People who are approaching mid-life experience many changes related to the natural decline in levels of sex hormones that occur in both men and women at this stage of life. One symptom that people often find disturbing is changes in cognitive function, commonly referred to as "brain fog." Issues that many people with this problem describe include forgetfulness, poor concentration, sluggish thinking, and mental fatigue.
What is the connection between brain fog and hormones, and what can you do about it?
Hormones and the Brain
Women who are going through the menopausal transition frequently complain of brain fog. These complaints were once commonly dismissed, with women told that the problem was related to aging or the sleep problems common during perimenopause and menopause. However, we now know that hormonal imbalances, shifts, and deficiencies can be the underlying cause of these cognitive symptoms.
For instance, research shows that estrogen plays a key role in cognitive function by helping to direct blood flow to active areas of the brains, and that estrogen and testosterone work to protect brain health. Other research has shown that deficiencies in these hormones can affect short- and long-term memory and logical reasoning skills. Hormonal imbalances common during this time can also contribute to brain fog indirectly as a side effect of common menopause symptoms like insomnia, night sweats, depression, and anxiety, among others.
Men who are experiencing andropause often complain of brain fog as well. They, too, were often told that their symptoms were merely normal signs of aging or that they were caused by health problems or stress. However, links between the extremely low levels of free testosterone many men experience at this stage of life and cognitive decline have now been established.
For instance, as mentioned above, testosterone has been shown to have a protective function in the brain. While the mechanism by which it protects brain health has not yet been proven, it is thought to slow degeneration of brain cells caused by oxidative stress and vascular disease. Additionally, low testosterone can affect cognitive health indirectly as a result of common symptoms this hormonal imbalance can cause, including sleep disturbances, night sweats, depression, and anxiety.
What You Can Do About Brain Fog
The key to clearing brain fog caused by hormonal imbalance lies in bringing your hormone levels back into balance. The first course of action in doing this is finding out exactly where your hormone levels stand. This can be done via hormone level testing, which is generally done with a few simple blood tests.
The good news is that once the type and/or severity of your hormonal imbalance has been established, it can be corrected with treatment. This generally consists of dietary changes, exercise, stress management, and other lifestyle changes to promote hormonal balance, and in many cases, bio identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).
This form of hormone therapy uses natural supplements, derived from plants, that contain hormones that are an exact match to your body's own. Since these hormones are a molecular match to those produced by the body, they bring the body back into balance naturally without the side effects common in traditional hormone drugs. As balance is restored, the symptoms of hormonal imbalance – including brain fog – will fade in a safer and more effective manner.
If brain fog has become a problem for you, it can be resolved. See your doctor for hormone level testing and a solid treatment plan. If your doctor is behind on the latest research and doesn't take your complaints seriously, find one who will – your quality-of-life is important. Don't let outdated ideas stand in the way of improving it.