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Memory Loss

Why am I loosing my short-term memory?

Question

I’m 41 and am concerned about my short-term memory. On about day 14 of my cycles and at the start and finish of my period, my thinking is muddled, words come out wrongly and I forget names. A blood test showed that I’m not menopausal. My doctor suggested I try progestogen tablets, but I feel apprehensive about taking hormones. I have had a traumatic relationship break-up recently, so stress could play a part. What so you advise?

Answer

Loss of short-term memory, problems with concentration and fuzzy thinking are often connected to lack of blood flow to the brain. There are several possible reasons, so these symptoms can become manifest at different times due to different causes. Thus, your mid-cycle symptoms could be linked to hormonal changes brought about by ovulation (which happens at this time), while the peri- (around) menstrual symptoms could be caused by other Problems.

The limbic system is the part of the brain responsible for short-term memory, concentration, sleep, sexual and emotional drives, and the 'feel-good factor’. This part is bathed by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which provides nutrients (glucose and oxygen) to the brain and the surface of the spinal cord. Some of the nutrients sent to the limbic system come directly from blood supplied by arteries of the brain, particularly the vertebral arteries in the neck.

When you are stressed, the neck muscles tense. Physical stress, for instance sitting for hours at a computer, driving long distances or insomnia, can have the same effect. This can cause the circulation of CSF and blood to slow down. Particularly the supply that flows through the vertebral arteries. If this happens, the limbic system suffers from 'Power failure', as its fuel falls to get through. Other parts of the brain may also be affected, so you might get a craving for sugar because your glucose supply is reduced, or suffer panic attacks, headaches or chronic fatigue.

Just before a period starts, there is increased pelvic congestion as the uterus swells and more blood rushes to the area in preparation for the imminent loss. This causes the blood supply to the brain to reduce. If, in addition, the blood supply to your brain is compromised because of tight neck muscles, even less blood gets through. This causes all the symptoms associated with PMS - anxiety, headaches, dizziness, mood swing , memory loss, lack of concentration, and so on. After a period, the stocks of blood are depleted too, which may add to the problem.

In order to relieve your symptoms, I suggest you change your lifestyle for the second half of your cycle:

  • To reduce stress' go to bed early and go for walks in the fresh air at weekends- Take one tablet of Brento or Mentat at bedtime for a month. listen to a relaxation tape or CD in bed (there are good ones available in complementary health stores or you can buy my own tape, Dr Ali's Yoga and Meditation Programme, Sanogenetic Solutions).
  • Food-wise, you should avoid coffee and excess salt because they will make you tense up and your symptoms may become worse. If you suffer from bloating (which impairs breathing and increases fatigue because less oxygen is absorbed), give up yeast products such as bread, Marmite, pizza, pasta and beer, and fungal products such as blue cheese, mushrooms, vinegar and alcohol. Also avoid fizzy water, radishes, chickpeas, kidney beans, broccoli stalks, cauliflower and asparagus, which all increase the production of gas.
  • Do breathing exercises: take a deep breath in, blowing up your belly for a count of three, hold your breath for three, then exhale for six, pulling your abdomen against your backbone. Do this when you feel stressed to calm your nervous system by improving the absorption of oxygen by the blood.
  • Take one tablet of Shatavari, an Indian herbal hormonal balancer twice daily for tree months to regulate your hormones.
  • Massage your neck and shoulders with Lifestyle Massage Oil once or twice a week for ten minutes, for two months, to help increase blood flow to the brain. If Possible, ask a friend or partner to do this for you, and have professional massages too.
  • Try the homoeopathic treatment Pulsatilla 30: two tablet three times daily for three days when symptoms are at their worst. ideally, consult a qualified homoeopath.
  • Try acupuncture to alleviate your symptoms.
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