Last month a cyster reached out to me + signed up for 1:1 coaching with me to get her PCOS under control.
That cyster? Vanessa Thompson.
Wife. Mom of 4. Kindergarten Teacher. Fellow lover of HGTV + Fixer Upper.
Vanessa is a busy lady who juggles many different hats in life. She was diagnosed with PCOS 9 years ago when she tried to get pregnant with her first daughter.
Her biggest struggle?
This wasn’t just your typical “I am really tired today…give me my coffee!”
This was the kind that needed a nap by lunch, feeling sluggish mid-afternoon, and collapsing into bed by 7pm.
She lasted until 7pm only because that was what time she was done with feeding her family, bathing the kids, and reading Good Night, Moon 5 times.
All of this was putting a damper on her marriage.
Vanessa finished with, “But, wait, Amber! Don’t all moms feel this way? I mean, you have 2 little boys now. Aren’t you tired? What is so abnormal about being so tired?”
Why is it that women with PCOS struggle with fatigue so often?
The theory behind this has to do with polycystic ovarian syndrome and its relationship with abnormal hormonal levels.
Basically insulin resistance impairs glucose (sugar in your blood) from supplying the energy needed to your cells. This leads to you feeling tired ALL. DAY. LONG.
So, if you are feeling overly exhausted + have PCOS, there are basically 2 different steps to get you all squared away.
First, make simple lifestyle changes to boost your energy levels NATURALLY (no caffeine necessary!).
- Sleep. YES! Getting at 7-9hrs of sleep every night is important for balancing your hormonal levels. When you are not getting enough at night, your cortisol levels (think stress hormone) can shoot through the rood leading to more hormonal imbalance.
- Decrease stress. Easier said than done, right? This is related to the cortisol levels (which are commonly raised in cysters) that I mentioned above. Think over your life right now. What is causing you stress? Is there some way you can change things up to help lower the burden that is playing on your life? Can you delegate any tasks to other members of your family to free up your load?
- Diet. It is VERY important that you are cutting out processed sugars/refined sugars that come in anything packaged. This also includes grain prodcuts. Be sure to look out for hidden sources of sugar such as ketchup, salad dressing, yogurt, cereal, fruit drinks, sports drinks, granola, etc. When you diet is high in processed sugars, your blood sugar will spike, causing your insulin levels to raise + then causing your blood sugar to crash. This will make you tired! You can’t cut carbohydrates, though. Carbs are what fuel your body. You need to grab complex carbs such as what is found in veggies, fruits, beans, etc. Grab my diet cheat sheet free by clicking here.
- Water. Recent research studies indicate that when you are dehydrated you are more likely to suffer from fatigue. Be sure to drink your 8 cups of water a day!
- Exercise. It might seem counterintuitive, but if you are more active throughout the day, your body will want to keep being active. Kinda like that law of motion or whatever it was we learned in physics class: an object at motion will stay at motion until a force is applied to it. So, moral of the story, moderate exercise will boost your energy during the day. I have more details in my free exercise cheat sheet you can grab here.
Talk to your doctor about what else could possibly be going on. There are some medical conditions that us cysters could have that is also causing us to be so tired.
- Hypothyroidism. This is where your thyroid is working as well as it should. If someone who is living a healthy lifestyle like I mentioned in the 5 points above mentions they are feeling sluggish over a longer period of time, the first thing that comes to mind as a nurse is the thyroid. Low thyroid levels are actually pretty common in women with PCOS. All it takes is a simple blood test your doctor can order that will show if this is an issue.
- Low Vitamin B12 levels. Metformin has been shown to cause low vitamin B12 levels.
- Low Vitamin D levels.
- Adrenal Fatigue. It leads to a lower level of a number of different hormones. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms.
Anemia. This is where there is low iron in your blood or not enough blood to adequately carry oxygen to all parts of your body. Some things like heavy menstrual cycles, a vegan diet, or intense exercising can lead to anemia.
- Depression. Having some mood issues can go hand in hand with fatigue. They like to play together. When you are depressed, you don’t want to do anything which can lead to more fatigue. It can end up being a vicious cycle.
- Celiac Disease. This is where someone actually HAS TO give up gluten because their bodies can’t handle it. A lot of times they are experiencing fatigue and “brain fog”. There is a lab test that will actually show if you have celiac or not.
- Sleep apnea. This is where you stop breathing for short periods of time when you are sleeping. Your body isn’t getting enough oxygen during its sleep leading to fatigue the next day. It is common with women who have PCOS. If you are getting enough sleep at night, but waking up not feeling refreshed, you might be experiencing sleep apnea.
Moral of the PCOS + fatigue story?
Make simple lifestyle changes first. Do it for real…not just I think I am eating pretty decently. Really sit down and evaluate your life in those 5 areas I mentioned. Are you really meeting each standard?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I getting 7-9 hours of sleep consistently at night?
- Have I adequately dealt with areas of stress in my life?
- Am I NOT eating any refined sugars/grains in my diet + getting adequate complex carbohydrates to fuel my body throughout the day?
- Am I drinking 8 glasses of water a day?
- Am I living an active lifestyle with moderate exercise on most days of the week?
If you are doing PICTURE PERFECT :), consult your doctor. Some of the things they might look for are:
- Low Vitamin B12 + Vitamin D levels
- Adrenal Fatigue
- Celiac Disease
- Sleep Apnea
Cyster Talk: Do you get overly exhausted with your PCOS? What has helped you deal with your fatigue?
You are part of a community of fellow cysters. Let’s have some discussion…head over to the fb community by clicking here or leave a comment below + share your experience with fatigue + PCOS!