Anyone who’s ever experienced brain fog knows that it’s very real. Menopause brain fog can include memory retention challenges, mental confusion or mental fog, clouding of consciousness, feeling less wakeful, and overall feeling like you’re not as sharp as you normally should be. This feeling is bad enough after a stressful week at work or a night when you didn’t get much sleep. But what happens when brain fog becomes a regular part of your life?
Worse yet, what happens when you can’t get other people in your life - or even your doctor - to understand what you’re going through? Menopause brain fog and alterations in brain function around perimenopause are scientifically proven phenomena. It may be difficult to get some people to believe that menopause brain fog is real, but it’s hard for even the biggest skeptic to argue with scientific evidence.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital Confirms Menopause Brain Fog
A recent study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found a strong correlation between decreases in estradiol levels and decreased memory function in perimenopausal and menopausal women. Specifically, women participating in the study who tested lower for estradiol also struggled more with verbal memory tasks.
According to Dr. Jill Goldstein, PhD, Director of Research at Brigham’s Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology, “Our findings underscore the incredible variability of the brain as we age and [...] the unique role of sex steroid hormones in memory function.” In simpler terms, Dr. Goldstein’s findings suggest that more research needs to be done on menopause brain fog, but it’s undoubtedly connected to menopausal and perimenopausal women’s estrogen levels. Because estrogen plays a role in body temperature and heart rate, decreased estrogen levels can have a significant impact on fatigue, leaving you feeling less wakeful, walking around in a mental fog, and other brain function issues.
Menopausal Brain Fog and Lack of Estrogen
Another study involving mental fog, published in the scientific journal Medicina at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, found a direct correlation between sex hormones and brain function. The study suggests, “Sex steroids play a role in the brain [...] Sex steroids are able to modify several functions including behavioral, cognition and memory, sleep, mood, pain and coordination, amongst others. They exert these functions through receptors both in the nuclei and along the membranes at synapsis, spine, and mitochondria.”
In simpler terms, sex hormones like estrogen (and specifically estradiol) can have a significant impact on brain function. Estrogen is commonly accepted as a neuroprotective hormone. One of its functions in the body is to shield and help repair the brain’s neurons. With this knowledge, it makes sense that lack of estrogen could negatively impact cognitive function and memory retention.
Menopause Brain Fog and a Possible Link with Alzheimer’s Disease
Another study takes this concept even farther, positing that there may be a direct link between menopause and Alzheimer’s disease. Citing that nearly 70% of all Alzheimer’s patients are women, Weill Cornell Medicine’s Lisa Mosconi recently challenged the idea that women make up the majority of Alzheimer’s patients simply because of a longer life expectancy.
According to Mosconi, while women do tend to live longer than men in the United States, women’s life expectancy is only about five years longer than men’s. In contrast, preclinical Alzheimer’s can last decades. Along with other studies confirming the link between estrogen and brain function, Mosconi hypothesizes that there may be a similar link between low estrogen levels due to menopause and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
That’s not to say that menopause causes Alzheimer’s disease in women, but a link could explain the high rate of female Alzheimer’s patients. And further research into this connection could help scientists determine the best treatments for reversing the effects of menopause brain fog. Whether through balancing hormones or other means, doctors and scientists are paying attention to this phenomenon and seeking out the best treatment options.
Have Doctors Always Taken Menopause Brain Fog Seriously?
Doctors haven’t always taken menopausal brain fog seriously. For years, women complaining of changing brain function and brain fog were largely ignored. However, in recent years, doctors’ perceptions of menopause brain fog have changed significantly.
Now that several peer-reviewed studies have shown the strong correlation between decreased estrogen levels and increased brain fog, the healthcare industry is taking a new look at menopause and how to treat it.
As researchers dive deeper into the correlation between low estrogen and memory loss, clouding of consciousness, and other brain function issues, we may see doctors become even more responsive to menopausal and perimenopausal women’s brain fog symptoms. So, if you feel that your doctor may not be taking your menopause symptoms seriously, it may be time to seek a second opinion. Your doctor’s job is to work with you to find solutions for whatever you’re experiencing. Don’t let anyone, especially your doctor, delegitimize what you’re going through.
Is Brain Fog a Condition? Is It Caused by Menopause?
Yes, menopause brain fog is a common condition among women in perimenopause and menopause. As the body slows and eventually stops its estrogen production, the brain no longer has the same level of neuroprotective hormones. As a result, neurons are more vulnerable to damage and decay. This is why women experience ongoing challenges with:
- Short- and long-term memory function
- Impaired decision-making skills
- Clouding of consciousness
- Less wakefulness than normal
- Menopause-related insomnia
Fortunately, there are treatments for menopause brain fog. You should always consult your doctor before starting any kind of treatment, but a few options that could help clear your mind and reverse the effects of brain fog include:
- Dietary supplements
- Eating brain-food diet
- Managing stress
- Staying properly hydrated
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Hormone Replacement Therapy
Find the Right Menopause Brain Fog Treatment for You
There’s no doubt that menopause brain fog is real. Fortunately, there are ways to treat and alleviate the symptoms of this incredibly common perimenopausal phenomenon. From daily exercise and proper hydration to stress management and diet changes, try a few natural menopause brain fog treatments and see what works best for you. And, if you’re looking for support from other women who’ve had similar experiences along their menopause journeys, check out our Facebook group for support and community.