Menopausal memory loss and brain fog
I have found it isn’t well known that menopausal memory loss and brain fog are common symptoms of the peri-menopause, leading many women to become concerned they are getting early onset dementia. Until I started to lose words mid sentence, forget what I was saying, struggle to concentrate and generally feel like my brain was made of cotton wool in my own peri-menopause, I didn’t realise how worrying it can be. Memory loss and brain fog can occur at any age but is particularly common in the peri-menopause, this is thought to be caused by a decline in the hormone oestrogen, affecting brain function. It can be a particularly worrying symptom and affects around 80% of women in the peri-menopause.
Brain fog is a term which describes a variety of symptoms. These include: a decrease in mental clarity, slow thinking, lack of focus, lack of concentration, difficulty in learning new things, difficulty concentrating, forgetting things mid sentence, forgetting names, losing words, general clumsiness, fatigue or exhaustion and generally feeling like your brain isn’t working. Do any of these seem familiar? If so, rest assured there are things you can do to help these symptoms.
What causes memory loss and brain fog in the menopause?
Oestrogen receptors are found throughout the brain. During the menopause transition the reduction in the female dominant hormone oestrogen affects how the brain works. Oestrogen is key to brain function, especially energy in the brain, as oestrogen decreases so does brain energy. Lower oestrogen effects parts of the brain to do with sleep, mood and memory, hence menopausal memory loss and brain fog can occur. The reduction in oestrogen can also effect temperature regulation, which is a reason hot flushes and night sweats may occur.
Even though there can be a reduction in brain function in the peri-menopause there is research to suggest that post-menopausal brain function returns to pre-menopausal function, after the brain has got used to the hormonal changes. Another study reports the brain finds a new normal after the menopause in most women.
Menopause and work
Despite women’s brain energy reducing significantly during the menopause transition, I’m pleased to say cognitive performance remains the same compared to men’s. So for all those women who are concerned about their ability to do their job, you don’t need to be!
Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce but with around 10% leaving work due to menopausal symptoms including symptoms affecting mood, memory and concentration this is an area which workplaces need to be aware of. Thankfully many workplaces are now implementing menopause policies. If your work place doesn’t have a menopause policy then try to speak to your manager or HR. These links may be useful: https://www.menopausematters.co.uk/menopause_at_work.php https://www.menopausedoctor.co.uk/menopause/menopause-work-new-guidelines
Things that can help improve menopausal memory loss and brain fog
Thankfully there are things we can do to help brain fog and all it’s related symptoms. Hooray!
Keep hydrated: The brain is made of around 80% water, so even mild dehydration can cause brain fog, fatigue, confusion, headache and even brain shrinkage!
- Aim for at least 2 litres of water a day or more if you exercise (this can include non-caffeinated teas) and drink it regularly throughout the day.
- If you don’t like water or find it boring, you could add slices of lime, lemon or orange or add herbs such as sage or rosemary or if you want a real tang then add a chunk of ginger.
- You don’t have to just stick to cold water, you could also have it hot, maybe with a slice of lemon.
Balance your blood sugar: Dysregulated blood sugar can cause brain fog.
- Make sure you have some protein and healthy fats with each meal and increase fibre rich foods including a variety of vegetables, legumes (if they don’t cause bloating) and wholegrains in your diet.
- Try to avoid processed foods, refined carbohydrates and eat more whole foods.
- Try to stay away from sugary snacks and drinks.
- If you want more information about this take a look at my blog on balancing blood sugar.
Eat the Mediterranean way: Eating a Mediterranean diet has research to support it’s benefits on women’s brain health. Try these tips:
- Eat a rainbow of colours of vegetables and some fruit.
- Lots of fish (especially oily).
- Nuts, seeds, wholegrains (including wild rice, barley, oats, quinoa, rye).
- Low amount of dairy.
- Low consumption of sugar.
- No more than 3 portions of meat a week (if red meat no more than 2 portions).
- Lots of olive oil (extra virgin from one country is the best).
- Traditional Mediterranean cultures are also physically active and value and enjoy company and eating with others, so don’t forget that aspect.
Choose the right fats:
- Omega 3 fats promote brain health and can be found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring. Aim for 2-3 portions a week of oily fish. Or vegetable sources include flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds or walnuts. If you aren’t getting enough omega 3 fats you could consider supplementing with a good quality supplement.
- Monounsaturated fats found in avocados, olives, olive oil, nuts and seeds are also beneficial to brain health. Try to include some of these foods in your daily diet.
- Avoid trans fats.
Exercise: An active lifestyle actually keeps your brain younger.
- Try to do a mixture of exercises, such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobic classes, skipping, yoga, Pilates, dancing or practical things like cleaning or gardening.
- Muscle building exercise is very important in the menopausal years as it is protects the bones, can help regulate blood sugar levels and help with weight maintenance, so get lifting some weights, use resistance bands or use your own body weight (think squats, lunges and the plank).
- Whatever you choose, don’t do it to the point of exhaustion and do it regularly.
- Movement should be part of your everyday life even if you are not doing formal exercise, to maximise your brain health.
Reduce stress: Stress can have a major impact on brain health and function. Whilst eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly can all have an impact on stress levels there are lots of other things which can help.
- Making time to spend with family and friends can be a really effective stress reliever, especially in women, and has been shown to support brain health.
- Meditation, mindfulness and yoga have all been shown to increase brain activity and reduce stress hormones. I love the Headspace and Calm apps for meditation and mindfulness and there are lot of videos on Youtube for yoga, meditation and mindfulness.
- If these aren’t for you, then find something which you find relieves stress it could be reading a book, having a bath, belting out a song (this has evidence to show it is an amazing stress reliever – bring on your inner Beyonce!), dancing round the kitchen, baking, gardening, walking the dog or just sitting quietly.
- Try having a regular massage or reflexology treatment or any other therapy which you know helps you de-stress. Admittedly I am biased here, as I have been working in this field for over 25 years, but for a lot of people this is a wonderful stress reliever.
- Whatever your personal stress reliever is, try to prioritise time each day to do it. If this is difficult, why not book it in your diary each day or set a reminder on your phone?
Sleep: If you are sleep deprived or having poor quality sleep this could be driving your brain fog. But lets face it, the menopause transition can cause a lot of problems, with night sweats, hot flushes, insomnia all being common sleep disrupters. This is where implementing good sleep hygiene becomes a priority. Check out my sleep blog for top tips on this. It is recommended an adult gets 7-9 hours of sleep, with the sweet spot being 8 hours for most. Some people may need more than this but 7 hours is considered the minimum amount for optimal benefits, so prioritise your sleep!
Thyroid health: Symptoms of low thyroid can include low mood, memory loss, fatigue, brain fog and anxiety, so it is always worth considering thyroid function. You can get a blood test done privately or talk to your GP about getting it tested.
Please note: If you are in any way concerned about your brain health then please do seek medical guidance.
If you want more information: This Youtube video from Lisa Mosconi is a definitely worth a watch.
I hope you have found this blog useful and it has put your mind at rest, whilst giving you some things to try to help improve your menopausal memory loss and brain fog. If you aren’t going through the menopause but still have brain fog then follow the tips as they will also be beneficial for you. This is an area I work with regularly in my nutrition clinic, if it is affecting you, why not book a free call to discuss how I can help? Feel free to get in touch.
If you are struggling with hormonal imbalances, peri or post menopausal issues then feel free to get in touch to book a free call to have a chat about working together. I am also available for reflexology treatments which can help relax, calm and reduce stress.
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Have a wonderful day.