hyper-responsive HPA or Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis. A dysfunctioning HPA axis is closely linked to fatigue.
- Light exercises like walking, swimming, yoga, and cycling can also help fight stress. You may feel you’re too tired to exercise, but just get on with it. Soon the rush of endorphins released from exercising will make you feel a lot better.
You can also try Ashwagandha as a natural remedy to manage stress.
Your Diet Isn’t Right For You
It’s not surprising that the wrong diet will worsen PCOS and fatigue. After all, your diet is closely linked to the blood sugar regulation. Your diet could be the reason your blood sugar levels fluctuate wildly through the day, making you more tired.
What Can You Do About It?
We have discussed the right PCOS diet in great detail in another article, but we here are a few tips to ensure adequate nutrition:
- Eliminate all refined and processed foods from your diet.
- Eliminate sugar from your diet completely.
- Choose carbs wisely, as a diet rich in simple carbs can cause blood sugar fluctuations.
- Eat more fiber-rich vegetables and fruits. Fiber digests slowly, so your sugars are absorbed into the blood at a slower pace.
- Eat good proteins in every single meal. Eggs, lean meat, and fish are all good options.
- Add healthy fats like grass-fed butter, coconut oil, ghee, extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, fatty fish, nuts and seeds to your diet
- Remove dairy and gluten from your diet, as many women with PCOS could be intolerant to them.
- Add gut-friendly probiotics to your diet to help balance out the gut microbiome.
We advise you add more Omega 3 to your PCOS diet as it can bring relief from a variety of PCOS symptoms including fatigue. We also recommend you try a sugar cleanse for PCOS and fatigue. When you break those sugar cravings and beat that sugar-caused fatigue, you will feel more active, energized and positive.
A simple reason you’re so tired may be that you’re not drinking enough water. Dehydration causes fatigue and the toxin build-up in the body contributes to sluggishness. Drink more water, and your kidneys and liver will start to flush out all toxins from your body.
What Can You Do About It?
Aim for around 3-4 liters of water in a day to stay hydrated. You may need lesser or more water based on your activity levels.
Be Aware Of Some Underlying Medical Conditions That Exacerbate PCOS And Fatigue
If your chronic fatigue is not caused by any of the above reasons because you’re already eating well and living a very healthy lifestyle, you could be suffering from another underlying medical condition. Some of the conditions commonly seen in women with PCOS women include:
- Iron deficiency: It’s not uncommon for women with PCOS to become anemic when their monthly period has been too heavy. Get your iron levels checked, and discuss the right diet and supplement guide to boost iron levels.
- Food Intolerances: Many women with PCOS have gluten and dairy sensitivity. Even if you don’t have a full blown gluten or dairy allergy, your fatigue could be a symptom of intolerance.
- Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid gland can also exacerbate fatigue. Get a full thyroid panel done; just TSH levels aren’t enough for a proper diagnosis.
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Another common ailment in women with PCOS. Women who are on birth control pills or metformin to treat PCOS are particularly susceptible to vitamin B12 deficiency, which causes chronic fatigue.
- Sleep Apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea is common with PCOS, so it’s best to get tested if your sleep quality is rather poor despite trying all natural remedies.
- Clinical Depression: Women with PCOS are at greater risk of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. Get help if you suspect that depression and fatigue are fueling each other.
Hormonal imbalances are the reason you feel exhausted, tired and a bit anxious. So go easy on yourself. Once you start making these small changes to your life, you’ll find that your vitality, health, and energy levels return back to normal. But until then, take it easy and be kind to yourself.
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