Chiropractic Meridian ID How Does Menopause Impact The Brain

If you are a woman in your 40s or 50s, you are likely familiar with the term “menopause” and it either doesn’t bother you or makes your blood boil.

There are many symptoms that come with it and if you are in the process then you have likely experienced many of them.

Hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings are just a few of the common complaints.

However, did you know that menopause can also impact your brain health,
causing brain fog and even depression?

In this post, we will explore:

  • What menopause is and how it affects the body
  • The connection between menopause, stress, and the brain
  • The impact of menopause on cognitive function and mood
  • Addressing menopause symptoms and brain health
  • Hormone replacement therapy, separating facts from fiction

WHAT IS MENOPAUSE?

Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. It is defined as a period of 12 months in which no menstrual cycle occurs.There are other cases where menopause is surgically caused by removal of the uterus and ovaries.

During menopause, the body undergoes hormonal changes, specifically a decrease in estrogen and progesterone production with an increase of LH and FSH, which can cause a variety of symptoms.

Some of the most common symptoms of menopause include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Irregular periods
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Vaginal dryness

While these symptoms are well-known, what is less understood is the impact of menopause on brain health.


MENOPAUSE, STRESS, AND THE BRAIN

With the transition to menopause the ovaries no longer produce as much estrogen and progesterone. Another gland in the body, known as the adrenal glands, is asked to produce hormones. This gland not only produces estrogen and progesterone but produces cortisol.

Cortisol is known as the main stress hormone. Stress is a part of life, but chronic stress can have a detrimental impact on the body, including the brain. When the body experiences stress, it produces a hormone called cortisol. In small doses, cortisol can be beneficial, helping the body to respond to the stressor. However, chronic stress can cause cortisol levels to remain elevated, which can lead to inflammation and damage to the brain.

During menopause, women may experience a variety of stressors from symptoms they experience, including:

  • Physical changes, such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances
  • Emotional changes, such as mood swings and anxiety
  • Life changes, such as retirement or an empty nest

All of these stressors can impact the brain and contribute to symptoms such as brain fog, forgetfulness, and depression.


THE IMPACT OF MENOPAUSE ON COGNITIVE FUNCTION AND MOOD

Research has shown that menopause can impact cognitive function, specifically in the areas of memory and attention. Women going through menopause may experience difficulty remembering things or have trouble focusing on tasks. For others they feel their brain isn’t working as well and describe being in a fog.

In addition to cognitive changes, menopause can also contribute to depression. Studies have found that women going through menopause, perimenopause, are at an increased risk of developing depression (1). This may be due to the hormonal changes that occur during menopause, as well as the impact of chronic stress on the brain.


ADDRESSING MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS AND BRAIN HEALTH

If you are experiencing symptoms of menopause, including brain fog and depression, there are steps you can take to support your brain health.

These may include:

  • Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty
    acids (3)
  • Engaging in regular exercise, with a focus on a blend of
    cardiovascular and resistance training
  • Practicing stress-reducing techniques, such as mindfulness
    meditation or deep breathing exercises
  • Spend time with friends and family that bring you joy and happiness.
    Socializing is one of the best ways to support health.
  • Prioritize sleep by making sure it is of good quality and quantity.

HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY AFTER MENOPAUSE

Hormone replacement therapy is considered a controversial topic after menopause, but it shouldn’t be. The reason for this was from a flawed study known as the Women’s Health Initiative claimed that it increased the risk of cancer. The quality of the study was poor and even the conclusions that were reached didn’t support the thought that it increased cancer risk and as a result has harmed millions.

Disclaimer, for more detailed analysis many experts have come out against this and their research or presentations should be viewed.

Hormone replacement therapy has been shown to have cardiovascular, metabolic, and neurological benefits.

Research has found that earlier age of menopause and delayed use of hormones increases the risk of developing a protein known as tau which is seen in Alzheimer’s (2).

Traditionally hormones are completely based on symptoms, but the preferred route is to do it with testing. The hormones that need to be balanced are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. They all have a job that needs to be done, but they are like an orchestra where they need to work together.


PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

At our functional medicine practice in Meridian ID, we take a holistic approach to menopause and brain health. Through our BMB Method, we evaluate the health of the brain, mind, and body to create a personalized plan that addresses your specific needs.

If you know something is wrong, but are unable to get answers with basic lab work and brief 5-10 minute office visits. Then contact us today to get started.

References:

  • Clayton, A. H., & Ninan, P. T. (2010). Depression or menopause? Presentation and
    management of major depressive disorder in perimenopausal and postmenopausal
    women. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 12(1),
    PCC.08r00747. https://doi.org/10.4088/PCC.08r00747blu
  • Coughlan GT, Betthauser TJ, Boyle R, et al. Association of age at menopause and
    hormone therapy use with tau and β-amyloid positron emission tomography. JAMA
    Neurol. Published online April 3, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2023.0455
  • Decandia, D., Landolfo, E., Sacchetti, S., Gelfo, F., Petrosini, L., & Cutuli, D. (2022). n-3
    PUFA Improve Emotion and Cognition during Menopause: A Systematic Review.
    Nutrients, 14(9), 1982. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14091982