Have you ever been looking for your cell phone and then realized you are talking to your friend on it at that very moment? Have you walked into a room in your home and then can’t remember what you were searching for when you got there? You may think you are “losing it” but chances are it is not a sign of dementia. Hormone changes that occur during pregnancy or menopause can affect memory and cause difficulty concentrating and a temporary decline in mental sharpness. This condition is often referred to as having brain fog.
Common Symptoms of Hormones Brain Fog Include:
- Feeling “out of sorts”
- Inability to focus
- Poor concentration
- Memory problems and forgetfulness
- Overall sense that something is not right
Hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone can be higher in your brain than in your bloodstream. Therefore, a hormonal imbalance can affect your brain chemistry and mental awareness. Estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone also contribute to blood flow in your brain which helps protect against loss of memory and even dementia. With several hormones working together to help keep your mind feeling clear, just one hormone being out of balance impacts your ability to mentally function.
As women go through perimenopause and menopause their estrogen levels drop. Research suggests that estrogen levels play a role in memory and cognition – with reduced estrogen levels potentially increasing the risks of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other cognitive decline. Low estrogen levels lead to hot flashes, mood swings and difficulty concentrating. High estrogen levels lead to weight gain, change in sleep patterns and memory problems. Regardless of whether a woman’s estrogen levels are low or high, the imbalance can contribute to cloudy thinking. For women, maintaining a balance of estrogen can reduce the feelings of brain fog.
This topic was carefully documented as “menopause-related cognitive impairment” by a neurologist who completely reversed the postmenopausal mental decline, previously diagnosed as “fronto-temporal demetia,” of a well-known upper east coast girl’s school headmistress with estrogen replacement therapy.
When cortisol, along with serotonin, are not working well in your body, you can become sluggish and emotional. Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone that is best known for regulating your body’s “fight or flight” instinct. The surge of emotion you feel when you swerve to miss an oncoming car is from cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels lead to trouble sleeping, which in turn affects your mental clarity. Sleep gives your brain the down time it needs so that you can store the information you are bombarded with every day in your memory banks. Additionally, lack of sleep decreases your ability to think clearly and can lead to increased adrenaline and cortisol levels. It is a vicious cycle.
Progesterone is the hormone commonly associated with pregnancy. The word progesterone actually means “promoting gestation.” Progesterone is classified as a neurosteroid and it helps protect the brain from damage and promotes repair after an injury by enhancing growth of the myelin sheath that protects the nerve fibers. Especially when balanced with estrogen, progesterone has a calming effect on the brain. Both high and low progesterone levels lead to the mood swings and memory loss associated with brain fog.
Produced by the ovaries in women and testes in men, testosterone contributes to mental sharpness because it strengthens artery muscles and nerves, including those in the brain. Both high and low levels of testosterone can affect cognitive function, so it is important to keep your testosterone levels balanced.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your throat that regulates how fast your body burns energy. It also controls your hormones that regulate metabolism, menstrual cycles, digestion, brain development, heart function and bone strength. Low thyroid levels will cause you to feel sluggish or foggy, gain weight and have low energy. These are the same symptoms of clinical depression. An overactive thyroid, called hypothyroidism, is linked to clinical anxiety and is also a cause of brain fog. In addition to reducing the feelings of brain fog, healthy thyroid levels will also keep your metabolism in balance, your weight stable, and will improve your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
A hormonal imbalance is not the only cause of brain fog. Other causes of brain fog are:
- Stress, anxiety, or depression
- Low levels of vitamin D or B12
- Food allergies or gluten intolerance
- Lack of exercise
- Diet low in protein and high in sugar and refined carbohydrates
- Conditions such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue syndrome
Regardless of the cause of brain fog, studies have shown that women who initiated hormone therapy earlier showed higher cognitive test scores than those who started taking hormones later. Both men and women report feeling more alert and better work performance from bioidentical hormone treatment. In addition to reducing brain fog, it can also help you enjoy more restful sleep, boost your mood, increase your libido, and improve weight loss efforts among other benefits.
Bioidentical hormones are identical to the hormones which are produced naturally in your body. If you are experiencing brain fog, poor memory, difficulty concentrating, depression, or other signs of a hormonal imbalance then consider bioidentical hormone therapy. Take our Hormone Balance Quiz if you think you may be experiencing a hormone imbalance.
The Riegel Center focuses on therapies for women and men who are 30+ years of age with age-related hormonal change symptoms. The Riegel Center of Plano offers customized therapies in all 50 states developed and available only through Dr. Riegel. Virtual appointments for proprietary and individualized hormone replacement therapy is also offered so you can easily start services from the comfort of your own home. Contact the Riegel Center if you are looking to reduce your feeling of brain fog and improve your mental clarity with hormone therapy.