How do I know what’s normal and what’s classed as fatigue?
Everyone knows what it’s like to feel tired – perhaps it’s in a lecture, during a meeting, or it’s an afternoon slump that often takes hold whilst you’re at your desk at work. That feeling of heavy eyelids or finding that you can’t concentrate as well as you’d like can be frustrating, especially when you’ve got a pile of work to get through! Perhaps you’d stayed up a bit later than normal the night before, or had a larger lunch than usual and these have had an impact on your energy levels. This is all quite normal and is to be expected once in a while.
However, if you start to notice a pattern in your symptoms then something else could be going on. Perhaps you find that it’s at the same time each month that you really struggle to keep your eyes open. Maybe you feel extreme fatigue, like an overwhelming need to go for a nap, or perhaps your energy levels are so low that it’s impacting on your day to day life and stopping you doing things you enjoy such as exercising or socialising with friends. If this is the case, then it could be related to PMS and hormones could be at the root of the problem.
How can PMS contribute to fatigue?
Together with wondering what’s normal and deciding when you need to take action, women often wonder why they experience certain symptoms when family or close friends don’t seem to have the same issues month after month! Let’s explore some of the reasons why menstrual fatigue can take hold:
- Hormones – Firstly, it’s quite normal to feel a little more tired than usual in the days leading up to when your period is due. However, if this feeling is overwhelming then a hormone imbalance could be at the root of the problem. As we know, oestrogen levels drop off to give us our period each month, however, oestrogen is thought to help keep us feeling alert, and functioning optimally. We have oestrogen receptors all over our bodies and as the stimulation of these receptors drops off, so can our energy levels and we can be left feeling a little groggier as a result. However, if a woman suffers from low oestrogen on a longer-term basis, then these issues can become more pronounced. This is common in the lead up to the menopause when fatigue is a common complaint, but a similar imbalance can affect younger women too. So, watch out for those persistent feelings of fatigue coupled with lighter, less frequent periods!
- Nutrient deficiencies – Around the time of your period the effects of nutrient deficiencies can become much more apparent too. The obvious one is anaemia. If you suffer from more traditional symptoms of PMS which often includes heavy, painful periods, then you may be more at risk of an iron deficiency which can leave you feeling exhausted. However, anaemia isn’t the only issue to be aware of; other common nutrient deficiencies include magnesium, zinc and the B vitamins, all of which can contribute to making us feel much more tired and less capable!
- Doing too much – Many of us are guilty of this in the 21st century, but doing too much, especially around the time of your period, can be detrimental and make you feel zapped of all energy. Life must go on of course, but just like during menopause or pregnancy, this is a more taxing time on your body. You’re dealing with fluctuating hormones, pain, and often a whole host of other physical and mental symptoms which can be draining and of course, can be made even worse if your nutrient status is compromised. In the week or two leading up to your period you actually expend more energy, your temperature is slightly raised which also contributes, so, doing too much during this time could be making you feel lethargic
- Poorer eating habits – It can be a bit of a vicious cycle when it comes to PMS and eating habits. Feeling tired, perhaps with the addition of cravings which many women experience during this time, will often tempt us into making poorer food choices. Although it often seems like good idea at the time to overindulge in order to get a quick fix of energy, more often than not, this will leave you feeling worse off and will do nothing to support your energy levels longer-term. Refined carbohydrates, caffeine, and alcohol will only disrupt your blood sugar and ransack your nervous system meaning you will ultimately risk feeling lower in mood, anxious or sleepier
- Sleep or stress – Sleep issues are often more common in the week or two leading up to a woman’s period. Hormone levels dropping off can have an effect, but also feeling warmer and experiencing cramp can make us more restless as well. Then, with a lack of sleep often come heightened levels of stress and anxiety. Plus, we know that these falling hormones, nutrient deficiencies and poorer eating habits can also have an impact on our cognitive functions – think fuzzy heads, poorer spatial awareness and guess what – more stress as a result! Another vicious cycle to be aware of.
What can be done to help?
Now, it isn’t all doom and gloom. As much as I want women to understand more about their bodies, their menstrual cycles, and the effects it can have, I also want to offer some simple solutions!
- Revamp your diet and lifestyle – As much as you may want to overindulge or drown your sorrows, this isn’t the time to do it; so, limit refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol and instead focus on making some positive changes to your diet which could make all the difference to how you feel. Aim to eat fresh ingredients packed with essential nutrients, and watch your portion sizes; eating too little or too much can leave you feeling sluggish. Aim for good sources of healthy fats and protein which are important for supporting the manufacture of different enzymes and hormones which are involved in important energy production processes
- Sort the supplements – As well as using herbs to help support your hormones and eating well, sometimes we just need a little extra helping hand. This is where our Balance Mineral Drink comes in. It contains perfect proportions of magnesium, vitamin D, zinc, and calcium which are ideal for giving your energy levels a boost
- Relieve the tension – As much as it’s often difficult, I’m a big believer in positive thinking. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or feel your mood has dipped a little, why not make an extra effort to perk yourself up! Listen to some good music, light a scented candle, go for a relaxing bath or do some mindful stretching to help relax you both physically and mentally
- Move more – As discussed, although it’s important not to do too much during this time, making the effort to move a little more can also be beneficial. Whether this is making the effort to go out with friends even if you don’t initially feel up to it, or doing some exercise, I can guarantee you’ll feel better for it. Laughter is often the best medicine and endorphins, released as a result of some gentle exercise, should do you some good too!
- See your doctor if symptoms persist – If the fatigue you experience is persistent, then it’s time to head to the doctor. They can check for anaemia, as well as any other nutrient deficiencies or underlying issues which could be contributing to your symptoms, so don’t suffer in silence.