Learn how to get rid of brain fog to achieve better mental clarity and cognitive function.
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In this article:
Brain Fog Basics: Causes of Brain Fog and How You Can Treat It
What Is Brain Fog?
Brain fog is a kind of cognitive dysfunction. “Cognitive” refers to the brain’s ability to acquire information and then understand or process it.
In other words, it’s the ability to think. This explains why people with a “foggy brain” tend to have problems with mental clarity, focus, or concentration.
It is not a condition, although some call it a cognitive impairment. They may struggle with short-term memory loss.
This isn’t similar to more serious neurological disorders like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, however. People with more severe neurological issues may also have impaired judgment and loss of motor coordination.
Instead, brain fog is typically a symptom of an underlying cause.
What Causes Brain Fog?
Foggy brain can happen for a variety of reasons. The following may lead to symptoms of brain cloud:
Perhaps you have noticed how your mental acumen decreases the more you feel tired or exhausted. This is because chronic stress can lead to mental fog.
The adrenal glands, which sit near the kidneys, produce the stress hormone cortisol. It raises blood pressure, blood sugar called glucose, and heart rate.
These changes help your body adjust to the demands of stress. The problem with chronic stress is they keep these biomarkers elevated.
When this happens, high blood pressure can affect cerebral blood flow. It can weaken the blood vessels that deliver oxygen to the brain.
Stress also impacts or relates to the other possible brain fog causes on the list.
A 2013 study in Frontiers in Physiology showed a connection between chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and mental fog or brain cloud.
CFS is a persistent feeling of physical and mental fatigue that lasts for at least six months. It is of unknown origin, although science established the criteria for diagnosis.
According to the study, at least 85% of those with CFS also reported symptoms of brain fog. These can include poor mental clarity, short-term memory loss, and mental confusion.
CFS is different from fibromyalgia or fibro. It is a neuromusculoskeletal disorder that affects certain trigger points in the body.
Those with fibromyalgia experience joint pain, but they may also develop fibro fog and physical and mental fatigue.
3. Mental Disorders
Brain fog is a common symptom of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. These conditions, however, can happen for many reasons.
These can include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Chronic stress
- Hormonal changes
Individuals with depression or anxiety usually struggle with a lack of energy. They may need to exert more effort to accomplish day-to-day tasks, resulting in brain fatigue.
4. Hormone Imbalances
WebMD cited a U.S. study, which talked about how a woman’s mental acuity or cognition drops as their levels of estrogen also decrease, which is what happens during menopause.
Estrogen is a female hormone that plays a huge role not only in sexual reproduction but also in brain function.
This hormone promotes the development of brain cells and helps take care of the hippocampus. It is the region of the brain associated with memory, learning, and even emotions.
It may also explain why menopausal women may be prone to mood issues. These include anxiety and irritability.
If you have a thyroid problem, such as hypothyroidism, then you are also not immune to brain fog. Thyroid hormones regulate the body’s metabolism, including that of the brain.
What is hypothyroidism? It is a medical condition characterized by underactive thyroid glands.
5. Chronic Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is the body’s prolonged response to inflammation. In hindsight, inflammation is an effect when the body tries to fight threats such as toxins, heavy metals, and pathogens.
A healthy body can naturally heal itself. When the body is exposed to these threats all the time, this inflammation doesn’t subside.
Instead, it destroys tissues and organs. Chronic inflammation may also lead to autoimmune diseases, according to a 2019 study.
Autoimmune conditions occur when the immune system attacks the tissues. This is why there’s lupus brain fog or why those with rheumatoid arthritis may also develop mental confusion even if the pain is in the joints.
Other possible reasons for brain cloud include:
- Lyme disease, an infectious disease caused by Borrelia bacterium
- Anemia, a condition wherein the body produces fewer red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body
- Nutritional deficiency such as the lack of vitamin B12
A 2018 study cited how brain fog may also relate to intestinal issues such as leaky gut syndrome. This is when the intestinal barrier becomes permeable, allowing bad substances to enter the bloodstream.
Leaky gut can increase the risk of chronic inflammation. In turn, it may result in other gut-related problems like celiac disease and Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder.
What is celiac disease? It is an autoimmune condition caused by the consumption of a protein known as gluten.
What’s the Best Brain Fog Treatment?
In reality, diagnosing mental fog is challenging because it is often subjective. It’s also a problem less understood by many.
No single test can diagnose brain fog or measure optimal brain function. The doctor may have to consider the following factors:
- Medical and genetic history
- Preexisting health conditions
- Other symptoms
Fortunately, you can do many things to reduce brain fog symptoms and cognitive decline:
- Get a good night’s sleep for at least 7-9 hours.
- Consume a gluten-free diet if you have celiac disease.
- Determine any vitamin or mineral deficiency you may have.
- Strive for a more well-balanced diet. Instead of a low-fat diet, eat good fats like avocado or olive oil since they help nourish the brain.
- Add fatty acids into your diet. The likes of omega-3 from supplements or salmon can help reduce chronic inflammation.
- Include probiotics and prebiotics to help nurture the gut. Probiotics add more helpful bacteria while prebiotics feed the good ones.
- Get professional help if you’re suffering from mental disorders like anxiety or depression.
- Bring your stress levels down with activities like meditation or yoga.
- Exercise to help regulate the hormones, avoid obesity, and increase the release of feel-good hormones.
- Talk to your doctor about adjusting your medications if they’re causing your brain fog.
- Consider a personalized approach to healing. Teams like LIV Health can assist you at a more affordable cost.
- Test your hormone levels regularly, especially if you have thyroid disorders or menopause.
- Do some mental exercises.
Brain fog can be frustrating, but you can rest on the fact that you are not alone. It is also temporary, and you have many approaches to manage it.
How do you deal with brain fog? Share your tips in the comments section below.