Menopause and Brain Fog - 6 strategies to help you beat it!Oct 02, 2022
What Causes Menopause Brain Fog?
Brain fog is one of the most common symptoms experienced by women during perimenopause and menopause. In fact up to two thirds of women in perimenopause or menopause, say that they are struggling with, or have struggled with, brain fog.
Brain fog is the term used to describe a general feeling of confusion, disorientation, forgetfulness, and inability to concentrate. It can occur for a variety of reasons but is most commonly seen in women going through menopause.
But is this a new menopause symptom?
Whilst our grandmothers and great aunts may have struggled to find their words, or remember names, they probably didn't talk about it. Many women hid their cognitive symptoms being concerned that they may be seen to be 'losing their mind' or even suffering from early onset dementia.
Even now women find it a tough subject to talk about, especially within the workplace, sadly this can lead to them ending their career early as they feel they cannot function effectively any more.
What does brain fog actually feel like?
Some women wake up feeling overwhelmed, as if they can't think clearly about anything. They might forget the name of their children or pet, or worse still, their colleague or boss. Many women say they struggle to concentrate on something that was previously easy for them, a breeze, or experience acute embarrassment when they can’t find the right words in an important meeting.
"I gave the wrong report in an important meeting - I was mortified".
Senior nurse Katy, told me that she presented a report that was a month out of date, to a room full of senior staff. She realised as she was coming to the end and noticed the incorrect date. She said she felt inadequate and embarrassed.
In offices, houses, and cafes everywhere there are women feeling this shame and fear - not only that they are becoming unable to function at work, or that they may be getting early-onset dementia, they can’t even make a decision about what to have for dinner.
Because of the stigma of mental health and ageing, many women don’t feel comfortable talking about their experiences - even to those they are closest to.
If you are reading this and recognise any of these symptoms, here's what you need to know!
What causes us to forget the name of our kids??!!
Like many of the Menopause Symptoms I have talked about - it's back to the decline in our hormones again - a phase called Perimenopause.
Rather than having a steady supply of Oestrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone, the supply becomes a bit erratic meaning our hormones can be out of balance. This up and down phase is called perimenopause, a phase that can last for up to ten years!
During this perimenopause phase, you might notice your body changing in a way you don’t recognise. Rather than feeling in sync with your body, your periods may become very erratic, they may be very heavy or conversely, very light.
Some women become very anxious, or tearful, and many notice their clothes are getting tighter and their body shape is changing. All these things are occurring, despite the fact that you are living your life exactly as before - nothing has changed.
But inside, there are big changes - to EVERY part of your body.
We know that Oestrogen has over 300 functions - so when our brain cells get less than they are used to, it can show up in the variety of symptoms which we collectively call - Brain Fog.
What about surgical or medical menopause?
It doesn't matter if the decline in hormones is a natural one sometime in your mid to late 40's, or a result of surgery or a medical condition. The effect will be similar.
What can you do to help you think clearer again?
As a menopause fitness and lifestyle coach, I talk to ladies every day who tell me that they want to feel more confident, both at work and at home, often in the hope that I will suggest a supplement they can take to improve things.
The advice I give, backed by science, is simple but can be life-changing. The tougher part is putting it into practice without any support.
- Focus on your sleep - While we sleep the brain is able to rest and repair, vital for concentration, memory and energy during a busy working day. Adequate sleep also helps prevent menopause weight gain too!
- Think about daily exercise and movement - when you spend much of the day at your desk or in front of a screen, you miss out on the many benefits of the right type of exercise for menopause. I offer a range of online menopause-specific fitness classes, more info here!
- Stay hydrated! Just the simple act of increasing your fluid intake to about 2 litres each day can make a huge change to your concentration levels. If you can’t reach that try increasing by 1-2 glasses each day and build up slowly. Avoid caffeine after 3 pm as it both dehydrates and impairs sleep.
- What you eat and when you eat can affect brain fog. Focus on eating as many plants as you can, with a variety of colours for best results. Avoid fad diets, missing meals or low-calorie foods instead of opting for a Mediterranean style diet that includes olive oil for brain health.
- Learn to say NO - as busy women, we are used to everyone demanding some of your time and as a result, we are frequently multi-tasking right up until the time we go to bed. Spend some time thinking about what you could ask someone else to do to reduce your workload.
- Supplements - the best way to look after our gut health in menopause is to eat a wide variety of plant foods with meat or fish if you wish. But if you do want some extra support, I recommend Vitamin D which is often in short supply in the UK due to the lack of sunshine. Having low Vitamin D levels can contribute to tiredness which increases brain fog. The second supplement is Magnesium which helps you relax and unwind at the end of a busy day. Magnesium can be applied as a cream, or you can use Epsom salts in a bath or take it orally as a tablet.
Does HRT help with Brain Fog?
Many women consider HRT to be the holy grail of menopause treatment, it has protective benefits for the heart, bones and against some cancers and can be a real help for night sweats and lack of sleep.
HRT may help with Brain Fog, lack of concentration and decision making but it is not clear whether it's due to the reduction of night sweats which in turn improves sleep! HRT is a personal choice however and it’s important to note that there are many lifestyle changes which can also help with the symptoms of menopause, including brain fog.
Does Brain Fog ever go away?
The good news is that for most women, Brain Fog is a temporary phase and their brain will return to it's pre-menopausal state IF they pay attention to their general health.
Understanding that we cannot continue on a hamster wheel of stress, work, lack of sleep and a sedentary lifestyle as we did a decade ago, will help hugely in making plans to bring some change about which will, in turn, lead to a healthier happier life in menopause.
Free Perimenopause Course
If you are only just learning about the affect of the hormone changes on your body, and you'd like to have a better understanding, why not get my FREE 7 day course which covers these topics:
- Day 1 - Perimenopause and Heart Health
- Day 2- Perimenopause and Gut Health
- Day 3 - Perimenopause and how to sleep better.
- Day 4 - Perimenopause and your pelvic floor
- Day 5 - Perimenopause and your muscles and bones
- Day 6 - Perimenopause and why lifestyle matters
- Day 7 - Perimenopause and HRT
To get the first lesson sign up here!