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Hormonal Brain Fog & What to Do

Hormonal Brain Fog & What to Do - Niyama Wellness

If you are reading this (and you have a uterus), then you are already familiar with hormones and some of the not so fun parts of their changing patterns.

From difficult or just annoying periods, fertility challenges, pregnancy, peri-menopause and menopause it feels like, and is A LOT.

Wherever you are on the age spectrum, if you’ve had a menstrual cycle then you know about hormone changes and how they can impact your body and your mood.  Pregnancy, post-partum, peri-menopause and menopause are just different hormone fluctuation patterns – but it all goes to hormonal changes.  And what we are now understanding more, is that each stage has its own effect on our brain and cognitive health.

You are probably familiar with feeling “a bit slow” or foggy, with challenges concentrating during your cycle, while pregnant/post-partum (baby brain is REAL), and (if you are there yet), in peri and menopause.  This feeling has a name: Hormonal Brain Fog.  It’s extremely common (after all, 50% of us have a uterus!), but not very well researched, thanks to science’s gender bias, especially when it comes to brain health. (that's a topic for another blog, grrr.)

Hormonal Brain Fog symptoms can include:

  • Cloudy or foggy thinking
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Feeling out of sorts / overall sense something isn’t right
  • Irritability

It turns out estrogen is neuro protective, and when it’s low or out of balance, our brain functions differently. And while our hormones aren’t the only cause of brain fog (there is also depression, stress, medications, dehydration, low vitamin D and more), they can often be the culprit.

The Period Years

Each month, Estrogen dominates in the first half of the cycle (follicular phase), promoting brain health and cognitive function. After ovulation (luteal phase), progesterone levels rise to balance estrogen. An imbalance between estrogen and progesterone during this phase may lead to brain fog and other symptoms.


High levels of estrogen and progesterone support pregnancy but may also lead to brain fog and fatigue. Structural changes in the brain, such as reductions in gray matter, occur during pregnancy and persist postpartum.

Hormone levels rapidly decline after delivery, which can further contribute to brain fog. Factors such as brain changes from pregnancy, healing and breastfeeding demands, and sleep deprivation may also play a role in postpartum brain fog.


The Peri phase is characterized by fluctuating hormone levels causing irregular and missed periods, and is often accompanied by brain fog and cognitive difficulties due to varying, and eventually lower hormone levels. After periods stop completely (menopause is defined as having no periods for 12 months or more), estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone settle at lower levels. Low estrogen levels in menopause can contribute to brain fog and cognitive changes. Hormone therapy has been shown to be protective of brain health during this stage, but is a personal choice and not for everyone.


How to reduce Hormonal Brain Fog:

  1. Get adequate, good quality sleep

Poor sleep, low energy & fatigue often accompany brain fog in all phases of a woman’s life, but especially in the first 7 third trimester of pregnancy and in peri & menopause. Good sleep is incredibly important to allow the brain to “cleanse”, so if you aren’t sleeping well, your brain fog will be worsened.  Read more about Good Sleep Habits here.

  1. Daily exercise & movement

Moving your body is great for reducing stress, increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain, and supporting hormone health. Find something you like and make it a habit.

  1. Eat a healthy, whole food diet

Think low sugar, nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods including lots of veggies and fruits and high-quality protein at each meal.

  1. Stress management

Stress impacts hormones significantly, especially cortisol and serotonin.  High cortisol further impacts ability to sleep well and think clearly, so managing stress is vital.

  1. Get your thyroid levels tested

Brain fog is also a classic symptom of hypothyroidism, so it’s a good idea to get your levels tested and work with your health professional if this is an issue.

  1. Brain games

Keep your brain active and challenged. Try some daily brain games like a crossword, word games or math games.

  1. Take the right supplements

    1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids – fish oil (choose the TG or mono form with higher DHA) or algal oil (vegan) depending on your dietary preferences
    2. Magnesium - the bisglycinate form is best and is complexed with additional stress-busting, brain support nutrients in our Hey Relax magnesium
    3. Adaptogens & Nootropics – to support stress management and brain function our Daytime Zen contains both to reduce brain fog and improve focus, while reducing feelings of overwhelm and stress-related fatigue



More Reading and References:



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