Sure, cramps and cravings are bad enough, but one of the worst period and PMS symptoms out there could very well be period fatigue. How are you supposed to do all the things you're expected to do (and that are supposed to help with the other symptoms) if you're just too darn tired? Fear not! We've got a whole list of ways to fight period fatigue below.
But first, what exactly causes it? The jury's still out, but one study from the University of Adelaide in Australia suggests that it has to do with hormone levels. From about three days before menstruation until ovulation, estrogen and progesterone, the two main hormones associated with the menstrual cycle, are at their lowest. According to Leanne Redman, who reported the study findings, low levels of these two hormones means more waste products like lactic acid and carbon dioxide when you consume carbohydrates. "This can contribute to muscle soreness and premature fatigue," Redman said.
While we may not know precisely what causes period fatigue (though hormone levels are a good start), we do know there are plenty of things you can do to fight it:
- Keep down the carbs. Foods that are high in fat, sugar, and carbs—like fast food, candy, or soft drinks—can not only cause the hormonal imbalances described above, but also mess up your sleep schedule and quality...which just makes you more tired.
- Get the nutrients you need. Women always need plenty of iron, but this is particularly important during menstruation. Load up on lean meats, leafy green veggies, eggs, and dried fruit. Other nutrients to keep an eye on include vitamin C (which helps you absorb iron—try oranges and broccoli) and magnesium and B vitamins (which help fight fatigue—nuts and seeds are a good source).
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, so you'll want to keep water on the menu as much as possible. And if you're drinking water instead of sugary soda and juice, you're double helping yourself out by cutting down on fat, sugar, and carbs.
- Exercise. This one's tough, especially when you're already tired, but exercise will help your body release endorphins, which raise both your energy and your mood (not to mention reducing stress and helping with other period symptoms). But be kind to yourself! If you're not up for a full-on gym extravaganza, you can always do several shorter, lighter workouts in ten-minute intervals. Even just making an effort to get some walking or stretching in can help.
- Talk to your doctor. If your period fatigue is completely overwhelming, you may want to see a doctor to rule out any medical conditions like anemia (caused by iron deficiency), folic acid deficiency, or a thyroid issue. It might be worth your while to start taking a multivitamin, too, to make sure you're getting all the nutrition you need.
If you're tired of being tired right before or during your period, know there are things you can do to fight period fatigue. Give the tips above a try, and you'll feel better in no time!