Big Read Menopause

Our Brains In Menopause

Rebekah Brown

4 Nov, 2021


The impact of hormones on our minds

From the difficulty in finding words, limited recall, ‘brain fog’ and anxiety, most of us instinctively ‘feel’ the impact of menopause on our brain. For some of us it is the most troubling of all symptoms - the impact making us question our own sanity, fear early-onset Alzheimer's or dementia…leading us down the path of myriad scans and tests before the link is made to our life stage and hormones.

60% of women in menopause report symptoms of brain fog.

 

‘We associate menopause with the ovaries. But when women say that they're having hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, memory lapses, depression, anxiety, those symptoms don't start in the ovaries. They start in the brain.’
— Dr Lisa Mosconi

 

Menopause is a whole body and mind experience because our hormones impact every cell in our body. And they play a significant role in brain function.

Researchers are unclear as to why some of us struggle and others will not experience brain-function challenges. However, it appears that brain fog specifically is a symptom that often ‘clusters’ with sleep disturbances and hot flashes. In addition, the more anxious we feel, the more likely we are to experience brain fog.

Jen Gunter, obstetrician and gynaecologist and author of the brilliant book ‘The Menopause Manifesto’, describes the impact menopause has on our brain as similar to a computer uploading a new programme - with associated glitches;

 

‘Afterall, both computer code and hormones are forms of language’
— Jen Gunter, The Menopause Manifesto

 

The good news is that, like the glitches that come when you upload a new programme or install new software, over time, issues are resolved. Brain fog is temporary.

Dr Mosconi asserts that changes in oestrogen may change how our neurons use glucose, which in turn impacts our memory, recall and processing. Her research shows that glucose metabolism slows down in the brains of post-menopausal women.

 

‘At the cellular level, oestrogen literally pushes neurons to burn glucose to make energy. If your oestrogen is high, your brain energy is high. When your oestrogen declines, though, your neurons start slowing down and age faster. For women, brain energy is usually fine before menopause, but then it gradually declines during the transition. And this was found independent of age. It didn't matter if the women were 40, 50 or 60. What mattered most was that they were in menopause.’
— Dr Mosconi, in conversation with TED radio.

 

What is equally interesting, and perhaps explains the temporary nature of the impact menopause appears to have on our brain, is that we seem to be able to compensate for this shift in oestrogen over time. We also have agency to protect our brains in menopause and beyond. There is a growing body of evidence to the impact of diet on our brain health. Research shows that those of us who adopt a ‘mediterranean diet’ have a much lower risk of cognitive decline, of depression, of heart disease, of stroke and of cancer. We also have fewer hot flashes.

 

‘What's interesting about this diet is that it's quite rich in foods that contain oestrogens in the form of phytoestrogens, or oestrogens from plants, that act like mild estrogens in our bodies, especially from flax seeds, sesame seeds, dried apricots, legumes and a number of fruits.’
— Dr Mosconi, in conversation with TED radio.

 

It’s why we give alot of attention to the whole food components in our Peri and Meno-Boost blends. Nature can pack a powerful, valuable punch.


Knowledge is power.

Over the last few years, the female brain has been given the attention it deserves. We’re learning ALOT.

And when focus is given to biology (rather than assuming women are ‘tiny men’) the significance is striking. Our hormones, from adolescence to end of life, mean our brains behave differently.

Which is why we’ve sought out one of the leading neuroscientists in the field to share her knowledge at our next Meno-Well workshop in November. Dr Sarah McKay is a Ted-Ex speaker, best selling author and one of those engaging individuals that can share a lifetime of knowledge in a relatable way! Our session will focus on the brain in menopause, but she will give us a whistle-stop tour of all stages of our biology to set the scene. From infancy and girlhood, to puberty, the menstrual cycle, mental health, romance, sex...motherhood, menopause, longevity and old age. It’s going to be a fascinating conversation.

I hope you can join us.


With love, Rebekah and The MPowder Team.


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