How to get to the bottom of perimenopausal brain fog
Perimenopausal brain fog is real!
You know when you're searching for your glasses that are on your head while you pour your fifth cup of coffee - you haven't drunk that many, you just can't remember where they are (and you know you'll find half-drunk cups all over the house later?)
Or you're standing in the grocery store and can't remember what you're there for?
Or you have trouble balancing your checkbook.
Or you forgot the name of someone you just met yesterday?
I knew a woman who, before working with me on natural hormone balancing, was ready to take a leave of absence from getting a degree when brain fog hit it was so severe for her.
So in this video we're looking at:
- Where perimenopausal brain fog comes from
- How long it lasts
- Whether you should be worried about it
- And what you can do to get your regular brain back
What is brain fog?
What does brain fog feel like when it happens because of hormonal changes
Brain fog can feel like short term memory loss, forgetting names and words, not being able to problem solve or assess situations well, and losing track of details.
It can feel hard to concentrate, like you're reading the same page over and over never getting the end of chapter because - what you're reading is just not making sense.
It can be really severe.
There's an article in the New York Times about a 55-year-old former headmistress who had a yearlong history of progressive memory loss and behavioral problems so severe she was referred to a neurologist, with a possible diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia!
Dementia! The scary word.
When in fact, her severe brain fog was all caused by hormones. It's not uncommon for severe cases of menopausal brain fog to be misdiagnosed! So don't avoid getting checked out if you're having severe neurological changes, but be sure to balance hormones as well.
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Does everyone get brain fog with menopause?
It's very common for women during perimenopause to experience brain fog. In fact, about 60% of women (link
But lets step back for just a sec, if 60% of women experience it, 40% of women DON'T. That's not quite half and half but it's close. So brain fog is not necessary or required. Plenty of women's bodies go all through menopause without any brain fog - that's totally possible.
So what's the difference and how can you prevent or get rid of it even while going right through perimenopause? We'll get to that in just a moment. First just a few more facts
When during the menopausal transition does brain fog start and how long does it last?
Brain fog is likely to set in when your body first starts producing less hormones and hormone levels are changing the most - so mid 40s to mid 50s.
It usually improves once your estrogen levels stabilize again post menopause.
However, if your hormone levels remain out of balance, too low, or just not quite where your body wants them (like your estrogen to progesterone ratio is off so you have estrogen dominance) after menopause, it's possible for the brain fog to last much longer than this.
If it does, it's just another sign your body is a bit out of balance hormonally.
Should you worry about brain fog? Does it mean you're more prone to Alzheimers?
Menopausal brain fog does not necessarily mean your brain is degenerating or that you're starting any type of dementia.
However, midlife is a time when you want to start caring for your brain in every way possible!
And if you're one of the 60% of women with brain fog, it does mean your brain is struggling a bit, so why not give it some support and help it get back to functioning better? Because that can only make your chances of dementia decrease in the years to come. This kind of preventative wellness is a huge part of Chinese Medicine and all the herbal combinations I create for my clients and students!
What causes brain fog
Changing hormone levels can cause brain fog
"Women’s brains are sensitive to fluctuating levels of estrogen, both in terms of cognitive ability and mood” And it's not just lower estrogen levels it's the fluctuations, the big ups and downs that can happen pretty unpredictably during menopause.
Every time your hormones change suddenly or significantly it creates waves of physiological changes in your brain - your brain has to ADJUST to every change in estrogen.
Think of it this way:
- Your brain has receptors for different things that feed your brain.
- Your brain is used to eating meals made up of certain nutrients at regular times each day.
- When the estrogen receptors in your brain start getting no estrogen one day, then lots two days later, then none...
Each time it's like your brain sits down to eat and the main course is missing, your brain has to adjust it's whole diet and metabolism.
And when this starts happening over and over - some brains get cranky and have trouble adjusting.
So brain fog is more likely if you're having ups and downs in your hormone levels that are too big, sudden, or irregular, or if your hormone levels just bottom out or drop TOO low.
Also, if your brain is not great at adapting to change, you're more likely to experience brain fog during perimenopause.
And this is where we can step in. We can help make the hormone changes run more smoothly, prevent hormones from ever dropping too low, and help your brain stay adaptable.
Estrogen levels dropping too low (especially after menopause) can be a problem too.
Having sufficient estrogen helps increase circulation to your brain and helps prevent your brain from shrinking with age!!
It's just another reason we want to do everything we can to support our body to keep making hormones as efficiently as possible, so that they don't drop too low during OR AFTER menopause.
The effect this has on keeping our brain healthy is one of the reasons it helps prevent so many signs of aging after menopause!
Changing blood sugar hormones
Remember how I said your brain was trying to eat regular meals ever day? Well one thing that some studies show can happen in menopause is that the brain's ability to absorb glucose can decrease.
In fact MRI studies show it's common to see a sudden drop in the brain's ability to absorb glucose by up to 20-25% between entering perimenopause and entering postmenopause.
This means the brain's receptors become less efficient, less sensitive to glucose. And glucose is the brain's main fuel source. (So this is not a good thing.)
And studies show that women with the lowest estradiol (a form of estrogen) during menopause are more likely to experience brain fog.
So we see the same thing again, your estrogen dropping too low or too suddenly can be really tough on your brain, which is why supporting your estrogen and progesterone during perimenopause, so they transition smoothly and don't make any sudden changes or ever drop below a certain point, is so healthy! It's healthy for many reasons - one being it's easier on your brain.
What are other causes of brain fog?
There are other things happening in your body as you age during midlife that can contribute to not just hormonal brain fog but actual mental deterioration, and it's great to proactively address all of those at the same time as brain fog - doing everything to ensure your brain stays healthy and sharp for years and years and years.
Here are the highlights of caring for your brain during & after menopause.
Neurotransmitter levels can lower right along with hormones.
As we age, our body produces less estrogen and progesterone. Our natural levels of many hormones and chemicals are decreasing. It's natural for neurotransmitter levels to decrease somewhat as well (these are the the messengers that relay information from one brain cell to the next.)
So yes, levels are going to decrease as we age, but there's so much we can do to prevent hormone or neurotransmitter levels from decreasing more than necessary! The difference between lower and zero is HUGE in terms of how many signs of aging you experience. So we want to support the body's ability to continue to make hormones and neurotransmitters.
Decreasing brain sensitivity
And because the amount of hormones and neurotransmitters is going to be lower, we want the body to be able to make use of every bit of what we have left. This means keeping circulation strong and keeping the sensitivity of the receptors in our brain working as efficiently as possible. We want our brains to remain "sensitive" to estrogen and glucose.
Poor circulation can all contribute to both lower neurotransmitter and hormone levels and to loss of sensitivity. If inflammation or plaque narrows blood vessels, blood flow is reduced to the brain.
Hormone imbalance, stress, or high blood sugar
Unbalanced sex hormones, blood sugar hormones, or stress hormone levels can all increase brain fog.
High toxin levels or poor detoxification function
If your body is carrying a high level of toxins and your detoxification pathways are not working well this can increase brain fog.
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What to do to eliminate brain fog and start thinking clearly again right now (instead of waiting for menopause to be over!)
There are 3 big factors that affect how sharply your brain is working that are likely to change during menopause - hormones, stress, and toxins. You can keep your brain function better during menopause and help prevent brain fog during menopause and brain deterioration after menopause by addressing all three. Here's how.
Support hormone levels
One of the things I teach about MOST is how to help your body continue to make hormones as efficiently as possible, so none of your sex hormone levels drop too suddenly or too low during or after menopause.
Keeping your hormone levels high enough helps you feel much better - it helps prevent menopause symptoms and helps prevent many signs of aging after menopause - including brain fog.
The best ways to help your body keep making enough hormones is to use a combination of the right diet, the right lifestyle, and the right herbs.
Herbal remedies to support hormone levels
The herbs are the closest to HRT in terms of helping to significantly increase hormone levels, but they work much better when supported by the right diet and lifestyle.
The diet provides the basic hormonal building blocks.
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The right lifestyle plugs hormone leaks (places where you're losing hormones as fast as you can make them.)
So when you put all 3 together you get the best results.
Action Step - What to do for relief from brain fog
This article is part of a series on estrogen dominance during perimenopuase. Because it's a big topic, I'm breaking it down for you.
In each article I'll give you ONE action step. These are the most important, foundational things you can do to maintain a healthy estrogen:progesterone ratio.
Be sure to check out the other articles in theis series for your other action steps and to understand estrogen dominance even better.
Here's your action step for this article:
Hormones and brain cells are both made mostly of fat. Yes FAT. So to keep making hormones, your body needs to have plenty of hormonal building blocks on hand - and that means - healthy fats.
So, your action step for today is to make sure you're including enough healthy fats in your diet each day.
Healthy fats are things like avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts and seeds and nut and seed oils (just don't heat them up or cook with them.)
So if you're dealing with brain fog...
So if this is happening to you, or you want to prevent it from happening as you progress through perimenopause and menopause, there are two things you want to do
- Balance hormones with herbal remedies and diet
Thanks so much for joining me today! Please put your questions & comments in the comments section below, I'd truly love to hear from you!
This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about Chinese medicine in your diet, lifestyle, and supplements and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not personalized health advice. This information is to be used at your own risk based on your own judgment. For my full Disclaimer, please go to https://danalavoielac.com/disclaimer-2/