PCOS & Insulin Resistance: Fighting Fatigue

Lately it has been harder and harder for me to wake up. Initially, I assumed it was because I was taking on new responsibilities at work and the learning curve was taking a toll on my energy. As it as seemed that fatigue has not improved, I thought I would do a little more research on PCOS and Insulin Resistance to determine if they are contributing to this not so fun fatigue my normal energetic self has been encountering.

As I develop questions on why things are happening to my body while fighting PCOS and IR, my hope is to share my findings with you and make my blog a one stop shop for being the healthiest and happiest you can be. Since I have been feeling so tired, I started to do some research and compiled the best info I found in this post. I hope it helps those of you with PCOS/IR…and people who have just been feeling extra tired lately, too! Many of these symptoms can be due to fluctuating hormone levels and increased anxiety.

As it turns out, PCOS and fatigue are both linked to an imbalance of the endocrine system and are characterized by an excess of male hormones. Fatigue, a symptom commonly associated with PCOS, is also closely linked to the thyroid and adrenal glands. At the heart of both of these issues, however, is a disorder known as Insulin Resistance. Lucky for me…I have both IR and PCOS.

To add insult to injury, fatigue frequently causes women with PCOS to treat their low energy with carbs and caffeine, which dumps more glucose into the blood in a never-ending spiral of weight gain and increasing insulin and glucose levels. As fatigue and insulin resistance worsen, excess fat cells produce too much of another hormone, estrogen.

Here are some additional causes of fatigue and how to combat them. Here’s to hoping this will lead to a more energetic week next week!

Lack of Sleep: Obviously, the first sign that you are zapped of energy could be that you aren’t getting enough sleep. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly. My Endocrinologist prescribed me with Trazodone to help me sleep…I have noticed a big difference in how rested I feel and my husband says he has noticed I am not tossing and turning as much.

Poor diet: One of the most common causes of low energy can be from eating the wrong foods. Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and simple sugars will cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to skyrocket and then crash, leaving you ready for a nap. Start the day with a meal that contains at least 10 grams of protein (eggs or Greek yogurt are two good ones). Swap refined carbs for whole grain ones (try quinoa, faro, or oats) that won’t send your blood sugar into orbit. Over the last week, I have not been eating well due to the nausea, so perhaps this has been a big cause of my fatigue.

DehydrationStudies show that even mild dehydration can result in significant dips in energy levels. You need 6 to 8 cups of fluid each day for proper hydration (yes, this includes caffeinated coffee and tea) so drink up! I really have not been drinking all the water I should…I used to be really good at finishing at least one large water bottle a day at work, but lately not so much.

Exercise: Even if you are tired, exercising can give you more energy thanks to the secretion of feel good chemicals called endorphins. One study found that just 20 minutes of low-intensity aerobic activity three times per week decreased subjects’ feelings of fatigue by 65 percent. This 20 minutes of exercise is right in line with the 20 minutes prescribed by my doctor…I just need to make it happen.

Iron deficiency: If you experience heavy monthly bleeding, don’t eat animal products, or are an intense exerciser, you may be deficient in iron. Since iron’s main role is to transport oxygen, not having enough will make you feel exhausted and out of breath, even with minor exertion. Discuss getting your levels checked with your doctor before supplementing your diet with extra iron. My doctor did prescribe iron for me and even Vitamin C to help improve the absorption of iron. I also do not eat red meat or pork, so I certainly have iron deficiency in diet.

Hypothyroid: When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones it can affect your energy levels. Ask your doctor for a full thyroid panel (TSH alone is not enough).

Gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease: A hallmark feature of someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is fatigue or “brain fog” after eating foods that contain gluten. It’s recommended to be checked for celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, before adopting a gluten-free diet, which can mask symptoms and prevent an accurate diagnosis.

Vitamin B12 deficiency: If you take birth control pills or metformin or eat a vegan diet, you may be deficient in Vitamin B12. A defiiency in B12 not only causes chronic fatigue, but permanent nerve damage. Ask your doctor to check your B12 levels. Since I am definitely on Metformin, it looks like I should be adding B12 to my daily vitamin regimen as well.

Depression: Depression and fatigue are a vicious cycle with each fueling each other. Being depressed can be like living in a constant fog. Lack of motivation and sleep disturbances can contribute to depression. Engaging in regular exercise can help boost mood. If you feel you are depressed, we recommend seeking treatment from a mental health expert.

Sleep apnea: Several studies have shown that women with PCOS suffer from a much higher rate of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that causes your airway to be narrowed or blocked. Even if you do get a sufficient amount of sleep, if you’re not oxygenating well, you won’t feel rested. This can account for the tossing and turning my husband has been tolerating for the last 9 years.

Now that I have a better understanding of these causes, it will make it that much easier to get back to my energetic, positive self again. I hope these tips helped you as well!

Here are some of the helpful articles that helped inform this post: