Periods and forgetfulness

Why do you suffer from brain fog during menstruation?


Emma Thornton
Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
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An introduction to periods and forgetfulness

Does your brain feel a little foggy around a certain time of the month? Many women complain of being indecisive, forgetful, and a little sluggish around the time of their menstrual period. So, is there a suitable explanation for this? Possibly yes, as I go on to explain.

It’s important to keep track of your symptoms though, as feeling overly forgetful or sluggish outwith patterns of your menstrual cycle could potentially be a sign of something else and I would recommend going to your doctor for a check up if this is the case.

On this page I discuss some of the potential causes of feeling forgetful or distracted around the time of your period. I then go on to describe some useful dietary and lifestyle changes that you could try implementing and how herbal remedies could also help.

How can your period cause forgetfulness?

There are a number of underlying causes that could be giving rise to your cyclical brain fog or forgetfulness.

  • Hormones An imbalance in your sex hormones could potentially give rise to forgetfulness around the time of your period. In the second half of your cycle you have elevated levels of progesterone relative to oestrogen. However, in the days leading up to your period, oestrogen and progesterone levels both fall. This is thought to have an impact on other hormones and neurotransmitters, (oestrogen is thought to be of particular importance) for example, lower levels of serotonin and higher levels of cortisol; both of which can affect your mood and how alert you feel
  • Anaemia – If you have heavier periods, you are at a greater risk of suffering from anaemia. Anaemia can result in low iron which is pivotal for carrying oxygen around your body. Even slightly lower levels of oxygen going to the brain can result in brain fog and you can easily feel forgetful and a bit sluggish
  • Other symptoms of periods – Other symptoms of menstrual periods can also have an impact on how you alert you feel. If you are suffering from erratic mood swings, are losing sleep as a result of troublesome periods, have food cravings niggling at the back of your mind or have painful cramp to contend with, you can very easily become distracted.

Lifestyle factors

If you are particularly forgetful at certain times of the month, there are some easy steps you can take at home which you might find can help.

  • Get enough sleep – Many of you can relate to staying up too late or a having an extra busy weekend and it taking its toll the next day in work – you need sleep in order to concentrate! If you are prone to feeling sluggish around the time of your period then make the effort to go to bed that little bit earlier for a few days in order to give you the boost you need
  • Take part in some exercise – Exercise gets your blood pumping and gets more oxygen circulating around your body. This means your working muscles get the nutrients they need but naturally more oxygen will get to other places too, such as your brain. You might just find that this can give you the mental boost you need!
  • Train your brain – It won’t help to keep you alert if you watch mindless TV and don’t engage your brain in much activity. Watch a quiz show or do a Sudoku puzzle rather than read a  celebrity magazine or reality programme in order to train your brain into staying alert.

Herbal remedies to help

In addition to trying some home remedies for forgetfulness, it can also be helpful to add in a herbal remedy to your regime:

  • Gingko bilobaGinkgo biloba is a traditional herbal remedy which can help to improve circulation, in particular to the extremities such as the hands, feet and head
  • Stress relief – Other symptoms of your period could also be having an influence, such as erratic mood swings. You might find you feel more anxious or stressed. Stress relief day time drops can be used throughout the day to help address symptoms of stress or mild anxiety. Try taking a dose later on in the day if you find it hard to relax in the lead up to bed time. Being overly tired the next day can really affect your concentration!

How can my doctor help?

If you feel your forgetfulness is becoming an issue and home or herbal remedies haven’t worked for you, it might be time to take a trip to your doctor. They can carry out necessary tests to help determine what the root cause of your problem is.

If hormones are to blame they might suggest a form of hormonal contraceptive which can help to correct any hormone imbalance you may have. Your doctor can also suggest appropriate treatments for any other issues such as stress or sleep problems which are affecting your memory or concentration throughout the day.

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Here's what I recommend

As the A.Vogel  Women’s Health advisor, I recommend Agnus castus to help relieve premenstrual symptoms such as painful periods.

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Did you know?

Did you know the average age of starting your periods has changed? A 100 years ago, 16 was the average age for a girl to get her first period in the UK but now this has dropped to just 12! Incredible!

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