Whether you have PCOS or not (and approximately 1 in 10 women do), you may not be aware of some of its additional symptoms. While it is most commonly associated with fertility problems – and can in many cases be overcome as a barrier to conception with the right treatment – it has a range of other implications due to the hormonal imbalances that it causes. Particularly, women with PCOS may be more likely to experience symptoms of fatigue.
What is PCOS?
PCOS is actually a ‘mixed bag’ of signs and symptoms. Many women that have PCOS will look very different from each other. There is no ‘typical’, as it is so variable. Consequently, diagnosing PCOS is not easy because the patients are often so different from each other, for example, some may be overweight, others slim.
Specialists have defined PCOS as a syndrome characterised by having at least two of the following three signs:
- Menstrual cycle disturbances (irregular or absent periods) – this tends to indicate unreliable or absent ovulation (anovulation).
- Raised testosterone levels or signs indicating raised androgen levels, such as hirsutism (unwanted hair growth), male pattern hair loss, acne/overactive sebaceous glands in the skin.
- The presence, seen on an ultrasound scan, of small multiple follicles (or cysts) arranged around the outside of the ovary.
So, as well as fertility issues, which in many cases can be overcome, there are other physical symptoms that can be present for life and may require constant management.
In addition, if PCOS is not diagnosed and treated it can lead to complications in later life, such as weight gain, type 2 diabetes and a higher risk of heart attack. The condition can often run in families and tends to affect different women in different ways. Some women will experience symptoms much more acutely than others.
Does PCOS cause fatigue?
There are many reasons why people experience fatigue, and amid the hectic lives that we all lead it can be too easy to put it down to simple day-to-day tiredness. However, if you are experiencing total exhaustion on a regular basis, it can affect every aspect of your daily life.
The hormonal imbalances that are linked to PCOS can cause you to feel sluggish and lethargic, which can be linked to insulin resistance – a condition found in the majority of women with PCOS.
Sometimes women with PCOS experience heavier bleeding during their menstrual cycle. The technical name for this is menorrhagia, and it’s caused by low levels of progesterone associated with PCOS. Menorrhagia is characterised by severe bleeding that lasts for seven days or longer. The excessive bleeding may cause a decrease in iron levels enough to increase the risk of iron deficiency anemia, symptoms of which include pale skin, weakness and fatigue.
However, there are ways to combat fatigue, with just a few simple lifestyle changes and supplementation:
How to fight PCOS fatigue in your day-to-day life
Try to balance your diet
Achieving the right balance of food groups on your plate can make a real difference to how you feel.
- Try to cover half your plate with low-starch vegetables like leafy greens, cauliflower and carrots, and cover a quarter with complex carbohydrates like beans, quinoa and root vegetables.
- Make up the other quarter with protein-dense poultry, fish, eggs and plant-based proteins or occasional grass-fed beef.
- Don’t fret too much over exacting quantities, but the above is a good guideline towards achieving roughly the right balance.
- Eat at regular intervals – roughly every four hours – without snacking in between.
- Always ensure you eat a good breakfast, including a reasonable number of calories, to balance your blood sugar levels early in the day. Combine this with some form of exercise no more than 90 minutes before or after.
- Eat foods rich in Iron and pair these foods rich with vitamin C. Vitamin C has been shown to enhance iron absorption. It captures non-heme iron and stores it in a form that’s more easily absorbed by your body.
Drinking enough water throughout the day may sound obvious, but it’s one of the very best ways to keep yourself energised. Drink at least eight glasses of water per day in order to maintain a steady level of readiness for whatever the day might bring.
Take more exercise
You don’t have to be out running miles every day in order to feel a real change in your energy levels. Just doing some physical exercise for 30 minutes between three and five times per week – little and often – will make you feel better. Finding something you really enjoy doing is the key to maintaining an exercise regime, so keep experimenting with different activities until you find the one for you.
Improve your sleep
Making a few small changes to your sleeping routine will mean that you start getting the benefits that sleep provides:
- Try going to bed and getting up at the same time each evening and each morning
- Avoid screens for up to two hours before going to bed
- Avoid heavy meals before going to bed and don’t drink caffeine after midday
- Do something you find relaxing during a ‘wind-down’ time before bed such as taking a bath or reading a book
- Invest in better quality bedding, getting rid of lumpy and uncomfortable mattresses and pillows
- Get darker blinds for better quality sleep in the lighter months
Cut down on caffeine
If you try going without caffeine, you may find that you’re not as reliant on it as you thought. A cup of green tea may have just the same effect in the morning as a cup of strong coffee – but if you must include caffeine in your daily routine then drink no more than one cup of coffee per day.
If you have PCOS and experience symptoms of fatigue, supplementation can help to bring your body back into balance. Supplementing daily with Inofolic Alpha is the best way to manage your PCOS symptoms. If you suffer from chronic fatigue, always speak to a healthcare professional. Your doctor may also recommend taking vitamin D and iron tablets to combat any anemia by sustaining a good blood iron level month-on-month.
Guide authored by PCOS supplement provider, Fertility Family.