When it comes to menopause symptoms, hot flashes tend to get the most attention, but what about the often crushing fatigue that can accompany menopause? Close to 70% of women battle fatigue as one of their primary symptoms during the menopausal transition, yet only a quarter of these women seek help from a doctor or other healthcare provider.
However, menopausal fatigue is not something you have to endure and it’s not an inevitable part of mid-life. Following are some of the reasons why you might be experiencing menopausal fatigue and practical steps that can help you regain your energy.
Fatigue – The Hidden Symptom
One reason why fatigue often goes untreated is that it can be a challenging symptom to isolate. Fatigue can be caused by other menopause symptoms, such as insomnia, back pain, or weight gain. Because of this, for women dealing with a number of concurrent symptoms the source of their fatigue may not be apparent. As a result, many are left feeling helpless and frustrated. Additionally, fatigue tends to worsen as menopause progresses, with rates for post-menopausal women being about twice those of perimenopausal women.
So, what can cause menopausal fatigue?
Having a chronic health condition or not exercising regularly can increase a woman’s risk for developing fatigue during menopause. A survey of perimenopausal women found that, of 220 participants, 64% reported experiencing fatigue. The same percentage of participants described themselves as having a sedentary lifestyle and 55% had a chronic illness, most commonly hypertension or diabetes.
Additionally, stress can be a causative factor, according to recent research. Prolonged stress, in particular, is mentally, physically, and emotionally draining and commonly leads to fatigue. Your stress levels over the course of your life, including past traumas or stressful life events, may determine whether you will be affected by fatigue during this transitional time and the degree to which it impacts you. And some women experience disabling menopausal fatigue, causing them to leave their jobs earlier than planned, which has financial impacts that lead to, you guessed it, more stress.
Fatigue management during menopause
Some of the self-care techniques that women report using to manage menopause-related fatigue include listening to music, using hormone support supplements, sharing about their symptoms with friends, and maintaining an active social life. Studies show these methods are moderately effective. Other proven self-care techniques that can help you reduce fatigue and reinvigorate your energy levels during menopause include:
The physical poses (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama) of yoga significantly reduced fatigue, in a group of perimenopausal women, in one study. Participants were first instructed on a series of yoga exercises and then practiced them for 60 days. Both the asanas and the pranayama exercises resulted in significant overall improvement in several menopause symptoms, and 76% experienced complete resolution of fatigue within the first 30 days.
A phospholipid found in soy and eggs, lecithin is similar in structure to the lipids that your body uses to form cellular membranes. Depletion of phospholipids leads to cell membrane damage and impaired cellular function. This typically occurs as part of the aging process and can affect the membranes that surround energy-producing parts of cells, known as mitochondria.
For some women, lecithin depletion may contribute to menopause-related fatigue and supplementation can help reduce fatigue by improving cellular energy production. In one study, 1200 mg per day of lecithin supplementation increased vigor and lowered blood pressure in a group of middle-aged women with fatigue.
It’s so relaxing that it feels like an indulgence, but foot massage is a veritable health-promoting power-tool that every menopausal woman should have in her self-care arsenal. In one study, postmenopausal women who received daily foot massage for seven days experienced increased sleep time and decreased fatigue and anxiety.
Additionally, a practice known as foot reflexology has been found to help with menopause-related fatigue. Foot reflexology is based on the concept that the feet contain a “map” of the body composed of reflex points that correspond to various organs and systems. Applying gentle pressure to the reflex points is thought to stimulate blood flow and help balance nerve function. In one study, foot reflexology alleviated menopause-related fatigue and reduced biomarkers of stress and anxiety.
A traditional Chinese medicine technique in which gentle pressure is applied to energy meridian points on the ears, known as auricular acupressure, has been shown to alleviate fatigue in middle-aged menopausal women. In a six-week study, participants fell asleep faster and experienced significant improvements in sleep quality and duration. Additionally, their serotonin levels were found to increase and their fatigue and cortisol levels decreased.
If menopause-related fatigue is impacting your life, don’t suffer in silence. Try some of these self-care techniques and let your doctor know so that your care plan can address the issue and track your symptoms.