You are probably experiencing brain fog. Many people describe brain fog as feeling mentally fatigued, having difficulty in focusing or even thinking, stumbling to find the proper words while speaking, becoming forgetful and generally feeling like your brain has been clouded over.
Your brain is the control system which controls the functioning of the neuroendocrine system and when there is a brain dysfunction is can be quite serious. A very common problem that is afflicting many people in today’s modern world is brain fog.
Brain fog is not really a medical condition in itself, it is a kind of cognitive dysfunction that may be a symptom of some other underlying condition which could be related to a medical condition or is lifestyle-related. Typically, brain fog makes you feel as if your cognitive processes of remembering, understanding and thinking are not working optimally.
The various functions of the brain can be affected by brain fog such as:
- The memory, which essentially stores and recalls all the information.
- Your capability to understand and speak a language.
- Ability to make calculations.
- Processing any information that helps you to understand and focus.
- Executive functions that you make use of for planning, problem solving and organization.
- Spatial and visual skills involving navigating space, drawing, recognizing shapes, etc.
And, when any of these functions are diminished, you can have problems in understanding, concentrating and focusing on things, experience mental fatigue and you can forget things.
If you are healthy and follow a good diet, then an episode of brain fog may last for short periods of time; however, in other cases, the brain fog may be an unending state and the mind may be clear only during brief periods. Brain fog may occur gradually and is not really a medical condition that you can identify when it actually started. Sometimes, even kids can experience brain fog when they are tired. Mostly, people notice brain fog when it actually begins to impact their lives and they find that they are too tired and exhausted to do several activities.
If the condition is very severe, brain fog can interfere with your work; however, the best part is that once you are able to pinpoint the cause of the brain fog, you can find a way to fix it. And, if you actually look at the causes of brain fog, you will realize that you can control most of them. On some days when you eat better, sleep well or get more exposure to sunlight, the body gets all the nutrients it requires and is sufficiently recharged, your brain fog will lift slowly; and, once you revert to the activities that the body does not approve of, the brain fog clouds your mind again.
A person suffering from brain fog generally displays symptoms such as:
- Memory problems
- Inability to focus and concentrate
- Inability to memorize things
- Inability to process new information easily or delay in processing information
- Lack of mental clarity
- Low energy and fatigue
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- Inability to hold on to thoughts, wandering thoughts
- Low motivation
There are many reasons why brain fog occurs and once you are able to identify the specific cause, you can take steps to fix the problem.
It is believed that brain fog is caused due to high inflammation levels in the body and changes occurring to the three hormones, serotonin, dopamine and cortisol, which controls your energy, mood and focus. The hormones serotonin and dopamine are the ones that keep you motivated, happy and calm, while cortisol is the one that keeps you alert and awake and is often known as the stress hormone.
Our body, as well as the brain, depend on the harmony between these 3 hormones and when the level of any of the hormone increases or falls to a very low level (for instance, if the cortisol level increases due to anxiety or some stressful event or the level of serotonin falls too low due to a low carbohydrate diet), the entire system goes off balance. So, to get the brain function back onto the right track, the production and balance of these hormones need to be restored.
Another major cause that increases the symptoms of brain fog is inflammation, the root cause of several diseases. When the immune system is overactive, it causes inflammation, which is related to several problems such as insomnia, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed that when the level of inflammatory molecules such as histamines and adipocytokines increase this triggers microglia activation, which causes the occurrence of brain fog.
According to a study in Frontiers of Neuroscience, people with problems such as celiac disease, food allergies, gluten intolerance, disorders related to autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s disease, mastocytosis and other disorders are most likely to suffer from brain fog.
The diet that you follow can play a very important part in triggering brain fog symptoms. It is extremely important to have a healthy diet and focus of fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins and antioxidants that help to reduce oxidative stress and prevents brain damage and helps in managing anxiety disorders, neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases.
Load up on the proteins that contain the essential amino acids and also consume healthy fats. This helps to boost the chemical brains and improves cognitive function. Food sources such as dairy products, eggs, fish, etc. are sources of amino acids that help to produce hormones which help to maintain a positive and happy mindset.
Healthy fats are also essential to fight inflammation in the body and produce the “happy” hormones. Low-fat diets lead to the imbalance of fatty acids in the body triggering inflammation leading to cognitive decline, weight gain, depression, etc.
Processed and packaged foods are loaded with sugars and lead to inflammation causing brain fog. Cutting back on packaged foods, sugary foods and artificial sweeteners may be the first step to eliminate brain fog. While sugar may give you an initial boost of energy, in the long run, sugar can deplete your energy and focus. Also, sugary and inflammatory foods lead to problems such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, diabetes and weight gain in the long run. Studies reveal that eating vegetables and fruits helps to reduce inflammation, realign the hormones and generally makes you happier.
However, on the flip side, if you go on a very low carbohydrate or low sugar diet, they may be causes of brain fog too. When you go on a very low carb diet, this may cause your serotonin levels to fall very low causing anxiety, sadness, depression, etc. and the best way to keep the optimum balance of serotonin is to eat unprocessed and complex carbs and focus on brain foods such as fruit, raw dairy, yams, sweet potatoes, whole grains, etc. that are great serotonin-boosting carbohydrates which help to improve memory and focus, and prevents brain fog.
Apart from following a healthy diet, vitamins and minerals are very important for brain and memory function and deficiencies in these can cause brain fog. There are some supplements that can help to clear brain fog.
- Fish Oil: Fish oil helps to boost the anti-inflammatory properties in the body and the omega-3 fatty acids present in these fish oils helps to prevent memory loss and boost the brain function.
- B Vitamins: B vitamins are extremely important for the brain function and helps to regulate the nerve cell and brain activity. Deficiency in B vitamins can make you sluggish and cause you to become very moody. The nutrients in the food that you consume is converted by the B vitamins into fuel that is used by your body for energy. Vitamin B12 is especially important for proper memory and brain function and a lack of which causes brain fog.
- Adaptogens: Adaptogen herbs such as basil, ashwagandha and maca help to lower the cortisol levels and helps the body deal with stress, fatigue and reduces the symptoms of brain fog.
If you suffer from food sensitivity and do not cut these foods out from your diet, you can experience damage to the gut which can, in turn, affect your brain function. Food sensitivities and allergies cause major changes in the gut microbes that can affect your overall health and a food allergy causes inflammation that affects many bodily functions from the absorption of nutrients to the synthesizing of hormones.
Eating certain kinds of foods can affect the brain and trigger brain fog symptoms, especially if you suffer from sensitivity or allergy to certain foods such as peanuts, gluten, aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG), dairy foods, etc. and eliminating these foods from your diet can help to improve the brain fog symptoms.
Stress and anxiety result in the increase of blood pressure, which in turn weakens the immune system and causes problems such as depression and mental fatigue. When the brain is tired, you suffer from brain fog which makes it difficult to focus on things, reason and think. High levels of stress cause an increase in the levels of cortisol production and cause hormonal imbalances, insomnia, depression, weight gain, anxiety and brain fog.
So, in today’s life that is filled with many factors that cause stress, it is extremely important to reduce the cortisol levels in the body by following stress-busting techniques such as meditating, exercising, yoga, breathing techniques or taking up some of your favorite hobbies that can be calming and relaxing. Doing things that you like helps to produce more of the dopamine in the brain which helps to prevent mental illnesses and brain fog.
Metal fatigue and brain fog may be caused due to medical conditions that are associated with changes in the glucose levels, fatigue and inflammation. For instance, when the condition of fatigue persists for a period of more than 6 months, it is known as chronic fatigue syndrome and brain fog is a classic symptom of this condition. Those having fibromyalgia may also experience brain fog.
Other medical conditions that may cause brain fog are diabetes, anemia, migraines, Sjogren syndrome, depression, hypothyroidism, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, arthritis, lupus, Alzheimer’s disease and dehydration.
Brain fog may be caused due to viral infections that release toxins into the bloodstream which affect the brain and result in the depletion of the essential nutrients. Viruses such as herpes, hepatitis C, Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, human papillomavirus, etc. can affect the brain. H. Pylori and Lyme disease are also common causes of brain fog.
The overgrowth of Candida albicans produces chemicals such as acetaldehyde and alcohol that are toxic and causes the poisoning of the nervous system, which results in brain fog, the symptoms of which is confusion. Eating plenty of carbs, starches, sugar and fats can cause the symptoms to worsen. The yeast feeds on the sugars and starch and grow, and sometimes reaches the brain.
When you make any changes in the metabolism by changing your diet, antibiotic treatment, changing your lifestyle or fasting, the yeast die causing the toxins to be released into the blood that can cause brain fog; however, usually, this condition is temporary.
AFS is a very common problem and is caused due to an imbalance in the neuroendocrine system causing symptoms such as hypoglycemia, anxiety, fatigue, constipation, depression, heart palpitation, insomnia and brain fog. When you suffer from AFS, the metabolism of the body reduces in order to conserve energy, the liver also slows causing the toxins to accumulate and travel to the brain resulting in brain fog. Recovering from brain fog due to AFS requires lifestyle changes, dietary changes and supplements with a focus on the adrenal glands.
Foods that have not digested properly can rot or ferment in the intestines, which produces toxins that poison the liver and other organs in the body. Food that is consumed must be processed and excreted in time and if this does not happen within 20 hours, the food will start rotting, causing adrenal fatigue and releasing toxins into the blood.
The toxins also travel to the brain and cause brain fog. Including fiber, alkalization of the body, drinking plenty of water and enhancing the liver function can help in proper bowel movement. Following a diet that is fiber-rich, low in fat and sugar and rich in magnesium can help to alleviate constipation, improve bowel movement and prevent brain fog.
Brain fog can be triggered due to hormonal changes. The hormones such as testosterone, progesterone and estrogen directly act on the nerve cells located in the brain and protect them from free radicals and neurotoxins. They also help to increase the flow of blood to the brain and protects from problems such as dementia and memory loss.
Both progesterone, as well as estrogen helps to improve memory retention. And, while the testosterone levels help to moderate the cognitive function in men and when it is added to estrogen replacement therapy in postmenopausal women, it has a protective effect on the memory function.
During pregnancy, the levels of estrogen and progesterone increase in the body, which can cause cognitive impairment in the short term and affect memory. Also, during menopause, the estrogen level drops, causing lack of focus, concentration, cloudy thinking and forgetfulness.
Any hormonal imbalance in the body can be sorted by adjusting your diet and balancing the hormones naturally. Try and reduce the simple and processed carbs, sugar, caffeine and alcohol from your diet. Avoid saturated and trans fats along with packaged and processed foods, as these foods drain you out and make you feel tired and exhausted. For instance, having a lot of caffeine causes the adrenals to get stressed and alcohol causes the central nervous system to be suppressed leading to pronounced brain fog symptoms. Focus on a diet that helps to balance the hormones such as proteins, complex carbs, healthy fats and fresh fruits and vegetables.
People with hypothyroidism experience brain fog and a decrease in their mental sharpness as the brain uses a lot of energy. The low thyroid function causes depression, brain fog, short-term loss of memory and difficulty in concentration. The thyroid hormones are important for the normal function of the brain and patients suffering from hypothyroidism display symptoms of cognitive impairment and mood disturbances.
Certain drugs such as anti-anxiety medications, drugs to lower cholesterol levels, antihistamines, painkillers, beta-blockers, antidepressants, medications for cold, muscle relaxants, sleep medications, etc. may cause brain fog and, switching to another drug or lowering the dosage can help to improve the symptoms. Many times, cancer patients suffer from brain fog after undergoing chemotherapy treatments and this is often known as chemo brain.
The way that the brain functions can be affected if your sleep quality is poor. One of the best ways in which brain function can be improved is to get at least around 8-9 hours of good sleep. When you sleep well, the hormones in the brain are balanced and you can also manage your emotions, food cravings, hunger, etc. in a better manner, which benefits your health and well-being.
Fewer hours of sleep can lead to brain fog symptoms such as lack of concentration, cloudy thoughts, etc., as lack of sleep causes the cortisol levels to increase which causes irritation and the inability to sleep properly through the night. The high levels of cortisol cause the dopamine levels to get suppressed and inhibits the working of the serotonin leading to a vicious cycle of bad behaviors and moods.
Exercising regularly can help to protect your memory and keeps the brain functioning optimally. Exercise also helps to reduce stress, improves the mood and sleep, which in turn improves the brain function. Exercise is also a great stress buster. It helps to increase the energy levels in the body and reduce inflammation; however, you must exercise with caution, as too much of it can cause fatigue and exhaustion and can even lead to hormonal imbalance. Following a regular and moderate exercise routine is beneficial and can help to balance the hormones, boost your stamina, release endorphins and generally improve your overall mood.
Sometimes, you may experience brain fog while exercising and this is your body’s way of telling you that it’s getting overworked and burnt out due to over-exercising. Exercising should make you feel happy and energetic and not worn out. Take adequate rest while exercising, get 1-2 days of rest in a week and avoid doing the kind of exercises you hate.
Our modern life leads to exposure to toxins from the environment around us day in and day out, in our home, the air that we breathe and the water that we drink. The clothing that you wear, the upholstery in your homes, the cleaning supplies you use to clean your home, cars, furniture, etc., all contain chemicals and toxins that can harm and impair your cognitive function.
Mercury found in freshwater fish is a neurotoxin and excessive build-up of mercury can cause memory loss, brain fog, etc. Other metals such as lead, aluminum, cadmium, etc. found in various items such as antiperspirants, antacids, cosmetics, etc. can also trigger brain fog.
Over time, these toxins build up gradually in your kidney, liver and other parts of the body. Outdoor pollution can cause several cognitive problems, while the air pollution indoor in your home is much higher. The exposure to dust, molds, pollen, pet dander, cigarette smoke, air fresheners, perfumes, etc. are trapped within the home all these chemicals cause problems like fatigue, memory loss and brain fog.
You can control the air pollution in your home by switching to natural cosmetics and personal care products, natural cleaning supplies and make use of a HEPA filter in the night to detoxify you while you sleep.
With the use of electronics, smartphones, laptops, etc. becoming widespread, the exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) has also increased significantly. This EMF can cause disruptions in sleep patterns, affect focus and concentration and cause brain fog. People sitting in front of computers for prolonged periods of time or using mobile phones excessively, living near electric plants, cell phone towers, etc. can be affected by EMF.
So, it is a good idea to switch off all electronic devices, televisions, radios, computers, etc. while you sleep and place all such devices at least around 10 feet away from you when you sleep. When not in use, unplug all the electronic devices in your home.
When you’re thinking gets fuzzy and you don’t remember things, lack focus or experience confusion, all these can be described as brain fog. While brain fog may be caused due to lifestyle factors related to stress, poor diet, lack of proper sleep and no exercise, other causes of brain fog may be due to some medical condition or it may be a side effect of some medication you’re on.
Whatever the reason may be, luckily, the condition of brain fog is reversible. And, you can do it by being proactive and adopting a lifestyle that is brain-friendly and address all the underlying issues such as your diet, level of physical activity, stress levels, etc. and get your life back on track.