Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on
July 25, 2022
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on:

Are you having a hard time focusing and losing productivity at work? Do you feel like you’re losing touch with your skills and cognitive performance? You might be experiencing brain fog.

Brain fog is a common symptom of menopause. For many women, this condition can be so severe that it significantly impacts their daily lives.

If you’re struggling with a foggy brain, you’re not alone.

In this article, we will discuss the link between brain fog and menopause and how to cope with the frustrating symptoms. We’ll also provide tips for maintaining a healthy brain during menopause.

Let’s get started.

What is brain fog, exactly?

Brain fog or mental fog is a term used to describe the feeling of confusion, forgetfulness, and slow-processing speed. It can also include symptoms like brain fatigue, difficulty concentrating and decreased productivity.

This mild cognitive impairment usually lasts for days to weeks, but other people experience mental fog as a lingering cognitive dysfunction that lasts for months, depending on the underlying cause.

It is important to note that mental fog is not a medical condition but often a symptom of an underlying health issue or the result of lifestyle choices.

Causes

There are many potential causes of mental fog. The most common include:

Hormonal changes: Hormonal imbalances can cause a foggy brain. This is especially common during menopause, when levels of estrogen and progesterone decline. These hormones play an important role in brain function, so any changes can impact cognitive performance.

Stress: Stress can lead to mental fog by affecting the brain’s ability to process information correctly. When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol, which can interfere with memory and learning.

Poor sleep: Not getting enough sleep can also lead to cognitive impairment. Sleep disturbances affect the brain’s ability to function properly, which can impact cognitive performance.

Diet: Eating a poor diet or not getting enough nutrients can also cause mental fog. A diet that’s high in processed foods and low in nutrients can lead to inflammation and damage the brain cells.

Medications: Certain medications can cause a foggy brain as a side effect. These include, but are not limited to, antidepressants, antihistamines, and blood pressure medications.

Dehydration: Dehydration can also cause mental fog. When you’re dehydrated, your brain doesn’t have enough water to function properly. This can impact cognitive performance and lead to feelings of confusion and forgetfulness.

Thyroid problems: An underactive or overactive thyroid can also cause mental fog. The thyroid is a gland that regulates metabolism, so any changes in hormone levels can impact cognitive function.

Mood disorders: Mood disorders like anxiety and depression are also common causes of mental fog. These conditions can affect the brain’s ability to process information correctly, which can lead to difficulty concentrating and decreased productivity.

Chronic fatigue syndrome: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause a foggy brain. This is because CFS can lead to feelings of exhaustion and make it difficult to concentrate or focus on anything.

Other underlying health conditions: There are many other underlying health conditions that can cause mental fog. These include but are not limited to autoimmune diseases, brain injuries, brain tumors, and sleep disorders.

Symptoms

The symptoms of brain fog vary in every individual. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Difficulty remembering things or retaining information
  • Slow processing speed or reaction time
  • Mental fatigue
  • Low energy or mood
  • Irritability or sudden mood swings
  • Feeling confused or disoriented
  • Decreased productivity
  • Problems with decision making
  • Struggles with problem-solving

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s essential to talk to your doctor. They will be able to rule out any underlying health conditions and recommend treatment options that suit you.

What is menopause, exactly?

Menopause is the biological process that happens when a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs, and her estrogen levels drop.

This transition usually occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55, but it can happen earlier or later depending on individual factors.

The average age for menopause transition in the United States is 51 years old, but the range is extensive.

Some women experience early menopause in their 30s or 40s, while others don’t experience it until their 60s or later.

The symptoms of menopause can vary from woman to woman, but the most common include:

  • Hot flashes or night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Mood swings or irritability
  • Sleep problems or fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Verbal memory lapses
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Mental fog
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Muscle aches and pains.

These symptoms can occur gradually or suddenly, and they can last for a few months or several years.

How to cope with brain fog and menopause?

If you’re dealing with menopause and mental fog, also known as “menopause brain,” there are some things you can do to ease your symptoms.

First, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They can rule out any underlying health conditions and help you find the best treatment options or guide you with the right coping strategies.

There are also some lifestyle changes you can make to help cope with menopause brain fog. These include:

1) Optimizing your sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial for brain health. When you’re well-rested, your brain can better handle stress and manage information correctly.

Studies also show that menopausal women who get enough sleep have better cognitive performance than those who do not get adequate sleep.

Optimize your sleep during menopause by doing the following:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Keep a cool and comfortable environment in your bedroom
  • Limit distractions like screens before bedtime
  • Refrain from eating a few hours before bed
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Exercise regularly
  • Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D

If you are still struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, it would be best to consult a specialist to get you tested for a sleep disorder and suggest a treatment plan that suits you.

2) Eating a well-balanced diet

A nutritious diet is essential for brain health at any age. But during menopause, it’s vital to eat foods that are rich in nutrients like omega-three fatty acids, antioxidants, and B vitamins.

Studies show that these nutrients can help reduce inflammation and protect your brain against damage.

Some brain-boosting foods to include in your diet are:

  • Salmon
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds like walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds
  • Avocados
  • Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale
  • Berries
  • Beans and lentils
  • Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut
  • Green tea
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Dark chocolate
  • Spices like turmeric, ginger, and rosemary.

In addition to eating brain-healthy foods, it’s also important to limit your intake of processed foods, sugary foods, and alcohol.

These can all contribute to brain fog and other menopause symptoms.

If you need help making dietary changes, consider working with a registered dietitian who can create a personalized meal plan for you.

3) Supplementing with brain-healthy nutrients

If you’re not getting enough of certain brain-healthy nutrients from your diet, you may want to consider supplementing.

This is especially important if you have any nutrient deficiencies.

Some brain-boosting supplements to consider are:

  • Vitamin A acetate
  • Vitamin B complex
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Choline
  • Omega-three fatty acids
  • Magnesium.

However, before you start taking any supplements, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They can help you determine if you need them and what the best dosage is for you.

They can also check for any possible interactions with any medications you’re currently taking.

In addition to brain-healthy nutrients, there are also some herbs that can help reduce mental fog and other menopausal symptoms.

Some of the most effective ones are:

  • Maca
  • Red clover
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Black cohosh
  • Chasteberry
  • Dong Quai
  • Sage
  • Saint John’s wort.

Herbal supplements can interact with medications, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking them.

4) Exercising regularly

Exercise is another brain-boosting activity that’s important for many women during menopause.

Studies show that exercising regularly can help improve brain function, mood, and sleep quality. It can also help reduce stress and anxiety levels.

Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. This could include activities like walking, biking, swimming, or gardening.

If you’re new to exercise, start slowly and gradually increase your activity level over time.

Also, talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise routine, especially if you have any health concerns.

In addition to the brain benefits of exercise, it’s also a great way to improve your overall health.

And when it comes to menopausal brain fog, anything that you can do to improve your overall health is likely to help.

5) Training your brain regularly

Just like you need to exercise your body, you also need to exercise your brain. This is especially important as we age since cognitive function can decline.

Studies also show that brain training can help improve brain function and reduce the risk of memory loss or cognitive decline, especially during menopause.

There are many ways to train your brain. Some brain-training activities you can do at home include:

  • Crossword puzzles
  • Chess
  • Sudoku
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Memory games
  • Brainteasers
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Learning a new skill
  • Learning a new language.

You can also find brain-training apps and online programs. If you have a smartphone, there are likely several brain-training apps available for free or for a small fee.

Brain-training activities are a great way to keep your mind sharp and reduce mental fog. Plus, they’re usually pretty enjoyable too.

6) Managing your stress levels

Stress is a common trigger for brain fog. When we’re stressed, our cognitive performance can suffer.

Research shows that chronic stress can damage brain cells and lead to cognitive decline. It can also contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

That’s why it’s important to manage your stress levels, especially during menopause. This can help enhance brain function and reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction.

Some stress-busting activities that you may want to try include:

  • yoga
  • meditation
  • deep breathing exercises
  • progressive muscle relaxation
  • mindfulness
  • going outside in nature
  • getting some sunlight
  • having a full body massage
  • doing a hobby that relaxes you.

Everyone responds differently to stress, so experiment to see what works best for you.

7) Considering hormone therapy

Hormone replacement therapy is another treatment option for mental fog and other symptoms of menopause.

Studies show that hormone therapy may help improve cognitive performance and reduce the risk of brain fog and other menopause-related cognitive problems.

Hormone therapy may also relieve other menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.

If you’re considering hormone therapy, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits. This is especially important if you have any health conditions like heart disease or breast cancer.

Hormone therapy isn’t suitable for everyone, but it may be an option worth considering if you’re struggling with mental fog and other menopause symptoms.

Concluding Thoughts

Brain fog and menopause can be frustrating and debilitating experiences. Dealing with both can affect your life drastically and often negatively.

You might lose productivity at work, sever your relationships, and lose your overall enthusiasm in your day-to-day life.

Thankfully, there are things that you can do to ease the symptoms and keep your brain healthy and your cognitive performance sharp.

The tips in this article are a great starting point, but make sure to talk to your doctor about other treatment options that may be available to you.

Do you have mental fog or menopause? What tips do you have for dealing with them? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

Also, feel free to share this article with the women in your life to help them cope with menopause brain fog more easily. 

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