Shedding Light on 3 main causes of Brain Fog in Menopause

If you’re having difficulty recalling the name of your child’s football coach or what you ate for dinner 2 nights ago (without thinking hard) and you are over 45 years of age, then you may be experiencing ‘Menopausal Brain Fog’ or trouble remembering names or what you did recently which often accompanies the changes in hormones in perimenopause and post menopause.

Although it is often considered another annoying symptom, for some women it can be a real source of concern, especially if there is a close family member with Dementia. It is a symptom which affects up to two thirds of women and isn’t a medical term per se but how women in this phase of their lives may experience changes in memory or cognition.

Improving memory and cognition in midlife and beyond requires that you focus on the quality of your diet, however I’ve learnt from clients that implementing changes in diet and lifestyle is easier when you understand why it matters for brain health and overall health.


A deep dive into the link between hormones and memory

During perimenopause circulating levels of progesterone and oestrogen are variable with fluctuating levels of oestrogen which can be high or low. Oestrogen has many roles outside of the reproduction system, including the brain affecting various functions such as mood regulation, cognition and memory.

Oestrogen receptors are present in various regions of the brain involving memory and oestrogen influences insulin sensitivity, for utilisation of glucose which is energy for the brain. Therefore, the decline of oestrogen and glucose metabolism in the brain correlates correlates with the neurological symptoms of anxiety, depression and insomnia experienced in perimenopause. However, as an adaptive response to these changes in the brain, ketone bodies are able to be utilised as a fuel.

Many of my clients who have worked with me on the Metabolic Balance Program notice an improvement in their energy, focus and elimination in brain fog due to the improvement in insulin sensitivity which the program helps with.


Sleep disturbances and brain fog

Although women often attribute their fatigue to disrupted sleep due to hot flushes/sweats, they often don’t consider the impact that this has on their memory and ability to concentrate. Oestradiol helps with sleep onset and staying asleep via an interaction with serotonin, however sleep can be affected with other factors associated with aging including urinary problems, gastrointestinal problems (reflux) and obesity.

Achieving a restorative sleep is essential for memory consolidation, learning and cognitive function. When sleep is compromised the brain’s ability to process information and problem solve is compromised.


Digestive function and the brain

Central to overall health, is having optimal gut health as it has many roles including absorption of vitamins and minerals, defending against pathogens (through the immune system) but also in mood regulation through the gut-brain axis. The microbes in our gut known collectively as our microbiome produce metabolites that influence neurotransmitter production (including our happy chemicals serotonin).

Opportunistic bacteria in our gut (which can increase in number if conditions within our gut favour their growth and proliferation), including gram negative bacteria have toxins within the cell walls that can promote inflammation affecting mood and cognition and ability to think clearly.  Furthermore, an overgrowth of Candida Albicans, a yeast and normal inhabitant within the intestinal tract may also contribute to mental haze in addition to other unpleasant symptoms.


Finding a solution

If you’ve have made changes with your diet and lifestyle, without experiencing improvement in your thinking or brain fog, then you may benefit from nutritional/herbal interventions that can help with your cognition, sleep and mood. Evidence shows that compounds such as resveratrol, may help with cognition however as with all dietary supplements it is best to consult with your health practitioner first before self-prescribing.

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