DEFEATING BRAIN FOG IN PERIMENOPAUSE

brain fog menopause perimenopause women's health Jun 16, 2024

Find yourself constantly forgetting what you were doing, and struggling with words on the tip of your tongue? Feel like you’re just not as sharp as you used to be?

Brain fog might be to blame – and it’s one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause.

But don’t worry, brain fog isn’t inevitable! You can reboot your brain with some simple nutrition and lifestyle hacks. So let’s dive into the murky world of mental fog.

WHAT IS BRAIN FOG?

First up, let’s get clear (see what I did there?) on what brain fog is.

Brain fog is a lack of focus and mental clarity, a feeling of confusion, and/or a tendency to forgetfulness. Many describe it as feeling fuzzy, in a daze, or thoughts that are cloudy.

The common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory issues including forgetfulness and slow recall
  • Hazy thought process
  • Reduced processing & response to questions or situations
  • Confusion

Everyone’s experience is a little different. So even if you only experience a few of these, it’s likely that you do have brain fog.

The other thing to keep in mind is that brain fog itself is a symptom – not a condition of its own. So you want to know why your mental capacity has been reduced, especially as there may be other symptoms.

WHY BRAIN FOG HITS IN PERIMENOPAUSE

When you’ve already got a bunch of pesky symptoms (hot flushes, weight gain, insomnia…), why do you also have to suffer with brain fog?? Well there are a couple of reasons that perimenopause and brain fog go hand in hand.

Firstly, the hormonal fluctuations play a role (of course they do!) Oestrogen and progesterone both affect brain function directly, so the constant changes can impact on your cognition. Plus brain cells LOVE oestrogen, but when levels drop, they tend to become insulin resistant. So there is plenty of energy (glucose) in the blood, but the cells starve because they can’t take the energy.

Then there is the increase in stress and sleep disruption. During perimenopause, you have reduced stress tolerance (which is completely unfair, right?) Plus perimenopausal insomnia is a common symptom for women. This combo means that the brain doesn’t get enough downtime or rest to function at its best.

And if that wasn’t enough? During perimenopause, the brain undergoes some significant rewiring. But while everything is being rearranged, it can make it tougher to do higher-function mental tasks such as problem-solving.

Then there is age-related decline. But quite frankly, this is not something that should simply be accepted as part of perimenopause, particularly if you’re in your 30s or 40s! The more research that is done into ageing, the more that we discover that most of what we’ve written off as ‘normal ageing’ is actually premature ageing. And a lot of that occurs due to lifestyle factors – nutrition, sleep, stress, medication/drug use, alcohol, the list goes on. So if you are experiencing age-related decline, there is plenty you can still do to support your brain function for decades to come.

OTHER CAUSES OF BRAIN FOG

Of course, perimenopause isn’t the sole cause of brain fog. There are other drivers that might be at play. They include:

Thyroid conditions – particularly hypothyroidism. The problem here is that many cases go undiagnosed for years, thanks to the incomplete testing & lack of recognition of subclinical hypothyroidism. Read more about whether your thyroid is a potential issue here.

Vitamin deficiencies – there are plenty that can affect brain function, but the two most common that I see are vitamin B12 and vitamin D.

Chronic stress and anxiety – of course, this feeds into the perimenopause picture. But to put it simply, chronic stress can rewire your brain and increase your inflammation, which causes brain fog.

More serious issues – these include dementia, Alzheimer's, depression and cancer. Always talk with a health professional if you’re concerned about your symptoms, and request testing too! While you’re at it, grab a free copy of my Blood Test Decoder so you can see what the optimal ranges are for your bloods (not ‘normal’ ranges that can leave you feeling crappy!)

HOW TO COMBAT IT (NATURALLY!)

Now you know why your pesky brain fog won’t leave you alone. But what can you do to give your brain a boost and feel focused again? Never fear, I’m here with some easy steps to get you started.

SUPPORT YOUR METABOLIC FLEXIBILITY

One of the best things you can do for your brain is improve your metabolic flexibility. Put simply, this is your body’s ability to switch between fuel sources including carbs and fats. This means that your brain can ‘switch gears’ and utilise each source of fuel easily, which is a must when you’re experiencing hormonal shifts during perimenopause.

As a bonus? Metabolic flexibility has been linked to improved brain health over time, and it may even protect against neurodegenerative diseases!

For tips on improving your metabolic flexibility naturally, check this out.

EAT FOR YOUR BRAIN’S SAKE

Like any organ of the body, your brain has specific nutrients it needs to do its job properly. So the way that you eat can either help to battle brain fog, or make it worse.

The good news? That means there are plenty of ways you can clear the fuzzies with just a few tweaks of the diet.

My simple tips for brain-loving nutrition include:

  • Eating a solid 3 meals a day – consistent meal timing helps to balance your blood sugar throughout the day
  • Balance your meal with protein, healthy fats and complex carbs – download my FREE Balanced Meal Formula here.
  • Don’t forget the micronutrients – antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins all nourish the brain
  • Stock up on these brain foods - blueberries, dark chocolate, green tea, oily fish, rosemary, ginger, garlic and turmeric are my top picks
  • Don’t forget to hydrate – start here if you’re unsure whether you’re drinking enough water (spoiler alert: you probably aren’t!)

GET MOVING

Is there anything that physical activity can’t help with? Well I can tell you that brain fog is definitely one of the things that it can help with.

Why? Well there are a couple of factors here:

  • Increased blood flow = more nutrients and oxygen to the brain, helping to clear the fog
  • Boost in happy brain chemicals = lower stress, less strain on the nervous system
  • Beneficial for other potential causes of brain fog including hormonal drivers

But don’t just flog yourself on the treadmill (aka the dreadmill) – find a way of movement that you enjoy. And don’t forget to have rest days for recovery as well!

MANAGE YOUR STRESS

The brain is the centre of the nervous system. So when the nervous system is coping with too much stress and overwhelm, the brain is going to cop the side effects – including brain fog. That’s why you want to make sure you’re taking steps to manage your stress.

Of course the obvious answer to managing your stress is to reduce your load (aka ditch some of the to-do list). But I’m also a homeschooling mum of 4, running my own business, so I know that this can feel impossible!

That’s why I like to focus on increasing your stress resilience, which decreases your body’s reactivity to the stressors in your life. This is especially important after 40, in perimenopause, as your inbuilt stress resilience hormone (progesterone) is declining.

One way to build resilience is to include coping mechanisms for processing stress (including the usual recommendations such as meditation and journaling). I share some of my top tips for managing stress here, so you can ditch the overwhelm.

DON’T FORGET A GOOD NIGHT OF SLEEP!

Anything to do with brain health can always benefit from a good sleep. This is because sleep is when the brain gets to refresh, both in terms of mentally (e.g. processing things through dreams) and also physically (thanks to a little powerhouse called the glymphatic system).

Want to learn more about why sleep is a must in your 40s? Give this a read.

FEELING SO FOGGY YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO NEXT?

Take the first step to clear the haze by booking a FREE Clarity Call. We’ll chat about your current struggles, your goals, and a personalised plan to get you back to feeling more like your old self—clear-headed, focused, and on top of your to-do list.

 
 

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