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7 surprising causes of brain fog

by Sonia Chartier, on 16 March 2016, Memory and concentration
brain fog

co-written by Rick Olazabal, BSc, BN 

Ever feel like you cannot think clearly? Or you can’t remember concepts that should be easy to retain? Many times over we hear the concept of “brain fog”, but what exactly is it?

Why brings it upon and what can be done about it? This article touches base on the concept of brain fog, the medical conditions that can bring upon this state of being, and some of the treatment options available to you through your health care providers…

What is brain fog?

Brain fog is not a medical condition per se, but rather the subjective feeling a person experiences when he or she cannot think clearly like they used to. People may complain of lacking mental clarity, forgetting things, and or feeling down or discouraged. Not surprisingly, these are common symptoms exhibited in various medical conditions.

What are the symptoms?

Brain fog can severely affect your performance at work, at school and socially—and it may increase the likelihood of accidents and physical harm. Low self-esteem can develop as a result and it can lead to isolation and fear. Because brain fog is not a diagnosis in itself, but a subjective experience that’s part of a larger cause, symptoms can vary; however, they include:

  • Inability to concentrate or to think clearly
  • Feeling of being in a haze or fog
  • Forgetfulness
  • Decreased alertness and/or reaction time

What are the causes?

It is important to rule out neurological conditions, like dementia, but common factors that contribute to brain fog may include:

  1. Thyroid dysfunction (e.g. subclinical hypothyroidism, or primary hypothyroidism)
  2. Hypoglycemia
  3. Perimenopause
  4. Nutritional deficiencies (e.g. vitamin B 12, common after prolonged use of antacids)
  5. Some food intolerances (e.g. gluten intolerance)
  6. ADHD/ADD and other neurological disorders
  7. Infections (e.g. Lyme Disease)

What can be done to help

First things first, seek medical attention from a qualified health care professional who can run blood work and other diagnostic tests. Do not attempt to self-prescribe with over-the-counter supplements without knowing exactly the root cause of the problem—in doing so you may avoid potential adverse effects and unknown interactions; safety is first!

If medical tests come back “normal” you may wish to speak with a licensed naturopathic doctor about exploring other options such as further thyroid testing, vitamin B12 and vitamin D levels, zinc, assessment of adrenal gland steroids, etc., etc., etc.

Once a deficiency has been corrected, other therapies may be added (and these may include herbal remedies such as rhodiola, diet modification, counselling, and/or a combination thereof).

Finally, exercise! I know, I know…it’s hard, especially when there’s little motivation, but walking (or jogging) improves blood flow to the brain (and all cells of your body), releasing endorphins and making you feel better!

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