Most of us feel a little fuzzy every now and then, but for many Americans, the feeling is constant. In fact, surveys show 14 percent of people under the age of 40 years describe brain fog as a real problem. Given that we live in a fast-paced, information-based society, you can appreciate why a foggy brain might be common. Fortunately, there is good news. In most cases, brain fog can be improved with a few simple life changes. By knowing what causes it and the right steps to take, you can soon be on the road to recovery.
What Exactly Is Brain Fog Anyway?
Though the term is pretty self-descriptive, brain fog does go by other names. For example, some have labeled it “cognitive dysfunction.” Others include it under “mild cognitive impairment.” But in terms of practicalities, brain fog is simply a feeling where your thinking is not as sharp as it should be. It may be described as difficulty concentrating, problems with one’s focus, or even short-term memory loss. But generally speaking, the condition is just what it sounds like…your brain feels like it’s in a fog.
To understand brain fog and its causes a little better, it helps to understand a little about the brain. In order for us to be at our best, our minds must be alert. Alertness is thus the first requirement to have a properly functioning brain. It’s hard to think well if you’re not awake and alert. Next comes our ability to pay attention, focus, and concentrate. The same applies here as well. Poor concentration means your brain never receives the information in the first place. Finally, thinking well requires our mind to process the information received and retain important facts in our memories. Problems can develop in any one of these areas and cause our minds to be less sharp. Thus, brain fog can be related to a number of causes that affect any one of these areas.
What Causes Brain Fog?
Many conditions have been associated with “cloudy thinking.” Because of this, remembering all the possible causes can be difficult. However, by placing the most common brain fog causes in categories, it makes the task a little easier.
Brain cells need a lot of things to function well. Oxygen, glucose, and various nutrients are among the most important. Therefore, conditions that fail to provide brain cells with what they need can cause brain fog. Some of the causes in this category include low blood sugar, poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, and even a low thyroid. At the same time, many medications, as well as alcohol and tobacco, can trigger brain fog symptoms.
A number of hormones affect how well or how poorly the brain functions. Most everyone has heard of brain fog during (and post) pregnancy. Likewise, menopause, hormone pills, and even stress-related hormones can make your mind feel less sharp.
Immune System Effects
Our immune system affects every organ in our body. Therefore, it is not surprising our immune system can cause brain fog also. Infections and some autoimmune conditions are associated with reduced attention, concentration and memory. Even chronic allergies have been associated with a cloudy mind in recent studies.
Mental Wellness Conditions
Not surprisingly, other mental health issues can also cause brain fog. In fact, clouded thinking is common in depression and stress because of impaired attention. In some people, poor work-life balance can cause the mind to feel less sharp. It’s actually true that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!
Take Control – 10 Things for Treating Brain Fog
- Eat Healthily. Making sure you have a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is very important. At the same time, keep carbs and fats to the recommended amounts. This will give your brain cells what they need!
- Take Supplements. Even with balanced diets, getting enough vitamins and minerals can be tough. Key micronutrients for your brain include Vitamin E, Vitamin B12, folate, zinc, magnesium, and calcium.
- Get Adequate Sleep. For most adults, between 7 and 8 hours is usually sufficient. Making sure you are able to do this regularly is the key.
- Exercise Regularly. Aerobic exercise, in particular, has been shown to boost attention, memory, and various neurochemicals important to brain function. Make the time to include this in your schedule.
- Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco. Both alcohol and tobacco are toxic to brain cells. Avoid these and periodically check with your doctor about any medication side effects that you may have.
- Manage Stress. This is one of the most important steps. Whether it’s through exercise, meditation, yoga or therapy, be sure this is a priority.
- Perform Brain “Games”. Brain teasers and puzzles are great ways to keep your concentration abilities high and your mind active. Many people use these to enhance memory long term.
- Keep Work-Life Balance. Take time for vacations, getaways, and stay-cations. Preserve at least one full day a week (preferably 2!) from thinking about work.
- Have Fun. – Don’t forget to make time for those things you most enjoy. This elevates the mood and helps the mind function much better.
- Shut Off the Devices. Perhaps brain fog is more common today because of constant distractions and multitasking demands. Whenever you can, shut off the devices and focus on what’s around you. Be in the now!
Has Anyone Seen My Brain?
Having brain fog can make you feel as if your mind decided to take a holiday. In some ways, that may be the case. Many causes of brain fog exist, and sometimes it can be difficult to find the culprit. But, by making sure you follow the 10 essential steps listed, you can rid yourself of this problem. If all else fails, be sure to see your healthcare professional. But for most, these simple steps can help keep brain fog away for good.