What Causes Brain Fog, and Can it Be Prevented?
If you have experienced the frustrating mental confusion known as brain fog, you have properly wondered, what causes brain fog? Brain fog is not a specific medical condition in and of itself, but it is a symptom caused by an underlying medical or lifestyle problem. Brain fog is a type of cognitive dysfunction that involves:
- Concentration problems – You may have difficulty focusing on a task or find yourself easily distracted
- Impaired decision-making – Weighing the pros and cons of a scenario may become difficult, causing you to become indecisive or passive
- Disorganized thinking – The inability to gather and organize your thoughts is one of the most common symptoms of brain fog
- Decreased productivity – When your thinking and concentration are impaired, your ability to carry out tasks effectively will also be affected
- Communication difficulties – Following conversations and finding the right words can be challenging when you are experiencing brain fog
- Drowsiness – When the brain is fatigued your whole body can feel fatigued, leading to intense drowsiness
- Depression – Brain fog can also affect your mood and bring on depressive symptoms
- Memory problems – Short-term memory loss and the loss of the ability to form memories is extremely common with brain fog, but it can also lead to long-term forgetfulness
So what causes brain fog and can it be corrected? There are a variety of medical and lifestyle conditions that can trigger brain fog. The good news is that, once the underlying cause is treated, brain fog typically resolves itself and the patient’s mental clarity returns.
What Causes Brain Fog? – Medical Conditions
- Thyroid disorders – Thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating several bodily functions, including metabolism, heart rate, and body weight. An underactive thyroid isn’t producing the proper amount of hormones, and as such can cause short-term memory loss, confusion, and trouble concentrating. Thyroid disorders are one of the most common causes of brain fog.
- Menopause – The sudden changes in hormone levels associated with menopause can cause severe brain fog and memory loss. Estrogen and progesterone help protect against memory loss and the progression of dementia, and also can improve cognition. Insufficient levels of these hormones can lead to anxiety, sleep disturbances, and decreased memory and attention span.
- Multiple sclerosis – Also known as MS, multiple sclerosis is a condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, causing problems with balance, movement, vision, and sensation. MS causes areas of inflammation, damage, and lesions in the brain, thus affecting how the brain functions. Many people living with MS experience changes in their ability to make decisions, process and remember information, and other executive functioning abilities. While in most cases these changes are mild to moderate, they are frustrating to those who suffer from them and can hinder the completion of daily tasks.
- Depression – This serious mood disorder affects how a person thinks and feels, and can create problems with concentration, memory, decision-making, and fatigue. Patients suffering depression can also have problems sleeping, which makes it hard to concentrate and complete tasks. As brain fog can also cause depression, your doctor will have to determine if your depression is the cause or a symptom of your brain fog.
- Anemia – In iron-deficient anemia, red blood cells become unable to deliver sufficient oxygen to organs and tissues. As a result, an anemic person can experience both physical and mental exhaustion, which feed off each other to create severe brain fog symptoms.
- Lyme disease – This tick-borne illness is known by its characteristic “bulls-eye” rash, muscle and joint pain, whole-body fatigue, and cognitive impairment. Those suffering from Lyme disease often find it difficult to retain information, keep up with conversations, or find the right words.
- Lupus – Up to half the people who suffer from this autoimmune disease experience lapses in memory, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. For some, these symptoms are bad enough to interfere with daily life on a regular basis. For others, they experience intermittent periods of heavy brain fog.
- Candida – Candida is an overgrowth of yeast in the digestive system. This overgrowth – particularly if you have leaky gut – can cause a host of physical ailments, including headaches, depression, anxiety, and brain fog.
What Causes Brain Fog? – Lifestyle Conditions
- Stress – Chronic stress is toxic to the body, increasing blood pressure, weakening the immune system, and causing mental fatigue. Stress causes mental exhaustion, which makes it harder to think, reason, and focus.
- Lack of sleep – Too little sleep – or poor-quality sleep – can interfere with your ability to concentrate and form short-term memories. That is because the brain reorganizes itself while you sleep, sorting the day’s information so that it is fresh and ready for the next day. Insufficient sleep also leads to fatigue, which affects your ability to concentrate and focus.
- Diet – Vitamin, mineral, and nutrient deficiencies can rob your brain of the fuel it needs to function. Eating a wide variety of foods helps ensure your brain is well fed and receiving the nutrients it needs.
- Physical inactivity – Regular physical exercise is excellent for brain health, keeping your brain sharp and protecting your memory and cognitive function. Exercise can also help reduce stress and improve sleep, reducing lifestyle factors that can induce brain fog.
Treatments and Prevention Tips for Brain Fog
If a medical condition is causing your brain fog, once the underlying condition is treated you should experience relief. For chronic conditions, you can help reduce brain fog by avoiding distractions; taking regular breaks to help with focus; using organization techniques such as a diary, planner, color-coding, and making lists; and designating a memorable spot in your home to hold important items that can be easily lost, such as a wallet and keys.
Other steps you can take to address brain fog include:
- Regular exercise – at least 30 minutes 3-4 days a week
- Eating foods that support brain health, such as wild salmon, blueberries, walnuts, and avocados
- Reducing stress and engaging in relaxing hobbies and activities
- Getting sufficient sleep – at least 8 hours per night
- Hormone replacement therapy to treat hormonal imbalances and menopause
- Strengthen your brain with puzzles and other mind-stimulating activities
To discover what could be causing your brain fog and memory loss, call Anchor Wellness today – (832) 246-8437 – and schedule a consultation with Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM. Board Certified in Family Medicine as well as Board Certified with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Malhotra will help you recover from brain fog and return to optimal health.