Boost Brain Health in Menopause
With My Top Tips for Mental Clarity & Resilience!

Did you know that during menopause, women experience a notable 30% drop in brain energy levels due to the decline in oestrogen?

Understanding How Menopause Affects Your Brain:

First, your hypothalamus, responsible for regulating body temperature, takes a hit from these hormonal changes, leading to those familiar hot flushes.

 

Then, there’s the brain stem, controlling your sleep-wake cycles, which hormonal fluctuations might disrupt, causing insomnia.

 

Your emotional and memory centres, the amygdala and hippocampus, are sensitive to oestrogen levels. As oestrogen declines, mood swings and memory lapses may become noticeable. Moreover, this brain energy decline is linked to the formation of amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. While these plaques aren’t a definitive diagnosis, they are a crucial risk factor, highlighting the need for proactive measures to support your brain health during menopause.

The Link Between Menopause and Alzheimer's Disease:

Understanding menopause’s connection to Alzheimer’s disease is essential. Women have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s than men, and this risk increases during menopause. Researchers suggest that Alzheimer’s may have its roots in midlife, during menopause. This insight is essential as it provides a timeline for detecting early changes in the brain.

Additionally, specific medical procedures that involve the uterus and ovaries, like hysterectomies or oophorectomies, have been associated with potential considerations regarding cognitive health. This highlights the importance of further research into understanding the brain’s changes during menopause and how best to support it.

Actionable Steps for Women's Brain Health During Menopause

foods for menopause brain health

Eat Brain-Boosting Foods: Fuel Your Brain for Optimal Function

Supporting your brain during menopause starts with making smart dietary choices, and the Mediterranean diet, celebrated for its health benefits, can be your trusted companion in maintaining cognitive function. The Mediterranean diet is more than just a meal plan; it’s a lifestyle celebrated for promoting heart health, longevity, and, significantly, brain health. This eating pattern highlights whole, nutrient-dense foods that can be incredibly beneficial for your cognitive well-being.

 

A distinctive feature of the Mediterranean diet is its inclusion of phytoestrogen-rich foods. These plant-based compounds have the remarkable ability to mimic the effects of estrogen in your body, helping to balance hormonal fluctuations that often accompany menopause.

Here are some of these phytoestrogen-rich foods you can include in your diet:

Flax Seeds:
Flax seeds are a powerhouse of phytoestrogens, particularly lignans. These compounds help regulate hormonal fluctuations during menopause, potentially reducing the severity of symptoms like hot flushes and mood swings.

 

Sprinkle ground flax seeds over your morning cereal, yogurt, or oatmeal. You can blend them into smoothies for a nutty flavour and an extra nutritional punch.

Sesame Seeds:
Sesame seeds contain lignans and other phytoestrogens, aiding in hormonal balance. They are also rich in essential minerals like calcium and magnesium, supporting overall bone health.

 

Add sesame seeds to salads, stir-fried vegetables, or homemade energy bars. They lend a pleasant crunch and a subtle nutty flavour to dishes.

Dark Chocolate:
Dark chocolate with higher cocoa content offers a double benefit. It contains phytoestrogens and antioxidants, protecting brain cells from oxidative stress and improving cognitive function.

 

Enjoy a small piece of high-quality dark chocolate as an occasional treat. Opt for varieties with at least 75% cocoa content for maximum benefits.

Chickpeas:
Chickpeas are a Mediterranean dietary staple, providing phytoestrogens and essential nutrients like fibre, protein, and folate. They contribute to hormonal balance and overall well-being.

 

Use chickpeas in various dishes, such as hummus, salads, soups, or roasted snacks. They add a hearty, satisfying element to your meals.

Lentils:
Lentils are another legume rich in phytoestrogens. They also offer a substantial amount of iron, essential for maintaining energy levels during menopause.

 

Incorporate lentils into soups, stews, or salads. They cook relatively quickly and can be versatile to your Mediterranean-inspired menu.

Whole Grains:
Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat pasta contain phytoestrogens and provide a steady release of energy, aiding brain function.

 

Substitute refined grains with whole grains in your recipes. Use brown rice as a base for Mediterranean-style bowls or whole wheat pasta in pasta dishes.

These Mediterranean phytoestrogen-rich foods not only support hormonal balance but also contribute to the overall nutrient density of your diet. By including them in your meals, you can enjoy the delicious flavours of Mediterranean cuisine while nourishing your brain during menopause.

Brain health and menopause

Manage Stress

Cortisol, often dubbed the stress hormone, has a dynamic relationship with oestrogen. When stress levels are high, cortisol levels tend to rise as well. This increase in cortisol can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones, including oestrogen, which plays a central role during menopause.

 

Stress management is about feeling relaxed and supporting your hormonal equilibrium during menopause. Elevated stress can exacerbate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. It can also impact the overall quality of your life during this transition.

Prioritise Sleep

Your search for optimal brain health during menopause starts with quality sleep. Restful sleep is the cornerstone of your overall well-being, particularly during this life stage. Understanding the significance of sleep can profoundly impact your journey through menopause.

 

Insufficient or poor-quality sleep can exacerbate menopausal symptoms and adversely affect brain health. Sleep disturbances may intensify mood swings, memory lapses, and cognitive function, making it imperative to address sleep as a central aspect of your menopausal wellness plan.

The Dietary Connection to Brain Health:

Dietary choices play a pivotal role when supporting your brain during menopause. Opting for nutrient-rich foods can be a game-changer, providing your brain with essential elements for optimal function.

 

The Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids in foods like fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts are renowned for their brain-boosting properties. They can enhance cognitive function, improve memory, and support mood stability, making them especially beneficial during menopause.

 

Antioxidants for Brain Protection: Antioxidants in colourful fruits and vegetables safeguard your brain from oxidative stress. They help protect brain cells from damage and promote overall brain health.

 

Essential Vitamins and Brain Function: Essential vitamins like B vitamins (particularly B6, B9, and B12) are crucial for brain function. They play a role in neurotransmitter production and help regulate mood and cognitive processes.

Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity is pivotal to your brain health strategy during menopause. It not only aids in maintaining hormonal balance but also offers many advantages for your overall well-being, including enhanced brain function.

 

Exercise contributes to hormonal equilibrium, mitigating some of the challenges associated with menopause. It can help alleviate mood swings, reduce the severity of hot flushes, and promote restful sleep.

 

It stimulates the release of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which play a crucial role in mood regulation. Additionally, exercise enhances blood flow to the brain, supplying it with vital nutrients and oxygen – essential for optimal brain health.

In Summary

As you navigate the transformative journey of menopause, remember that your brain is an incredible ally. Despite hormonal changes, your cognitive function remains strong. Understanding the connection between menopause and brain health empowers you to make proactive choices.

 

By adopting a Mediterranean-inspired diet rich in brain-boosting foods, managing stress through simple daily practices, prioritising quality sleep, nourishing your brain with nutrient-rich foods, and incorporating regular exercise, you nurture your brain’s well-being.

 

These small yet powerful steps will help you maintain cognitive function and celebrate your vitality during menopause. Approach this life stage confidently, armed with the knowledge to empower your brain, and embrace the journey ahead. Your brain is your lifelong companion, so nurture it and thrive.

References:

Brinton RD, Yao J, Yin F, Mack WJ, Cadenas E. Perimenopause as a neurological transition state. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2015 Jul;11(7):393-405. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2015.82. Epub 2015 May 26. PMID: 26007613; PMCID: PMC9934205.

Mosconi L, Berti V, Quinn C, McHugh P, Petrongolo G, Varsavsky I, Osorio RS, Pupi A, Vallabhajosula S, Isaacson RS, de Leon MJ, Brinton RD. Sex differences in Alzheimer risk: Brain imaging of endocrine vs chronologic aging. Neurology. 2017 Sep 26;89(13):1382-1390. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000004425. Epub 2017 Aug 30. PMID: 28855400; PMCID: PMC5652968.

Mosconi L, Rahman A, Diaz I, Wu X, Scheyer O, Hristov HW, Vallabhajosula S, Isaacson RS, de Leon MJ, Brinton RD. Increased Alzheimer’s risk during the menopause transition: A 3-year longitudinal brain imaging study. PLoS One. 2018 Dec 12;13(12):e0207885. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0207885. PMID: 30540774; PMCID: PMC6291073.

Vetrani C, Barrea L, Rispoli R, Verde L, De Alteriis G, Docimo A, Auriemma RS, Colao A, Savastano S, Muscogiuri G. Mediterranean Diet: What Are the Consequences for Menopause? Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2022 Apr 25;13:886824. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2022.886824. PMID: 35546996; PMCID: PMC9084275.

Barrea L, Pugliese G, Laudisio D, Colao A, Savastano S, Muscogiuri G. Mediterranean diet as a medical prescription in menopausal women with obesity: a practical guide for nutritionists. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021;61(7):1201-1211. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2020.1755220. Epub 2020 Apr 24. PMID: 32329636.

Quattrini S, Pampaloni B, Gronchi G, Giusti F, Brandi ML. The Mediterranean Diet in Osteoporosis Prevention: An Insight in a Peri- and Post-Menopausal Population. Nutrients. 2021 Feb 6;13(2):531. doi: 10.3390/nu13020531. PMID: 33561997; PMCID: PMC7915719.

Copyright © Samantha Lluisé of Lotus Womens Health 2024

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