Extreme fatigue during your period is more than just an unfortunate symptom. It’s usually in addition to the bloating, cramping, breakouts, cravings, and crappy mood that we get to endure each month as our little reward (or penalty) for not falling pregnant. Please don’t mistake my pessimism for being ungrateful for the sex I was born as. Every other day of the month I am a proud and fierce woman, and I don’t need Beyonce to tell me who runs the world because I already know. However, once a month I find myself (and millions of women across the world) deplete of energy and a small inconvenience away from falling pieces. Read on to find out why.
Why you’re so tired
To be told you’re being ‘hormonal’ could be reason enough to launch an attack, but it’s likely the instigator behind your discomfort. Day 1 of your cycle begins with the day your period starts. D-day. Bleed day. Your estrogen levels spike then begin rapidly decline, along with progesterone, on the days leading up to your period (the luteal phase). This leads to those tell-tale signs that Aunt Flo is on her way. Experiencing symptoms during this time is known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and 90% of people who menstruate suffer them during their lifetime.
Estrogen increases the production of neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, and GABA. So, if every month your estrogen levels are plummeting, this will lead to a fluctuation in these neurotransmitters which are responsible for mood, sleep, and appetite regulation. No wonder you don’t feel balanced!
Other reasons you’re so exhausted:
Poor sleep: Hormone fluctuations and pain can affect your ability to fall and stay asleep leaving you tired and unrested the next day. You may have managed to get enough sleep, but the quality of sleep may have been average.
Food cravings: Those carbohydrate cravings are associated with low serotonin levels. Eating too much or eating sugar and refined carbohydrates can cause a spike then a dip in blood glucose, leaving you feeling tired and fatigued.
Low iron: A heavy bleed, or if you are prone to iron deficiency, can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. The insufficient iron impairs energy production, causes muscle weakness and can make you light-headed.
Adrenal fatigue: If you are experiencing high stress or burnout, these can lead to an amplification of period symptoms and vice versa. Poor mental concentration, night sweats and mood changes accompanying your period fatigue is a sneaky sign of burnout.
How To Combat Extreme Fatigue During Your Period
1 in 3 women quit activities they would normally do as a result of having their period. So, what can you do to combat the fatigue and feel more energised?
Get more sleep
Yep, don’t fight the feeling. Your body is fatigued so give it the rest that it’s craving. Most of us are already getting up early for gym or work so it might be easier to get to bed a bit earlier. If you’re already getting more than the recommended 7-9 hours, you might even benefit from a little afternoon nap.
Countless studies show that exercise can boost energy during your period, specifically aerobic exercise. Running, cycling or even a brisk walk are great options. Take your exercise outdoors for extra energising and mood enhancing benefits.
Eating clean, wholefoods helps to prevent blood sugar spikes while giving your body the energy it needs to function well during the day. Your body is craving energy so give it what it needs! Focus on complex carbohydrates such as wholegrains and starchy vegetables to give you sustained energy. Eating protein at each meal will help maintain energy levels so be sure to include plant proteins, tofu, beans and legumes throughout the day.
If your fatigue is linked to iron deficiency, it’s time to increase your nutritional iron intake and absorption. Increase iron rich foods such as leafy greens (spinach, silver beet, lettuce), tofu, grains, beans and lentils. Vitamin C increases iron absorption from food so couple your iron rich foods with vitamin C packed foods such as citrus fruits (even a squeeze of lemon juice), capsicums and kiwifruit. If you’re still concerned about getting enough iron, talk to your GP about a supplement.
Address your stress
Stress amplifies period fatigue, particularly if you already have adrenal fatigue. Managing stress can help avoid high levels of cortisol production which can even result in abnormally heavy or irregular periods. Incorporating some adaptogens in your diet can help with your response to stress.
Yes. We get it already. Drink more water. But this is probably your most powerful weapon in combating period fatigue. Dehydration is a common contributor to low energy levels on your period because you are consistently losing fluids throughout the day. Not drinking enough water can also be a factor behind your pain and cramping. So, drink up!
You might need some extra help
If your period fatigue is so extreme that it is interfering with your entire day, it might be time to talk to your GP to make sure there aren’t any underlying health conditions. Serious iron deficiency anaemia, thyroid disorders and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) are all possible reason for severe ongoing fatigue.
Follow my IG: @lizhudsonhealth for more frequent tips to boost your energy through lifestyle and nutrition.