Everyone feels a little fuzzy-headed once in a while, but if you suffer from brain fog frequently, you certainly would like to know what is causing it, and what you can do to get your mental clarity back.
First, we’ll cover brain fog symptoms, causes, and the worst culprits you should avoid. Then we’ll discuss what steps you can take to remedy this malady.
What Is Brain Fog?
Brain fog is not a medically recognized term, but it is a commonly used phrase that sums up feelings of confusion, forgetfulness, and lack of focus and mental clarity.
Basically you feel like you just can’t think, and it can be very frustrating and even downright frightening.
Brain fog tends to come and go, and it’s not really the same thing as memory loss, but that can certainly be one of the symptoms.
Brain Fog Causes
You can temporarily suffer with brain fog from lack of sleep, low blood sugar, seasonal allergies, food allergies, constipation, dehydration, or electrolyte imbalance following heavy exercise. Brain fog is a common symptom of menopause.
The most common allergens that can contribute to your lack of focus include soy, dairy, and any food that contains gluten, especially wheat.
Sometimes a mental fog can be a symptom of a more serious condition such as mercury poisoning, hormonal imbalance, depression, fibromyalgia, or Lyme disease.
Brain fog can also be caused by medications. Click here for list of medications that are known culprits. Chemotherapy, for example, has a well-known side effect referred to as “chemo fog” or “chemo brain”. Substance abuse of any kind can lead to being mentally unclear.
Losing mental clarity is often considered a “normal” side effect of aging, but that doesn’t mean it is an inevitable consequence of growing older.
Food Allergies and Other Diet Culprits
One major culprit of brain fog is food allergies. If you suspect you are allergic to any foods, keep a log of what you eat and how you feel afterward.
You might be surprised to see clear patterns develop rather quickly. Cut out any questionable food for at least a week and notice if you start thinking more clearly.
Removing suspected allergic foods is a good place to start. But there are many other items you want to minimize or eliminate from your diet.
There is no place for chemical sweeteners or the flavor enhancer MSG in your diet if you have brain fog. You should also minimize sugar and simple carbohydrates which will cause swings in blood sugar that will make you feel like you can’t think.
Feed Your Head
You need to nourish your brain with the oxygen, glucose, and nutrients it needs to function optimally.
One of the first steps you should take is to get plenty of exercise.
Physical exercise increases endorphins and delivers more glucose and oxygen to the brain. Recent research shows that physical exercise may be one of the most important things you can do for your brain health, if not the most important thing you can do!
Exercising your brain by learning something new or engaging in creative pastimes can also help lift the fog. Mental exercise actually changes the structure of your brain by creating more neurons.
Don’t short your brain! Too many people worry more about weight reduction than brain health and cut out one or more of the major food groups.
Your brain needs all three macronutrient groups: proteins for neurotransmitter production, complex carbohydrates for steady brain glucose levels, and good fats to meet your brain’s essential fatty acid needs.
Get off the roller coaster of using caffeine, sugar, and alcohol to alter your states of mind to get through your day.
You may feel you are already doing what you can — you eat well, exercise, and enjoy a good mental challenge, but still feel like you aren’t mentally operating at your best. The next step would be to consider taking nutrients that are proven beneficial for brain function.
- Omega-3 fatty acids — found in high concentrations in the brain, crucial to memory and overall brain health and function, and widely lacking in our diet.
- Vitamin D and B12 — both vitamins are essential to brain health and deficiencies are common.
- Antioxidant formula — prevents free radical damage to which brain cells are particularly susceptible.
- A high-quality multivitamin — fill in nutritional gaps and act as nutritional insurance when you don’t eat as well as you should
In researching brain fog treatments, I came across more crazy ideas on treating this condition than just about any other topic I’ve ever researched! I consider myself very open-minded about alternative healing, but these set off my quack-o-meter!
Here are some of the weirdest brain fog treatments (along with my completely unprofessional responses):
- Drinking borax and water. (Borax is considered “non-acutely toxic”. Well, as long as it’s not acutely toxic …)
- Inhaling hydrogen peroxide. (Ouch. Just thinking about this hurts my nose.)
- Swishing olive oil in your mouth for 15 minutes. (I bet that’s a long 15 minutes.)
When to See Your Doctor
Finding the exact culprits causing your foggy thinking can be challenging, especially since there can be several factors that are simultaneously contributing to it. If lifestyle changes haven’t helped, a trip to the doctor might be in order.
- If you have a known medical condition, or suspect you might have one, you need to rule out that your brain fog is a symptom of a serious medical condition.
- If you are on any prescription medications, discuss whether your brain fog could be a side effect of them. Cholesterol-lowering drugs are notorious for causing mental confusion, and these drugs’ labels are now required to list memory loss as a known side effect. Taking more than one medication increases the chance of negative side effects greatly.
- If you suspect you have food allergies but haven’t been able to pinpoint them on your own, talk to your doctor about getting tested for food allergies. Sometimes removing one offending food item can make all the difference.
It’s Not Dementia, It’s Your Heart Medication: Cholesterol Drugs and Memory at ScientificAmerican.com