Concentration, Brain Health & The Menopause

Concentration, Brain Health & The Menopause

Problems with concentration, memory and clear thinking - otherwise known as 'brain fog' - are common during the menopause. Fortunately, this is only temporary - but our female brains still need a healthy lifestyle while we're going through it.

Table of contents

The problem with concentration during the menopause

Having various problems concentrating? Suffering from scatterbrains? Or maybe you just can't think of the simplest words? Don't worry, it's all normal - because the hormonal changes during the menopause not only affect your mood, but also your brain.

One important thing to remember is that you're not alone. Problems with memory, focus, concentration and thinking clearly are very common side effects of the menopause. Collectively, these symptoms are known as 'brain fog'.

What are typical symptoms?

  • Difficulty concentrating - you are more easily and quickly distracted.
  • Familiar names, words and places just don't come to mind as quickly. 
  • Learning ability and motor function is limited - the brain's 'working memory' is a little slower.

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When do concentration problems begin?

Problems with concentration, focus and memory occur particularly frequently during the perimenopause - in other words, during the four to 10 years before your final period. In the large-scale study conducted by Women's Health Across the Nation on more than 12,400 women between the ages of 40 and 55, 44% of women in early and late perimenopause and 42% of women in menopause experienced increased forgetfulness. This means that just under half of women may find it harder to think clearly for a while, to remember names or to dig the desired word out of the depths of their memory.

Are problems with concentration & brain fog common during the menopause?

In the Seattle Midlife Health Study, almost 60 percent of middle-aged women reported concentration difficulties and other cognitive problems. These occurred more frequently during the perimenopause.

"Treating menopause is not just about treating symptoms. It's about how you think about menopause and how you respond to those symptoms." - Janet Pregler, MD, director of the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women's Health Center

What happens in the body?

As is so often the case, the cause can be found in the hormone oestrogen. Dr. Lisa Mosconi, neuroscientist, nutritionist and author of the book "The XX Brain" describes oestrogen as the "master regulator" of our brain.

The hormone oestrogen controls the brain and causes it to burn glucose and generate energy from it. As oestrogen decreases in the late perimenopause, the brain no longer works as hard, which means that the energy level in the brain also decreases. In essence, the brain tires more quickly. The brain now needs a certain amount of time to adapt to the new hormone situation. The good news is therefore that brain fog and the symptoms associated with it are only a temporary phenomenon that disappear again with the onset of the postmenopause. But the drop in oestrogen also makes our brain more sensitive to inflammation.

The menopause and alzheimer's connection

Alzheimer's, a form of dementia, is far more common in women than in men: two thirds of Alzheimer's patients are female. Dr. Lisa Mosconi has investigated the causes of this phenomenon by performing countless brain scans on menopausal women. Her findings? The menopause causes metabolic changes in the brain that appear to increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. These changes do not start in old age, but can begin as early as the 40s and 50s. Fortunately, Dr. Mosconi not only contributed to the knowledge on the subject, but also identified effective solutions in exercise and diet, which can play a significant role in preventing cognitive decline.

What you can do for a healthy brain

  • Nutrition: A brain-healthy diet during the menopause benefits your mental performance, mood, and your entire body! The Mediterranean diet, rich in valuable omega 3 fats, actively supports the brain. All foods that counteract inflammation are also good for the brain.

Top 5 foods for a healthy brain:

  1. Caviar & oily sea fish
  2. Dark green leafy vegetables
  3. Berries
  4. Olive oil
  5. Raw cocoa

    Eating foods that contain naturally occurring phytoestrogens can also help the brain adapt to the new hormonal situation. Oestrogen-containing foods include linseed, soy, chickpeas, sesame (as seeds or as tahini/hummus), peaches, strawberries, oranges, dried fruit and vegetables such as yams, carrots, kale, lentils, peas and other pulses. Herbs such as turmeric and sage also provide support.

    • Drinking: Drinking enough also supports brain function, as the brain consists of 80% water.
    • Exercise has a direct effect on the brain by promoting blood flow in the brain.
    • Don't smoke: Since smoking has the exact opposite effect - restricting blood flow - not smoking is another important way to support the brain.
    • Sleep: We understand sleep may not always be as restful due to night sweats, anxiety or insomnia during the menopause. However, as best you can, try and make sure you get enough sleep.
    • Anti-stress: Stress is an additional burden on the brain. Time with friends, meditation, a massage or a good book can help the brain to relax. As I said, your brain is more likely to be fatigued during this phase of hormonal change, so give it what you give the rest of your body in these situations: some well-deserved rest!

    Strategies for more focus during brain fog

    • Write things down in your phone and make lists. The very act of writing things down is a good memory aid. In addition, you don't constantly have the feeling that you've forgotten something important and can therefore concentrate better.
    • Make intensive use of the calendar on your smartphone. Make a note of all the important things.
    • Focus on one task at a time, don't do several things at the same time.
    • Try to eliminate everything that distracts you and takes your attention away: TV, music, sounds and flashing notifications on your phone or computer.

    Alternatives & products

    • Omega 3 fats: Plant-based omega 3s from linseed oil (ALA) and especially those important for the brain (EPA and DHA) from algae (vegetarian) or oily sea fish. The recommendation is to eat sea fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon or tuna, 2-3 times a week.
    • Vital substances: XbyX Think Clearly supports you with an innovative mix of spirulina, the adaptogens ginseng and hedgehog spikenard, as well as choline, B vitamins and zinc. Simply add to muesli, smoothie or a shake in the morning and enjoy!


    • In severe cases, when cognitive problems begin to negatively affect your daily life, talk to your doctor about the use of hormone therapy.

    Not sure where you are in your menopause journey or what you can do best for your health? Let us create a personalised plan for you!

    Studies & References

    Boost your mind by eating right Harvard Health
    Cognition in perimenopause: the effect of transition stage Menopause. 2013 May;20(5):511-7
    Menopausal transition, mood, and cognition: an integrated view to close the gaps Menopause: July 2010 - Volume 17 - Issue 4 - p 812-814
    Cognition and the menopausal transition: is perception reality? (1) Menopause: December 2013 - Volume 20 - Issue 12 - p 1231-1232
    Memory loss: 7 tips to improve your memory Mayo Clinic
    Alzheimer's and Women's Health: an Urgent Call, Research Projects Dr. Lisa Mosconi, Director, Weill Cornell Women’s Brain Initiative