What is brain fog? Fuzzy thinking, trouble concentrating, a sense of grasping for the right word, feeling like your brain has somehow slowed down? It can be frustrating and worrying that it may be the start of memory loss, but commonly it may be a sign that our bodies are not working as well as they could.
The most common symptoms are loss of mental clarity, inability to focus or concentrate, problems with learning and remembering, slow thinking, issues with language or word-finding or clumsiness. Fatigue, exhaustion or irritability may also be a factor. Symptoms may come and go but when they interfere with the quality of your life, your relationships or your work, then time to take some action.
10 potential causes of brain fog
Stress – cortisol is a hormone we produce under stress, but it interferes with brain neurotransmitters, causing mood swings and foggy thinking. Cortisol is released to prime us to run from the proverbial tiger, not to multitask to the extent modern life demands of us.
Gut imbalance -your microbiome (trillions of microbes in your gut) communicates with your immune system, hormones and neurotransmitters, so keeping the gut healthy directly impacts brain function.
Nutrient deficiencies – you need a lot of nutrients for your brain to work well. B vitamins, iron, needs good levels of protein and essential fats, and antioxidants to protect it against damage.
Food sensitivities – common culprits like wheat, gluten, dairy and soy can cause inflammation in the brain, and this can disrupt nerve signalling.
Blood sugar imbalance – too much insulin production (from eating too many refined carbs/sugar) can contribute to inflammation in the brain, which can disrupt our neurotransmitters.
Low thyroid function – the thyroid glands sets the rate of metabolism, and as we age, we can be prone to hypothyroid or subclinical status with symptoms such memory loss, low mood, fatigue, brain fog, anxiety and low motivation.
Lack of sleep – the brain needs a metaphorical sweep up every night when we sleep, the inability to ‘clean up’ can cause a build of debris which impacts our brain function. Menopause – oestrogen and progesterone have protective effects on the brain, so when levels start to fall, no wonder that many menopausal symptoms are psychological as well as physical.
Toxin exposure – long term exposure to chemicals in our food, water, household and personal products can cause brain fog, headaches and cognitive decline.
Lack of exercise – physical activity helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to your cells, and produces endorphins that can help clarity of thought.
How can your diet and lifestyle help? Healthy fats – avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil Protein – organic grass fed meat, wild caught fish, organic dairy, soy, quinoa, pulses, beans. Oily fish – eg wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies. Antioxidants – colourful fruit & veg (especially berries), dark chocolate, good quality coffee. Herbs and spices – including turmeric, sage, rosemary, clove, cinnamon, oregano, cumin. Keep hydrated – At least 2L of water (including non caffeinated drinks) per day for most people, and more if you're exercisin. Go gluten free – try a gluten free diet (or at least wheat free) for 3-4 weeks, and see if your symptoms improve. Balance your blood sugar – eat lean protein and healthy fats alongside carbohydrates. Avoid highly processed foods and refined carbohydrates/sugars, and limit your snacking. Stress reduction – try to build in daily relaxation to buffer those cortisol spike and balance your nervous system. Move – as we get older, we can lose muscle mass so ideally a mix of cardio, lifting weights, and stretching, with 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. Sleep – go to my Sleep blog for more tips on natural ways to encourage 7-9 hours a night. A personalised approach to understand what may be underlying your cause of brain fog, along with supplements and/or testing where appropriate, can help speed up a long term solution of your distress. See if a free 30 minute call with me can help you on your health journey. Book now