by Health By Principle

Why Do I Have Brain Fog?

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By Rachel Welch 

 

Heavy fatigue, inability to focus, memory problems, and poor concentration are all challenging to work around. Many of us are familiar with the unpleasant feeling of brain fog. While brain fog is not a medical condition in its own right, it is something that people worldwide experience and are now bringing into the light. But why does brain fog occur? Furthermore, what can be done about it? 

 

What is Brain Fog? 

 

Brain fog is not a medical condition, but rather a term used to describe a cluster of symptoms that often accompany one. In simple terms, brain fog is the feeling of being “spaced out.” It feels like an inability to think clearly, and like suddenly it is nearly impossible to focus or remember things. If it sounds scary, that’s because it can be for many people!  

 

Symptoms of brain fog can include: 

  • Mental fatigue 
  • Lack of mental clarity 
  • Poor concentration 
  • Inability to focus 
  • Difficulty feeling present in current surroundings 
  • Inability to multitask 
  • Issues with memory 

There are other ways that brain fog may present, but these are some of the main psychological symptoms to watch out for. Physical symptoms like headaches and exhaustion may also be present with brain fog.  

 

What Causes Brain Fog? 

 

As with any health situation, exact causes will be unique to everyone based on their individual health and needs. Because of this, it is always best to consult your physician if you have concerns about any particular symptoms. However, there are several common potential causes for brain fog, such as: 

  • Lack of sleep 
  • Increased stress levels 
  • Depression 
  • Hormonal changes 
  • Diet 
  • Medications 
  • Dementia 
  • Perimenopause 
  • Hormonal conditions, such as thyroid disorders 
  • Chronic health conditions, such as multiple sclerosis 
  • Nutrient deficiencies, such as a vitamin B12 deficiency 
  • Viral infections  

While many of these potential causes are best investigated by a doctor, it may help to run some self-assessments on the following items to try to take back control! To dive into a few of these brain fog causes, we will start with a basic need - sleep.  

 

Sleep 

 

Sleep is a crucial and impactful portion of our overall health and well-being. With proper sleep, our bodies are able to heal, absorb nutrients, absorb knowledge, regenerate cells, and refresh. Without proper sleep, our bodies have the potential to suffer greatly! Some of the scariest problems that can come from a chronic lack of sleep are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. Adding to that frightening list are other problems like obesity, depression, lowered immunity, and premature wrinkling.  

 

Insufficient sleep also has the potential to increase cortisol (a stress hormone) in the body and can lead to a loss of collagen which keeps skin healthy and smooth. 

 

It’s safe to say with a laundry list like that, that we should make sleep a priority! In fact, a few recent studies have found that health risks drastically increase as a result of daylight savings time taking effect. A study published in March 2019 explored the relationship between daylight savings time and cardiovascular diseases 

 

The researchers studied case-control and cohort studies which evaluated the incidence of AMI (acute myocardial infarction, aka, heart attacks) following daylight savings time transitions. After reviewing seven different studies, they found a significantly higher risk of AMI during the two weeks after spring or autumn time changes. This is to say that for two weeks after daylight savings time changes, more people had cardiovascular issues such as heart attacks. Researchers suspect this is due to the changes in sleep patterns and duration.  

 

Perhaps that last paragraph is now causing you to experience this next symptom.  

 

Stress 

 

Hopefully, you don’t truly feel stressed from those sleep facts, but educated! Stress, while helpful in some situations, is something that we should really try to avoid. Stress creates a unique response in the body. This involves the release of cortisol (a stress hormone), and the activation of our fight or flight response, as triggered by the amygdala in the brain. This can be helpful in a dangerous situation because this stress response signals our body to act, move, or face the threat!  

 

However, in most cases, stress comes about from situations that are actually not life-threatening. It is the recurring and chronic stress that becomes a health risk. With chronic stress, the survival reactions over time can cause issues with the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, sleep, and reproductive systems. It can even lead to symptoms like insomnia, mood changes, and mental health issues like anxiety and depression. This brings us to our next symptom. 

 

Depression 

 

Depression goes beyond situational sadness, and is not an synonym for “unhappy,” despite how our society may misuse the term. Depression is also referred to as clinical depression or depressive disorder and is a diagnosable mental illness.  

 

It is often characterized by changes in emotions. This can be like feeling sad, anxious or empty and without motivation. This could also translate into feeling restless, having changes in appetite, trouble sleeping (or excessive sleeping), and more. Many symptoms of depression are similar to symptoms of brain fog, so it is important to pay attention to your body and recognize the signs. Other symptoms of depression as listed by the National Institute of Mental Health are as follows: 

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood 
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism 
  • Irritability 
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness 
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities 
  • Decreased energy or fatigue 
  • Moving or talking more slowly 
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still 
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions 
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping 
  • Appetite and/or weight changes 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts 
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment 

Essentially depression is like other health issues, and presents differently for everyone. This is to say that not everyone with depression will experience all of these, and that experiencing some of these does not mean that a person definitely has depression. If you are concerned about any of these symptoms, consult your physician and seek out proper care.  

 

One of the best things we can do to address all of the aforementioned issues, is to take charge of our diet and nutrition.  

 

Diet and Nutrient Deficiencies  

 

Our diet is the source of our nutrition. What we eat and drink becomes the nutrients that our bodies absorb, and those nutrients keep us feeling healthy and whole. Or, in the case of lacking nutrition, we may be left with brain fog.  

 

A main cause of brain fog can be a lack of proper nutrition. Vitamins B-12, C, D, magnesium, and electrolytes all support overall healthy functioning in various ways. Vitamin B-12 is directly tied to healthy brain function, and without it, brain fog symptoms may become more likely.  

 

Vitamin D helps the brain to balance its moods, and ensures that things like anxiety and depression are less prominent. Without a proper amount of vitamin D, brain fog is a very likely side effect.  

 

Other vitamins like magnesium are also helpful. Magnesium in particular has many different varieties, and is tied to supporting healthy sleep.  

 

Our nutrition has the potential to impact many of the symptoms of brain fog! 

 

Best Ways to Beat Brain Fog 

 

So, armed with the knowledge of brain fog symptoms and causes, we are now more equipped to figure out how to beat brain fog!  

 

Sleep Hours and Quality 

 

Start by evaluating your sleep habits. Are you getting regular sleep, and enough of it? According to the CDC, most adults ages 18 and up need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you are not getting enough shut-eye, it may be time to evaluate your sleep schedule and make some adjustments!  

 

Also, consider your sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to the habits that surround the hours of sleep, before, during, and after. Research has shown that many factors can inhibit our quality of sleep if we are not careful. 

 

Proper sleep hygiene is something to monitor at every point in your day. A few basic tips to keep your sleep hygiene healthy, are to 

 

  • Have the same wake-up time, every day 
  • Make sleep a priority! 
  • Dim your lights at least 30 minutes before sleep (and avoid screens!) 
  • Have a comfortable sleep area, saved only for sleep (no working or eating in bed) 
  • Keep the room to a cool temperature  

 

Stress Less 

 

You may be so tired of the cliche “stress less” taglines, but it truly is healthy advice! For optimal health, and for brain fog reduction, it is important to reduce and remove stress wherever possible.  

 

 

Some ways to accomplish this could be sleeping more (there it is again!) Being well-rested can help stress management stay stronger than if you’re tired and deprived. Also make sure you are exercising and moving on a daily basis. This could be for only 30 minutes a day, and any kind of movement that is fun for you! Yoga, walking, running, weight lifting, and even light stretching are all beneficial tools for reducing stress.  

 

Also, make sure to address any psychological triggers to stress. Maybe work, or a stressful family situation is causing you to feel more stressed than normal. In this case, try to find a healthy boundary between you and the stress-causer, and work towards a more tolerable balance without negatively impacting your health. Tools like therapy, journaling, and meditation can all help address psychological stress, and therefore reduce the likelihood of brain fog.  

 

Diet and Nutrition 

 

As we discussed, diet and nutrition play a huge role in overall health and well-being. This includes, in the body’s ability to avoid and fight off annoying symptoms like brain fog. Make sure your diet is well-balanced and fuel your body with healthy things.  

 

If you find that adjusting the weekly menu is too much work or too much expense, perhaps consider supplementing your nutrition where it is lacking. Health by Principle has an abundance of resources to help guide you in your supplement journey, and also offers high-quality supplements. We discussed the importance of certain nutrients in the battle to banish brain fog, and it’s important to keep those nutrients in good supply! Visit the Health by Principle store here, to see the healthy supplement options that are available to you.  

 

 

The Bottom Line of Brain Fog 

 

Brain fog may have many causes and symptoms, but thankfully there are steps we can take to feel better! Beat and banish brain fog by working on healthy sleep, healthy stress management, and proper diet and nutrition. 

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