What is brain fog?
“Brain fog” is a common issue faced by women going through their menopausal transitions.
This term describes issues such as loss of focus, distraction, misplacement of items and time lapses. It can make it hard to concentrate at work, or while you are reading or watching television.
Such are the severity of some symptoms, we have had patients report that they are worried they have early onset dementia – the psychological distress is real, especially if dementia runs in the family!
What causes brain fog?
So, what is really going on? Is it because our sleep patterns are disturbed with menopausal fluctuations in hormones, causing brain fog associated with lack of sleep? Is it the night sweats waking us and we can’t get back off to sleep? Or is it the hormones affecting the brain?
The answer is it can be all the above!
Oestrogen and progesterone are the powerful female hormones, important for sexual and reproductive development in women. Oestrogen also acts in the cardiovascular system, is important for bone, skin and muscle health, and the central nervous system – the brain!
When these hormones begin to decline from our mid-30s, we suddenly have what feels like a lack of brain power – likened to baby brain for those of us who choose to have children. It’s the same principle, with hormonal changes affecting the female brain. As these symptoms can also be flags of anxiety and depression, it can be difficult to understand that they are caused by perimenopause.
Oestrogen also makes sure the neurones fire off properly (synapse), is important for cell renewal and growth and the regulation of glucose (the body’s main energy source). It also affects insulin sensitivity, metabolism, and fat cells, so correcting a fall in oestrogen levels is important to prevent weight gain, Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. No wonder we all feel frazzled!
What can I do to help brain fog?
You’ll be glad to hear that it’s not all bad news. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is a recognised treatment that can be prescribed by your GP or Menopause specialist. If it is a suitable medication for you, it replaces oestrogen and progesterone to help relieve these symptoms, so you don’t feel like you are losing your mind.
A Healthy Diet
There are also clear links between our diet and our hormone balance. A brain-friendly diet is one rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as Omega 3 and Omega 6, which are found in eggs, fish, nuts and seeds. Vitamins A, C and E are also important for their antioxidant properties.
Physical activity can also support your brain health, even just going for a daily walk can improve your fitness and cognition. The key is to make small, sustainable changes that become part of your daily routine.
Get Sufficient Rest
While sleep can be disrupted during the menopause, rest is vitally important for cognitive function. Give yourself plenty of time to unwind before going to bed, and consider mindful practices such as meditation, yoga or having a hot bath to help.
What should I do next?
Before you visit a medical professional, start a diary and use a proper symptom checker to keep track of what you are experiencing (yes, even in the midst of brain fog!). And remember, you can be perimenopausal and have had no changes to your periods. This will help your doctor understand your symptoms and work with you to create a treatment plan.
This might include HRT and it might include antidepressants. If it does, that’s OK! You are not a failure; you haven’t done anything wrong – it’s just the brain chemistry misbehaving.
Testosterone is also something that could be considered. It can help with mental clarity and maintaining energy levels, not mention libido, which is currently the only indication the British Menopause Society (BMS) advise for prescription. However more research needs to be undertaken to help us properly understand the exact role testosterone has for females outside of the reproductive system.
The take home message is, be kind to yourself, it’s not you, it’s your hormones. Communicate and let people understand how you are having difficulty finding words and remembering things. You have not become invaluable, you just need more time and support and understanding – especially in the workplace. Look after yourself, get enough sleep, stick to your routine, eat good fresh food, and let’s talk and support one another.
How can Skin Excellence Clinics help?
Skin Excellence Clinics offers a range of women’s health treatments that can help alleviate symptoms of the menopause. Every woman’s experience with menopause is unique, so consulting with healthcare professionals is crucial for personalised guidance, our team of experts are available to create your individualised treatment plan and improve your quality of life.