From hair loss to weight gain, menopausal symptoms vary depending on the individual, but a less well-known feature of this transitional period is menopause brain fog.
According to a study published in the Journal of Women's Health & Gender-Based Medicine (opens in new tab), around two-thirds of menopausal and peri-menopausal women claimed that their brain functioning has been impacted by the menopause. In fact, participants of the study cited menopause brain fog as the reason they had trouble concentrating, remembering events, and recalling words or numbers.
Experts believe that our fluctuating hormones are responsible for menopause brain fog, but without understanding the cause and how we can treat it, our memory lapses can become frustrating to deal with. However, it is possible to implement strategies to help you overcome those foggy feelings. Below, our experts share the reasons why menopause brain fog strikes, what causes it, and how you can relieve its symptoms with the help of the best menopause supplements, tailored nutrition, and brain exercises.
What is the link between menopause and brain fog?
“‘Brain fog’ is not a medical or scientific term, but it is used by individuals to describe how they feel when their thinking is fuzzy,” explains Dr. Samantha Wild, Women’s Health Lead at Bupa Health Clinics (opens in new tab). “As fluctuating estrogen levels impact the brain, brain fog is a very common symptom in perimenopausal and menopausal women.”
Typical symptoms of menopause brain fog include:
- Losing your train of thought midway through a conversation
- Difficulty recollecting events or names
Our hormones are created by endocrine glands (the eight glands scattered around our body), but estrogen (a female sex hormone) impacts the production of glucose, which is vital for brain activity. Falling levels of estrogen cause a decline in glucose levels, which account for the fuzzy-like feelings many women experience during this time. Estrogen isn’t the only hormone responsible for disrupting our cognitive functioning. Progesterone, another female sex hormone, also drops during the menopause, causing a range of imbalances in the body.
“During the perimenopause and menopause, the level of progesterone drops first, which can lead to irritability, sleep disturbance, mood swings, and brain fog,” says Shree Datta, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at The Lister Hospital (opens in new tab). “Sleep disturbance can create a vicious cycle, often worsening the effects of brain fog, along with mood changes, lack of energy, low sex drives, and hot flushes.”
When does menopausal brain fog end?
There is no exact timeline for menopausal brain fog. Experiences vary wildly from person to person. “Some symptoms may only last for a few months and others can continue for several years,” warns Wild. For one in 10 women (opens in new tab), menopause symptoms can carry on for up to 12 years – but there is a silver lining. “It’s likely that the first year of menopausal brain fog will be the worst,” says Datta. “But from then on, it can become less severe. Brain functioning should return to more ‘normal’ levels after the menopause process is complete, but if you are struggling with symptoms I would advise speaking to your doctor.”
How can you treat menopause brain fog?
Over the years, all symptoms of the menopause should reduce – but in the meantime, there are ways you can manage symptoms of menopause brain fog. Here are just a few examples:
Eat the right foods
What we eat can play a huge role in how our body handles menopausal symptoms. To keep menopause brain fog at bay, make sure your diet is full of fresh fruit and vegetables to get the right vitamins, such as magnesium, calcium, and vitamin C into your body.
“Slow-releasing energy foods, such as wholegrain pasta, oats, and nuts can keep you energized throughout the day,” says Wild. “Undereating can contribute to brain fog and make you feel easily irritated. If you’re looking to improve your diet, start by planning your meals and snacks for the week ahead, so you’re less likely to be drawn to sugary foods to keep your energy levels up. Sugary foods can cause our blood sugar to crash, which makes menopause symptoms like brain fog much worse.”
If you’re struggling with menopausal brain fog, then you need to allow your brain space to deal with it. “Factor in regular time away from your screen; whether you’re working in the office or at home,” says Wild. “Even if you simply look out the window and change your focus, it will give your brain a rest from constantly focusing.”
Use your time away from your digital devices to work on puzzles such as crosswords and sudoku – these are aimed at training and stimulating the brain and a 2019 study (opens in new tab) showed that they contribute to better cognitive functioning.
Get a good night's sleep
Don’t underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep in helping to reduce symptoms of menopause brain fog. A tired mind can have a huge impact on our cognitive abilities. “A relaxing activity, such as a hot bath or reading your favorite book, can leave you feeling relaxed and ready to drift off,” says Wild. “Switch off your digital devices at least an hour before bed too, as the blue light can impact your circadian rhythm - your internal body clock - keeping you awake for longer.”
If racing thoughts are keeping you up, try writing down what is on your mind. Not only can this help you to organize your thoughts and leave you feeling calmer, but it can stop any worries or stresses building up inside your head.
There are lots of things you can do to help reduce the impact of menopause brain fog, but it’s also wise to seek help if you’re struggling to manage it. “If you’re struggling with brain fog, speak to your GP who may be able to recommend treatment for perimenopause or menopause symptoms,” says Wild. Estrogen replacement therapy can be a good option for women who are struggling with menopausal symptoms and can be used in many different forms, including pills, patches, or injections.
Can you take supplements for menopause brain fog?
“There are many herbs and supplements aimed at women experiencing menopause symptoms and some of these can also reduce brain fog,” says Datta. A 2019 study (opens in new tab) found that low vitamin D levels can impact cognitive functioning in women of menopausal age, while a 2015 study (opens in new tab) found that omega-3 fatty acids can improve symptoms of brain fog, such as difficulties with attention and memory, when taken as a supplement. Check out our guide to the best fish oil supplements if you’re looking to top up your levels.
Stacey Carter is a Freelance Health Writer who has written print features and digital content for titles such as Woman & Home, Natural Health, Women’s Health, Get The Gloss, and Stylist. You'll find her covering a wide variety of health-based topics, talking to leading figures in the fitness industry, and investigating the latest trends in wellness. When she’s not at her laptop, weekend hikes, testing out new recipes in the kitchen and LISS-style workouts are her favourite ways to switch off.
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