In the years leading up to menopause women go through a transitional period marked by fluctuating hormones known as perimenopause. During this phase of life, women experience a variety of symptoms that affect physical and mental wellbeing. One symptom that proves to be particularly frustrating to women is reduced mental clarity, or "brain fog." While many theories have developed as to what causes brain fog in perimenopause, recent studies show that it may be connected to low progesterone levels.
Progesterone works like a "neuro-steroid" to keep the brain and nerve cells functioning properly, and it offers a protective effect to the brain. Animal studies have shown that younger female rats with high levels of progesterone experience less brain damage than male rats or older female rats with low progesterone levels. Human studies show that patients administered high doses of natural progesterone experience better chances for surviving traumatic brain injury. This is because progesterone triggers growth and repair of the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells.
During perimenopause, the production of progesterone by the ovaries slows down and estrogen becomes dominant. As a result, many women experience feelings of forgetfulness and foggy thinking. To find out if perimenopause could be a factor in your brain fog, take the quiz below.
- Do you experience intense flashes of body heat accompanied by warm skin and perspiration?
- Is sleep often disturbed by instances of profuse sweating?
- Do you suffer from regular headaches?
- Do you experience mood swings and/or periods of irritability?
- Is your desire for sex lower than it used to be?
- Do you suffer from vaginal dryness and/or painful intercourse?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you may be experiencing perimenopause.
Natural Progesterone Remedies
Women in perimenopause who are dealing with brain fog may choose to use natural progesterone creams like wild yam cream. The roots of wild yam contain a substance called diosgenin, which can be converted into progesterone in the laboratory. When used as specified, these creams can help restore low progesterone levels for better hormonal balance.
A few non-hormonal methods for protecting the brain during perimenopause include eating a nutritious diet full of antioxidants, getting regular exercise, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption. Because stress contributes to hormone imbalance, it is also wise to practice stress-relieving activities like yoga, meditation, or guided imagery.
Transitioning into menopause can be hard enough without foggy thinking and forgetfulness. Women who think they may be in the throes of perimenopause should consult a health care provider to test hormone levels. Making a few healthy lifestyle changes and using natural progesterone creams can help reduce foggy thinking and other uncomfortable perimenopause symptoms.