Yesterday you did what? Today you need to do what? Tomorrow is just too far ahead to even think about! You wonder if you’re losing the plot some days and the more you worry about it the worse the feelings of confusion and distress. Your partner puts it down to ‘women’s problems’, your children laugh at you and your friends just nod and say they know what you mean.
But no one seems to be able to explain what is happening, or offer any advice about how to clear a path through the foggy thinking and lack of focus. If you were told it’s to do with the naturally declining levels of hormones as you grow older would you feel reassured? As our hormones become out of balance we experience many physical and emotional symptoms, including: feeling ‘spacy’, feeling fatigued, thinking more slowly than usual and needing more time to complete simple tasks, being easily distracted, forgetfulness and word-finding difficulties. Many of these symptoms are similar to those experienced if you are suffering from anxiety or depression, so they can be misdiagnosed.
Brain fog is particularly common during perimenopause and if properly managed can become less of an issue during menopause. Rebalancing hormone levels, in particular estrogen and progesterone is key, alongside maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough rest, regular exercise and plenty of mental stimulation. So how does all this help?
Emerging research indicates that progesterone has multiple non-reproductive functions in the central nervous system to regulate cognition, mood, inflammation, mitochondrial function and neurogenesis. There are progesterone receptors in the brain and their expression is heavily influenced by estrogen. Therefore, restoring the balance of these hormones can potentially help with regaining that function of ‘word finding’. Having a diet rich in antioxidants, Omega 3 and 6 oils for example, helps reduce free radical cell injury. Prebiotics and probiotics found in fibre-rich vegetable and fermented foods respectively, look after your gut microbiome (the little guys that are important for healthy digestion and reduce inflammation). Maintaining a good balance between macro and micronutrients and reducing sugar load helps hormone balance. Spending time outdoors that involves mild to moderate exertion will help reduce cortisol outpouring and therefore stress. If cortisol levels are high, we know we will forget everything!
It is therefore important to understand that more than one thing contributes to our brain fog and hence we need to take a 360 approach in finding solutions.