Menopause brain fog sounds scary but brain fog is familiar to many women during pregnancy. Seemingly overnight, the ability to process information and solve problems is impaired. You think you’re losing your mind. You have difficulty concentrating and remembering common words. It feels like a cloud of fog has wrapped around your head and darkened the world around you.
Like most menopausal symptoms, menopause brain fog is temporary. When the menopause brain fog hits, it helps exercise the brain. Word games, learning a new language, playing an instrument, dancing, or online brain training programs (like Lumosity) are helpful to beat menopause brain fog. And of course, a brain-healthy diet! Let’s learn in more detail.
What is brain fog in menopause?
“I looked for my keys yesterday. In the waste paper, under the furniture, in all the purses, in the makeup bag, and in the trash can. Then I realised I took the trash down, so the keys are gone. Halfway dialing the number of the very pricey emergency locksmith, I found them: in the shoe rack. I left the keys there because I was afraid the cute bundle might end up in the trash by accident…
It is completely normal for me to go shopping and find out shortly before the shop door that I have forgotten my money and/or mask. When I have everything with me, I no longer know what I actually wanted to buy in front of the refrigerated section. I generally only greet neighbours, acquaintances, and even good friends on the street with “hello” because I can’t remember their names.”
Are you familiar with that? Don’t worry, it’s not Alzheimer’s. It’s just a temporary, hormone-related menopause brain fog known as meno-brain.
In the Seattle Midlife Health Study, nearly 60 percent of middle-aged women reported difficulty concentrating and other cognitive problems including menopause brain fog. These occurred more frequently during the perimenopause.
“Treating menopause isn’t just about treating symptoms. It’s about how you think about menopause and how you respond to those symptoms.”
Janet Pregler, MD, director of the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women’s Health Center
Why does menopause cause brain fog?
Two out of three women experience memory and concentration problems during menopause. Forgetfulness is often one of the first signs of falling estrogen levels. Because our most important female sex hormone affects not only our fertility but also our brain function.
Unlike most other substances circulating in our blood, estrogen can cross the blood-brain barrier. This is a very effective barrier that protects the sensitive nerve cells in our brain from potentially harmful substances, such as drugs.
There are numerous estrogen receptors in the brain. The hormone controls the energy metabolism of the gray cells via these docking points, promotes new connections, and protects them from decay.
In the various regions of the brain, estrogen thereby influences memory, the ability to think, learning performance, and the ability to comprehend complex relationships – but also the regulation of emotions, the perception of feelings, and the processing of stress.
Menopause brain fog symptoms
During menopause, many women experience a range of symptoms, including brain fog. Here are some common symptoms of menopause-related brain fog:
- Forgetfulness: Menopause can cause temporary lapses in memory, making it challenging to remember things like where you put your keys or what you were just talking about.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Menopause-related brain fog can make it harder to stay focused on tasks, leading to decreased productivity and increased distractions.
- Mental Sluggishness: Many women describe feeling like their thinking is slowed down or foggy during menopause, making it harder to process information or make decisions.
- Word Retrieval Issues: Menopause brain fog can sometimes make recalling specific words or names more difficult, leading to moments of frustration during conversations.
- Decreased Mental Clarity: Menopause-related brain fog can make it feel like your thinking is muddled or unclear, affecting your ability to think critically or problem-solve effectively.
- Short-Term Memory Problems: Menopause can impact short-term memory, making retaining new information or remembering recent events harder.
- Emotional Impact: Brain fog during menopause can also contribute to emotional changes, such as increased irritability or mood swings.
It’s important to note that while these symptoms can be frustrating, they are often temporary and improve as hormone levels stabilize.
However, if you’re experiencing severe or persistent cognitive difficulties, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to rule out any other underlying causes and discuss potential management strategies.
How long does menopause brain fog last?
The good news is that menopause brain fog and its associated symptoms are only temporary phenomena that will disappear once postmenopause occurs. But the drop in estrogen also makes our brains more sensitive to inflammation.
In the long term, however – and now comes the bad news – the lack of estrogen can promote the formation of protein deposits in the brain with a corresponding predisposition. These plaques are believed to be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers use this to explain the fact that older women are more likely to suffer from this form of dementia than men. Because male testosterone, which protects against plaque formation like estrogen, does not fall as much. The risk of the disease is particularly high in women who have entered menopause very early (e.g., due to an ovarian removal).
Some studies indicate that the development of Alzheimer’s can be counteracted with hormone replacement therapy. However, this has not been clearly proven so far.
When does menopause brain fog end?
Once the brain gets used to the hormone withdrawal, it starts to function better again. Studies show that cognitive crisis peaks in the first year after the last menstrual period (menopause).
Problems with concentration, focus, menopause brain fog and memory are particularly common during perimenopause which means it starts four to 10 years before the final period.
In the large-scale Women’s Health Across the Nation study of more than 12,400 women between the ages of 40 and 55, 44% of early and late perimenopausal women and 42% of postmenopausal women experienced increased forgetfulness and possibly bouts of menopause brain fog.
For almost half of the women, it can be difficult for a while to think clearly, to remember names or to dig up the desired word from the depths of their memory, and menopause brain fog could contribute to that.
Menopause and Alzheimer’s connection
Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia, occurs far more frequently in women than in men: two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are female. Dr Lisa Mosconi has approached the causes of this phenomenon through countless brain scans of menopausal women.
Their finding: Menopause causes metabolic changes in the brain, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. These changes do not only start in old age, but can start as early as the 40s and 50s.
Fortunately, Mosconi not only contributed to the finding, but also identified effective solutions: exercise and diet can play a significant role in preventing cognitive decline and menopause brain fog.
What helps with brain fog during menopause?
Thinking, mood, and the entire body benefits from a brain-healthy diet during menopause! The Mediterranean diet, rich in valuable omega-3 fats, actively supports the brain and even help ease menopause brain fog. All foods that counteract inflammation are also good for the brain.
Top 5 foods to beat menopause brain fog
1. Caviar and fatty fish
2. Dark green leafy vegetables
4. Olive oil
5. Raw cocoa
Eating foods that contain naturally occurring phytoestrogens can also help the brain adapt to the new hormonal situation.
Foods containing phytoestrogen include flaxseed, soy, chickpeas, sesame (as seeds or as tahini/hummus), peaches, strawberries, oranges, dried fruit, and vegetables such as yams, carrots, kale, lentils, peas, and other legumes. Herbs like turmeric and sage also help.
Hormone therapy should help with temporary meno-brain. But even without synthetic or bioidentical hormones, you can do a lot to get your gray matter going:
- Drink a lot of water: Drinking enough supports brain function because the brain consists of 80% water.
- Exercise a lot in the fresh air to promote blood flow to the brain
- Quitting smoking: Since smoking does the exact opposite, restricting blood flow, quitting smoking is another important support for the brain.
- Eat lots of unsaturated fatty acids, especially omega-3 (e.g. from nuts, linseed oil or fish)
- Sleep: Sleep may not always be as restorative due to night sweats, anxiety, or insomnia associated with menopause. With all the stress of everyday life and menopause brain fog, still make sure you get enough sleep.
- Anti-stress: Stress is an additional burden on the brain: spending time with friends, meditation, a massage or a good book help the brain to relax. As I said, your brain tends to be more tired in this phase of hormonal changes, so give it what you treat the rest of your body to in such situations: regular rest.
- Make sure you have a good supply of B vitamins (mainly found in animal foods, whole grain products and green vegetables)
- Practice brain teasers (e.g. Sudoku or chess)
- Be curious and question many things
- Learn new movement patterns (dance steps, coordination exercises, crossing movements, brushing teeth with the “wrong” hand, etc.)
- Write to-do lists so that mental resources are free for more important things (preferably on the smartphone, which is usually handy.)
- Focus on one task at a time, don’t do multiple things at once.
Try to eliminate everything that distracts and steals your attention: TV, music, sounds and flashing notifications on your phone or computer.
Best supplements for menopause brain fog
Omega 3 fats: Vegetable omega 3s from linseed oil (ALA) and, above all, the important ones for the brain (EPA and DHA) from algae (vegetarian) or fatty sea fish. The recommendation is 2-3 times sea fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon, or tuna per week.
Women’s Formula supports clear thinking with an innovative mix of spirulina, the adaptogens ginseng and porcupine, as well as choline, B vitamins, and zinc.
Final thoughts: Does menopause brain fog go away?
Yes, menopause-related brain fog typically goes away over time. As hormone levels stabilize and your body adjusts to the changes occurring during menopause, many women find that their cognitive function improves, and the brain fog dissipates. The duration of brain fog can vary from person to person, with some women experiencing it for a few months while others may have symptoms that last longer.
It’s important to note that managing menopause symptoms, including brain fog, can be achieved through various strategies. These may include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), lifestyle adjustments, stress reduction techniques, regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep.
Additionally, mental exercises, such as puzzles or memory games, may help support cognitive function during this time.
If you’re experiencing significant or prolonged brain fog during menopause that affects your daily life, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional.