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?
Suddenly 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?
When 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?
Hormones 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?
Healthy 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.