Embracing mental clarity during perimenopause and menopause
I often hear my perimenopausal and menopausal clients complaining about brain fog and poor memory, complaining about their brains not being what they used to be. If those symptoms sound familiar, then this article is for you.
Embracing the natural transitions of life, such as perimenopause and menopause, can bring about a sense of empowerment and self-discovery. However, for many women, this journey is accompanied by an unexpected companion: brain fog. This cognitive cloudiness can be frustrating, but fear not – with the right combination of nutrition and lifestyle adjustments, you can navigate through this phase with clarity and vitality!
The brain fog puzzle: understanding the connection
Before we delve into solutions, it's crucial to understand the root cause of brain fog during perimenopause and menopause. Hormonal fluctuations, particularly the decline in oestrogen levels, play a significant role in cognitive changes. Studies have shown that oestrogen influences cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and mood regulation (1). As oestrogen levels fluctuate and eventually decrease, these cognitive functions can be impacted.
Nourishing your mind and body: nutrition strategies
Omega-3 fatty acids
Picture this: a delicious fillet of wild salmon on your plate, its rich hue reflecting the promise of a cognitive boost. Incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into your diet can provide cognitive support. Fatty fish like salmon, but also plant sources such as chia seeds, and walnuts are rich sources of these essential nutrients. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to improved cognitive function and mood stability in several studies (2).
Imagine an edible rainbow - that should be your plate, adorned with an array of vibrant fruits and vegetables. Load up on colourful fruits and vegetables like berries, spinach, and sweet potatoes. These foods are packed with antioxidants that protect brain cells from oxidative stress, which is linked to cognitive decline (3). Remember, a rainbow on your plate could translate to improved clarity in your mind.
Close your eyes and envision a creamy slice of avocado, a golden stream of olive oil, and the satisfying crackle of nuts. These delectable sources of healthy fats aren't just a treat for your palate – they're essential allies in your battle against brain fog. These fats support brain health by providing energy and aiding the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (4). A well-nourished brain is better equipped to battle brain fog.
Lifestyle tips for mental clarity
Engaging in regular physical activity has been shown to enhance cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline (5). Whether it's a brisk walk, a yoga class, or even dancing, the key is to find an activity that brings you joy and gets your body moving. If you enjoy it, you will be able to stick to it long-term.
The NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, coupled with muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days a week. Nevertheless, you should start from whatever fitness level you are at right now. You are not moving at all? No problem, start with a daily 20-30 min walk and slowly build from there.
Chronic stress might amplify brain fog. Now, close your eyes and picture a tranquil oasis, where the gentle rustling of leaves and the soothing hum of nature create a symphony of serenity. This oasis is not a mirage; it's your haven of relaxation techniques. Try incorporating daily relaxation techniques in your resilience toolbox, such as deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness. Studies have highlighted the positive impact of these practices on cognitive function (6).
Prioritising sleep isn't an indulgence; it's a necessity. Focus on sleep hygiene by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and creating a calming bedtime routine that works for you. It can be switching off all electronics one hour before bed, taking a bath with Epsom salts or essential oils, or even simply reading a book or journalling in bed. Quality sleep is essential for cognitive restoration and memory consolidation (7).
Embracing the journey
Perimenopause and menopause don’t have to be roadblocks, but rather transformative phases in a woman's life. By nourishing your body with the right nutrients and embracing a holistic lifestyle, you can reclaim your mental clarity and vitality. Remember, you're not alone on this journey – there are countless women navigating the same path, and together, we can celebrate the strength and resilience that comes with each new chapter!
As you embark on this holistic approach to combat brain fog, keep in mind that results may take time. Just as the seasons change, so too do our bodies, and with patience and persistence, you'll uncover the vibrant mind that's been there all along.
- Maki, P. M., & Resnick, S. M. (2000). Longitudinal effects of estrogen replacement therapy on PET cerebral blood flow and cognition. Neurobiology of Aging, 21(2), 373-383.
- Yurko-Mauro, K., Alexander, D. D., Van Elswyk, M. E. (2015). Omega-3 fatty acids for brain health: Protocol for a randomized controlled study. JMIR Research Protocols, 4(3), e90.
- Joseph, J. A., Shukitt-Hale, B., & Willis, L. M. (2009). Grape juice, berries, and walnuts affect brain ageing and behaviour. The Journal of Nutrition, 139(9), 1813S-1817S.
- Gómez-Pinilla, F. (2008). Brain foods: The effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(7), 568-578.
- Voss, M. W., et al. (2011). Plasticity of brain networks in a randomized intervention trial of exercise training in older adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 2, 32.
- Zeidan, F., et al. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and Cognition, 19(2), 597-605.
- Walker, M. P. (2008). Cognitive consequences of sleep and sleep loss. Sleep Medicine, 9 (Suppl 1), S29-S34.