A Definition of Brain Fog
Most people have experienced brain fog at one time or another. It’s that feeling of confusion, fatigue, and lack of clarity that leaves you frustrated and wondering why you can’t seem to focus on the task at hand. If you’re feeling like you can’t string a coherent thought together, but can’t attribute your foggy state to a known underlying medical cause, you’re probably suffering from a case of brain fog.
Symptoms of Brain Fog
The symptoms of brain fog can vary from person to person. In reality, brain fog is likely a symptom of another condition — not a condition in itself. When you’re experiencing brain fog, you might notice signs and symptoms such as:
- Lack of clarity and focus
- Inability to concentrate
- Lack of motivation
- Feelings of hopelessness or depression
- Anxiety or irritability
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
In general, if you feel as though you’re “spacey” and can’t concentrate or think clearly, you’re suffering from brain fog. There are some things you can do to alleviate brain fog, but the most effective way to reduce this troublesome symptom is to identify and treat the underlying cause.
Causes of Brain Fog
Brain fog can be caused by myriad health conditions, ranging from simple exhaustion (from lack of sleep, illness, or a busy schedule) to serious chronic health conditions such as multiple sclerosis. Sometimes, brain fog is an isolated incident, but it’s always worth mentioning to your doctor. And, if you’re experiencing other troublesome symptoms along with brain fog, you should seek medical attention right away.
At the most basic level, brain fog has been linked to high levels of inflammation in the body as well as out-of-balance serotonin, dopamine, and cortisol — all hormones that play a role in your overall mood, happiness, and energy and focus.
Other common causes of brain fog may include:
- Dietary deficiencies (Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies are common culprits)
- A diet high in carbohydrates, sugar, caffeine or other unhealthy substances
- A low-fat diet (yes, your body needs fat!)
- A lack of sleep
- Stress or persistent anxiety
- Food additives
- Environmental toxins
- Certain medications
- Out-of-whack blood sugar
In addition to multiple sclerosis, brain fog can also appear as a symptom of other underlying health conditions such as:
- Cancer (and cancer treatments as well)
- Food allergies
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Depression or anxiety
- Low-grade infections
In other words, brain fog can be caused by a great many things. You can (and should) receive treatment to address underlying health conditions, but if your brain fog is caused by diet or lifestyle factors, you can take steps to eliminate it right away. If you do suspect that brain fog could be a warning sign of a serious underlying medical condition, it’s best to talk to your doctor to rule out any other underlying causes.
How to Get Rid of Brain Fog
Brain fog caused by diet and lifestyle factors is easily rectified by adopting a healthier lifestyle. Make sure you’re getting enough rest, that you’re eating a healthy, well-balanced diet rich in essential vitamins and nutrients, and get regular exercise to help ward off fatigue.
Practicing meditation can also be a helpful way to manage brain fog. Meditation is a powerful relaxation technique that can help you combat stress, improve focus and concentration, and make you happier and more resilient.
Take a daily multivitamin to help restore essential vitamins and minerals and prevent future deficiencies. For Vitamin D, nothing is more beneficial than spending a bit of time in the sun. Take a walk outdoors as weather permits, a few times each week, or take up an outdoor hobby. Immune supplements will bolster your body’s immune system to help you ward off colds and viruses that can leave your body feeling drained and your brain foggy.
Don’t skip meals and be sure to eat ample complex carbohydrates and other low-glycemic foods. These foods digest more slowly, helping to keep your blood sugar levels more even, whereas simple carbohydrates are digested more rapidly, causing a spike in blood sugar followed by the “sugar crash” that’s often associated with brain fog.
Finally, eliminate environmental toxins from your home and workspace to the extent possible. Cut back on the use of harsh chemicals, don’t smoke (and don’t allow others to smoke in your home), and keep your home clean and free of dust. Drink plenty of water to flush toxins from your body, and avoid eating highly processed foods with additives and sugar substitutes. Finally, when possible, consume whole foods that are close to their natural state. You’ll get more nutrients by eating whole foods and less toxins — and, your brain will thank you for it, too, with increased clarity and mental focus.