Brain Fog - What It Is and What You Can Do About It
Where did I park the car? Did I just email the wrong person? My brain feels like it’s stuck in slow motion…
Have you been hearing the term “brain fog” thrown around a lot lately? We have, typically accompanied by a sales pitch for expensive “nootropic” supplements loaded with exotic herbs with claims to improve your ability to think. Before you open your wallet, let’s discuss what “brain fog” really is (p.s. it’s not a medical diagnosis) and what you should do first to overcome it.
“Brain fog” is an umbrella term used for certain symptoms that can affect your ability to think and function mentally. For example, you may struggle with short-term memory, have difficulty focusing on a task and making decisions, or lack mental clarity and the ability to solve even simple problems.
While everyone will experience these symptoms from time to time, if you are struggling with your ability to think on a frequent basis it may be a sign of an underlying problem that should be addressed.
What Causes Brain Fog?
There are numerous factors that influence brain health and cognition, and while each case of “brain fog” is different, the following are the most common:
Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Caused by an increase in free radicals (i.e. reactive oxygen species), inflammatory signals called pro-inflammatory cytokines (think infection, food sensitivity, gut imbalance), or a reduction in antioxidant capacity, your brain function can be negatively impacted.
Vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional substances play a role in cognitive function, and insufficient intake of these nutrients can lead to brain fog. Specific examples are discussed in the next section.
Benzodiazepines, statins, narcotics, anti-hypertensives, chemotherapy, and sleep aids may change brain chemistry and impact cognitive performance. Always consult your healthcare professional in regard to any concerns or changes to your medication.
The most prevalent example is menopause, which is accompanied by significant hormonal changes after which many women report brain fog.
Poor Sleep and Sleep Apnea
Consistent, uninterrupted, and adequate length sleep is essential for brain function, yet is becoming harder to come by in the modern world.
Iron Deficiency With and Without Anemia
Red blood cells must deliver adequate oxygen to the body's tissues or a person may experience mental and physical tiredness, including brain fog. Even iron deficiency without anemia may cause cognitive disturbances.
What Can You Do?
1. Get The Correct Dosage of Vitamins and Minerals For Your Body
- Magnesium plays a central role in neurological health and supplementation has been shown to improve both subjective and objective markers of sleep. Learn more about magnesium here.
- Vitamin C & E – These antioxidants eliminate free radicals and help lower oxidative stress. Learn more here (C) and here (E).
- CoQ10 – A mitochondrial antioxidant that may improve brain health. It has been shown to reduce the number of migraines in patients and may show promise in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson diseases. Learn more here.
- B Vitamins – Evidence shows that significant populations of developed countries are suffering deficiencies or marginal deficiencies in one or more B vitamins, predisposing them to numerous health consequences, including less than optimal brain function. In addition, vitamins B9 and B12 are of increased interest as they may have roles in the prevention of CNS disorders, mood disorders, and dementias (including Alzheimer’s disease). Learn more about B12 here.
- Iron – There is evidence that iron supplementation in those deficient may improve cognitive function. Importantly, iron is not needed by everyone and can even hard some individuals with HFE gene mutations, learn more here.
2. Sleep Better, Longer
- Adults should sleep between 7-9 hours each night (we think 8 is the sweet spot) and aim to improve their sleep quality by reducing stress, going to bed at the same time each night, avoiding bright artificial lights in the late evening, lowering the temperature of their room (aim for the mid-60’s), and removing any light source from the bedroom.
3. Achieve A Healthy Weight
- Excess weight is a risk factor for both sleep apnea and inflammation, so achieving a healthy weight is a huge step in the right direction.
4. Drink Enough Water
- Dehydration is one of the most easily corrected source of brain fog. Get to sippin’!
Like anything related to your health, we feel that it’s best to start by fortifying your foundation. This approach is usually the least expensive and offers the most long-term benefits.
If you’re experiencing brain fog, try to narrow down the reason and make changes at the source. In many cases, targeted supplementation that is specific to your unique vitamin and mineral needs is very effective. Rootine identifies your genetic nutrient needs, your current nutrient blood status, and your additional nutrient requirements from your lifestyle, and provides the precise dose for you, which may lift the brain fog and put you on the path to long-term wellness and mental clarity.