Are you befuddled by brain fog?
We know the feeling!
Never fear, we got our intrepid biochemist on the case. Without further ado here’s what brain fog is, why it happens and what we can do courtesy of the scientist himself.
What Is Brain Fog?
Also commonly known as brain fatigue, brain fog can be a mild to severe episode of mental confusion that strikes without warning. When this occurs, it’s common to experience a lack of focus, poor memory recall and reduced mental acuity.
The first signs usually occur after 40 years, in the period before menopause called perimenopause. It usually starts with minor memory lapses.
Studies, Estrogen & Brain Fog
Studies on the effects of estrogen on memory back up the idea that estrogen depletion during perimenopause causes memory loss, and that memory improves after menopause.Studies back up the idea that estrogen depletion causes memory loss. Click To Tweet
For example, a large 2004 study called The Penn Ovarian Aging Study supports the finding that hormone changes during perimenopause often cause a decline in verbal memory. It found these effects are separate from the natural effects of ageing.
This study provides the basis for many current studies.
Another four-year study found that women couldn’t learn as well during perimenopause. After menopause though, women returned to the learning levels they demonstrated before perimenopause.
A review published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology also identified reduced memory and thinking skills in women during perimenopause and menopause. The women in the study reported problems, especially with forgetfulness and concentration.
As the years tick by, and perimenopause progresses towards clinical menopause the memory lapses get overtaken by brain fatigue and in some cases mental confusion, vertigo (dizziness) and disorientation.
It can become quite disconcerting and disabling. Women report feelings of ‘not thinking straight’, of ‘losing their mind’ or of ‘feeling weird’.
What Causes Brain Fog?
There are numerous explanations for why brain fog occurs. Once you identify the underlying cause, you can begin fixing the problem.
Here are six possible causes.
1. Hormonal changes
Hormonal changes are the main trigger for brain fog. The drop in estrogen levels during perimenopause begins with forgetfulness, poor concentration, and cloudy thinking.
2. Lack of sleep
Poor sleep quality can also interfere with how well your brain functions. Aim for eight to nine hours of sleep per night. Sleeping too little can lead to poor concentration and cloudy thoughts.
Chronic stress can increase blood pressure, weaken the immune system, and trigger depression. It can also cause mental fatigue. When your brain is exhausted, it becomes harder to think, reason, and focus.
Diet can also play a role in brain fog. Vitamin B12 supports healthy brain function, and a vitamin B12 deficiency can bring about brain fog.
If you have food allergies or sensitivities, brain fog may develop after eating certain foods. Possible culprits include:
Removing trigger foods from your diet may improve signs.
If you notice brain fog while taking medication, talk with your doctor. Brain fog may be a known side effect of the drug. Lowering your dosage or switching to another drug may improve your signs. Brain fog can also occur after cancer treatments.
6. Medical conditions
Medical conditions associated with inflammation, fatigue, or changes in blood glucose level can also cause mental fatigue. For example, brain fog is a sign of chronic fatigue syndrome, which involves persistent fatigue for longer than six months. People who have fibromyalgia may experience similar fogginess on a daily basis. Other conditions that may cause brain fog include anaemia, depression, diabetes and dehydration.
What to do when you have Brain Fog
If you’re aged between 40 and 65 then declining estrogen levels will be the main cause. so balancing your natural hormone levels is recommended
If you’re anaemic, iron supplements may increase your production of red blood cells and reduce the fog.
If you’re diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid or other medication to reduce inflammation or suppress the immune system.
Sometimes, relief is a matter of correcting a nutritional deficiency, drinking more water, switching medications or improving the quality of your sleep.
Home remedies include:
- sleeping eight to nine hours per night
- managing stress by knowing your limitations and avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine
- exercising and rehydrating
- strengthening your brain power (try solving brain puzzles)
- finding enjoyable activities
- increasing your intake of protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats
Brain fog can be frustrating, but relief is possible. Don’t ignore your signs. If left untreated, it can impact the quality of your life. Once the underlying cause is addressed, your mental clarity can improve.