After ovulation, about a week before my period, I always feel more fatigued than usual. In the first half of my cycle, my energy (& libido) and mood are the freaking best they’ll be the whole cycle. Then, as Aunt Flo draws near, I feel more sleepy, moody and introspective.
In my private Facebook group the Happy Hormones Sisterhood (feel free to join us!), A LOT of the women are suffering with fatigue around their period.
Well Divas, I’m here to drop some MAJOR truth bombs on you today.
Your hormones fluctuate throughout your cycle, and the way they’re set up near the end will make you more tired. Unfortunately, we live in a world that works in a very “masculine” way. We are expected to be happy, energetic and “on” 24/7. While that may work for men, that’s not how we women work.
If you learn to harness the powers of your cycle, you can accept and live happily with these fluctuations. Obviously, crazy fatigue that effects your ability to simply “be” is another story, and you can remedy this.
Causes of PMS Fatigue
Progesterone is the sex hormone that’s highest post-ovulation, in that last 2 weeks before your period arrives. It’s relatively low in the first half, where estrogen is highest. Typically, women who experience PMS and other hormonal imbalance symptoms will have lower levels of progesterone during this time than what is optimal.
Progesterone is a calming hormone to the nervous system, and if you’re low, you may experience premenstrual insomnia, which will contribute to extra fatigue during the day. You may also feel less resilient to stress if you’re low in this calming hormone, and stress is an energy killer (more on this in the “Going Too Hard” section below).
Blood Sugar Imbalance
Is there a single post on The Hormone Diva that doesn’t mention blood sugar? Not many I would think. It’s incredibly important, and if you’re overlooking it because you don’t think it’s an issue, or your blood tests come back “normal”, it’s time to rethink your strategy.
When we are stressed and experience low progesterone prior to our period, our blood sugar will also be going crazy. If you’re using this time of the month as an excuse to eat every crappy food under the sun, you’re only hurting yourself more.
Balanced blood sugar means consistent energy, and if yours isn’t, then your diet and lifestyle needs some tweaks.
Iron deficiency anemia (also possibly low vitamin B12 and folic acid) is a major contributor to premenstrual fatigue, and fatigue while you’re flowing. We need a certain amount of iron to build enough healthy blood cells and to help oxygenate our blood cells. If you want to get this tested, get a Ferritin and a B12 blood test. Note that even if you’re at the bottom of the “optimal range” you could still experience symptoms of anemia like:
- Pale skin, nail beds and inner eyelid skin (pull down your lower eyelid to see- is the skin underneath very pink, or pale?)
- Shortness of breath
- Tingling in the legs
- Tongue swelling
- Cold hands and feet
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Brittle hair or nails
When you get close to your period, your body is building up the lining of your uterus (in case of pregnancy) and a lot of blood is concentrated in the pelvis at this time, to be released when your flow starts. So, all this blood isn’t circulating in your body, and if you have low iron to begin with, you can feel really crappy.
Going Too Hard
Ladies- as I previously mentioned, our world works on a very masculine model. We are to be all things all the time. Women’s nature isn’t to be like this. Rather, it’s to harness the powers we have that come from our cycles. This last phase of our cycle before the period begins is a time to rest and reflect.
If you’ve been going too hard during this phase (and during the rest of your cycle) you’re going to pay for it premenstrually. When you naturally have more energy, do more things while making sure you still get time to relax. Before your period, say “no” more often and ask others for help- whether it’s laundry, cooking, kid stuff- whatever. Allow yourself to be helped rather than being the helper during this time.
After a few cycles of being intuitive with your body like this, you’ll likely experience a dramatic difference in how your PMS manifests.
Read this even if your doctor tells you your thyroid is normal, because that might not be the truth. Generally, they test TSH, which isn’t even thyroid hormone but rather the brain hormone that tells your thyroid to make thyroid hormone. So, TSH can be normal and your thyroid can still be whacked. Stand up for yourself and get more tests (like free T4 & free T3, plus antibodies) to consider this further.
If your thyroid is under active, your metabolism slows, your body may not produce sex hormone properly, and immune function suffers. These will contribute to your fatigue.
And FYI, if you’re “going too hard”, your adrenals will stress, and stressed adrenals drag the thyroid down with them- along with your energy.
5 Natural Remedies for PMS Fatigue
#1 Eat Fat + Protein
Getting enough fat and protein is essential. Stop counting carbs and calories and focus mainly on your fat and protein. Ideally, you want about 1-2 tbsp. of added fat per meal, and about 25g-30g protein per meal.
Getting enough fat and protein will balance your blood sugar, support your thyroid and help your body produce hormones (like progesterone). Fat and protein also keep you fuller longer, reducing those PMS cravings too!
Cinnamon is both delicious and nutritious. I’ve talked about how to use it medicinally before, as it’s such as great herb for women.
Cinnamon has been studied quite a bit and what we’ve learned is that it can help balance blood sugar levels, making you feel more even keel- and of course, less fatigued.
Cinnamon also helps to regulate menstrual cycles. The more regular you are, the easier it is to reduce PMS symptoms.
Lastly cinnamon helps to increase progesterone production, and we know now that progesterone is key for reducing PMS and levelling out your energy during this time in your cycle.
Suggested dosages are around 1.5g daily. I really like Cinnamon Force by New Chapter (you’d need about 2 caps daily).
#3 Iron-Rich Foods
If you want to get rid of anemia, you need more iron. Iron supplements can be hard for some women to take- they could cause stomach cramps and constipation. There are some really nice natural iron supplements, and the ones you get from your regular pharmacy aren’t it.
There are loads of animal and plant-based foods out there with iron. Examples include:
- Red meat (beef, bison, lamb, etc.)
- Spinach, Swiss chard and other dark leafy greens
- Sesame seeds
- Legumes like lentils, kidney beans, and chickpeas
- Beets and their greens
- Sea vegetables like wakame, nori, kelp, dulse, arame, kombu
#4 Balanced Rest
Throughout your entire cycle, it’s important to make rest and rejuvenation a top priority. What you do to de-stress may look different over the cycle, but managing your energy effectively throughout the cycle will go a long way in reducing the struggle you have premenstrually.
During your premenstrual phase, take extra care to slow down, say “no” and ask for help. It’s not selfish, it’s not weak. It’s standing up for who you are and what you need to function well as a woman. No guilt.
You may want to try things like meditation, yoga, journaling, walking, reading a good book, taking Epsom salt baths, talking with a friend, watching a funny movie or anything else that rejuvenates your energy and spirit.
Moving your body regularly with exercise and activity is crucial. When you exercise, your body doesn’t need insulin to get blood sugar in the cells, but rather the blood sugar can go right in on its own. Less insulin means better blood sugar balance and less weight gain. Of course, we also know that balancing blood sugar is crucial for energy management.
During your fatigued PMS, you may not feel like going to a fitness class, so don’t. It’s still important to move your body, so try things like yoga, Barre, Pilates, tai chi or gentle walking to keep things moving.