Peri-menopausal brain fog: how to stimulate brain activity with acupuncture
During peri-menopause and menopause, mental functions are usually affected by the hormonal changes, and conditions arise involving both mood stability and poor memory. Sometimes women refer to this as "brain fog".
One major study known as SWAN (Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation) confirmed that cognitive decline, the ability to learn new things, and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression frequently occur during menopause.
Studies show that these symptoms can occur during peri-menopause as well.
Let's see what Chinese medicine and acupuncture can do to help.
Hormone replacement therapy does not help memory
A particular type of memory known as working memory — your ability to assimilate and manipulate new information — does not perform as well as usual during menopause.
This makes it hard to do things like calculate simple math in your head or remember something you’ve just read. This is due to fluctuating hormone levels.
Estrogen has a significant impact on neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that allow brain cells to communicate with each other.
Replacing declining estrogen with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) seems to be a logical choice. However, the known risks of hormone therapy have discouraged many women and physicians from following this route.
Research has repeatedly shown that Hormone Replacement Therapy does little to protect against cognitive decline, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease (link).
Boost your Brain power with Neuro Nutrition
As for many other conditions, the first and best medicine is a healthy diet. The Mediterranean diet in particular has been linked to improved longevity and cognition.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
Omega 3 is the only fat that consistently goes into the brain.
Sources: Chia seeds, flaxseeds, extra virgin olive oil, sardines, anchovies, mackerel.
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
contain phytonutrients which are strong anti-oxidants. They also improve gut health and help in the ageing process.
Sources: Broccoli, Kale, mixed greens
Eat the rainbow
Fruit, Vegetable & Grains are another powerful source of anti-oxidants, the rule of thumb is the brighter the colour, the better, they are a rich powerhouse of antioxidants and anti-ageing chemicals.
Avoid eating a low-fat diet since progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, and other sex hormones are synthesized from cholesterol.
Chinese medicine's perspective
The brain is linked to Kidney function
In Chinese medicine, the kidneys govern the "marrow" and the brain function, so many of the herbs used to improve focus are kidney tonics. Kidney energy naturally declines with age, and every woman can mildly tonify kidneys around menopause (do NOT self medicate).
However Chinese medicine differentiates forgetfulness from a cloudy mind. If you feel foggy and heavy-headed your Chinese diagnosis would more likely be related to dampness, or poor fluid metabolism and mucus accumulation.
Herbs for a healthy brain
Gingko Biloba: studies show that it increases blood flow to the brain, improves memory and mental clarity.
石菖蒲， Shi Chang Pu ：this herb works well for people feeling a heavy headache, a "towel wrapped around their head" and a cloudy mind
灵芝， Reishi mushrooms (see photo) are adaptogenic, bring calm and help concentration.
丹参，Salvia – A major Chinese herb used to increase blood flow.
A 2003 study by the Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit at Northumbria University showed that young people who received an extract of Salvia essential oil showed improvement in word recall.
Acupuncture improves cognitive function
The risk of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), increases significantly following menopause.
A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis (link) found that acupuncture provided benefits.
It showed that acupuncture had positive effects on Mini Mental State Examination scores, Ability of Daily Living Scale scores, AD Assessment Scale-Cognition scores, and a high clinical efficacy rate.
Each treatment is always highly individualized, depending on your particular presentation. But some points can always be used to improve focus and stimulate brain function, for example:
百会 Baihui (GV20) : at the very top of the head
四神聪 Sishencong (EX-HN1): 4 cardinal points around Baihui
神庭 Shenting (GV24): At the midline, close to the forehead hairline
Some patients at Taproot report immediate improved mental clarity.
So talk to your acupuncturist !
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