If you feel constantly fatigued, distracted, and moody, you might dealing with ‘brain fog’. It’s the opposite of feeling clarity, level-headed or motivated. This isn’t a medical condition in itself but rather a collection of symptoms that may underlie other medical conditions. Other terms that describe the same thing include ‘mental fog’, ‘clouding of consciousness’, and ‘cognitive dysfunction’.
Feeling completely drained after a hard day at work is familiar to most people. You simply can’t even decide what to have for dinner or make a proper conversation with a stranger. Well, brain fog is like this feeling only it persists over a longer period of time. It really does feel like a depressing cloud over your head that keeps you from thinking straight.
Brain fog symptoms
lack of mental clarity;
inability to focus;
What causes brain fog
As a result of our fast-paced industrialized lifestyles, more people are experiencing brain fog than ever before. Because brain fog is essentially a sign of energy depletion, its symptoms are mainly caused by the four horsemen of unhealthy Western lifestyle: lack of sleep, stress, low-nutrient food, and sugar overload.
According to a 2016 report, a third of all U.S. citizens aren’t getting enough shut eye. Doctors recommend adults sleep at least seven hours a night, ideally eight or nine. But about 35 percent said they usually got less than 7 hours of sleep a night. Frequently getting little shut eye puts you at risk of developing obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and frequent mental distress.
Stress is known to increase blood pressure, weaken the immune system, and trigger depression. Stress can also lead to exhaustion which can be mentally inhibiting.
Your diet can also play a huge role, especially if you’re not getting enough vitamins. One important vitamin for brain health is Vitamin B-12, so make sure you stock on those. And let’s not forget about the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D, which is synthesized in our skin when we are exposed to direct sunlight.
Vitamin D is well known for promoting bone health and regulating vital calcium levels, which is why it’s added to milk, but it does more than that. There are Vitamin D receptors throughout the central nervous system and in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for storing long-term memories. One 2009 study found that the lower the subjects’ vitamin D levels, the more poorly they performed on mental tests.
When we eat simple sugars, blood glucose levels sky rocket. Once it wears off, our ability to make simple decisions plummets. That’s because neurons need glucose more than any other cell in the body, so once insulin ferries the sugar away, people can feel lightheaded or defocused. This rollercoaster ride — first too much, then too little — can strain the brain and lead to brain fog. Considering the average American intakes 156 pounds of added sugar per year, it’s no surprise so many people report feeling cloudy. Don’t be average.
Moreover, sugar fluctuations in the bloodstream impacts various neurotransmitters. Once you eat a chocolate bar and drink a coke, the sugar spike raises serotonin and GABA neurotransmitters causing sleepiness.
Because inflammation is often responsible for brain fog, you might want to be mindful of allergic reactions to food. Modern diets mainly consist of wheat, corn, dairy, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts, all of which may cause the immune system of some people to produce excessive inflammation in the body.
If you’re on a particular medication, these drugs may also affect cognitive behavior. Study the side effects listed on the medication’s labels and have a chat with your doctors to single out whether substances inside may be causing brain fog. If this is the case, lowering the dosage or switching medication might be worth considering, but only under your doctor’s supervision.
Lifting the brain fog
All symptoms of brain fog can be easily treated as long as they’re not caused by an underlying chronic illness.
The first thing you should be mindful of is sleep. As outlined earlier, you should get at least seven hours of sleep each night. According to the CDC, tips for getting a better night’s sleep include:
Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
Removing electronic devices, such as televisions, computers or cellphones, from the bedroom.
Avoiding large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
Making sure the sleep environment is quiet, dark and at a comfortable temperature.
Concerning dietary factors, keep in mind:
Balance sugar intake. Eating small amounts often is less risky than eating a lot of sugar in one bite.
Low intake of omega-3 fatty acids, the kind found in oily fish as well as chia or walnuts, is associated with depression. It’s a good idea to eat omega-3 foods 2-3 times a week.
Veggies are important. They contain antioxidants, magnesium & B vitamins, which are all important for brain health, so include varied veggies in your diet.
Hydrate regularly with at least 2 liters of water a day.
Avoid processed food, especially those that contain artificial sweeteners and monosodium glutamate (MSG) which are known to cause headaches, mood swings, dizziness, anxiety, and depression.
Another important lifestyle factor that amplifies the fog is stress. Not everything has to be that serious. Take some days off and focus on you. Practice a hobby if you don’t have one and maybe even give meditation a try, which science has often found to be an easy, free method to combat stress.