One of the more common issues that people deal with every single day is brain fog.
This is a condition where a person cannot think clearly about everyday matters. Though this is a prevalent condition it isn’t widely recognised as an illness in many medical or psychological writings.
The reason is simple – physicians are not taught of its significance in medical school. This under-education leads to tremendous confusion among the public and professionals alike between various memory loss conditions and their differentiation. Brain fog, because of its rather mild presentation, is ignored as a significant clinical condition.
What is Brain Fog?
Brain Fog has been described as a feeling of mental confusion where the individual lacks mental clarity. It’s as if there is a loss of focus, and a sensation of “so close and yet so far”. The term “fog” is used because it feels as if a cloud comes over your thought process that reduces your ability to think clearly. This may cause an individual to become excessively forgetful, though long term memory remains intact. It can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days or weeks. Its onset can be gradual or sudden. Usually, there is no direct physical trauma to the brain involved. Most people know something is wrong but cannot put their finger on it. Most don’t take it seriously and consider it part of life or the ageing process. But brain health is not only critical to mental capacity but is also paramount to emotional well being.
What makes this condition perplexing is that the fogginess can come and go. It can be related to food, menstrual cycle, body temperature, activity level, sleep cycle irregularity, stress, hydration status, exercise, and many other seemingly insignificant events that only become obvious on careful retrospective examination.
Severe brain fog can lead to inferior work performance among those whose career relies on a high degree of mental acuity. Severe chronic brain fog can ultimately lead to discouragement and depression.
Some common signs of brain fog
There are a number of indicators that can show if you are experiencing the symptoms of typical brain fog and the most common are:
- Sudden occurrences of memory loss with a noticeable and sudden decline in your short-term memory capacity.
- An inability to navigate familiar spaces and places with a natural ease.
- General feelings of fuzziness and a marked inability to think coherently and clearly.
- The constant feeling that your mind is moving through a thick fog or haze.
- A reduction in the ability to pay attention and focus on detail.
- Loss of overall mental sharpness and brain performance.
- Difficulty concentrating or a lack of focus when talking to people or when watching a film or reading a book.
- Difficulty in forming sentences verbally or expressing your thoughts to others.
- Feelings of mental exhaustion and an incapacity to absorb new information.
- A reduced ability to perform common tasks that are familiar to you.
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome and Brain Fog
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is very common today. It reflects an imbalance of the body’s neuroendocrine system. Classic symptoms include fatigue, low libido, hypoglycaemia, anxiety, brain fog, constipation, insomnia, heart palpitation, and depression. During AFS, the entire body slows down to conserve energy as a survival mechanism. As the liver slows down, metabolic clearance reduces while laboratory values continue to be normal. Internal accumulation of unwanted metabolites can travel to the brain, causing brain fog. This is very common.
Recovery usually requires a comprehensive program focused on the adrenal glands that include a nutritional diet, supplements, and lifestyle changes. BioMed is on a mission to help people become completely fatigue free with a newly developed Fatigue Recovery Formula which includes a free brain fog guide. Follow the link to BioMed Lifestyle Club to find out more.
While AFS is frequently associated with brain fog, there are many other possible causation factors as well.
What Causes Brain Fog?
Brain fog can have many different causes but in the majority of cases, it is brought on by nutritional, metabolic, hormonal, and biochemical imbalances that stem from a variety of factors.
The neuroendocrine system is the primary conduit of memory function. Dysfunction of this system is the most common cause of brain fog.
There are many conditions that can be associated or act as a trigger of brain fog.
Brain fog can be a symptom of a nutrient deficiency, sleep disorder, bacterial overgrowth from overconsumption of sugar, depression, or even a thyroid condition. Other common brain fog causes include eating too much and too often, inactivity, not getting enough sleep, chronic stress, and a poor diet. These are some of the most common causes of brain fog.
Hormonal transitions are common throughout your life, whether during pregnancy, post-partum, menopause, or just unexpected changes in your environment and lifestyle. Often these periods leave your brain feeling fuzzy and confused—one study found that 60 percent of women have difficulty concentrating during menopause. In some cases, changing mood or sleeping habits could be contributing to your foggy head feelings, but it could also be due to the fluctuating hormone levels while your body tries to restore balance.
Poor sleep hygiene, like an irregular sleep and wake time, getting less than seven to eight hours of sleep a night, or blue light exposure before bed disrupts your natural circadian rhythm – that is your internal body clock. This contributes to brain fog in a few different ways. In the case of blue light exposure close to bedtime, the blue wavelengths decrease the hormone melatonin that is essential for deep REM sleep. Both REM and non REM sleep is required to consolidate and process memories from the day. During the hours of 10pm and 2am is when your body and brain detoxify the most, so remaining in an active state during this time disrupts the body’s natural detoxification process and can contribute to fogginess.
Diet deficiencies and food sensitivities
Vitamin B12 contributes to the formation of red blood cells and the maintenance of your central nervous system. It’s why a deficiency in B12 is sure to impair your energy levels and elicit an overall feeling of fatigue. A vitamin D deficiency can also be behind brain fog as decreased vitamin D levels are associated with impaired cognitive function. An unidentified food intolerance can also contribute to the foggy head feeling you’re experiencing. For example, gluten intolerance can lead to cognitive dysfunction via inflammatory pathways.
Though stress may seem like a common and relatively harmless term, chronic stress can wreak havoc on your body. When your body perceives a stressful situation, it activates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), or the fight-or-flight response. This response triggers the release of epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, and norepinephrine, and ultimately diverts energy away from your body’s typical functions and towards the stressor. This can make it difficult to think clearly, harder to focus, and could exhaust your brain. Learning to reduce your stress over time through interventions like meditation, exercise, or dietary changes, may help when your brain feels foggy.
Certain medications—both prescription and over the counter—are known to cause brain fog as a side effect. Though your head feeling cloudy while taking medication may be made out to seem normal and expected, it’s not. At BioMed we believe in lifestyle interventions that solve your underlying issues before turning to medication. But if medication is necessary, your doctor can help you determine if your medication is compromising your brain health and work with you to find the right remedy—whether that’s changing medications or lowering your dosage.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety have been shown to impair cognitive function, affecting executive function, attention, and memory. Research suggests that this could be linked to either the loss of energy and motivation associated with mental health conditions, or physiological effects on the brain that make it difficult to function properly. If you struggle with depression or anxiety, talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options.
Whether you feel tired all the time, lack focus and mental clarity, or deal with mood changes, a thyroid disorder may be at the root of your symptoms. This butterfly-shaped gland at the front of your neck is responsible for producing and releasing hormones that control everything from metabolism and heart rate to breathing and menstrual cycles and are frequently linked to brain fog. This is especially true with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune immune disease where your immune system affects your thyroid by inhibiting it from producing enough thyroid hormones and creating an inflammatory state. But whether your thyroid gland is producing too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), this could be causing your brain fog. Other symptoms of a thyroid disorder can include weight loss or gain, fatigue, muscle weakness and digestive issues.
Heavy metal exposure
Heavy metals are everywhere in our daily lives—our food, beauty products, and even teeth fillings. The most common sources of heavy metal exposure are arsenic, mercury, aluminium, lead, thallium, and caesium. And while limited amounts of these metals won’t necessarily cause toxicity, heavy metal accumulation resulting from chronic exposure overtime can cause immune dysfunction, hormone imbalance, fatigue, brain fog, and high blood pressure. Testing levels of heavy metals in your blood is a good way to ensure your body is toxin-free, and regularly incorporating detox practices like heart-rate raising physical activity or weekly sauna sessions is a great start to keeping your levels under control and reducing any symptoms.
Brain fog is now also recognised as a condition associated with having had Covid-19. Many people who have recovered from COVID-19 have reported feeling not like themselves: experiencing short-term memory loss, confusion, an inability to concentrate, and just feeling differently than they did before contracting the infection.
How to clear brain fog
To get to the root cause of any issues and resolve brain fog, Claudia, your Health Care Professional at BioMed will initially carry out an overall health assessment through in depth consultation, with the option of Computerised Health Screening.
This comprehensive information enables Claudia to develop a Personalised Health Plan based on your individual specific requirements.
Book a consultation here.