Advertisement

Anyone can experience brain fog

Anyone can experience brain fog
Getty Images

“It’s funny you’re calling me for this interview late on a Monday night, after a long day at work, because I’m feeling some brain fog and mental exhaustion myself at the moment,” says Dr Scott Kaiser.

As a doctor, he helps his patients deal with brain fog all day long – it’s one of the most common cognitive symptoms his patients report – but he proves that the mental fuzziness can strike anyone, even the experts.

In fact, this “clouding of consciousness” is a state that everyone has likely experienced at some point, says neuropsychologist, Sanam Hafeez.

When brain fog is not normal

When brain fog is not normal
Getty Images

Some people experience this condition on a persistent basis, and it may affect their ability to live their daily lives or cause serious disability.

This type of persistent, damaging brain fog is a hallmark of Covid-19 long haulers, people who deal with effects from the virus for weeks or months after they recover from the acute infection.

But while it’s frustrating that more people are being affected by it, it has brought the brain fog conversation into the mainstream. It’s gaining broader acceptance and understanding, says Dr Kaiser.

“It’s important to recognise when it’s become a problem so you can get help,” he says. “Brain fog isn’t something you just ‘have to live with’ or write off as ‘I’m just getting old.”

Brain fog isn’t a clinical term

Brain fog isn’t a clinical term
Getty Images

“Brain fog” is a very common description people use to describe that feeling of mental exhaustion or fuzziness where it’s hard to think clearly.

However, it’s not a clinical term, so you won’t see it on a medical chart and you can’t be diagnosed with it. This may lead some health practitioners to dismiss it as unimportant.

But just because it’s hard to define and can differ from person to person doesn’t mean it’s not valid. “Brain fog is a very real and misunderstood condition,” says Dr Kaiser.

And it may point to other underlying health issues.

“The reason it is challenging is that it is not so much a sign or diagnosis as it is a symptom. Or even more confusing, an interpretation of a symptom,” says neuroscience chief, Dr Brandon Pope.

Check out these morning brain exercises to clear your mind.

What does brain fog feel like?

What does brain fog feel like?
Getty Images

How exactly brain fog feels is unique to each person, but it always represents a marked decline in cognitive functioning, says Hafeez.

Overall, you may feel like you’re just not able to think or do mental tasks as well as you used to.

Common brain fog symptoms are:

Poor concentration

Forgetfulness

Confusion

Moodiness

Inability to pay attention or focus

Feeling ‘checked out’

Mental exhaustion

Lack of mental clarity

Inability to multitask

There generally aren’t any physical symptoms of brain fog, although some people report a headache or exhaustion, says Dr Pope.

Questions your doctor may ask

Questions your doctor may ask
Shutterstock

Brain fog can be caused by lifestyle and environmental factors or by an underlying medical condition.

To help figure out the source of your mental fuzziness, your doctor will need to get an accurate medical history, says Dr Kaiser. Be prepared to answer these questions from your doctor:

When did it start?

What does it feel like to you?

Is it chronic, or does it come and go? Is there a pattern?

Have you been able to identify anything that triggers it?

Have you had any illnesses or changes in your health recently?

Have you experienced any major events recently, like a death of a loved one or a job change?

If your brain fog is severe, you may want to write down your answers to these questions and bring them with you to your appointment.

It’s also helpful to bring a clear-minded friend or family member to help you process what the doctor says.

Don’t miss these short rituals you can do every day to boost your mental health.

Common lifestyle causes and solutions for brain fog

Common lifestyle causes and solutions for brain fog
Getty Images

“If someone is experiencing decreased levels of cognitive function, or brain fog, it could be due to a myriad of underlying conditions from the very benign to the potentially more serious,” says Dr Pope.

The list of things that have brain fog as a symptom is so long it couldn’t be written in one article, and only your doctor can help you pinpoint yours.

However, there are some common causes you should consider, starting with your lifestyle.

Advertisement

Poor sleep

Poor sleep
Getty Images

Not getting enough quality sleep is the top cause for brain fog, says Hafeez.

During non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, the brain filters important memories. Rapid eye movement (REM) – the deepest stage of sleep – allows the memories to become concrete and plays a role in memory consolidation.

When someone does not get enough sleep, memory consolidation is affected. That’s why brain fog is a common symptom of narcolepsy.

Your doctor may ask you to improve your sleep hygiene and, if that doesn’t help, may refer you to a sleep study.

Read on for tips on how to sleep better and live longer.

Poor diet

Poor diet
Getty Images

Nutritional deficiencies can cause chronic mental fogginess.

The most common culprits are low iron, magnesium, vitamin D, or vitamin B12 levels.

The latter is of particular concern for vegans who may not get it in their diet and need to supplement B12. Your doctor can check all of these with a blood test.

Read on for the worst foods for your brain.

Gluten

Gluten
Getty Images

Eating foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, has been linked to brain fog in people who have non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, according to a 2020 study published in PLOS One.

“There is little research as to why gluten affects the brain, but it is known that gluten can affect the neurological system and cause headaches and brain fog,” says Hafeez. “This may happen because gluten alters gut function, and changes in the gut microbiome affect the cognitive centre in the brain and ultimately affect brain function.

Don’t miss these tips to living the gluten-free way.

Stress

Stress
Getty Images

Anxiety, worry, long work hours, parenting, and other types of chronic mental pressure can have a big effect on brain function.

All your mental energy becomes devoted to the stressors, and you feel foggy when you try to focus on something else.

It’s easy to let self-care slide when you’re stressed, but for your brain’s sake, it’s important to make sure you’re doing stress-relieving techniques.

Never miss a deal again - sign up now!

Connect with us: