We know about period pain, but symptoms such as fatigue during your period can disrupt anywhere from a day to a week or more every month. Fortunately, there are many ways to feel like your usual self at any time of the month.
Fatigue during your period is caused by inflammation, iron deficiency and possibly neurotransmitter deficiencies. Therefore, solving these issues may benefit other symptoms that you develop during your period.
Life doesn’t stop during your period, and often we don’t want it to. Here are the underlying causes of menstrual fatigue and remedies to solve them.
What issues cause fatigue during your period?
Several main problems can cause fatigue during your period. You may have only one of these as the cause, or all four of them.
1. Inflammation can make you fatigued during menstruation
According to this study, levels of inflammation rise during your period, causing fatigue.
Inflammation is related to the appearance and severity of many potential negative symptoms, such as:
- Fatigue, including symptoms of mental fatigue such as confusion
- Period pain
- Mood swings, including the need to cry
- Anxiety and nervous tension
- Sadness or even depression
This may be because of inflammation’s role in promoting “sickness behaviour”, where you stay in bed at home to divert more resources to your immune system for fighting infection.
2. Low iron levels during the menstrual cycle can worsen fatigue
Iron-deficiency anaemia is a common cause of fatigue during your period too.
With blood loss, you lose the iron needed to make haemoglobin, the molecule responsible for your red blood cells’ oxygen-carrying abilities. Lower haemoglobin levels and production of the molecule, therefore, causes fatigue as you cannot produce energy without oxygen.
3. Neurotransmitter deficiencies may cause neural fatigue during menstruation
Neurotransmitter deficiencies can also contribute to menstrual fatigue.
Research shows that women with anxiety report higher rates of fatigue during their periods, both physical and mental. This was not linked to levels of oestrogen and progesterone. Instead, neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine may be responsible, as they support various neurological functions.
4. Poor sleep can make other causes of menstrual fatigue worse
Sleep and period fatigue are closely linked.
If you do not sleep well, for example, you get less than seven hours of sleep per night, your body and mind have not had sufficient time to rest and repair. This means you may be more affected by inflammation, loss of iron and dips in neurotransmitter levels.
Poor sleep is linked to heavier periods too, which increase iron loss.
Through reduced support for cellular energy production and the promotion of sickness behaviour, neurotransmitter deficiencies, low iron, poor sleep, and inflammation can contribute to fatigue during your period.
How to treat period fatigue caused by inflammation
Many herbal remedies and foods can help us fight period fatigue caused by inflammation. They work on a number of different inflammatory pathways, which prevents the sickness behaviour-effect.
1. Using herbs to fight inflammation and overcome weakness during period
You can include several herbal remedies in your everyday diet, both as a herbal tea ingredient and in desserts or snacks, to relieve fatigue during your period.
Some herbal teas have been highly valued as exotic spices for centuries, and now scientific evidence shows that they can be effective as medicines too. They include:
- Damask rose
Turmeric is effective at fighting period fatigue
Turmeric, to be specific curcumin, is able to relieve symptoms such as fatigue that appear before and during your period.
Curcumin inhibits many inflammatory pathways, including those controlled by the COX and LOX enzymes.
Aspects of the LOX pathways that curcumin partially blocks can contribute to fatigue during menstruation and all month long by damaging the mitochondria. These are the energy-producing centres of your cells, and a loss of numbers or function leads to fatigue you just can’t shake.
A trial on women with PMS found that curcumin supplementation can significantly relieve physical symptoms, from an average score of 41 down to 18.
Is it safe to take turmeric every day?
Yes, it is.
Clinical studies use daily doses of turmeric for weeks or months on end, so it is safe to take every day. For example, a research review included trials where volunteers took turmeric for up to 16 weeks, and it caused fewer side effects than over the counter pharmaceuticals.
To learn more about turmeric’s benefits, read this article:
- How I managed chronic pain with Turmeric Powder
- Turmeric: My Anti-aging Secret Revealed
- Drink Turmeric Tea To Soothe Symptoms Of Acid Reflux
Ginger to relieve fatigue, nausea and vomiting
Ginger is a popular herbal remedy for not only period pain but also other issues that can appear with other menstrual problems, such as fatigue or nausea and vomiting.
Like turmeric, ginger reduces inflammation and symptoms such as fatigue by slowing the COX and LOX pathways. As its place in teas, desserts and more is so versatile, you can enjoy mitochondrial protection whenever you want or need it.
A study of women taking fresh ginger from three days before their expected period to two days afterwards showed significant relief of pain and related symptoms. Fatigue was included in these related symptoms, as it commonly appears alongside period pain.
What else can ginger help with women’s health? Check out these articles:
Cinnamon for faster-acting relief of period pain
If you need faster-acting relief for period pain caused by inflammation, cinnamon may start to work in hours of your first dose.
Cinnamon works by reducing COX activity, including the production of the inflammatory prostaglandin E2, which is responsible for cramping during menstruation. It may also reduce levels of growth factors that contribute to heavier periods, such as by increasing blood vessel development.
To get the most out of cinnamon, we recommend you start taking it (or increasing your intake) a week before your period starts. However, in a trial where women only took three doses of cinnamon for one day, there were still significant benefits in relieving period pain.
Cinnamon tastes wonderful as an ingredient in herbal tea, mulled wine, desserts and even as an addition to breakfast cereal or porridge. As it supports blood sugar control, we recommend you use cinnamon with sweet foods.
When combined with other herbs, cinnamon can also help with some other digestive issues. You can learn more in this article:
2. Some foods can reduce inflammation and cope with period fatigue
An anti-inflammatory diet can help you reduce inflammation and its effects, such as period fatigue.
This diet involves higher intakes of
- omega-3 fatty acids
- fruits and vegetables
- nuts and whole grains
And it should also involve less
- red meat
- refined grains
- processed foods
Supplementation with omega-3 fats may relieve fatigue in PMS too, with one study showing an average fall in severity from 2.73 to 2.08 over three months. Difficulty with concentrating fell from 2.92 to 2.19, which can be related to mental fatigue; feelings of being overwhelmed and depressed mood fell too.
Omega-3 fats are found in oily fish, such as sardines, salmon and mackerel. If you are vegan or vegetarian, omega-3 sources can include:
Additionally, antioxidants have fatigue-fighting benefits and can be effective in chronic illnesses and excessive body weight. Research on Panax ginseng supplementation, a rich herbal source of antioxidants, found that its ability to improve energy levels was related to its anti-inflammatory benefits.
Which foods are high in antioxidants that help cope with period fatigue?
To fight period fatigue, you should try these antioxidant-rich foods.
- Deeply-coloured fruit, such as blueberries and acai berries
- Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, e.g. mango, carrot and sweet potato
- Leafy green vegetables, including kale and broccoli
- Red-coloured seafood such as salmon and prawns.
It is best that you switch to an anti-inflammatory diet all month instead of reserving it for your period.
As the naturopath Alexandra Preston explains in her book, Infla-Menses, certain inflammatory pathways can make your period heavier by increasing the growth of blood vessels. Your uterine lining is built up over several weeks before finally being broken down during menstruation, so every day counts.
If you want to discover more about inflammation and menstrual problems, you can purchase a copy here:
Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and Damask rose, as well as omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, can significantly relieve fatigue during your period by relieving inflammation. This includes mechanisms such as inhibiting the mitochondria-damaging LOX pathway and making your flow lighter by reducing blood vessel growth.
Herbal remedies to boost neurotransmitters and relieve period fatigue
Many women with mental health issues or learning disabilities report a worsening of their condition during menstruation, as neurotransmitters are already deficient in fall further. Therefore, boosting neurotransmitter levels may relieve period fatigue by increasing energy in your nervous system.
Herbal remedies such as lemon balm, Damask rose, and turmeric can boost neurotransmitters and relieve period fatigue. Through restoring serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, and GABA, your mental energy may be restored.
Lemon Balm to add zest to your energy and mental health
Lemon balm is a wonderful-smelling herbal tea that can brighten your morning with its citrus flavour.
Just like its mental health benefits, lemon balm’s neurotransmitter-restoring abilities were behind improved energy. Multiple studies show that it increases serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline and GABA, boosting your mental energy and overall health.
Is lemon balm a sedative?
Yes, lemon balm is both a mild sedative and an uplifting herb. On the one hand, studies show that lemon balm can relieve sleep difficulties, stress and anxiety, as GABA is a sedating neurotransmitter. Its ability to boost dopamine and brain-derived neurotrophic factor, however, provide a stimulating, rejuvenating effect.
It seems as though lemon balm is the gift that keeps giving, with research showing it can relieve period fatigue. On average, “lack of energy” fell from a severity from 2.3 to 1.08 over two months of supplementation. To learn more about lemon balm, read these articles:
- Why Lemon Balm Tea Is Growing In Popularity In Australia
- Can Lemon Balm Help with Anxiety?
- Lemon Balm For Insomnia And Anxiety
Rhodiola for a deep energy lift
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) is a popular herbal remedy for regulating the stress response by reducing the stress hormone, cortisol. This can allow you to sleep better at night, restoring your energy levels more effectively.
Besides stress relief, Rhodiola can increase levels of dopamine and noradrenaline. These neurotransmitters fall before and during menstruation, leading to not only fatigue but also poor concentration and motivation too.
If you have ADHD (which can occur in adult women; it isn’t only seen in children), you may notice your symptoms worsen during your period or improve with taking curcumin.
Damask rose for relieving period fatigue and stress
Damask rose may be the odd one out in this list of herbal remedies for relieving menstrual fatigue.
One review of clinical trials showed that it didn’t relieve period pain but did significantly reduce the severity of headache and fatigue during menstruation. Damask rose can also improve levels of GABA, relieving stress whether or not you are on your period.
This is a calming neurotransmitter and may reduce fatigue by relieving stress and tension while improving sleep. These benefits mean you can recharge at the end of each day more effectively and avoid expending your energy on unnecessary stress.
Both aromatherapies using rose oil and oral drops had beneficial effects, but as rose oil is very expensive, we recommend using it as a tea.
A fall in neurotransmitters during menstruation can worsen fatigue during your period and worsen the severity of other mental or learning disabilities. Lemon balm, turmeric and Damask rose can restore their levels and improve your mental energy.
Improving sleep quality can kick away the period fatigue
If you want to kick away period fatigue and improve your energy all month long, the most important thing may be to improve sleep quality.
Inflammation and a fall in some neurotransmitters can make you feel even worse when you aren’t sleeping well enough, as your baseline energy levels are lower.
Our circadian rhythms, or body clocks, work using a regular 24-hour rhythm. Improving sleep quality to kick away period fatigue involves supporting these rhythms and restoring them to a time more in sync with sunrise and sunset.
How can I sleep better during my period?
Here are some of the best tips which can help you sleep better during your period.
- Avoid screen time within one hour before bed. If you cannot avoid it due to work or study commitments, use a blue light filter. Morning sunlight contains more blue light, while the sunset contains more red light. This triggers a rise in the sleep hormone melatonin, something warmer filters may imitate.
- Aim for going to bed and waking up at consistent times, which trains your timed release of sleep and waking/stress hormones (cortisol, the main stress hormone, also keeps us awake).
- Don’t nap during the day unless you really need to, as this reduces your need to sleep at night.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine after dark, which is also found in soft drinks and black or green tea.
- Enjoy herbal teas that can improve sleep, such as chamomile, lavender and valerian.
- Aim to exercise during the day, as night time workouts may keep your levels of cortisol high and you’re burning energy at the appropriate time.
For more information on improving sleep with herbal teas, read these blogs:
Cultivating a healthy sleep/wake cycle, such as avoiding stimulating factors at night and keeping active during the day, can improve energy levels.
Foods to treat period fatigue caused by iron-deficiency anaemia
Iron-deficiency anaemia can worsen period fatigue because there is not enough haemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. However, adding certain foods to your diet can help treat this issue.
The most readily available sources of iron are animal products, particularly beef. Plant sources of iron are less available and need some conversion steps before it is available to the body.
Excessive red meat can increase inflammation, so it’s best to limit your intake to no more than two or three servings a week.
How to boost your iron status if you are vegetarian or vegan?
Ways to boost your iron status for vegetarian and vegan include:
- Consuming well-cooked whole grains and legumes, particularly red lentils and teff.
- Well-cooked leafy green vegetables such as spinach
- Including vitamin C-rich foods along with plant sources of iron can make it more available.
- Keep meals separate from coffee, tea and cacao, which contain antinutrients that reduce iron absorption.
Whether or not you eat meat, reducing inflammation can improve iron status by giving you a lighter period.
As Alexandra Preston describes in Infla-Menses, ginger supplementation before and during your period can even halve the amount of blood lost. One study even found a fall in average menstrual flow from 113mL before treatment to 53mL in the second month.
Whether or not you are a vegetarian, simple steps such as increasing your Vitamin C and green vegetable intake, along with separating coffee or tea from meals and reducing inflammation, can improve your iron status.
Other ways to boost your energy during your period
Besides the above methods, there are other ways to boost your energy during your period by increasing cellular energy production.
Diets high in refined junk foods contain low levels of the nutrients our cells need to generate energy. As we are often eating these diets from early childhood, we may not notice how they affect us.
Cellular energy production is not only essential to boost energy during your period but also for fighting fatigue every day of the month too. This process uses the breakdown of sugar to generate ATP, the energy-carrying system of the cell.
How can I boost my energy during my period?
You should have some of these nutrients to boost our energy during menstruation.
- Vitamin B1, B2, B5, B6
- Vitamin B3; increasingly popular antiaging supplements formulate this as NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) or NR (nicotinamide riboside)
- Folate, also known as Vitamin B9
- Vitamin B12 only found in meat and other animal products
- Vitamin C
- Zinc, not only also at its highest levels in beef and oysters, but also present in pumpkin seeds too.
A quality broad-spectrum B vitamin supplement can cover your needs for B vitamins, which are found in whole, unrefined grains and molasses too.
Boosting your levels of B vitamins, along with other minerals such as magnesium, can increase cellular energy production at any time of the month.
There are many ways to relieve the fatigue that often comes with your period, and these methods are different for everyone.
Perhaps you will find the best results from relieving inflammation, increasing your iron levels, boosting neurotransmitters or simply sleeping better.
In many cases, finding the best solution calls for trial and error or support from a naturopath, but the effort is all worth it when you find your answers.