When the 3pm slump starts to overflow its usual timeframe and you find yourself running with more of an ‘all day slump’ each day...
When you wake up feeling like you’ve had a night on the tiles with tequila, when you were actually in bed by 9pm with your jim jams on and some hot cocoa…
When little Tilly wants to sing you the song she learned at Kindy and you don’t have the energy to listen, let alone give her the praise and attention you usually would…
These are clear signs of fatigue. Here’s your guide to hormones and fatigue, and what you can do to encourage better energy and motivation.
Why do we get fatigue and low energy?
Feeling tired all the time has become so common for many of us that we accept this foggy state as ‘normal’. In reality when our lives, diets and hormones are balanced we should wake up feeling refreshed, with stable consistent energy throughout the day and month. As a society we’ve learned to rely on coffee, other caffeinated drinks and sugary booster snacks to mask our fatigue and give us the juju we need to make it through the day. Ideally, we’d love you to drink coffee because you like the taste, not to wake you up or get you through the day.
Fatigue can be a highly frustrating issue to deal with, as we often feel as though we ‘should’ be able to kick it. We ‘should’ be able to do all the things we used to do, we ‘should’ wake up tomorrow and feel fine. But when you’re dealing with fatigue that’s being driven by an underlying issue, none of the ‘shoulds’ really work. This can leave us feeling deflated and guilty, which makes the fatigue even worse!
We’re here to tell you that there’s no need to ‘should’ all over yourself. Your fatigue is your body’s way of saying that it’s struggling in some way, and often this can be driven by hormones.
Hormone Imbalances That Might be Dulling Your Vibe
Oestrogen is a hormone that contributes towards giving us our ‘get up and go’ drive. Once our periods arrive each month our oestrogen levels start to rise and we love life, experiencing great energy levels for the first couple of weeks of our cycle (the follicular phase). After ovulation we naturally enter a more introspective phase (the luteal phase) where we feel more inclined to snuggle up at home that hit the town. During this phase we may feel a bit lower in energy, but certainly still able to function and do all the things we want to do.
When oestrogen levels are too low, the follicular phase’s oestrogen boost that gives us drive, motivation and energy doesn’t take flight as it should, leaving us in that lower energy phase, or in some cases, feeling quite depleted and exhausted.
Other signs of low oestrogen are short and/or light periods, hot flashes or night sweats, decreased sex drive, vaginal dryness, headaches and migraines post period, and issues with fertility.
If you’re experiencing any of these in addition to your fatigue, your oestrogen levels might be the driver. A few tips to naturally support oestrogen levels are:
- consuming phytoestrogenic foods and herbs such as flaxseed, sesame seeds, liquorice tea, fennel and sage;
- Adding maca powder to your morning smoothie;
- Add some mindfulness and meditation into your daily routine. Countless studies have shown the link between meditation (stress reduction) and hormone happiness.
This hormone imbalance is getting itself quite the reputation.
Probably the most well-known hormonal issue, oestrogen dominance is basically when we have too much oestrogen. However, signs of oestrogen dominance can also occur when oestrogen levels are just ‘high’ in relation to progesterone levels. I.e. your oestrogen levels might not technically be all that high, but if your progesterone levels are low you may still experience some of the classic oestrogen dominance symptoms. Fatigue being one of these.
One of the reasons for this is that where we see oestrogen dominance, we often also see exhausted adrenals (HPA axis dysfunction).
Pregnenolone is a precursor hormone that the brain tells to make either progesterone (a fertility hormone) or cortisol (a stress/keep-us-alive hormone), depending on what it deems the most pressing need. When we’re stressed (from work, family, toxins, gut issues, over-exercising, under-eating etc.) our brains think we’re in danger, and prioritise keeping us alive over fertility, therefore telling pregnenolone to make cortisol rather than progesterone. Hello oestrogen dominance, and adrenals that are working overtime to make more cortisol.
Other signs of oestrogen dominance include weight gain around the hips and thighs, PMS, heavy periods and sore breasts.
If you’re experiencing any of these in addition to your fatigue, oestrogen dominance might be pulling the strings. A few tips to naturally support oestrogen dominance and adrenal function are:
- Adding ashwagandha to your morning smoothie, or using an ashwagandha supplement if you don’t like the taste (it’s quite bitter). This adaptogenic herb supports the HPA axis and adrenal function.
- Eat cruciferous veggies 1-3 times per day. These veggies help clear excess oestrogen.
- Add 20 minutes of meditation or mindfulness into your daily routine. Apps like Insight Timer and Calm can help with this. This can support progesterone production by lowering your stress response.
Testosterone isn’t just the muscle-inducing Popeye hormone, and it’s not just for dudes.
This androgenic hormone is equally important for women as it is for men, just in lower amounts. But not too low, otherwise funky stuff can go down. Fatigue, losing your mojo and love of life being some of the main funks. Testosterone also aids with cognitive function in both men and women, and protects us against depression, which means that when this hormone gets low we’re more prone to low moods too.
Low testosterone levels in women can be down to a number of different reasons. Simply having more birthdays is one cause, as testosterone (but not fabulousness) levels naturally decrease with age. Hormonal birth control such as the pill or IUD can suppress testosterone levels, and stress induced adrenal exhaustion is another main cause. Are you noticing a theme here?
At the root of so many of our hormonal fatigue problems (and other hormonal issues) we can find stress. Stress from work, conflict, a busy life, gut issues, food intolerances, inflammation, HIIT exercise, toxins… It all counts.
If there’s one thing you do as a result of reading this, make a list of the stressors in your life and see how you can start to limit these. Oh, and meditate.
Outside of hormones and stress, there may be other factors behind your fatigue, such as:
- Not getting quality sleep - if you suffer from hot flashes (which are actually also hormonal), or if you find yourself waking up regularly, you may be getting poor sleep. Improve your sleep hygiene and revamp your sleep routine.
- Nutrient deficiencies - a number of vitamin and mineral deficiencies have been linked to fatigue. Key nutrients to pay attention to are iron (many menstruating women could benefit from an iron supplement), vitamin B12, omega–3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. We like to ensure we’re getting adequate nutrients by supplementing with BePure One, BePure Three and Vit D.
- Hydrate to stay awake! - not drinking enough water (or losing fluids through diarrhoea or vomiting) can also cause fatigue.
Looking for extra support? Try Period Pal - every woman's best friend to support a balanced, regular and drama-free cycle.