Struggling with brain fog and overwhelming fatigue that only gets worse when you cut calories and hit the gym? When you have PCOS, chronic inflammation and high stress hormones can make you feel like it’s impossible to get through the day without a nap.
Is there anything you can do to get your energy back? Learn how to use holistic, East West medicine to decrease stress, build healthy hormones, and protect your thyroid to increase your energy and focus–and still have the strength to squeeze in a workout.
Why PCOS Causes Fatigue in Women
Many women who have PCOS suffer from fatigue due inflammation, hormone imbalance, and insulin dysregulation. But where does all this inflammation and hormone imbalance come from? Often it’s due to the highs and lows in blood sugar, plus the body pumping out increased stress hormones–such as cortisol–almost all day long.
Starting with long, busy hours at work, school, or with home life, followed by high-intensity workouts, cortisol levels can quickly escalate more times throughout the day than you realize.
This makes managing stress levels one of the pillars of women’s wellness.
Symptoms of fatigue when you have PCOS:
- Low energy
- Feeling exhausted after exercise
- Oversleeping during the day
- Depressive symptoms
- Sugar/carbohydrate cravings
While it’s not possible to avoid every stressor, you can take care of chronic stress and reduce inflammation. To combat PCOS fatigue with holistic medicine, focus on building healthy hormones, keeping blood sugar steady, and decreasing inflammation.
Learn more about combating insulin resistance and supporting balanced hormones with my formula, Hormone Helper.
PCOS Fatigue Treatment
- Nourish your adrenals: These glands are crucial for women’s wellness, and responsible for making cortisol. They need extra attention if you have PCOS.
- Avoid gluten and dairy: Often inflammatory, omitting these two foods can help improve PCOS symptoms in many people.
- Decrease inflammation: Eliminate your inflammatory triggers and incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods, supplements, and activities.
- Rule out hypothyroid: An underactive thyroid is common in PCOS, and can significantly affect your health and energy levels.
To reclaim your energy against PCOS fatigue, let’s find out how best to decrease inflammation and keep cortisol levels in check.
Fuel Your Adrenals
Your adrenal glands sit atop your kidneys and are responsible for producing several different kinds of hormones, including the stress hormone, cortisol.
Your adrenals are part of complex communication happening between your brain and body that controls hormone balance, so making sure this process runs smoothly is crucial for managing PCOS symptoms naturally.
The best thing you can do to support healthy adrenal function is reduce stress levels, and make sure to manage current stress for optimal women’s wellness. But while stress often presents itself as busy workdays, relationship difficulties, or even financial worries, it also comes in other more subtle forms, such as not sleeping well, overexercising, or an inflammatory diet.
To properly nourish your adrenal glands naturally, keep in mind the following:
Avoid Over Exercising
Choose the right exercise for your body, and don’t over exercise. If your workouts leave you feeling depleted instead of energized, or if it takes you multiple days to recover, this is a sign your workout intensity is too high.
Working harder doesn’t necessarily guarantee better results, especially when you have PCOS. Matching your exercise intensity with what your body can handle in the moment will help you achieve your goals and keep cortisol from spiking.
Want to know if your type should hit the weights or dial down the intensity with restorative yoga? Discover your weight loss type!
Get Adequate Sleep
Not sleeping well can tank your hormones, as well as cause disruption in adrenal function. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid screen time 2 hours before bed, and consider using blue blocking lenses in the evening.
Botanicals like magnolia bark can also help decrease cortisol in the evening, helping to calm a busy mind naturally.
Replace Coffee with Caffeine-Free Tea
Caffeine can disrupt women’s sleep cycles and send your production of stress hormones into overdrive, especially if you’re sensitive to it. Your genetics play a role in how well you metabolize and detox caffeine, so if you get jittery after having too much coffee, this is a sign it could be negatively affecting hormones and adrenal function.
Nutrients for Adrenal Health
B vitamins are necessary to build healthy hormones and keep your adrenals functioning optimally. Methylated B vitamins are an important part of women’s wellness. And in times of increased stress, metabolic demand for B vitamins may increase.
Magnesium. Women who have PCOS might be up to 19 times more likely to have a magnesium deficiency, and this can worsen symptoms of anxiety, weight gain, and fatigue (1). You can get more magnesium with foods like leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, and avocados, or take a supplement like magnesium malate or bisglycinate.
Adaptogens like ashwagandha or maca help your body do just that–adapt! This category of supplements contains different polyphenols, flavonoids, and other nutrients that help your body quench free radicals and cope with stress to achieve optimal wellness.
Now that you know how to holistically support your body during stress, let’s take a look at diet factors to improve energy levels and decrease inflammation.
Avoid Gluten and Dairy
Gluten and dairy can play a role in increased inflammation in women which drives PCOS. And because PCOS is linked to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and chronic inflammation, eliminating them can help give you an edge in fighting these issues.
Gluten, a protein present in grains like wheat, barley, and rye, is especially problematic with PCOS. Gluten can interfere with healthy thyroid function, which can slow your metabolism and cause further fatigue (2).
Even if you’re not lactose intolerant, you may also still choose to omit dairy and see if symptoms like acne and digestive troubles improve after the change. Milk and dairy products have been identified as potent “insulin secretagogues,” which means eating them can increase insulin beyond healthy levels (3).
Inflammation can wreak havoc on your energy levels, making it more difficult for your metabolism to properly fuel your brain and body, while generating increased oxidative stress (cellular damage).
Since insulin dysregulation and blood sugar imbalance are at the root of PCOS, it makes sense that you can have a big impact upon your symptoms with diet and exercise. Consume plenty of anti-inflammatory foods, and reduce ultra-processed items, as well as grains.
Then, do more of:
- Omega-3s from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, or sardines (if fish isn’t your thing–use a high-quality omega-3 supplement)
- Turmeric – the vibrant spice that has been shown to do everything from reducing inflammation to promoting healthy gut bacteria.
- Liver support – plenty of leafy greens, beets, and herbs like milk thistle help your liver metabolize toxins and control insulin levels.
- Magnesium – Women with PCOS are 19 times more likely to be magnesium deficient. Magnesium is important for blood sugar regulation, energy, mood, and metabolism.
- Myoinositol reduces androgens, supports ovarian function, and insulin sensitivity (4,5).
Find both myo-inositol and adaptogenic maca in Hormone Helper.
Rule Out Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism, or a low or underactive thyroid, is a common condition in those with PCOS (6). With hypothyroidism, either your thyroid isn’t producing adequate amounts of hormones, or your immune system is attacking your thyroid–as is the case in Hashimoto’s, which is the most common cause of low thyroid in the U.S.
If you’re fatigued, or experience other symptoms of a low thyroid, ask your doctor to run a full thyroid panel, including:
- Free T4
- Free T3
- Thyroid antibodies
- Reverse T3
- T3 uptake
If you have Hashimoto’s, it’s important you avoid gluten, as it can mimic proteins within the thyroid gland, telling your immune system to flag it for destruction (7).
Heal PCOS Naturally with East West Medicine
When it comes to PCOS, you’re in the drivers’ seat. Inflammation and stress can tank your energy levels and sabotage your hormones–especially if you have PCOS. But the tips above can help you nourish your adrenals during times of stress, balance blood sugar to prevent energy crashes, and decrease inflammation.
Diet and lifestyle changes can help maintain your energy so you feel like you’re not suffering from PCOS, but managing your symptoms properly.
Download the complete guide to managing PCOS naturally with East West Medicine.