PMS and memory

Not sure what’s causing your memory lapses? Find out about PMS induced memory loss, the causes and the solutions.

Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
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An introduction to PMS and memory

When most of us think about premenstrual syndrome, the first thing that springs to mind is usually menstrual cramps, headaches, bloating or possibly psychological symptoms such as stress or anxiety.

Memory lapses are not normally associated with PMS, possibly because it is sometimes difficult for us to determine whether or not we are suffering from memory, or because we blame the symptom on another health condition.

However, memory loss in PMS can be linked with other PMS symptoms such as stress and insomnia, and can be an enduring source of misery for most PMS patients; lowering their confidence and making them question their own state of mind.

This makes it crucial that you are able to recognise the symptoms of PMS induced memory loss and aware of the treatments that can ease any lapses or concentration issues.

What causes memory lapses in PMS?

There are a number of factors than can trigger memory loss in PMS, some of them are even interconnected and fuel the cycle of memory lapses. If we are able to identify the causes of our poor memory retention, then it becomes easier to find ways of combatting the debilitating symptom.

  • Stress: PMS and stress often appear in a chicken and egg cycle, with stress exacerbating PMS symptoms and PMS symptoms usually acting as the primary source of stress in the first place. This can have an unfortunate effect on our immune system though, triggering a ‘flight or fight’ reaction in our bodies and the release chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline. This places our adrenals, the glands responsible for producing adrenaline and cortisol, under an immense amount of stress, leading to what is known as adrenal fatigue. When this happens, it can have a knock-on effect on our mood, sleep, and memory
  • Adrenal fatigue: During our menstrual cycles, our hormones often fluctuate which can sometimes stress our adrenals. When our adrenals become stressed, either struggling to produce enough cortisol, or because we are not looking after ourselves properly, it can have an impact on the rest of our immune system. Our production of the neurotransmitter, serotonin becomes  falls serotonin is often linked with cognitive functions such as sleep and memory. This means that when we are suffering from adrenal fatigue we can often feel foggy, unable to concentrate, and incapable of remembering simple details that we would normally have no trouble recollecting
  • High levels of oestrogen: High levels of oestrogen can occur in our bodies naturally, or as a result of an underlying health condition such as obesity, stress or a poor diet. When our oestrogen levels are high, it can often mean that our levels of the hormone progesterone are low. Both hormones are responsible for regulating our periods, and when they are out of balance it can affect our adrenal glass, thyroid, and serotonin levels. When these factors are affected it can make us feel tired, unfocused and result in memory lapses
  • Insomnia: It’s no secret that when we are tired, we find it extremely difficult to remain focused on the task at hand. Most of our energy is being expended just to remain conscious, so it can become difficult to concentrate and remember details that we would usually have no trouble recalling.

Diet and memory loss

What we eat can have a surprising impact on our cognitive abilities, including memory retention. This is particularly true if our memory loss is being caused by hormonal shifts or adrenal fatigue, both of which are common occurrences in PMS.

If you are trying to lower your levels of oestrogen then it is important to avoid foods such as red meat, soy or foods with a high sodium content. Instead, focus on including low oestrogen foods that are rich in B and C vitamins, such as broccoli, wholegrains, carrots, cabbage, or pulses. These should reduce the levels of oestrogen in your system and provide you with enough nutrients to support your adrenal glands.

If you want to read more about what you should be eating during PMS, please check out our PMS and diet page.

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Home remedies

If you suffer from memory loss in PMS, it can often seem as though nothing can be done to alleviate your grogginess or inability to remember simple facts. However, if you are aware of what is causing your memory loss, then there are a number of preventative steps you can take to tackle the symptom.

  • Exercise: High levels of oestrogen have been linked to obesity, which is also a prime cause of adrenal fatigue and a variety of other health conditions. Exercising regularly can lower our levels of oestrogen, but it can also reduce other PMS symptoms such as stress or insomnia. When we exercise, our body releases endorphins, which improve our mood and can even raise our serotonin levels
  • Drink plenty of water: There is really no overstating how important and essential water is to keeping us fit and healthy. When we become dehydrated, it can affect our memory, making us feel lethargic and unfocused. Just remember to avoid stimulants such as alcohol or caffeinated drinks as these can act as a diuretics and even exaggerate existing PMS symptoms. You could also try drinking juices to support your adrenal glands, or drinking some ginseng tea which has been proven to boost our immune system
  • Sleep hygiene: If insomnia is the cause of your memory lapses, then it is crucial to maintain a good sleep routine. Try to go to bed consistently at the same time and avoid devices such as your mobile phone or laptop as they can stimulate your brain, keeping you awake
  • Relaxation: If stress is exacerbating your memory loss, then it is important to deal with this symptom. Try to reserve some time out of each day just for yourself to do the things that you want to do, such as reading a book or taking a long hot bath. Look into exercises such as yoga, or try to practice meditation, which teaches you proper breathing techniques and how to cope with stress
  • Memory games: Play memory games such as Sudoku to improve your concentration and memory. They also help to keep your brain active and can stimulate your brain into making new connections, increasing your cognitive abilities.

Herbal remedies

There are a vast range of herbal remedies that can aid in improving your memory and combatting other causal symptoms of PMS.

  • Agnus Castus:Agnus castus is specifically designed to help reduce symptoms of PMS, such as bloating, irritability or menstrual cramping. If your memory problems are thought to be a result of PMS, Agnus castus can be taken as a tincture up to twice a day, but should not be ingested if you are pregnant or under the age of 18
  • Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo biloba is a herbal solution made using fresh leaves from the ginkgo biloba tree. Ginkgo is one of the older herbal remedies, commonly used to relieve health complaints such as Raynaud’s syndrome or improve our circulation. Gingko can also be taken to improve our memory and cognitive capacity as well
  • Stress Relief Daytime: Stress Relief Daytime is a natural remedy used to help us cope with psychological complaints such as stress or anxiety. It is usually taken in the form of a tincture and is made from extracts of Valerian and Hops
  • Dormeasan: Dormeasan is a herbal sleep remedy made from Valerian and Hops. It helps you to achieve a natural sleep, reducing any feelings of grogginess or fatigue the next day. It shouldn’t be taken by anyone under the age of 18 but it is suitable for the elderly.

Conventional medicines

If you feel as though your symptoms have become unbearable then it is always worth speaking to your doctor, particularly if you have any persistent worries or concerns. Memory loss in PMS can be difficult to determine, but it is likely that your doctor will try and treat the causal factors rather than the symptom itself.

  • Oral contraceptive pill: The oral contraceptive pill is normally the first thing that your doctor will prescribe for you if you are having persistent problems with your PMS symptoms. It can regulate your hormones during your monthly cycle, however not every pill is compatible with your body, so you might have to try a few different pills before you find the one that works for you
  • Sleeping pills: If your doctor feels that insomnia is triggering your memory loss then it is likely they will recommend sleeping tablets for you to take. These can sometimes cause additional side-effects though, such as drowsiness the next day or dizziness and might even exacerbate your memory lapses
  • Anti-depressants: Anti-depressants are usually advised if your doctor feels that your stress symptoms are developing into a serious psychological condition. However, anti-depressants can cause a whole host of unpleasant side-effects and, similarly to the pill, you may have to take multiple types before you find one that is compatible with your body.

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A traditional herbal remedy used to relieve the symptoms of PMS
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As the A.Vogel Women's Health advisor, I recommend Agnus castus to help relieve symptoms such as menstrual cramps, breast tenderness and irritability.

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