Many women experience brain fog during menopause, as well as various other symptoms such as poor sleep, mood changes, and slowed metabolism.
If you need a helping hand when navigating this life change, Pukka Herbs have put together a list of natural remedies to help lift the fog and make you feel more like yourself again.
The power of sleep
Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Getting enough rest is a cornerstone to good health and wellbeing, and this applies to both our mental and physical health. During sleep, our bodies repair and regenerate tissue, recalibrate our immune system and generally build our energy stores so that we feel refreshed and ready to take on the day. It’s therefore more important than ever to prioritise sleep when experiencing brain fog from hormonal changes. However, if you suffer from night sweats or insomnia due to menopausal symptoms, this may feel like a difficult task and somewhat of a vicious cycle of poor sleep and mental fatigue.
Our natural rhythms and sleep patterns change as we age, so if you’re starting to wake earlier than you used to, don’t fight against this natural shift in your body clock. Instead, recognise that earlier nights are something you may benefit from and start creating a strong sleep routine that helps you drift off more easily. Additionally, we should all aim to spend at least 10–30 minutes outside in natural daylight every day. This helps maintain our circadian rhythms so our bodies respond better to the shift between day and night.
It’s also key to avoid caffeine and screens in the hours before you go to bed, as these are stimulants that don’t promote a restful sleep. Practicing gentle yoga or meditation can help you wind down in the evenings, as can a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea with soothing ingredients like chamomile, valerian and lavender. These herbs can also be used in the form of essential oils in a diffuser; as herbal supplements; or simply added as a few drops onto your pillow or into a warm bath. Everyone’s sleep needs are unique to them, so experiment with natural remedies and habits until you find something that works for you. For more tips and advice, be sure to check out Pukka’s Sleep Hub to help you establish a good sleep routine.
A nourishing diet
When we’re tired and not feeling our best, our nutrition can sometimes go by the wayside. However, making sure we eat a colourful diet full of vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices is one of the best ways to support your cognitive function and overall health. To help you eat well even on tougher days, try batch cooking some nourishing, balanced meals when your energy and motivation are high. This way you always have something healthy and satisfying in the fridge, even on days you don’t feel like cooking.
Certain foods can help to balance oestrogen levels, namely those rich in natural phytoestrogens. These are plant-based, oestrogen-like chemicals found in many foods such as soya, tempeh, lentils, wholegrains, and seeds such as oats and barley, which can provide some relief from menopausal symptoms and even lower your risk of osteoporosis. Similarly, oestrogen and progesterone are actually made from fat, so it’s important to get enough healthy sources of it in your diet. Olive, sesame and flax oil are all great sources of fat, as are avocados, unroasted nuts, and oily fish like salmon and mackerel (which are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids).
When feeling fatigued, we often reach for sugar and caffeine for a quick energy fix. While it may feel like the healthier choice, remember that fruit is still quite high in sugar so this should also be enjoyed in moderation to avoid energy spikes and crashes. Instead, try switching to gentler sources of energy like green tea and matcha. These contain a compound called EGCG that reduces inflammation, especially in the brain. They also contain moderate amounts of caffeine to help you stay alert and focused, but don’t give you the typical coffee ‘crash’ due to another compound called L-theanine which balances the effect of caffeine. L-theanine can also help to ease feelings of anxiety and help improve poor sleep, meaning green tea and matcha can be an excellent addition to your daily routine.
Exercise is vital not only to our physical health and mental wellbeing, but to our brain function too. This is because physical movement stimulates the part of the brain connected to verbal memory and learning. It also triggers the release of endorphins, which supports focus, motivation, and critical thinking. As well as aiming for 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise, having regular ‘microbreaks’ of movement for a few minutes is very conducive to staying focused, especially if you have a more sedentary job.
Natural supplements can also offer a helping hand to manage your menopause symptoms. Herbs that have been used in natural medicine for centuries can make an excellent addition to your daily life, working alongside nourishing food, regular exercise and proper sleep to help you feel energised and supported.
When it comes to mental clarity and focus, look out for supplements containing natural iodine. Often found in Arctic seaweed, iodine can help with normal cognitive function, a healthy metabolism and supports the nervous system. Herbs like turmeric and brahmi are also great ingredients to look out for as they can work alongside natural iodine to help support cognitive ability. Some supplements are actually tailored to the menopause and women’s health, and contain key ingredients such as shatavari, which has been used in India for thousands of years to support and nourish women.
Recognising your body’s needs
Menopause is a natural, significant life stage that affects half of the world’s population. However, there has historically been little attention paid to just how much it can impact women’s lives. When managing symptoms and navigating this stage of your life, your energy and cognitive ability may noticeably shift. But, just like during your menstrual cycle, it’s important to recognise that your mind and body will need more care and attention: you aren’t expected to be equally productive during this time of transition. This philosophy is gradually being acknowledged more in the workplace, with some companies across the world introducing period policies or even offering ‘menopause sabbaticals’ to their employees.
“Despite being a natural transition that affects so many women’s lives, it seems that the menopause is only now getting the consideration it deserves. Putting your health and wellbeing first during this stage of your life is an essential form of long-term self-care that can help you navigate this major shift in your hormones and energy levels.
“Brain fog can be a common symptom of the menopause, coming hand in hand with poor sleep, fatigue and mood changes. A balanced, colourful diet, regular exercise and a solid sleep routine can all help you feel nourished and well-rested. If you need an extra helping hand, natural supplements using well-renowned plants, herbs and spices (such as shatavari, iodine and turmeric) are an excellent tool to have at your disposal. Finding the best remedies and daily rituals that work for you can help manage your symptoms and make this life transition easier.”
- Jo Webber, Herbal Education Lead at Pukka Herbs