8 min read
Are you feeling forgetful, confused, and or unfocused? It's probably a case of brain fog. But what is brain fog? It's not a term recognized by medical professionals, but people suffer from this feeling regularly. Even though many people experience it, it's not typical, and it can be treated. We'll expound on what brain fog is, its causes, and how to get rid of or prevent it.
What is Brain Fog?
Brain fog is the state of feeling disorganized, unfocused, and lacking a bit of mental clarity. It’s not a medical condition in and of itself, but can be related to several so it shouldn’t be written off entirely if you’re experiencing it.
What Causes Brain Fog?
There are many causes of brain fog, and they can be either related to lifestyle or occur as a side effect of a medical condition. Some of the lifestyle causes of brain fog are physical inactivity, lack of sleep, eating the wrong foods, nutritional deficiencies, and chronic stress. Brain fog could also be a result of prescription or even over-the-counter medications.
Medical causes of brain fog include the following:
- autoimmune diseases such as lupus, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis
- hormonal changes
- Sjögren syndrome
- Alzheimer’s disease
How is it Diagnosed?
Brain fog is more of a symptom related to several medical conditions than being one in and of itself. There is no single test that can diagnose brain fog so talking to your doctor is the first step in finding the underlying cause. Your doctor may ask you about your current mental health, diet, energy levels, and consider them against any health conditions or medications you’re taking.
You should also discuss any symptoms that occur alongside your brain fog with your physician. Tests that may help uncover the condition causing your brain fog could be bloodwork, MRI, CT scans, allergy tests, or even a sleep study if your doctor deems these important.
What is COVID-19 Brain Fog?
COVID-19 brain fog is similar to normal brain fog as it affects your cognitive functions, memory, and thinking. The link between COVID-19 and brain fog is still being investigated.
Several ways scientists think COVID-19 might be causing brain fog to include:
- Lack of oxygen
- Inflammation affecting brain cells
- Restricted blood flow to the brain
- Invasion of infectious cells
- Autoimmune disorders causing your immune system to attack healthy cells
As COVID-19 can affect individuals differently, those infected have experienced a wide range of different symptoms. It is seen that COVID-19 does have lasting effects not just on the brain but other organ systems as well that still might result in some type of brain fog. Lingering symptoms include:
- Body Aches
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of smell or taste
- Shortness of breath
- Permanent damage to lungs, heart, kidney
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Now that we have taken a look at some potential causes, let’s go over how we can bust through that brain fog and start thinking more clearly.
8 Tips to Get Rid of Your Brain Fog
While the exact solution will vary based on the exact cause, these tips are generally helpful for people who are struggling with a bit of brain fog.
1. Get enough sleep
If you’re sleep-deprived, you might have a little trouble processing things mentally. Losing a bit of sleep for a night or two may not have that much impact, but chronic sleep deprivation will be a problem that causes daytime sleepiness, brain fog, and or irritability.
Caffeine is only a temporary fix and not a permanent solution. You should ensure you sleep for at least 7 hours every night, but you should get 9 hours of sleep for optimal brain function if possible. This recommendation can vary slightly by age.
2. Allow your digestive system to rest
Letting your digestive system rest can actually help to rid of or avoid brain fog believe it or not. The digestive system works hard and requires a lot of energy to carry out its functions. Additionally, big meals full of carbs can cause your body to release insulin making you feel tired and unable to think clearly.
When you allow the digestive system to rest, you spare energy for yourself, preventing brain fog. Some people find success with fasting, but it doesn’t have to be that extreme. Generally, just eating smaller or healthier meals should help you to avoid brain fog.
3. Do things you enjoy
On most occasions, brain fog occurs when you become busier than usual. If you take on too many responsibilities, it could backfire and become counterproductive because you'll struggle to manage all of them as stress and excessive multitasking cloud your ability to think clearly.
Creating time for relaxation and self-care helps you reduce and prevent stress. You should set aside 30 minutes every day to participate in activities you enjoy like gardening, yoga, or reading a book. Even if you don't have 30 minutes, 15 minutes can work just as well to help get rid of brain fog.
4. Include brain-healthy meals in your diet
To produce the chemicals necessary for thinking, the brain needs a regular supply of essential fatty acids and amino acids. Complete sources of protein like fish, dairy products, and meat provide a collection of critical amino acids and the very important vitamin B12. These amino acids are essential because they ensure the brain creates the hormones required for optimal brain function.
Add anti-inflammatory foods like fruits and vegetables, especially ones high in antioxidants for the maximum brain boosting benefits.
5. Drink plenty of water
Drink 8 glasses of water a day is advice you’ve heard over and over again. While the exact amount you should drink actually varies, the sentiment holds true; water does the body good.
The brain, like any other part of our body, is mostly water and relies on healthy circulation. So do your brain a favor and drink up. You can make this easier by eating more fruits and vegetables which are naturally rich in water. Also, make sure to keep a water bottle by your side and have a sip whenever you feel thirsty. For those who are older, the sensation of thirst diminishes and you’ll need to drink before you’re thirsty.
Stress is normal for everyone, but excessive or chronic stress can cause mental fatigue and brain fog.
So establishing a stress management plan isn't a bad idea. Perhaps most importantly, you should start setting up boundaries to protect your time for self-care. Start saying 'no' to requests which will make you feel overwhelmed or occupy your free time. There are other ways to manage stressful situations, like taking deep breaths and meditating regularly.
You can also go a step further and start journaling your emotions and moods to prevent stress. Looking back at the causes of stress can help you avoid these stressors in the future.
Related: 20 Simple Ways To Destress
The many benefits associated with exercise include:
- Better sleep
- Improved reaction time and memory
- Increased blood flow to your brain
Aim to devote at least 30-45 minutes four times a week to a moderate workout. If you don't have that much time, try to set aside 10-15 minutes daily for a brisk walk around your neighborhood.
8. Quit smoking
Smoking is a psychological habit and a physical addiction that can be hard to stop. Smoking has adverse effects on the lungs and can lead to feeling overwhelmed and confused.
Here are some concrete steps to take in order to make quitting a little easier.
- Avoiding situations that tempt you to smoke
- Getting rid of everything that reminds you of smoking, like ashtrays and cigarettes
- Associating yourself with non-smokers and asking them to help prevent you from smoking when you're most tempted to do so
When to Contact a Doctor?
Brain fog is normal as long as it does not hinder your ability to do daily tasks and you see improvement over time. It is generally not normal to be experiencing brain fog most of the time and if it worsens, consider consulting your physician.
Brain fog is a phrase used to describe feelings of mental confusion, lack of focus, and fuzzy thinking which can be caused by lifestyle factors or medical conditions. Luckily, most of the lifestyle changes you can make to get rid of or prevent brain fog provide tons of other health benefits too.
If you've eliminated most of the lifestyle causes and worry your brain fog is related to a medical condition, please consult your physician. Also, do not cease any medications without the guidance of your doctor.
The Best in Nature blog is for informational purposes only and not to be taken as medical advice. If you have an immediate health concern, please consult your doctor.
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