I recently asked the woman on my Facebook Page what questions they had about PCOS and something that came up on a number of occasions is the issue of fatigue. So many of us struggle with fatigue and really low energy levels.
Just this week I was feeling peckish during the late afternoon and I had a gluten free hot cross bun (not my best decision and I knew it at the time too). Half an hour later I could not keep my eyes open whilst reading to my daughter. This makes me cross for a couple of reasons:
- I should have known better than to eat such a high carb snack.
- I am so mad that I allowed PCOS to rob me of that precious time with my daughter. It makes me even more determined to make wise choices every time I put something in my mouth!
But I digress. Let’s look at what is going on with PCOS and low energy levels and what can we do to make it better.
The Link Between Blood Sugars and Energy Levels
The body’s primary source of fuel is glucose (it can also get fuel from fats if you are following a ketogenic diet but we’re not going to look at that in this particular article). So, in order to maintain our energy, we have to maintain our blood sugar levels and prevent extreme highs and lows in our blood sugars. Eating refined, processed foods cause our blood sugars to rise quickly, giving us a quick burst of energy. this causes a big insulin response and our sugars then quickly fall, leaving us feeling tired and hungry, with difficulty concentrating (1).
Insulin, PCOS and the Afternoon Slump
Many women with PCOS have difficulties processing carbohydrates and irregularities with their insulin (this is true whether or not you have insulin resistance). So, our bodies tend to produce too much insulin and they can also be insensitive to the insulin we do produce. This tends to make our insulin levels quite high which can result in quick changes in your blood sugars. It’s this quick rise and crashing of our sugars that makes us desperately tired, with little energy to do the things we need to do during the day.
One of the best ways to prevent this pendulum-ing of your insulin and your blood sugars is to make sure that you are following a PCOS friendly diet, with good whole foods, some protein at every meal and low GI carbohydrates. Also, try and avoid dairy as this has been shown to cause a big glycemic response (a lot of insulin is released) even though it is relatively low GI.
Did you know that sleep is associated with sleep apnea (2) ? In fact, one study found that women with PCOS were 30% more likely to suffer from sleep disordered breathing and excessive daytime sleepiness. This fatigue does have a close link with Insulin resistance, as I already mentioned. It is also important to realise that this excessive daytime sleepiness is independent of insulin resistance.
Brain Fog and PCOS
Dr Datis Kharrazian (3) suggests that brain fog can be a symptom of inflammation. Now this is interesting because we know that women with PCOS also have chronic low grade inflammation (4). So, we need to make sure that we are doing all that we can to combat inflammation within our bodies.
So basically, we’ve said that we struggle with fatigue, brain fog, lack of energy for a number of reasons.
- Unstable blood sugars
- Sleep disorders or not enough sleep
- Low grade inflammations
What can we do?
So, in order to combat fatigue, here are my suggestions:
- Make sure that you are following a low GI, gluten and dairy free whole food diet to prevent your blood sugars from swinging wildly out of control.
- Make sure that you are getting enough sleep and doing what you can to manage your insulin levels. One of the primary ways that you can manage your insulin (without taking metformin and assuming you are already following a PCOS friendly diet), is by making sure that you are taking Myo Inositol (Inositol) regularly. Check out this article for more information on this wonderful supplement.
- Do your best to address your low grade chronic inflammation. You can do this by eliminating gluten (many women with PCOS are sensitive to gluten. You can read more about this here). Foods that are anti-inflammatory in nature include:Wild salmon (not farmed salmon) as it is high in Omega 3; cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, etc; kelp; blueberries; extra virgin olive oil; turmeric; ginger; garlic; green tea, sweet potatoes
I’ve had feedback from so many women saying that their energy improved and their brain fog cleared within a couple of days of following these recommendations. So, why not try it for a week or two and see if it helps. What have you got to lose?
Have you struggled with energy levels and brain fog? I’d love to hear your story and I know that there are so many in the PCOS Diet Support community who would love to hear from any of you who have improved energy levels and what you found really made a difference for you! Please leave me a comment in the box below and hit that 'post comment' button!