Brain fog is a term that is often used to describe a state of cognitive impairment or confusion that can cause trouble focusing, forgetfulness, difficulty following conversations, trouble finding words, and struggling to concentrate. Brain fog is a relatively common phenomenon, but it can be frustrating when it persists, impacting quality of life and productivity.
“Does Tamoxifen cause more brain fog than normal meno brain fog?”
“I don’t see how I can return back to work. My brain fog is so bad!”
Those are some of the questions the members of our community have asked and we have addresses these and so much more an episode 51 of the Menopause and Cancer Podcast.
Dr. Lindsey Thomas and Barbie Boule provide insights on brain fog, its causes, and ways to address it.
This blog post will summarise and expand on the information they discussed.
What Causes Brain Fog?
Brain fog can have various causes, including stress, anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalances, medication, and underlying health conditions. However, for women going through menopause, brain fog can become a more common occurrence. As Dr. Thomas explains, declining oestrogen levels play a role in cognitive impairment during and after menopause.
How to Differentiate the Causes?
It can be challenging to differentiate the causes of brain fog, as the symptoms can overlap. However, there are a few ways to do so, as discussed by Dr. Thomas. Firstly, it is essential to identify when cognitive function felt clear and when the brain fog started to develop. This information can help pinpoint potential stressors, hormonal imbalances, or medication. Further, it is helpful to observe any other symptoms that come with the cognitive impairment, such as fatigue or mood changes.
What are the Simple Fixes?
Although there are various causes of brain fog, some simple fixes can help improve cognitive function and reduce brain fog symptoms. As discussed by Boule, staying hydrated, getting good quality sleep, avoiding alcohol, and not using Benadryl as a sleep aid, can contribute to clearer thinking. Additionally, creating lists, routines and mono-tasking can help improve daily productivity and feelings of accomplishment. Engaging in cognitive behaviour therapy may also help change the perception of a situation, and when brain fog causes anxiety.
Bringing Focus and Clarity
Movement, and in particular yoga, can bring focus and clarity to the mind, as Boule explains. Women in peri-menopause and women undergoing cancer treatment may benefit from exercise, as it can significantly improve cognitive function. Exercise also improves circulation and oxygenation throughout the body and supports the creation of new brain cells.
Compassion for Oneself
It is essential to be kind to oneself when it comes to experiencing cognitive decline. Many people find themselves self-critical when they don’t function at the same level they did when they were younger. Practicing compassion for oneself and acknowledging that the brain and body change as we age can be helpful in accepting cognitive impairment and prioritising self-care. Furthermore, engaging in self-care activities, such as mindfulness, yoga, and regular exercise, can contribute to better cognitive functioning and overall quality of life.
Nutrition and Hydration
Brain function also benefits from adequate nutrition and hydration. As Boule explains, the common experience of “brain fog” may be related to blood sugar regulation and spikes in glucose. Consistent nutrition throughout the day with a focus on a Mediterranean-based diet with plant-based fats, vegetables, and a balance of carbohydrates is helpful for brain health. Boule emphasises not to restrict foods, as building a sustainable diet is the key to success and overall health. Drinking water throughout the day and avoiding caffeinated beverages before bed may also improve cognitive function and improve sleep quality.
Brain fog is a common experienced by many, but it need not be a permanent state. Simple fixes, such as staying hydrated, getting quality sleep, and exercising can positively impact cognitive function and brain health. It is also important to engage in compassion for oneself, and not compare oneself to past versions, listen to the body, and engage in a self-care routine. Paying attention to signs of decline is key, but it is also important to remember that everybody’s experience is unique, and lifestyle changes can bring improvements. Meditation, speaking openly with colleagues and loved ones, and engaging in easy activities such as engaging in multiple lists to keep tasks organised can all contribute to a better-state of focused and clear thinking.
Lastly, do remember that it can be so helpful for you to talk about your experience with your medical team. You do not need to sit with your symptoms alone.
Tune into the episode on the Menopause And Cancer Podcast here:
Written by: Dani Binnington
Registered Community Interest Company No: 14546307
Copyright © 2023 Menopause and Cancer | All Rights Reserved.
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