Jane Midwinter is the founder of HotWomenAtMenopause, an associate trainer with Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace and is a menopause coach. She also writes articles on menopause for women and their employers.
Jane’s monthly column, specially written for Hastings in Focus, offers accurate information and support for women and a better understanding of menopause for all.
Brain fog is that feeling of fuzziness, when you just can’t concentrate or think clearly, maybe you’re struggling to recall a word, or remember where you left your specs. If you’re experiencing this or you want to support a woman who thinks she is, then read on…
Six facts about menopause and brain fog:
- Brain fog and other related symptoms such as memory lapses, can be caused by fluctuating and declining levels of oestrogen.
- Oestrogen has an important role to play in brain function, affecting chemicals which women need to regulate mood and sleep.
- When stressed, cortisol goes up and oestrogen goes down.
- Tiredness and fatigue due to lack of sleep or other stress related issues can contribute to that ‘foggy’ feeling.
- Jury’s out on whether HRT helps with brain fog.
- Like other menopause symptoms, brain fog will eventually pass, but if a woman is concerned, or others who know her are concerned, it’s important to seek advice.
I forget where I put things. I forget words when I’m speaking to someone, and I just don’t feel ‘sharp’ anymore. I’m worried about dementia.
Stress has a huge impact on how our brains function, so worrying may only make things worse. What’s important to know is that you’re not alone and that these symptoms are experienced by many women at menopause, who find them equally as concerning. These symptoms can be alleviated:
1. Manage stress levels
Give me a break! Well actually, give your brain a break. Stress knocks hormones out of whack which can affect cognition. Taking a brain-break can make a huge difference to how you’re feeling and thinking. Finding a self-care programme that you enjoy has never been more important. Try some of these:
Bathing – Relax in a warm bath and add a few drops of lavender. If you only have a shower, treat yourself to some sumptuous, scented soap and let the warm water run over your shoulders.
Cold Water Swimming – Recent studies of cold-water swimming show significant brain health benefits. But be careful and check out the advice on the National Water Safety Forum, link below. And … December probably isn’t the month to start!
Dancing – We may not be able to currently go out dancing, but there’s nothing stopping us dancing at home! Just pop on some favourite music and dance like no-one’s watching!
Yoga – Yoga keeps us supple and calms the mind. There are many local yoga studios who now have online classes.
Meditation – ‘Headspace’ is just one of the many popular apps available to support mindful meditation practice. It has a basic free subscription.
Exercising – Exercise is good for the mind too, increasing oxygen and blood flow to the brain. Just pick something you enjoy doing and you’re far more likely to stick with it.
2. Choose brain food
The Mediterranean diet can be very supportive of women’s cognitive health:
- opt for wholegrain rice, bread and pasta;
- eat plenty of fruit and vegetables like blueberries (use frozen berries when out of season), red cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli and avocados;
- eat oily fish – salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines – a rich source of omega-3.
- choose unsaturated fats like olive oil.
- add beans and pulses to a meal and sprinkle on nuts and seeds. Phytoestrogens like flaxseeds, sesame seeds, chick-peas and lentils act like a mild oestrogen in our bodies. Walnuts are a good vegetarian source of omega 3.
- drink plenty of water to flush out any toxins and stay hydrated.
The majority of us don’t function properly without sufficient sleep. Sleep helps us recharge, boosts our immunity and enables our brain to function properly. Sleep needs a column all by itself, but if you are sleep deprived right now, visit my website for top tips.
4. Give your brain time to adjust
We need to support and take care of our brains. Lisa Mosconi, Neuroscientist, Neuro-Nutritionist, author of Brain Food and the XX Brain says, “The truth is that your brain is, or might be, going through a transition and needs time and support to adjust.”
And finally …
The food we eat, how much we exercise, how well we sleep, and how we manage our stress really does matter. If a woman is experiencing brain fog, they may wish to consider one or two lifestyle changes and give themselves time to adjust. It’s very likely that brain fog will then lift, but if symptoms persist, it’s important to seek the advice of a GP.
Recipe: Poached Eggs and Kale Brunch
Poached eggs on kale, with cherry tomatoes, avocado mash, garlic mushrooms and mixed seeds.