Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) comes with a variety of symptoms like irregular periods, weight gain, acne, facial hair, and more, but one symptom that is often overlooked is fatigue.
Chronic fatigue can be quite challenging, as it can affect your ability to carry out day-to-day activities and diminish your quality of life. Read on to know all about PCOS-related fatigue and how you can manage it.Start PCOS Treatment Free Nutrition Guide
Fatigue can be understood as constant tiredness that can be physical, mental, or a combination of the two. Fatigue is a symptom and not a condition. In adults, it is often connected to underlying concerns related to lifestyle, psychological issues, social and personal distress, general well-being issues, and medical conditions.
Although fatigue is described as the feeling of being tired, it is more than just being tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at times, but this can usually be resolved by a few hours of sleep or a nap. However, if you are getting good sleep and good nutrition and have an active lifestyle but still find it difficult to perform daily activities, you may have fatigue that needs further investigation.
Fatigue can have a variety of physical, emotional, and mental symptoms, including:
Fatigue can have many causes, and PCOS is one of them. Many women report feeling lethargic, sluggish, or low on energy levels. This is not a sign of laziness but the body’s response to the underlying insulin resistance. Insulin resistance happens when the body’s cells are not able to respond to insulin effectively thus not being able to maintain stable blood glucose levels. Since glucose (main energy source) is not able to enter the body’s cells to be converted into energy, many women with PCOS have low energy levels and experience fatigue. In addition to insulin resistance, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression can affect your emotional health and sleeping patterns, which can also lead to fatigue.
There are many reasons that you might feel tired. Your lifestyle and diet can be major contributors if your body is not getting the rest and nutrition it needs.
Anxiety and depression are also quite common among women with PCOS, which again might be a major fatigue-causing factor.
Various social, physiological, and mental issues can cause one to feel tired and exhausted. However, the cause of each person’s fatigue is not always the same. Different people might have different causes and symptoms of fatigue, and the correct diagnosis can only be determined by an expert.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex disorder that is characterised by extreme fatigue that lasts over a period of six months or more and cannot be fully explained by an underlying medical condition. CFS can get worse with all kinds of physical and mental activities, and it doesn’t improve with rest.
While the cause of CFS is still not known, experts believe that it can arise due to a combination of various factors, such as stress and emotional and physical issues.
When you eat food, it is broken down into sugar (glucose) by the digestive enzymes. Sugar then enters your bloodstream, which then sends a signal to the pancreas to release insulin. The primary function of insulin is to signal blood sugar to enter the body’s cells where it can be used for energy. Insulin also signals the liver to store blood sugar for later use.
When insulin is working properly it ensures that the body’s cells are generating enough energy to keep up with the daily requirements. When insulin fails to function effectively, blood sugar levels keep rising. Insulin signals the liver to store more blood sugar and when the liver exceeds its capacity it sends the excess blood sugar to fat cells to be stored as body fat leading to weight gain. That’s why insulin resistance is linked to two of the most common symptoms of PCOS which are weight gain and fatigue.
People with chronic fatigue often have other conditions that lead to them feeling tired and drained, as fatigue is mostly a symptom indicating underlying health issues.
There is no single specific test to confirm a diagnosis of fatigue. Symptoms of PCOS-related chronic fatigue can mimic symptoms of other underlying health issues, including sleep disorders, physical problems, and mental health issues.
If your rest is disturbed because you are unable to sleep well, your doctor will check you for sleep disorders like sleep apnoea, insomnia, or restless leg syndrome. Conditions such as anaemia, diabetes, and hypothyroidism can also cause chronic fatigue.
Fatigue can also be caused by mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and your counsellor can help you determine if one of these conditions is causing your fatigue.
Chronic PCOS fatigue has no direct cure. The treatment focuses on managing the symptoms, and the most troublesome symptoms are addressed first.
In some cases, prescription and over-the-counter medications are used to treat PCOS fatigue and its symptoms. One such medication is metformin, which can reduce insulin resistance, and this in turn can reduce fatigue.
People with depression can benefit greatly from a low dose of antidepressants, which are prescribed by a doctor. Antidepressants help patients cope with stress, and low doses of certain antidepressants can help improve sleep cycles too.
Although not backed by scientific research, some herbs are believed to help significantly with chronic fatigue and its symptoms. Herbs like shatavari and triphala can help regulate the body and eliminate toxins. Turmeric helps prevent excess tiredness. People with nervous system issues can benefit greatly from ashwagandha, as it helps calm and strengthen their nervous system.
Women suffering from PCOS fatigue are advised to stay away from junk food and fried food and must look for foods that are rich in B-complex vitamins, iron, and minerals.
Along with a balanced diet and good sleep, yoga and regular exercise are some of the best remedies to help relieve PCOS-related chronic fatigue.
The main cause of fatigue associated with PCOS, is the underlying hormonal imbalance in the levels of insulin. To fix this, making changes to your dietary patterns and lifestyle can help correct the insulin levels and hence help reduce fatigue:
Insulin resistance can often be managed by making simple lifestyle changes. Learning how to manage blood sugar levels can help reduce insulin resistance and the many symptoms of PCOS such as weight gain, fatigue, and chronic inflammation.
The PCOS diet centres around being mindful about what you eat, choosing wholesome, fresh foods instead of processed foods, and limiting sugar intake. Instead of following a restrictive diet, switch to healthier alternatives and keep a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat in all your meals. Include more low glycaemic index foods that slowly raise your blood sugar levels instead of spiking it.
Incorporating daily physical activity is not only good for weight loss and heart health but it also helps lower blood glucose levels and boosts your body’s sensitivity to insulin, countering insulin resistance. Choose an activity you enjoy performing, such as walking, running, cycling, or even dancing, and start with 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
Although stress alone cannot cause insulin resistance, high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline do make it harder for insulin to work properly. In times of stress, it is important to look after yourself and treat yourself kindly. Being physically active, getting good sleep, and taking time out to rest and relax can help you manage stress. For some people, ongoing counselling for stress management and relaxation techniques such as meditation can also help.
Sleep plays an important role in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. In fact, decreased sleep is a risk factor for developing high blood sugar levels, so it is important to get 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep every night. You can start by optimising your sleep schedule, creating a pleasant bedroom environment, and following a nightly routine.
Feeling tired all day every day can be one of the most mentally and physically draining things a person can experience. Since fatigue can be a symptom of underlying physical and mental health conditions, women who experience fatigue may benefit from speaking to a PCOS professional.
A doctor with experience treating patients with PCOS is knowledgeable about the condition and will be able to help you determine whether your fatigue is related to PCOS. Most women with PCOS go undiagnosed for too long, and if symptoms like these start to show, you need to be treated by an expert.
Feeling tired all day long is not normal. If you experience unexplained fatigue, Veera’s online assessment will help you determine whether you have PCOS. After that, you can consult with our professionals to better understand your condition and give your body the care it needs.
You don’t need to fight it alone. We at Veera have helped thousands of women overcome their symptoms and live a happy, healthy, and energetic life — and we are here to help you too.
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