Read the blog of Fanny Falkman Grindals, Swedish head of VagiVital, about what happens to the brain during menopause and her personal experience of brain fog.
THE BRAIN AND MENOPAUSE
I'm in the kitchen making a pasta carbonara while talking on the phone with my best friend. We talk back and forth, laughing and often filling in each other's sentences. We've learned to understand each other even though we increasingly seem to lose words and forget names when our memories fail. It's a lively, if slightly awkward, conversation that bounces back and forth like a ping-pong ball. While one topic is quickly replaced by another, we continue to have meaningful conversations in unison, even if we sometimes can't remember what we just talked about. Names of people, places or events can sometimes be impossible to remember. To an outsider, the conversation would probably be completely incomprehensible.
Me: "Well, you know the one who has a man with a yellow bag. What's her name?"
My friend: "Well yes, she yes. Yeah, what's her name?"
(No one remembers the name)
Me: "Well, anyway...what were we talking about?"
(No one remembers, so we change the subject at lightning speed and the conversation continues at breakneck speed)
My friend: "Well, this summer we'll probably visit my sister-in-law, you know the one who lives in... what's the name of the region again... you know... yeah, you KNOW... Astrid Lindgren and "EMIIIL DIIN FÖÖÖGRÖÖÖMMADE ONGE..." (In Swedish):
Me: "Ah, Småland! Yes, so cozy! We thought we should probably go and visit our neighbors who have houses in the archipelago...and...I've forgotten their last names...what are their names again...the ones who have just bought a little black mini poodle and the husband cycles an incredible number of miles every single weekend"
(Neither of us can think of the name, but it doesn't matter, so we're happy to change the subject again).
And so it goes on and on. It's like a constant word game where you are NOT allowed to say the right word, but only get to explain the meaning.
Is menopause behind this brain fog?
The word brain fog often comes up as a term in connection with menopause. But what is it and what distinguishes brain fog from a normal "sluggish" brain?
Menopause is, after all, a natural process that occurs when a woman's ovaries gradually reduce estrogen production. This can cause everything from hot flushes, sleep problems and not least dry mucous membranes where our amazing and unique AktivGel has helped many women, but is there anything you can do to help your brain during menopause?
VagiVital AktivGel for dry mucous membranes can be found here
THE FEMALE BRAIN THROUGHOUT HISTORY
Throughout history, views on women's brains have varied considerably. In ancient and medieval times, women were considered biologically and intellectually inferior to men. This view was characterized by the theory of "women's inadequate brains", which claimed that women had smaller brains than men and were therefore less capable of intellectual and creative ability.
In the 1800s and beyond, scientists began to investigate differences between men's and women's brains. These studies claimed that women had less developed brains and that their brains were more adapted for emotional and nurturing capacity rather than intellectual capacity.
It wasn't until the 1900s and beyond that more objective and scientifically based studies were conducted on gender differences in the brain. Modern science shows that there are no fundamental differences in intelligence between the sexes and that any differences that are observed are more a result of social and cultural factors than biology.
Throughout history, attention to women's brains in relation to menopause has been relatively limited. It is only in recent decades that research and discussion around this topic has become more prominent. Traditionally, menopause was primarily seen as a biological change in women's reproductive system and the focus was on the physical symptoms, such as hot flushes and sleep problems. Psychological and neurological aspects related to the brain and menopause were not as well recognized.
THE BRAIN DURING MENOPAUSE
It wasn't until the late 1900s and early 2000s that research began to investigate possible links between menopause and brain function in women. Research has shown that changes in estrogen levels during menopause can affect brain function and are related to symptoms such as memory problems and cognitive impairment.
While there has been an increased awareness of the link between menopause and the brain in recent decades, research in the field is ongoing, but there is still much to learn.
Below are some of the changes that can occur in the brain during menopause:
🌺Cognitive changes: A number of studies have found that women may experience mild cognitive changes during menopause. Typical reported symptoms include problems with working memory, attention and verbal ability. However, it is important to point out that not all women experience these changes and there is also great individual variation.
🌺Estrogen and brain function: Studies suggest that reduced levels of estrogen, which occur during menopause, can affect brain function. Estrogen receptors are found in various areas of the brain involved in cognitive processes, including memory and learning. Reductions in estrogen levels can have an impact on these areas and contribute to cognitive changes.
🌺Hormone replacement therapy: Studies on the effects of hormone replacement therapy on the brain during menopause have been mixed. Research has shown that HRT can have a beneficial effect on cognitive function and reduce the risk of dementia in menopausal women. However, there are also other studies that have not been able to confirm these benefits and point out the potential risks and side effects of adding hormones.
🌺Depression and anxiety: There's a link between menopause and an increased risk of depression and anxiety in some women. Changes in hormones can affect the neurotransmitter system in the brain, which can contribute to mental health symptoms during this period. However, it's also important to understand that not all women experience depression or anxiety during menopause, but for those who do, getting the right support and treatment can be valuable.
RESEARCH ON THE BRAIN DURING MENOPAUSE
Research into the relationship between the brain and menopause is still ongoing and there is much to learn. Individual experiences can vary and it is also important to consider the diversity of experiences and needs of menopausal women.
Studies show that menopause can have a negative impact on the brain, particularly memory and concentration. One study found that postmenopausal women performed worse on memory tests than premenopausal women. Researchers believe that the memory problems may be due to a decline in estrogen in the brain, which can affect the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is important for memory.
Menopause can also affect the structure of the brain. One study found that postmenopausal women had less brain tissue than premenopausal women, especially in areas that are important for memory and learning.
But not everything is negative! Another study found that menopausal women had better coping skills than premenopausal women. Researchers believe this may be because oestrogen reduces the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the brain.
THE MALE BRAIN
In general, men's brains are affected in the same way as women's when it comes to memory and concentration as a result of age. Actually, hormones also play an important role even in men's brains during aging. One of the most important hormones affecting men's brains is testosterone. As testosterone production naturally declines with age, this can affect male brain function in different ways. Research has shown that low levels of testosterone can affect memory function and increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. This can also affect concentration and mental focus. Low testosterone levels can also cause fatigue and depression, which in turn affects the brain. I'm just saying❤
TAKE CARE OF YOUR BRAIN
There are plenty of ways to preserve and improve brain function - whether it's menopause or age.
Below are some of the things you might want to consider to keep your brain working❤
Regular exercise can improve blood flow to the brain and promote the growth of new brain cells and synapses.
A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats can also help brain function.
Challenging the brain with activities such as learning, memory exercises and crossword puzzles can help maintain and improve brain function
Adequate sleep is essential for brain recovery and renewal
Spending time with friends and family can also help maintain brain function by stimulating social and cognitive skills
In conclusion, menopause can sometimes make my brain feel like a fog of confusion. Sometimes I forget what I'm supposed to be doing, what I was about to say, and why I'm even in the room I'm in. But despite the occasional brain fog, I can still make jokes and laugh, even if I sometimes forget what the punchline is...
So next time you find your car keys in the fridge or look for the glasses sitting on your nose, think of it as an opportunity to laugh at yourself and instead take the opportunity to give your brain a break from all the stress life has to offer with something that makes you feel good!
Take care of you and your brain❤