The restorative energy gained from a proper night of sleep is essential to a woman’s health and ability to function during the daytime. While in menopause, many women find that their energy levels aren't what they used to be, even if it seems that they are getting enough sleep. The most basic underlying cause of fatigue during menopause is hormonal imbalance. However, fatigue is a complex symptom of menopause as its causes and lifestyle triggers can be numerous. For example, extra work stresses, family strains, and others can worsen fatigue during menopause.
What is Fatigue and what is it caused by?
Fatigue is that general sense of tiredness, lack of energy or even hopelessness that a situation will improve. Fatigue can be caused by a number of situations ranging from work and family, to sleep and substance intake. Fatigue can be very trying to the menopausal woman as the body begins to cope with a new chemistry balance, thus depriving certain areas of what was once in abundance and causing the body to have to work harder for what it once took as a normal state.
Not Always what it Seems
Fatigue, often an indicator of a larger problem can be caused by other factors than Menopause and it pays to be aware of them and eliminate their candidacy before treating the fatigue. Some other factors include Anemia, Coronary artery disease, diabetes, heart failure and impending heat failure, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, kidney and liver disease. When fatigue persists for more than two weeks and may be accompanied by other serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, abnormal bleeding and a change in weight it is probably time to see your Health Care Provider and have a full examination so that the cause can be determined.
Menopause and Fatigue
Menopause or more specifically Perimenopause can be a very stressful time for a woman and its effects can be weakening to the point of debilitation. The important factor to identify in managing Menopause related Fatigue is to make sure that you are doing everything you can to eliminate the source of the fatigue. As your body changes you will need every bit of relief you can gain to make the smoothest possible transition towards a post menopausal state. Fatigue can hamper the will and the efforts to ensure that body chemistry and hormone levels and needs are being met. Fatigue can cause the menopausal woman to not take the steps she needs to reduce the suffering cause by other symptoms such as Hot Flashes or Depression. It can prevent her from exercising and engaging in social groups that can provide not only relief but the tools to manage Menopause. In short, Fatigue can be the multiplier that makes other problems worse.
Physical: Cortisol, another hormone that runs through your body, is the primary factor that causes exhaustion. Estrogen helps control the level of cortisol in your body by keeping it in check. As the level of estrogen in your body decreases, the amount of cortisol that can flow through your body increases. So when you begin doing activities which might not have tired you out before and you feel as if they took more effort than they had before, it is because of the increase in cortisol levels.
Psychological: Anxiety and stress take a toll on us before menopause begins; now these emotions take an even greater toll and literally wear us out. High stress situations and environments become even more upsetting and can often become overwhelming.
How to Fight Fatigue
There are three categories of approaches, which can offer the remedy for the Fatigue during menopause.
- Lifestyle Changes
- Exercise at least 30 minutes each day. Simple walking will even help improve energy levels and help to battle fatigue. Do yoga, stretching and other relaxing activities to keep body and mind in the pink. Just keep moving to raise up your norepinephrine (adrenaline) levels which will help to energize you. As you may be experiencing fatigue largely due to anxiety or stress, practicing stress reduction techniques such as yoga or meditation, as well as breathing exercises, might be especially helpful to reduce fatigue.
- Get some sunlight each day. Sunlight stimulates feelings of alertness.
- Fatigue in the daytime is closely tied to a woman’s sleeping habits. Many nights during menopause, when women experience other common symptoms such as night sweats or sleep disorders, this can interrupt the sleep cycle and lead to fatigue as a result. In this case the importance of a good night’s sleep cannot be stressed enough. Cutting out caffeine and alcohol, and using the bedroom only for sleep, can also be useful. You may drink a small amount of mid morning caffeine. But avoid drinking it later in the day as it takes three to seven hours for the caffeine in a cup of coffee to leave your body.
- The hot flashes and night sweats that many women experience during menopause can interrupt sleep. Keeping your nighttime environment cooler than you usually do is one way to combat the sensation of heat. Using a fan, light bedding, and light night clothes will help keep the temperature more comfortable.
- Take a short nap. Even a 10 minute can produce immediate improvements in fatigue levels.
- Establish healthy eating habits. What you eat has a direct correlation to your energy level. Our bodies cannot function properly if we aren't eating the right foods. For instance, too little iron in your diet may cause you to develop anemia which leaves you feeling week and tired. Make sure you eat enough iron, eat whole grain breads and pasta, plenty of nuts and seeds, beans, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables and protein in the form of poultry and seafood.
- Drink adequate amount of water every day (8 to 10 glasses) to keep your body well hydrated.
- Consume vitamins and supplements for menopause fatigue. B vitamins are excellent for energy. The best way to get your B vitamins is through nutritional yeast. Be sure to get a brand that has been processed at low temperatures. Coconut oil is an excellent energy booster and good for your thyroid. It can also help you lose weight. Try 2 tablespoons in a little warm water before meals. CoQ10 is good for your heart and gums as well as your energy. L-carnitine is an excellent supplement for energy as well as weight loss. L-tyrosine is an amino acid that can give you more energy if you are not getting enough of it in your diet. Seaweeds are packed with nutrients, especially trace minerals, which many people are deficient in. Seaweeds also helps support thyroid function. You can add seaweeds to your diet or take a kelp supplement.
- Ask your family to help with chores at home.
Making these lifestyle changes is easier said than done, especially if one is accustomed to a certain routine. In addition, while these changes will help alleviate many symptoms, they do not address the problem directly at the hormonal source and so further treatment may be necessary. Alternative medicine has proven to be excellent for the treatment of fatigue in a safe and natural way.
- Alternative Medicine
Alternative approaches involve little to no risk and can be an extremely effective way to treat fatigue. This level of approach can involve several different therapies. Herbal supplements are the most prominent, though in addition women may turn to such fatigue-fighting techniques as acupuncture, biofeedback, massage, or aromatherapy. All of these can be valid and effective options, though most women find that herbal supplements are the easiest alternative treatment to follow, as the others require a greater time and monetary commitment. In addition, herbal supplements are the only viable option to treat the hormonal imbalance directly at its source.
In the case of herbal supplements, there are two types of herbs that can be used for treating fatigue: phytoestrogenic and non-estrogenic herbs.
Phytoestrogenic herbs (e.g. Black Cohosh) contain estrogenic components produced by plants. These herbs, at first, do treat the hormonal imbalance by introducing these plant-based estrogens into the body. However, as a result of adding outside hormones, a woman’s body may become less capable of producing estrogen on its own. This causes a further decrease of the body’s own hormone levels.
By contrast, non-estrogenic herbs, as the name suggests, don't contain any estrogen. These herbs stimulate a woman’s hormone production by nourishing the pituitary and endocrine glands, causing them to more efficiently produce natural hormones. This ultimately results in balancing estrogen levels. Non-estrogenic herbs (e.g. Macafem) can be considered the safest way to treat these 34 menopause symptoms naturally as the body creates its own hormones and doesn’t require any outside assistance.
A combination of approaches is usually the most effective route to take. Lifestyle changes combined with alternative medicine will most likely be the best way to alleviate the symptoms of this hormonal imbalance. However, for some women the symptoms will be so severe that a more drastic treatment is necessary. In taking the leap into pharmaceutical options, side effects are inevitable, yet sometimes they can be worth it if the benefits will outweigh the risks.
- Drugs and Surgery
If you have tried some or all of these recommendations without success, talk to your doctor. You might need to be evaluated for other problems, such as low thyroid function or obstructed breathing. And depending on your individual situation, your doctor also can talk to you about other treatments that can help fight fatigue during menopause, including:
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): A recent study in the British Medical Journal showed that women who took HRT experienced a significant reduction in sleep problems.
- Antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), or venlafaxine (Effexor), can be helpful. However, you and your doctor will need to work together to determine which (if any) would be appropriate for your symptoms.
- Other medications for symptoms such as hot flashes may also be beneficial. Again, you and your doctor can determine whether birth control pills, the hormone progesterone, or blood pressure medications, for instance, might help alleviate your particular symptoms.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a treatment that can ease breathing at night in menopausal women with fatigue and obstructive sleep apnea, a condition of disordered nighttime breathing.
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