Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on
October 20, 2022
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on:

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Do you feel like you’re not yourself lately? Are you having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating on tasks?

You might be experiencing brain fog, which is a common symptom of hormonal imbalance

Brain fog can make everyday activities difficult, such as working or driving, and it can also lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.

If you’re concerned about hormone imbalance and its effects on your brain health, read on for a comprehensive guide to understanding hormonal imbalance and brain fog.

Let’s get started.

What is hormonal imbalance, exactly?

A hormone imbalance is a medical condition that occurs when there is a disparity in the body’s hormones.

Hormones are responsible for regulating many important bodily functions, including metabolism, reproduction, and mood.

When the levels of these hormones are off-kilter, it can lead to a variety of symptoms, including brain fog.

Common Causes of Hormonal Imbalance

There are a number of things that can cause hormone imbalance, including but not limited to the following:

Thyroid Disorders

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that produces hormones that regulate metabolism.

An underactive or overactive thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, respectively, can lead to hormonal imbalance and other complications as these conditions make your thyroid gland produce either too little or too many hormones.

Poor cognitive function, or brain fog, is a common symptom of thyroid disorder that patients often experience alongside chronic fatigue syndrome, forgetfulness, and difficulty focusing.

Research suggests that even after the hormone levels normalize, brain fog can continue to impact patients negatively.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy, which is also known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), involves taking synthetic hormones to supplement the body’s own production.

While HRT can be an effective treatment for hormone imbalances, it can also come with a number of risks and side effects, including brain fog.

This is because HRT can interfere with the body’s natural hormone production, leading to further imbalances in the first stages of the treatment.

Additionally, one study suggests that HRT could cause an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in menopausal women.

If you’re considering HRT as a treatment for an imbalance in the hormones, be sure to discuss the potential risks and side effects with your doctor.

Medications

Certain medications can also lead to hormone imbalances and brain fog.

For example, birth control pills contain synthetic hormones that can disrupt the body’s natural hormone production.

Additionally, some antidepressants and antipsychotics are known to cause hormonal imbalances as a side effect.

Make sure to speak with your doctor about the potential side effects of any medications you’re taking.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer that uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells.

Unfortunately, chemotherapy can also damage healthy cells, including those in the brain. This can lead to hormone imbalances and cognitive problems such as brain fog.

If you or a loved one is undergoing chemotherapy, consult your doctor about ways to manage side effects like brain fog.

Tumors

Tumors, both cancerous and noncancerous, can also cause imbalances in the hormones.

This is because tumors can interfere with the body’s hormone production by either releasing hormones themselves or affecting the glands that produce hormones.

Brain fog is a common symptom of imbalances in the hormones caused by tumors. Other symptoms can include fatigue, weight gain, and mood swings.

If you have a tumor, it’s important to speak with your doctor about the best way to manage it and its potential side effects.

Autoimmune conditions

Autoimmune conditions are those in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells.

One common autoimmune condition is Hashimoto’s disease, which affects the thyroid gland.

As with other thyroid disorders, Hashimoto’s disease can lead to hormonal imbalances and brain fog.

Other common symptoms of autoimmune conditions include fatigue, joint pain, and rashes.

If you have an autoimmune condition, it’s crucial to work with your doctor to manage the condition and its symptoms.

Uterine polyps

Uterine polyps are noncancerous growths that form on the lining of the uterus.

While they’re usually benign, they can cause imbalances in the hormones by interfering with the production of estrogen and progesterone.

This can lead to symptoms like brain fog, weight gain, and irregular periods.

If you have uterine polyps, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove them.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects women of childbearing age.

Women with PCOS have higher-than-normal levels of androgens, which are male hormones. This can lead to irregular periods, weight gain, and fertility problems.

PCOS can also cause brain fog, as well as fatigue, and mood swings.

If you think you might have PCOS, it’s important to see your doctor for a diagnosis. There is no cure for PCOS, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy can also cause imbalances in the hormones, which can lead to brain fog.

Other common symptoms of hormone imbalance during pregnancy include fatigue, mood swings, and weight gain.

If you’re pregnant and experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance, it’s important to speak with your doctor.

There are some treatments that can help relieve symptoms, but hormone imbalance during pregnancy is usually temporary and goes away after delivery.

Breastfeeding

Like pregnancy, breastfeeding can also cause imbalances in the hormones.

This is because the body needs to produce more of the hormone prolactin to stimulate milk production.

Imbalances in the hormones caused by breastfeeding usually go away once you stop breastfeeding.

However, some women continue to experience hormonal imbalances and brain fog for months or even years after they stop breastfeeding.

If you’re breastfeeding and experiencing symptoms of an imbalance in the hormones, it’s important to speak with your doctor.

Although there are treatments that can ease symptoms, hormone imbalance caused by breastfeeding is commonly temporary and subsides once you stop breastfeeding.

Menopause

Menopause is the natural process that occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs.

This usually happens around age 50.

As women approach menopause, they may experience hormonal imbalances and brain fog. Other common symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.

There are a variety of causes of hormonal imbalance, some of which are natural processes, like pregnancy and menopause. Others, like PCOS and thyroid disorders, are hormonal disorders that require treatment.

If you think you might have an imbalance in the hormones, the first step is to see your doctor for a diagnosis. Once you know what’s causing your symptoms, you can work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan.

Common Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance

In addition to brain fog, imbalances in the hormones can cause a variety of other symptoms, depending on gender.

Signs in Males

  • Reduced sex drive
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sperm count
  • Enlarged breasts (gynecomastia)
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Andropause
  • Thinning hair

Signs in Females

  • Irregular periods
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Breast changes
  • Hair loss

Both genders can experience the following symptoms:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain or sudden weight loss
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Memory problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Chronic acne
  • Dry skin
  • Brain fog
  • Belly problems
  • Night sweats
  • Headaches

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to speak with your doctor. Hormonal imbalances can be treated, but only if they’re diagnosed.

Risk Factors

There are a variety of factors that can increase your risk for hormonal imbalance.

Age

As you age, your hormone levels naturally decline. This process is called andropause in men and perimenopause in women.

Andropause usually begins around age 40, while perimenopause typically starts around age 50.

However, imbalances in the hormones can occur at any age.

Family history

If you have a family history of hormonal disorders, like PCOS or thyroid disorder, you may be more likely to develop an imbalance in the hormones yourself.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

As noted earlier, hormonal imbalances are common during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

If you’ve experienced hormonal imbalance during pregnancy or breastfeeding in the past, you may be more likely to experience it again in future pregnancies.

Certain medical conditions

There are some medical conditions that can cause imbalances in the hormones. These include:

  • PCOS
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Adrenal gland disorders
  • Pituitary gland disorders
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Certain cancers, like ovarian cancer
  • Type II diabetes

Lifestyle factors

Your lifestyle can also play a role in the imbalance in your hormones. Some lifestyle factors that can increase your risk include:

  • Physical inactivity
  • Being overweight
  • Obesity
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Chronic stress
  • Taking certain medications

Certain medications

There are some medications that can cause hormonal imbalances. These include:

  • Steroids
  • Birth control pills
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Chemotherapy drugs

If you’re taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor about the potential side effects. They may be able to adjust your dosage or switch you to a different medication.

Complications

If imbalances in the hormones are left untreated, they can cause a variety of complications. These include:

  • Infertility
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Osteoporosis
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Heart disease
  • Certain cancers, like breast cancer and ovarian cancer
  • Type II diabetes
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive dysfunction (i.e., brain fog)

Early detection is key to diagnosing an imbalance in the hormones. Hormonal imbalances can be treated, but you must see your doctor set up a treatment plan.

Diagnosis

If you think you may have a hormonal imbalance, the first step is to see your doctor. They will likely ask about your medical history and symptoms.

They may also order one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood test – to measure hormone levels in the blood as well as your blood flow.
  • Urine test – to measure hormone levels in the urine.
  • Imaging tests – to check for tumors or other abnormalities.
  • Other tests – to check for underlying conditions, like thyroid disorders.

Treatment

Treatment for imbalances in the hormones will vary depending on the cause. In some cases, no treatment is necessary.

For example, if the imbalance in your hormones is caused by pregnancy or menopause, it will usually go away on its own.

In other cases, hormonal imbalances can be treated with medication or lifestyle changes.

For example, if the imbalance in your hormones is caused by PCOS, treatment may include:

  • Oral contraceptives – to regulate hormone levels
  • Metformin – to improve insulin sensitivity
  • Weight loss – to improve hormone levels and symptoms

How does hormone imbalance affect the brain?

Hormonal imbalances can cause a variety of complications, one of which is cognitive dysfunction.

Cognitive dysfunction is commonly referred to as “brain fog.”

Brain fog can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Struggles with problem-solving
  • Losing trains of thought in conversations
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor. They will be able to determine if imbalance in the hormones is the cause.

How to Cope with Hormonal Imbalance and Brain Fog

Brain fog can be a difficult symptom to manage. However, there are some things you can do to help improve your brain function:

Prioritize the quality of your sleep

It’s no secret that sleep is crucial for brain health, yet people who deal with hormone imbalances find it difficult to sleep comfortably.

However, there are steps you can take to improve your sleep quality, such as the following:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule
  • Keep a cool, comfortable environment in your bedroom
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime
  • Get up and move around during the day
  • Limit your screen time before bedtime

Eat a healthy diet

Eating a nutritious diet is important for overall health, especially for brain health and balancing your hormones.

Some foods that are beneficial for the brain include:

  • Omega-three fatty acids – found in fish, nuts, and seeds
  • Blueberries – known as “brain food”
  • Dark leafy greens – a good source of vitamins and minerals
  • Beans and lentils – high in fiber and protein
  • Avocados – a good source of healthy fats

Take supplements

If you’re unable to get the nutrients you need from diet alone, you may want to consider taking supplements.

Some supplements that have been shown to be beneficial for brain health include:

  • Omega-three fatty acids
  • Vitamin D
  • B-complex vitamins
  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium

Get regular exercise

Exercise is not only good for your physical health, but it’s also beneficial for your mental health.

Regular exercise has been shown to:

  • Boost brain function
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Support hormonal balance

Manage your stress

Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your hormones and worsen brain fog. Learning how to manage your stress is crucial for maintaining hormonal balance and improving brain function.

Some things you can do to manage your stress include:

  • Aerobic exercise
  • Meditation
  • Spending time in nature
  • Relaxing massage

Train your brain regularly

Just like you exercise your body to stay in shape, you need to exercise your brain to keep it healthy and functioning properly.

There are a number of ways you can train your brain, such as:

  • Playing brain games
  • Learning a new skill
  • Doing puzzles
  • Practicing meditation

By following these tips, you can help improve your brain function and cope with hormonal imbalance and brain fog.

Concluding Thoughts

Hormonal imbalance can cause a variety of symptoms, one of which is brain fog.

Brain fog can be difficult to manage, but there are steps you can take to improve your brain function. These include eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and taking supplements.

If you’re struggling with hormonal imbalance and brain fog, it’s important to see your doctor. They will be able to help you manage your symptoms and improve your overall health.

If you want to learn more about clearing brain fog naturally and improving your brain function in the long term, check out these educational resources in our blog.

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