Brain Fog: Solutions To Help You Improve Concentration
5 minute read
Most people have experienced mental fog or brain fog. It is often described as a cloudy-headed feeling. Forgetfulness is a common complaint among older adults. As we grow older, we experience physiological changes that can cause glitches in brain functions we have always taken for granted. It takes longer to learn and recall information. We are not as quick as we used to be. Also, lack of sleep, overworking, and stress can cause brain fog. Brain fog can be frustrating, but relief is possible. Do not ignore your symptoms. If left untreated, brain fog can impact the quality of your life and lead to other conditions such as Parkinsons disease, memory loss, and Alzheimers disease.
A Closer Look: A Study On Menopause
Dr. Greendale et al. studied 2,362 participants from the Study of Womens Health Across the Nation for four years. Women were in the premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal phases. They found that perimenopausal women did have a decrease in cognitive performance. However, improvement in their cognitive performance rebounded to premenopausal levels in post-menopause, suggesting that the cognitive effects may be time-limited. Hormone initiation before the final menstrual period seemed to have a beneficial effect, whereas initiation after the final menstrual period seemed to have a detrimental effect on cognitive performance. These results suggest that the timing of supplements for menopause brain fog may be as important as what is used.
A six-year longitudinal study that involved 1,903 women studied whether symptoms from menopause negatively affected cognitive performance during the menopause transition. The authors studied four symptoms and three measures of cognitive function. The four symptoms were depressive, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and vasomotor symptoms. The three cognitive domains including processing speed , verbal memory, and working memory. The authors found that depressive and anxiety symptoms had a small, negative effect on cognitive processing speed and that the four symptoms they studied did not account for the transient decline in symbol digit modalities test results that were reported in the SWAN study .
We Need To Talk About Menopause
Women are more vulnerable to stress, depression, anxiety, and feeling alone during menopause, reports the North American Menopause Society. This is often because this transitory phase of life can feel very lonely, and many women are embarrassed to talk about brain fog, memory loss, and other menopause symptoms they might be having.
Teri Hines, a school principal who started going through menopause in her mid-40s, told NPR that her experience felt “isolated and unmoored.”
“It was such a fog over who I was, what I wanted, where I was going, what I was capable of accomplishing,” said Hines. “I just could not find my footing.”
TV presenter Davina McCall decided to face this problem head-on with her new Channel 4 documentary entitled Sex, Myths and the Menopause. McCalls goal was to take away a lot of the stigma, isolation, and shame surrounding menopause, with The Telegraph‘s critics calling it an “excellent documentary” that has “lifted the lid on the appalling way menopausal women have been treated by society.”
The truth is that as women, we will all embark on this journey sooner or later. When you do, you will join the ranks of millions of others who have gone through menopause, and learned to accept the ways their bodies and minds change.
But what if we did more than simply accept it? What if we learned to talk about it, share our own stories, be candid about our symptoms, fears, and concerns?
And one prominent example is menopause brain fog.
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Low Estrogen During Menopause Leads To Brain Fog
The study, which builds upon objective evidence, found that a womans ability to carry about memory tasks becomes hindered when her estrogen begins to dip around the age of 45 to 55.
Estrogen is related to activity in the hippocampus which is the area of the brain responsible for memory and thinking.
Roughly 60 percent of menopausal women report brain fog symptoms during menopause. The recent study adds to previous findings by offering better understanding of how estrogen plays a role in the brain.
The study was based on 200 women whose memory skills were tested along with undergoing a functional MRI to track brain activity.
The study found that on average women with lower estrodiol a form of estrogen performed worse on memory tests. Postmenopausal women also showed different brain activity in the hippocampus compared to premensopausal women. But these changes were not seen among all women which raises the question as to why some women experience such changes where others do not.
Researchers speculate that lifestyle habits of women may also offer protective effects from the decline of estrogen. For example, women who frequently exercise are less likely to experience brain fog which raises the possibility that exercise offers protective effects against lower estrogen.
Although more research is needed it does offer some relief to many women as it makes their condition normal. Women dont have to fear that what they are experiencing is a result of them going crazy.
Soy Protein Supplements Could Help
Isoflavone-rich soy protein may or may not be helpful. There is data showing a modest benefit of soy isoflavone supplementation on cognitive function in postmenopausal women. However, women should consult their primary care physician or gynecologist before taking any supplement or over the counter remedy, says Weber.
The good news is that the onset of menopause doesnt mean that youll lose your short-term memory forever. Our best data suggests that these changes are temporary, and memory rebounds sometime in postmenopause, says Weber. However, many cognitive functions change with age. We would not expect a woman in her 60s to have the same memory ability, or ability to multitask, as a woman in her 30s.
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How To Minimize Menopause Brain Fog Naturally
Brain fog and memory problems are common symptoms of menopause. But these issues, and others, can be minimized naturally, without hormones. Learn how.
Brain fog is a common symptom of menopause.
Fortunately, these problems dont last forever and are not risk factors for more serious forms of mental decline later in life.
However, theres no need to struggle with foggy thinking while menopause is running its course.
What Are The Symptoms Of Brain Fog
Brain fog is an umbrella term used to describe problems with memory or concentration.
Symptoms may include:
Professor John Eden, a gynaecologist and reproductive endocrinologist and director of Womens Health and Research Institute of Australia , told me a change in word-finding ability is common in the women he treats. He mentioned lawyers, in particular, notice this symptom early, presumably because they rely so heavily on verbal gymnastics and sharp recall!
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Workplace Coping Strategies Include Rehearsing Finding Understanding Among Colleagues And Taking Lots Of Notes
People face a choice when menopause symptoms become noticeable to their colleagues: talk about it or not? For many around the world, menopause in the workplace is still a taboo subject. In one British survey, about 47% of people who needed to take a day off due to menopause symptoms did not feel comfortable telling their bosses or colleagues the reason. In a separate survey across five countries, 44% of people who experienced menopause symptoms said they have felt too embarrassed to ask for support in the workplace.
After her first five months of menopause, Miller decided to not dance around the subject with her colleagues, most of whom are male, or make excuses for it. She felt it had become super obvious what was going on when she needed a fan on days when it was freezing outside.
It is what it is. Its a part of life, she said. When she has brain fog, she said, I just flat-out tell my co-workers: Youre going to have to show me. Can you go into greater detail?
Sometimes she receives heavy sighs in response. But Miller said that for the most part, the men she works with are receptive because of other women in their lives.
I have one co-worker whose wife is my age, so he totally gets it, Miller said.
Creating an open dialogue with co-workers and practicing individual coping strategies raise awareness, but Opie noted that there is an institutional responsibility, too.
What Is Brain Fog Syndrome
Brain fog is characterized by confusion, forgetfulness, and a lack of focus and mental clarity. This can be caused by overworking, lack of sleep, stress, and spending too much time on the computer. On a cellular level, brain fog is believed to be caused by high levels inflammation and changes to hormones that determine your mood, energy and focus. The imbalanced levels of hormones make the whole system to be thrown off. Also, brain fog syndrome can lead to other conditions such as obesity, abnormal menstruation, and diabetes mellitus.
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Whats Causing This Foggy Thinking
We all start to forget things as we age , say the experts. When asked to memorise a list of 75 words read out five times, the average 18-year-old scores 54, a 45-year-old scores 47 and 65-year-old scores just 37. And the reason? No -one knows for sure, but its thought most memory problems at this time of life are due to poor concentration, lack of motivation, tiredness, anxiety or stress, rather than loss of brain cells. Feeling fuzzy-headed is also thought to be related to the hormonal ups and downs associated with menopause. Some parts of the brain particularly involved with verbal memory are rich in oestrogen receptors, so there could be a genuine physiological link between hormonal status and brain function.
The link between hormone levels and brain function is confirmed by research undertaken by Dr Sandra File at Guys Hospital in London.
As we grow older, our circulation slows down, thus less oxygen reaches our brain cells, so its no surprise we arent as sharp. Many of us dont stretch our brains as much as we could. Like muscles, our brain needs to be used to function at optimum levels. The positive news is forgetfulness doesnt have to be an inevitable part of getting older. Dont despair, you may not be able to prevent the brain fog associated with menopause, but there are lots you can do to help yourself. Following a nutrient-dense and phytoestrogen-rich diet, leading an active lifestyle and keeping your brain well exercised will help keep you sharp.
Natural Menopause Brain Fog Remedies
Knowing that your hormones will settle down eventually is comforting, but taking active measures can have you feeling like your usual self sooner than later.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
Every bite of food you take either nourishes your brain or adds to its burden.
While in menopause, its more important than ever to eat a healthy diet.
Because theres so much confusing information about diet, you may wonder what exactly a healthy diet means.
An excellent place to start is with these three words of advice.
Eat real food.
Real food is found in the outer aisles of the grocery store or at a farmers market.
Youll know it when you see it it has no need for an ingredient label and doesnt come in a can, package, or box.
Eating unprocessed food automatically reduces your intake of brain health thieves like sugar, white flour, food additives, and trans fats while ensuring that your brain gets the nutrients it needs to thrive.
Additionally, avoid eating a low-fat diet since progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, and other sex hormones are synthesized from cholesterol.
2. Stay Hydrated
Drink plenty of liquids.
Dehydration is surprisingly common among women in menopause since both estrogen and progesterone are important for fluid regulation.
The 8-glasses-per-day rule of thumb is a reasonable place to start, but this online hydration calculator will further refine how much water you should drink for your situation.
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What Is Menopausal Brain Fog
Menopausal brain fog is best described as a cotton wool feeling: you may find it hard to absorb and recall information or concentrate on simple tasks. Common complaints may include forgetting what you walked into a room to do or struggling to remember your neighbours name.Some women may worry about developing dementia or Alzheimers after experiencing brain fog. However, evidence suggests that learning ability and memory returns during postmenopause: in 2009, researchers analysed more than 2,000 women over four years and found that cognitive issues improved after menopause .
How Do We Maximize Our Brains Natural Neuroplasticity
While theres research still to be done to prove it, it does appear that making our brains work harder to learn new things and acquire new skills helps our brains stay plastic and flexible. Repeated demands allow new neural pathways to form. Here are some tips for putting your brain through its paces and supporting brain health in your everyday life.
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Take The Right Supplements
As your body transitions through menopause, your traditional womens supplements may no longer cut it. For example, youll need far less iron than you did when you were younger.
Invest in a high-quality, premium braincare supplement instead.
With the Smart Supplement from Heights, you get the highest quality nutrients proven to reduce menopause brain fog and all in one convenient daily dose. The vitamins and minerals found in the Smart Supplement have also been shown to help with the mental health concerns that many women in menopause experience, such as anxiety and depression.
The above suggestions wont stop menopause. Despite our best intentions, nothing can turn back the hands of time. However, these changes to your diet and your lifestyle can help you to better manage your brain health and avoid menopause brain fog.
Tricks To Battle Memory Loss In Menopause
Fuzzy thinking, or brain fog, is one of the most frustrating symptoms women face during their menopausal years. These simple tricks can help you stay sharp and clear out that cloudy feeling in your mind.
Whether you are just starting menopause or are smack in the middle of it, you may feel like youre walking around in a brain fog. Memory loss is a common complaint among women at this time, says Pauline Maki, PhD, professor of psychiatry and psychology and director of womens health research at the University of Illinois in Chicago. In fact studies show that some 60 percent of women in perimenopause and menopause report that their memory is not as good as it used to be.
Maki says that many women with menopause-related brain fog tend to forget recently learned verbal information and have trouble concentrating. Common complaints include drawing a blank on the names of people you just met at a cocktail party or forgetting what you walked into a room to do. Some women become very frightened, believing they are developing dementia, Maki says. However, in 2009, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that in the more than 2,000 women studied over four years, memory and learning ability tended to return after menopause was complete.
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Where Does The Fog Come From
The disruption and later absence of estrogen play a major role in the onset of brain fog. As DePree explained, estrogen is neuroprotective it’s known to boost the immune system and helps protect neurons from harm while also promoting new nerve connections. And it’s the primary hormone affected by menopause. So when hormones start to ebb and flow during perimenopause, DePree said, “It’s not surprising to know that the brain is impacted.”
There are also additional perimenopause symptoms at work. Sleep disruption, often caused by hot flashes or night sweats, as well as anxiety and depression can also impact memory, focus and concentration.
DePree said word retrieval and forgetfulness causes many women to worry they’re experiencing the early signs of dementia adding that for most women, it doesn’t.
However, women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than men. So for a small subset of individuals, brain fog may be the beginning of cognitive impairment that might someday be Alzheimer’s.
Focus On Diet And Exercise
Diet and exercise are tied to improving brain function. Some studies report that the number one method of improving cognitive function, far into old age, is continued, regular cardiovascular exercise five days a week.
Certain studies have shown limited benefits to adding certain foods to your diet. One is fatty fish, which contains EPA and DHA, omega-3 fatty acids that are vital for normal brain function. Another is foods that are high in vitamin B. In particular, vitamin B-12 has been shown to help support healthy brain function and may assist in decreasing the severity of menopausal brain fog.
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Supplements That Can Help Brain Fog
Suggesting an excellent multivitamin, like Meta-Fem by Thorne Research, can help supplement many of the nutritional deficiencies that are common in women over 40. This is especially true if she does not have adequate nutrition in her diet. The reason I like Meta-Fem by Thorne Research, is because this product is hypoallergenic and gentle on the stomach. Furthermore, the vitamins are in their coenzyme form making them easier to absorb and process.
Simply taking a multivitamin, like Meta-Fem,can have a dramatic impact on mood and energy. I usually start my treatment with this supplement. Dosages usually begin with 3-4 capsules once or twice a day depending on need.
In addition to a great multivitamin, I have been very impressed with some of the Chinese medical formulas as well. There are several good formulas that I fine effective in improving brain health and memory.
One of my favorite Chinese formulas companies is Jing Herbs. I like this company because it maintains excellent quality standards. I find that I get great feedback from my patients when I prescribe their products.
The herbs used in these two formulas also seem to offer some protection to the immune system in addition to their cognition benefits.