Brain Fog. What is it and what can you do?
What is brain fog?
Clearly brain fog is not a technical term! What it does do well is describe what it feels like to struggle to think clearly, concentrate, focus and make decisions. Many women talk about having brain fog at times when their hormones are playing havoc with their system, for example pre and post-natal and through the menopause. However there are some medical conditions that cause brain fog type symptoms so if you feel this is having a serious impact on your life you should see your GP/Physician.
What can you do about it?
If there is no medical condition causing your brain fog is there anything you can do and how can you look after your brain longer term? There appear to be some behaviours that help protect the brain and may help keep it alert and in good working order. For example, some research has found that people who participate in multiple healthy behaviours significantly reduce their risk of dementia. Study participants who followed all of the behaviours listed below were about 60 percent less likely to develop cognitive impairment and dementia. Some of these actions also seem to help some people with short term bursts of brain fog.
Healthy behaviours that protect and support the brain
1. Sticking to good nutrition
Foods that are good for our brain should be rich in antioxidants, good fats, vitamins and minerals. Strong brain function relies on proper levels of magnesium, vitamin B12, and amino acids in the body.
Many foods are said to boost memory and help focus. These foods include:
Beets, Blueberries, Broccoli, Dark chocolate, Oily fish, Avocado, Coconut oil,
Eggs, Nuts, Herbs: like rosemary and Spices: like cinnamon and turmeric.
The link between ‘gut health’ and ‘brain health’ is now an area for more research. Taking probiotics (good bacteria found in live yogurt and other fermented foods) is said to help rebalance the gut and therefore have a beneficial effect on the brain. Dehydration can also cause confusion and symptoms like brain fog so try to stick to eight large glasses of water a day.
Exercise is a key behaviour with a positive link to both physical and mental benefits. When you exercise outside you are exposed to vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and the neuromuscular (communication between the brain and muscles) system. Vitamin D also plays major roles in the life cycle of human cells and lack of Vitamin D has been linked to depression. Regular exercise also helps combat Obesity which is linked to diseases of the brain including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
One of the most common causes of brain fog is lack of sleep, or sleep that is continually disturbed over a long period of time. Sleep is the time when the body rejuvenates and recovers. This includes recuperation for your brain. Lack of sleep can cause confusion, anger and poor decision-making. Forming healthy habits around your sleep routine can be very beneficial to your all round mental well-being. See more on this topic here
4. Mental challenge
Keeping your brain active may also help prevent bouts of brain fog and could be beneficial in the long term. Learning something new, for example a language, doing things that challenge your brain for example word and maths games and engaging in activities that you enjoy that tax you both physically and mentally can all help to keep your brain active and in good shape.
Finally severe stress can also cause brain fog. After my stepfather died I was expecting to feel severe sadness, what I hadn’t anticipated was to feel like someone had removed all my thinking and decision-making capabilities. I literally felt like I had a head full of cotton wool and struggled for weeks to function well. Obviously we cannot remove all of life’s stress but recognising its impact on you may help you look after yourself a little more at these times.