Hormones & Brain Fog: 3 ways to bring brain and body into balance
We have been talking all about brain fog this month on the blog and on Facebook. (If you missed the previous two posts you can catch up here and here.) And today I want to focus in on a key factor that could be underlying your brain fog and fatigue: hormones.
Our hormones are intricately tied to our brain function. Not only are two of the main control organs for our hormones, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, located in the brain, but there have been many studies showing that our brain actually changes the way it functions throughout the month in response to our hormone levels. However, none of these changes are meant to be bad, they are all intended to improve the way we function and interact throughout the stages of our cycle. For example, one week you are naturally more social and outgoing, and another week you are more detail oriented. It is when we are out of balance that those changes start to look more like:
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Feeling weepy for no reason
- Brain Fog
A few of these symptoms (hello pregnancy brain!) come with the territory of pregnancy and immediate postpartum when your hormones are drastically rising and falling, but if these symptoms are occurring every single month then it is your body holding up a flashing sign to warn you that something is up!
But what can you do about it? Well, I’m glad you asked! We will only be dipping our toes in today, but rest assured that when you apply just these basic principles you will notice some big results!
1.) Kick Sugar to the Curb
Say what??? Yep, I’m serious! Mismanaged blood sugar is one of the biggest reasons that I see women with hormonal imbalances, and it is always the first thing that I work on with my clients because it is so foundational. I could go on about this all day, but for now I want to leave you with a few practical tips for kicking sugar to the curb.
One of the main objections I get is about chocolate. So I think you will be relieved to know that it is not off the table, it’s just time to make it a little healthier! When you go for chocolate, go for a high quality dark chocolate, 70% or greater. This kind of chocolate naturally has less sugar and it is also more satisfying so you don’t have to eat as much to quiet that craving.
Another place that women get a surprising amount of sugar is at breakfast! You know those breakfast cereals that claim to be “heart healthy” and “high fiber” and “slimming”? Just check the label and see how many grams of sugar is packed in that thing! An easy way to both save money and reduce your sugar intake is to make a super quick and low sugar granola like this one!
2.) Increase your Magnesium intake
This mineral is key to reducing anxiety and muscle tension, helping us fall asleep, helping with occasional constipation and reducing period cramping! Did you know that painful periods have been shown to make completing complex tasks more difficult, and to reduce your attention span? Yikes! This is definitely a symptom that we want to get under control! For this purpose, Magnesium Glycinate is my favorite form for optimal absorption, but if you need help with constipation then I prefer the Citrate form. A few foods that are high in magnesium are: pumpkin seeds, almonds, and spinach. All delicious when put together in a salad!
3.) Manage Your Stress Response
It is impossible to micromanage every moment of our day to keep stressful things from happening, but we can help our bodies to have a healthy response to that stress!
Ashwagandha, an herb that we talked about last week is an adaptogen that is perfect for this job! It helps keep our stress response system from staying “on” too long after the situation has passed, and it nourishes our other body systems so that we can recover from the stressful event more quickly.
The second way that we can train our stress response system is by our breath! When we allow ourselves to breathe deep, belly breaths it automatically takes us out of flight or fight mode and puts us into a relaxed state. Try this exercise and see the difference for yourself! Find a quiet place, close your eyes and put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly so you can make sure you are breathing into the right place. Now breathe deeply through your nose and make sure that your belly expands, and your chest stays relatively still. Release the breath slowly and be sure to entirely empty the lungs. Now repeat this a few times until you feel calm and relaxed. Practicing this a few minutes a day, when you are already relaxed will help your body move even faster from flight or fight to feeling calm!
Pick one of these tips to start implementing this week and be sure to take note of how you feel before you start and then after the week is up. Which one are you going to try?