Menopause and Brain Fog. How to help your 50 Plus brain.
How does perimenopause and menopause affect our brains? We hear of brain fog, but FEAR we have a serious cognition problem coming on. We are scared of Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. This makes total sense as some of us have seen our parents suffer horribly from these conditions.
We use terms like Senior Moments, Losing It, and my mom’s fav statement:
“I am going Senile!”
So, are you? Scroll down to see how to help your brain!
As I hit my mid fifties, I really think about the negative spin society puts on aging, especially aging women. Terms like these are funny, but are hey always helpful? Perimenopause and Menopause are more than body changes. They are a whole transition, socially and culturally.
The decline in estrogen during our TRANSITION years, has something to do with our cognitive slips. The Seattle Midlife Women's Health Study states that 72% of women in late reproductive transition (the perimenopause part) and menopausal transition have trouble remembering names, and 50% struggle with:
where they put things,
what people have told them
directions they gave
general forgetting what they are doing.
This is otherwise known by my mom as
the Brain Fart.
Besides estrogen, many of us 40+ are running through life at top speed, skipping meals, and living on coffee, not eating the right fat, or EVEN ENOUGH FAT, because we want to still diet, all for the sake of doing just one more thing. This may result in dysglycemia, which is really an abnormality in the stability of your blood sugar. It can be common in women who have a higher carbohydrate and lower fat diet. It also corresponds with alcohol intake.
Sorry, wine lovers.
Oh the marketing to women for wine… it seems like these companies market connection? We need connection but … the alcohol isn’t so good for the brain.
See? My brain drifts too! Back to the topic! Perimenopausal women also have a higher chance of being anemic, as an increase in menstrual cycles happen towards the transition to the last period (Harlow & Paramsothy).
YAY! Not yay.
What about inflammation? This is connected with so many of our chronic healthcare issues, including periodontal (gum) disease (Christianson & Pike, 2013). Once a dental hygienist, I am always a dental hygienist!
The causes of age related dementia and Alzheimer's Disease is still under research but there is some evidence pointing towards inflammation.
What to do?
1. Balance Blood Sugar.
Balance of blood sugar is important for all of us. Feeding our bodies can have an impact on inflammation (in a good way or a not so good way). We experience this middle area weight gain in menopause, seemingly overnight, when the pant elves slip in and replace all our clothes in one size smaller.
So we "diet". This changes our metabolism.
Not for the better.
Eat regularly and well, with a balance of foods.
We need diversity for our gut. I don’t think we can argue against leaning towards a lot plant foods, with seeds and nuts, high in nutrient dense and anti-inflammatory proteins, FATS, vegetables, and fruits.
Use Mindful Eating principles to explore new foods, and still enjoy foods you love. When we feed our cells, we can still feed our souls.
EAT, ladies, and eat well.
2. Eat Fat.
Adding in Omega 3 fatty acids, in a 1:1 ratio, helps your cell membranes which are made of, you guessed it: FAT!
I personally supplement with a very good quality plant or fish oil.
I do some testing, like a Balanced Health Scan, with my Naturopath, and Physician, to check on other things I many need to optimize.
In Mindful Eating, we talk about satisfying cellular hunger, which is feeding the biology of the body. Our body needs nutrients to function. Our cells have a little case around them made of long chain fatty acids. This little case needs to be intact, and healthy too. Your body will pull from this little case, the membrane, to regulate inflammation, cardiovascular, kidney and digestive functions. Makes sense we take care of these membranes!
What to eat? Hop over here.
We need to move! We know this. We just feel so tired and overwhelmed some days to fit this in.
Think of it like this. Exercise is a way to balance hormones in perimenopause and beyond. Besides, it makes you feel good, IF YOU ARE CHOOSING MOVEMENT YOU LOVE.
However, exercising when the body is under stress, can be COUNTER PRODUCTIVE. Choosing exercises that match your bodies needs is very important, and your needs change. There is no question that women need to make sure they add strength training to their movement choices. There are many ways to incorporate strength, without the gym! Yoga, body weight exercises, even a few free weights at home can make a difference!
We need to rest ourselves when we are truly tired.
Give yourself permission to do this. Please.
When we over exercise, or move that doesn’t honour the way we feel, and we are fatigued, our body perceives this as more stress. This perpetuates the hormone cascade that you want to decrease, not increase. Sometimes a simple walk outside, or restorative yoga can be the BEST choice of movement for a stressed mind and body.
Practising Mindfulness and breathing, can also help with stress, and in turn, your brain and thoughts.
AND BRAIN FARTS.
Even a little mindfulness can reduce perceived stress, improve memory and executive functioning.
Stress is something we all have, and changing your perception around stress is KEY to calming the body, interrupting your sleep and botch up your thinking.
Find your friends or your dog, and decrease stress with a little yoga, walking, good food, an art class, the theatre, and the outdoors, to keep connection and your third chapter stable and grounded.
It is possible.
5. ENGAGE AND CONNECT
This could easily be at the TOP of the list.
Find new things to engage your mind, and spark creativity!
Now IS YOUR TIME to try new things, and exercise your mind, by learning something new. You don’t have to take a formal class! YouTube has it all!
Even Udemy, which has lots of classes under 20 bucks! Last I knew, the local library offered free workshops, and here you add the added element of CONNECTION.
Women, who have sustained loss, in the form of death, divorce, or parents, or God forbid, a child, need connection more than ever.
Menopause does not have to feel like an apocalypse!
It IS your turn,
The Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study: a Longitudinal Prospective Study of Women During the Menopausal Transition and Early Postmenopause, Nancy Fugate Woods, Ellen Sullivan Mitchell, Women's Midlife Health 2016
Menstruation and the Menopause Transition, Siobán D. Harlow, Ph.D and Pangaja Paramsothy, M.P.H, Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2012
Menopause, Obesity and Inflammation: Interactive Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease, Christensen Amy, Pike Christian J., Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 2015
Mindfulness Meditation Improves Cognition: Evidence of Brief Mental Training, Susan H. Johnson, et al. Consciousness and Cognition, 2010.