Hormone coach Pamela Windle on menopause and fatigue

It’s common to say you are tired or need a little more energy to get through the day.

But fatigue is way more than feeling tired from a rough week or a few late nights. It’s a deep feeling of persistent exhaustion, leaving you feeling weak, mentally, emotionally and physically drained, unable to cope with life and work and take care of yourself and your loved ones.

I know this, because I’ve been there myself.

Turn back the clock a few years, and you’d see me suffering from fatigue. It was the bone-crushing kind of tiredness that no amount of sleep could fix. It didn’t matter how long I slept; I’d never wake up feeling refreshed.

For a long time, I didn’t understand what was happening until, at 47, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), this is a complex syndrome with one of the components being persistent fatigue.

After some diagnostic testing, I discovered I had elevated antibodies to the Epstein Barr virus. It was such a relief knowing this because now I could set about targeting my nutrition and supplements to support my healing journey.

The rest is history, and I feel 110% better than I did back then.

Why does perimenopause or menopause cause fatigue?

Did you know that your hormones don’t only affect your periods, but also nearly all of the other processes in your body?

This includes mood, sleep, metabolism, sexual function, immune system and energy levels. It can help to think of them as messengers that tell your body what to do and when to do it. We need each of these hormones in very specific amounts for optimal health, and these hormones need to be in perfect balance at all times. Small changes can often trigger unwanted symptoms.

The main culprit during menopause is likely to be your ovaries. These produce both oestrogen and testosterone – hormones that help your body make energy. When these aren’t functioning efficiently, we can feel exhausted physically and mentally.

But it’s not just your menopause transition that is to blame for your tiredness. If you aren’t eating or sleeping well, living a sedentary lifestyle or suffering from chronic inflammation, you are even more likely to suffer from menopause fatigue.

What else could be causing your fatigue?

You also need to consider other health issues that could be causing your fatigue or making it worse. We can’t blame everything on our hormones.

This could include:

  • Low iron and ferritin levels. This is more likely to happen if you’re suffering from heavy menstrual bleeding, eating a poor diet, or absorption issues such as leaky gut or too much negative gut bacteria.
  • Thyroid issues. Heavy bleeding, prolonged stress and hormone imbalances also affect your thyroid gland. It’s worth getting these tested if you believe you have an issue.
  • Low vitamin B12 levels. This essential nutrient helps convert proteins and fats to energy. It’s harder to get if you’re eating a limited diet or you’re vegetarian or vegan.
  • Insulin sensitivity. As our hormones change, we become more sensitive to insulin- the hormone that helps control our blood sugar levels. A blood sugar imbalance is often to blame for those energy peaks and troughs.
  • Post-viral fatigue. After an illness such as Epstein-Barr or COVID, your body could take time to recover.

How to tackle menopause fatigue

As a first port of call, it’s worth booking in with your GP to assess your health holistically.

Given the above information, you might be feeling like you’re doomed to feel like this until you finally become post-menopausal. But by making simple lifestyle changes, you can regain your energy and feel like your usual self again.

1. Fix your diet

The foods you eat play a huge role in how you feel. During perimenopause and menopause, you can boost your energy levels by doing the following:

  • Eat more antioxidants – indulge in antioxidants to beat menopause fatigue. They’ll make a big difference to your energy levels, such as cocoa powder, green tea, artichoke, flaxseeds and herbs such as rosemary and thyme.
  • Balance your blood sugar levels – make sure you’re eating a sugar-free breakfast such as eggs, sardines, and mackerel with green veggies within an hour of waking up. Or, if you’re eating a plant-based diet, try something like a Buddha Bowl or toasted tempeh.
  • Conserve energy – it takes energy to break down foods in your gut, so you want to preserve this as much as possible. Take your time to chew food well.

2. Get moving!

Getting some movement may be the last thing you want to do when suffering from fatigue. But it can make a big difference to how you feel, even if you can only walk for a few minutes at a time. This will help to boost your mood and help to reset your hormones.

3. Start a bedtime routine

Beat menopause insomnia and get the good night’s sleep you need by developing healthy sleep habits. Start by taking a warm bath or shower, drinking herbal tea and perhaps curling up with a book. Do some relaxation exercises or Qigong, then climb into bed. You’ll soon notice that you drop off more quickly and feel more rested when you wake.

4. Find time to relax

Stress can make matters worse, especially when it comes to menopause fatigue. But you can do something about it!

You could find time for a ‘sleepcation’. I often tell clients to find a time once per month to spend 12 hours in bed. Use essential oils, get cosy, and use lots of cushions or anything else that makes you feel good. Avoid blue light, listen to a podcast or just sleep.

5. Consider taking targeted supplements

Taking high-quality supplements can help with your energy levels. I’d recommend:

  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Vitamin C
  • B complex
  • N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)

If you’re struggling with menopause fatigue, don’t give up hope.

By following the tips I’ve outlined above, you’ll get to the root of your tiredness and then discover what you can do to feel better.

The content of the QVC website is for information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the QVC website.

We understand there’s a lot of information out there on the menopause. You can read through the NICE guidance on menopause management, as well as the NHS overview on the menopause.