Menopause and the mind – expert advice on how to alleviate brain fog
On Monday night a new Channel 4 documentary fronted by Davina McCall titled ‘Sex, Mind and the Menopause’ aired exploring how menopause can affect the mind as well as the body, with memory loss and brain fog decimating women at work. If you’ve been wondering where to seek advice since watching the show, look no further.
Leading menopause support app balance – the only menopause app certified by ORCHA and recognised as safe, accredited, compliant, and trusted to feature in digital health libraries for the NHS and other national health bodies around the world – offers a wealth of resources for those experiencing perimenopause and menopause. 86% of people say that since using the balance app they have been able to access the right diagnosis faster for their symptoms.
Founded by Dr. Louise Newson with a single mission in mind: to make menopause support inclusive and accessible to all, balance app experts have created an evidence-based guide on how to recognise brain fog and offer simple tips on how to treat it.
What is brain fog?
Brain fog is a very common symptom of menopause, and many women say that their brains feel like ‘cotton wool’. You might have noticed that you’re increasingly forgetful, can’t remember names, lose your keys, write endless to do lists, and find it hard to retain information. This can make it especially hard to function at work, and you might struggle to concentrate when reading or watching TV.
Two of the main female hormones, estrogen, and testosterone, play an important role in cognition and memory. When the levels of these hormones begin to fall during perimenopause and menopause, this can lead to a range of cognitive symptoms including memory loss, difficulty staying focused, wordfinding difficulties, losing your train of thought, and getting confused easily.
These symptoms can be so severe that you may even start to worry that you have dementia. This is particularly scary if you have a family history, and some women become so concerned that they are referred to have testing at a memory clinic. Fortunately, the right type and dose of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (with testosterone for those who need it) can often improve brain fog and help you think more clearly. In fact, since using the balance app 73% of people gained access to HRT.
The good news is that we can also support brain health with simple lifestyle changes. There are many things you can do to support brain function
In addition to accessing appropriate hormonal treatment, there are some lifestyle choices which may improve brain fog.
A healthy diet
There are clear links between what we eat 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. Your brain will thank you for giving it plenty of these nutrients.
Another important dietary consideration is giving your brain antioxidants, in particular vitamins A, C, and E. The brain is the most metabolically active organ in the body. When it burns glucose, free radicals are formed which have unwanted effects in your body, including the brain, as they make your cells age faster and work less efficiently. It’s important to have antioxidants in your diet as they can balance out these free radicals and minimise the negative impact of them on your cells.
Regular exercise can also support brain health – it’s important to make time to keep active by doing an activity that you enjoy. If you’re not keen on going to the gym or joining a fitness class, yoga is a great way to relieve stress and promote relaxation.
Going for a daily walk can improve fitness and increase mental and emotional wellbeing. It can be challenging to start a new nutrition and exercise plan, especially if you’re dealing with menopausal symptoms.
The key is to make small, sustainable changes that become part of your everyday routine. Many women find that their energy and motivation to exercise increases when they start taking HRT.
It’s common to have trouble sleeping during the perimenopause and menopause, as the brain can’t regulate sleep properly without the hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. If you struggle to fall or stay asleep, or you wake up in the middle of the night, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on some of the deep sleep that’s most beneficial for your brain.
Deep sleep is when all the toxins and impurities are removed, so this phase of sleep is important to keep the brain healthy. For this reason, it’s wise to take steps to improve your sleep habits, such as limiting screen time before bed, keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and comfortable, and using pillow sprays or aromatherapy oils to help you feel calm and relaxed.
Many women find that the quality of their sleep dramatically improves when they take HRT. Better sleep also boosts mood, energy levels, and concentration, helping the cloud of brain fog to lift.
Written by: Rachel Sewell