Dr. Sharon Malone: Brainfog

3 minute read

By: Sharon D. Malone, MD|Last updated: July 13, 2022

You misplace your key...again

You can't remember where you parked your car, or the name of a friend you've known for 25 years. We call it Brain Fog. And, if you're like most women, at some point in your menopausal journey, you will experience it.

Brain Fog is a sense of mental dullness where sharpness used to reside. Don't worry: this fogginess is not a sign of impending dementia. However, it is a very common complaint during the menopause transition.

Typically, it shows up in your mid- to late-forties, right around the time you start to need reading glasses. Which is a fun double whammy because now you can't see AND you can't remember where you left your glasses.

Although we don't know exactly what the mechanism is behind brain fog, we do know that it’s closely associated with the wild hormonal fluctuations that occur during perimenopause. The brain, and particularly the area associated with memory (the hippocampus), has millions of estrogen receptors, which implies that estrogen has a role in memory functions. So it stands to reason that once estrogen levels go haywire, so does your memory center. The data isn’t gone, you just can’t retrieve it. Think of it as that darned spinning beachball on your computer. Come on, something’s working in there. What’s taking so long??

There is some good news. Brain fog doesn’t last forever, and there is something you can do about it. It’s just one of the more than 34 symptoms that shows up during the menopausal transition, and in the pantheon of most annoying, it ranks right up there with hot flashes. Since estrogen is the problem, it makes sense that estrogen can be part of the solution. Women who use supplemental estrogen during the transition report a marked improvement in their mental sharpness. And the abrupt mental fogginess associated with perimenopause does improve once the hormonal fluctuations subside when menopause is complete.

Keep in mind: this transition can take years. So try some everyday techniques to lift some of that fog.

Battle of the brain fog

  • Get a good night's sleep

  • Exercise regularly

  • Avoid excessive alcohol use

  • Make lists

  • Develop routines

  • Avoid stress (yeah, right!)

And if this doesn't help, remember: At Alloy, we got you.

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