Do you ever have those moments when you walk into a room and can’t remember why you’re there? Or you have trouble recalling names and just can’t seem to place where you left your car keys? While these scenarios often have us feeling like we’re senile, often it’s just a case of brain fog, and you don’t have to just live with it.
What is Brain Fog?
If you haven’t yet experienced the sensation of “brain fog,” then consider yourself one of the lucky ones. The majority of adults have experienced this at one time or another, if not chronically, throughout their lives. Brain fog is the inability to focus and think clearly. You literally feel like you’re in a mental fog.
Brain Fog Symptoms
Do you experience any of the following symptoms?
• Difficulty concentrating at work or performing basic tasks
• Trouble remembering people’s names or simple words
• Feeling like you’ve lost parts of your memory
• Wondering if you might have the onset of Alzheimer’s
• Feeling like you’re in a fog and state of confusion
• Decreased mental sharpness
• Unable to focus
• Short term memory loss
• Feeling depressed
• Feeling like you are losing your mind
Never fear – when you can pinpoint the underlying cause of your brain fog and memory loss, there is something you can do about it.
10 Common Causes of Brain Fog and Memory Loss
1. Hormone Deficiencies
Because the brain uses so much energy, individuals with hypothyroidism (slowed metabolism and less energy) tend to experience a decline in their mental sharpness – the brain fog that so many patients describe. It becomes difficult to maintain focus, sharp memory and clarity. Low thyroid function is a common cause of brain fog, depression (1), difficulty concentrating and short term memory loss.
Hypothyroidism is often associated with mood disturbances and cognitive impairment, implying that thyroid hormones are critical for normal brain functioning. In particular, hypothyroidism has been associated with several cognitive deficits, including general intelligence, psychomotor speed, visual-spatial skills and memory.(2)
Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone
These hormones act directly on nerve cells in the brain, protecting those cells from attack by neurotoxins and free radicals. They also enhance the blood flow of the brain, thus protecting against memory loss, cognition and progression of dementia. Progesterone also has a protective effect on the brain by reducing swelling and improving mental clarity after a traumatic brain injury.
Estrogen replacement therapy is associated with improved nonverbal memory and attention. (3) Estrogen and progesterone have a strong effect on memory and improve memory retention. (4) The addition of testosterone to estrogen replacement exerts a protective effect on memory performance in postmenopausal women. (5) Testosterone levels moderate cognitive functioning performance in males. (6)
2. Lack of Sleep/Poor Sleep
Lack of sleep and poor quality sleep leaves you tired, and therefore your brain is also tired. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Easier said than done? Click here for some tips to help you sleep better.
Your gut health affects your brain health. Candida, or yeast overgrowth, can cause inability to concentrate, brain fog, headaches, depression, and anxiety. If you have a leaky gut, then the 180 toxins produced by Candida can travel to the rest of your body through your bloodstream, affecting your different tissues and organs, including your brain.
4. Poor Diet
It is important to clean up your diet and eat organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats, and nuts. Vegetables, for instance, are full of antioxidants and vitamins that fight oxidative stress and help prevent brain damage. Be sure to eat enough protein and healthy fats. Eating processed and packaged, sugar-laden foods only contributes to inflammation, not to mention the fact that your body, and brain, aren’t getting the nutrients they need to function well.
5. Allergies and Food Sensitivities
Inflammation and swelling caused by allergies and food sensitivities can affect the brain, causing symptoms throughout the body, including headaches, migraines, depression, anxiety and memory problems.
6. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Besides eating a healthy diet, here are a few important vitamins that are important for brain and memory support:
Fish Oil – Fish oil supports the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response. Omega-3’s help improve brain function and help prevent memory loss.
Ginkgo Biloba – Ginkgo Biloba has been clinically proven to provide extraordinarily high antioxidant activity that helps protect the brain and improve memory.
GABA – GABA helps regulate brain and nerve cell activity and helps you to focus.
B Vitamins – A good B vitamin complex promotes nerve health and optimal brain function.
7. Prescription Drugs
There are numerous prescription drugs that negatively affect your brain function, here are a few:
Cholesterol lowering drugs
Some pain medications
Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen to the brain, which can impair your memory. It is also noted that smoking can shrink a critical part of your brain – your cortex. Your cortex is the outer layer of your brain, and it naturally thins as you age, but smoking accelerates this.
9. Physical Inactivity
Regular physical exercise helps keep your brain sharp and protects your memory. Exercise also improves mood, sleep, and reduces stress, which can help improve brain function, as well.
10. Artificial Sweeteners
Think twice before reaching for the yellow or blue sweetener packets at the dinner table. Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose (Splenda) and Aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal) can have devastating effects on your brain, as well as your overall health.
Splenda can cause a spaced-out sensation, brain fog, depression, migraines, headaches, seizures, dizziness and anxiety. Aspartame is a neurotoxin that destroys brain cells. Forty percent of aspartame broken down in the digestive tract is aspartic acid, a known “excitotoxin” that excites brain cells literally to death. It causes problems such as epileptic seizures, headaches, migraines, dizziness, unsteadiness, confusion, memory loss, severe drowsiness and sleepiness, severe slurring of speech, severe hyperactivity and severe tremors.
1. The Link between Thyroid Function and Depression
2. Verbal Memory Retrieval Deficits Associated With Untreated Hypothyroidism
3. Long-Term Estrogen Replacement is Associated with Improved Nonverbal Memory and Attentional Measures in Postmenopausal Women
4. Memory Retention is Modulated by Acute Estradiol and Progesterone Replacement
5. Evaluation of High-Dose Estrogen and High-Dose Estrogen plus Methyltestosterone Treatment on Cognitive Task Performance in Postmenopausal Women
6. Free Testosterone Levels, Attentional Control, and Processing Speed Performance in Aging Men