3 commonly asked menopause brain fog questions

Find the answers to 3 commonly asked brain fog questions


Eileen Durward
@EileenDurward
Ask Eileen


26 December 2022

Today's Topic

Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be taking a look at three commonly asked questions about brain fog.

This is such a common symptom now and I get so many questions every week about the different aspects of brain fog: what's causing it; why is it happening; how long is it going to last? So, I thought today I would look at the three most commonly asked questions about it, find out why it happens, and the simple things that you can do to help yourself.

We do know that hormonal changes can play a big part in the way that the brain processes information, and also how you gather information when you're thinking about things. So the messaging and processing the brain needs to do can slow down, and that can be quite a big problem just by itself. But there can be a lot of really simple factors that can compound the problem.

So, let's look at the other issues which I often get asked about:

Question 1: I feel like I’m losing my mind - is this normal?

This is such a common worry and something I get asked a lot! It's usually about memory. Your memory bank seems to decrease. You can't get facts out quickly enough. You may find that you're forgetting things that previously you didn't even have to think about. You forget people's names. It's that classic thing of going into a room and then going, "What on earth did I come in here for?"

And it's also about tasks, maybe operating machinery if that's your job, or you do things in a certain routine and sometimes, you're halfway through it and you just can't remember what you're going to do next.

Question 2: Is it normal to have difficulty concentrating during menopause?

Yes, concentration problems can be very common. You might find that some of the things that you used to do, if you've got to focus on something, if you've got a talk or a presentation, you can't just rattle through it as quickly as you did before. You may find that retrieving information that you need to present is a lot harder, or it could just be like I used to get, your brain just goes completely empty, and there just doesn't seem to be anything going on there at all!

Question 3: Is feeling spaced out a common problem?

This can be quite a strange and disconcerting one. You can be in a group with other people or you can be doing things that you normally do, and just suddenly, it's as if everything recedes into the background and you're standing there just wondering what on earth you're doing at this particular moment.

Tips to help ease menopause brain fog

So, what can you do to help yourself? There are lots of simple things that can help, which can often be overlooked. Here are a few that I recommend:

Stay hydrated: Your brain is full of water, and it's been shown in things like X-rays and scans that if you're dehydrated, your brain actually does shrink. And if that happens, that's going to have a huge impact on the way all the nerve impulses are going through your brain when you're wanting to remember things, when you're wanting to retrieve information, or if you're wanting to focus on something new that you have to learn. So, drinking plenty of water every day is very important if you are having brain fog issues.

And if you're getting this brain fog, memory loss, or lapses at the same time every day, then that's usually an indication that it's something physical that you're doing or not doing in your daily life. So doing a little symptom diary can be really helpful in figuring out when this is happening and what may be the issue. So, remember the water and drink it steadily throughout the day so that that will keep your brain well hydrated.

Eat healthy fats: Are you getting enough fat in your diet? Fat is so important. I read that 60% of our brain is made up of different types of fat. So, fats are needed. Now, they're special fats. They're called Essential Fatty Acids, and these Essential Fatty Acids are needed to help the nerve impulses in the brain. So, if you're low on fat, if you're not getting enough of these Essential Fatty Acids in your diet, that is going to have a big impact on memory, how your brain works, and how your brain retrieves information.

Very often, weight is an issue during perimenopause and menopause, so you may go on a low-fat diet, without realising that it's contributing to this brain fog.

So, we're looking at specific fats here, and as I mentioned, these are called Essential Fatty Acids, which means they have to come from your diet. Your body can't make these up the way they need to be used. So, omega-3 is the main fat that's needed for proper brain function, so that is fish oil. If you're vegetarian or vegan, then you can go with nuts and seeds, and / or a flaxseed oil supplement. For those of you who are not vegetarian or vegan, oily fish, maybe three, four times a week, can be a great addition to your diet. So that would be things like salmon, mackerel. Sardines can be really, really helpful.

And the great thing about these oils is they're also good for your joints and for your skin too. So, it's not just helping with brain function but they're giving you lots of other lovely health benefits as well.

Keep your blood sugar levels stable: Brain fog can also be caused by low blood sugar levels. If you're getting a brain slump at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, it could be that you just didn't have enough to eat for lunch. So, make sure that you are eating three good meals a day and healthy snacks in between, and that will help to keep your brain functioning really well.

And remember too that if your blood sugars dip too low, that can set a panic in because your brain is not getting the nutrients it needs, and that can also trigger hot flushes, and palpitations, and headaches; so, all of these can combine together as a horrible set of symptoms.

Don't panic: The other thing is don't panic when this happens. And I know it's easier said than done. I know when it first started happening to me, I would suddenly go, "I've forgotten their name", or "oh, my goodness, I'm standing up in front of all these people and I can't remember what I've got to say."
The minute you do that, you set a panic attack in the body and that makes everything worse. And one of the things I've learned was when I felt like my brain had gone completely empty, was just to take a deep breath, relax, and I would just say to people, "I'm really sorry. I'm having a black hole moment here. I'll get the information you need in a minute or two." And the minute you make light of it, your body relaxes, and your brain then switches back on. So, I did this a few times and I found, eventually, it became second nature for me.

The other thing too is just to remember your brain's a bit like a computer and you're processing information all the time and taking information in. So, when you get to perimenopause and menopause, your life can be so busy and then you wonder why you're not remembering everything. And like a computer, if you try and put too much information in at once, your computer crashes. Sometimes, you can just be expecting too much of yourself. So, again, just be kind to yourself when these things happen, and just remember that deep breath.

Does brain fog ever go away?

For most people, it's a phase. It might be one that comes and goes. But as I've mentioned at the beginning, it can also be due to just the way your hormones are falling at that particular time.

For most people, it does go. For me, thank goodness, I don't get the black hole moments anymore, which is a great relief. I'm fine and my memory, if anything, is probably slightly better than it was before menopause anyway. So, again, you'll see there's no need to worry. This is something that happens, and you will get through it and symptoms will decrease the further through the menopause you go.

We do get people who are really worried. If your memory loss is really severe then maybe you need to go and get things checked out. Chat with your doctor about this. Very often, it will just be one of the phases of menopause. But if you worry about it, that's going to put extra pressure on your brain function as well and that's going to make symptoms worse.

For peace of mind, if you're worried, please talk to somebody about this. And I know in the UK, there are lots of memory clinics where you can either go just to get your memory checked out or you can go as a volunteer because they're doing studies. That's another way of getting your memory checked as well, so that might be something to look into too.

So, I found hope you found this helpful. If you have any tips out there about how you manage your brain fog, please share them with us. We love to hear all your tips and advice.

And until then, I will see you next week for another edition of A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

You may also find these topics helpful:

3 ways menopause brain fog can get worse

4 menopause brain worries & how to improve brain function

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