We all experience short episodes of forgetfulness every once in a while: entering a room without knowing why, or not remembering the name of that actor we love so much. However, when these episodes keep on repeating, you suddenly start to miss important work meetings, become increasingly absent-minded, and something feels off about yourself.
In popular terms, this is called brain fog, and it’s more common than you think, especially among pre-menopausal women. A recent survey revealed that 80% of women feel that menopause-related symptoms interfere with their daily life, and memory loss, fatigue, and anxiety were the most problematic ones. In the UK, the average age at which women start menopause is 51, but one in 100 women starts experiencing symptoms such as brain fog as early as 40. That can be very confusing, and it’s not uncommon for women to believe that they have early-onset Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Why is brain fog so common among pre-menopausal women?
Most women associate menopause with symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes, so they’re all the more surprised and confused when the psychological symptoms have a bigger impact than expected.
But why does brain fog appear in the first place once you’re approaching menopause? It all comes down to hormones, which play an important role in cognitive and memory processes. As you’re ageing, the body produces lower estrogen levels. The process actually begins several years before menopause occurs during a transitional phase called perimenopause. On average, perimenopause lasts for about four years, but each body is different. For some women, the process starts ten years early, while others can spend just a few months at this stage.
During this time, brain fog occurs as a direct consequence of lower estrogen levels. It’s not an official medical term, but rather a loose one that can include symptoms such as:
- Inability to focus
- Chronic fatigue
- Feeling unmotivated, dull, and unproductive
- Failing to put your thoughts into words
- Difficulty learning new things
Experiencing brain fog often feels like you’re doing everything in slow motion. The things you used to be very good at suddenly seem more complicated, and that can affect not only your emotional wellbeing but your professional life too.
Fortunately, you don’t have to resign yourself to this new you. Through exercise, diet, and meditation, you can manage the symptoms and regain your old self.
Are there other causes for brain fog?
Although it’s usually associated with perimenopause, brain fog can have other causes too, such as:
- Poor sleeping patterns and lack of sleep
- Chronic stress
- Poor diet, especially vitamin B-12 and B-9 deficiency
- Certain medications
- Auto-immune diseases
Keeping a journal to document your symptoms, diet, and state of mind is a great way of getting to the root of brain fog and making the right lifestyle changes.