Brain fog and the menopause: how to fight back

Have you ever felt as if something has come along and heartlessly kidnapped your intelligence plus all your skills of clear speech and memory overnight?

Girls of Never series. Abstract design made of human profile and fractal forms on the subject of inner reality, mental health, imagination, thinking and dreamingSuddenly you’re not the eloquent, well-read person you pride yourself to be, but instead a forgetful, slow and even stupid shadow of your former self.

Welcome to the land of brain fog. And if you’re going through the menopause, you might think it’s just something you need to resign yourself to as part of the process.

But feeling like this most definitely isn’t a given during menopause and you absolutely don’t have to just put up with it.

So ask yourself the following questions and fight back against the brain fog:

Have you had enough sleep?

Women with insomnia looking very unhappyWhen you’re sleep deprived – which I’ll admit, is a familiar state for most of us ladies – you feel absolutely rubbish and your ability to pay attention, focus, stay motivated, remember, be coordinated or even regulate your behaviour is affected, too. Because no matter how much we might like to think we don’t need a full night’s rest, we absolutely do.

When you haven’t had enough shut-eye, your body cannot regulate your hormone levels effectively, and your levels of the stress hormone cortisol will go through the roof. This affects your ability to pay attention and think clearly plus you’ll be more irritable and stressed and you won’t be much fun to be around.

Do yourself a favour and make seven to eight hours’ sleep per night a priority.

Does your blood sugar fluctuate wildly?

Do you find yourself reaching for a bar of chocolate or extra-large coffee to make it through your mid-afternoon slump and jump-start your brain? If so, your brain fog is likely to be caused by fluctuating blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).

Your brain runs off glucose and needs a continuous supply of the stuff to work at its best. But if you skip meals, regularly indulge in sugary snacks or drown your body in caffeine, your blood sugar will be up and down like a yo-yo and your brain just won’t be able to cope. Hence the clouded thought, impaired memory and overwhelming desire to snooze.

So make sure you eat regular meals, replace sugary snacks with healthier options and reduce your caffeine intake.

Are your hormones balanced?

Woman doctor scanning the thyroid of a woman patientHormones shape our brains, so it makes sense that any issues with your hormones will affect your brain power. It figures, then, that other times associated with brain fog are pregnancy, post-childbirth and during your period.

The most likely brain fog trigger for women is estradiol, a type of oestrogen which is important for your reproductive system and your sexual function. Interestingly, this is also the hormone that is most commonly affected after childbirth (hello baby brain), just before your period (hello PMT) and during the perimenopausal years (hello clouded thoughts).

But this most certainly isn’t the only hormonal issue that can cause clouded thinking. So can low thyroid function, adrenal insufficiency and chronic fatigue syndrome. Speak to your doctor or natural healthcare provider if you think any of these might be an issue for you.

Are you feeling stressed?

If you’ve ever found yourself under the iron grip of stress, anxiety or depression, you’ll know just how hard it can be to think straight and carry on with your life as normal when this happens. You simply can’t function properly anymore.

We’re living in the time of information overload and our brains are under constant stress, whether we realise it or not. This pushes up your cortisol levels which makes you feel wired and tired, and also keeps you distracted, irritated and far below your normal best.

Therefore, a great way to beat brain fog is simply to switch off, zone out and make more time for relaxation.

Are you eating enough fat?

Stuffed avocadosHealthy fats are absolutely essential for the production of all of our hormones and our neurological health as a whole. So if you’ve fallen into the trap of following the traditional low-fat high-carb diet, you’re only asking for problems when it comes to your brainpower.

Carbs, especially the processed variety, can cause issues with our blood sugar and negatively affect the amount of fuel our brains are getting.

Instead we need to shift our focus to eating more proteins as they help stabilise our blood sugar levels and provide essential amino acids that aid clear thinking. Also make sure you get enough of those healthy fats like coconut oil, avocados, nuts, seeds and oily fish so you can protect your brain and operate at full power.

Is it something you’ve eaten… or haven’t eaten?

The modern diet is packed full of additives, preservative and toxins which affect your ability to think clearly and perform at your best, including chemical nasties like aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and sucralose. This is why it’s so important to pay close attention to the foods you eat, ditch the processed junk and concentrate on real foods instead.

Undiagnosed food sensitivities such as wheat, gluten or dairy are also known to be a common cause of those dreaded symptoms of brain fog so if you think you fall into this group, be sure to seek qualified advice.

Lastly, deficiencies in vitamin B12, vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids can also cause problems. This is especially likely if you are vegetarian or don’t get healthy amounts of sun exposure.

The most common times you might fall into its clutches are around the time of pregnancy, post-childbirth, when you have your period or during the perimenopause and menopause – although it can happen at any time in your life.

So stop thinking that brain fog is something that you simply have to put up with, because it’s absolutely not. Ask yourself the questions above and you should be able to get to the root of the problem and get your brain cells in the best shape of their lives…

Pamela Windle

About Pamela Windle

Hi I'm Pamela in my 40's and I've lived in Nottingham all my life, I studied Psychology & Sports Science at NTU and raised my daughter here too, so I'd say this is my home. As a Therapist and Coach I aim to inspire and empower women by guiding and enriching their knowledge, encouraging you to take positive self care, so women can overcome self-limiting beliefs that we’ve been sold to over generations. I'm a qualified Hypnotherapist using NLP and also a Personal Trainer. At Smarter Change I have combined my 18 years of working within the health and well-being industry to support women through different stages of their lives, expectant mothers, perimenopause and menopausal women. I work with women one to one and online. I get so much enjoyment out of what I do, I wish it could be free for everyone, but unfortunately I have to pay my bills. I do run a complimentary Easibirthing workshop every second month that I enjoy and will continue to do, as I know it helps expectant mums to feel calmer about childbirth. Please get in touch if you have any questions I’m here to help. BSc Hons, Dip Hyp, GHR Reg, GQHP

  • Jason Ryer

    Wow, another fantastic article. And this is where you address the importance of sleep for hormonal balance. Bam! And even toeing the line of ketogenic – with recommendations for healthy fats and less carbs? Thanks Pamela!