These moments happen to us all - a feeling of confusion, inability to concentrate on the task, coming into the room but forgetting what you came there for... If this lasts for days or weeks, though, it is time for a check-up: brain fog can be a serious sign.
Image Credit: autismwest.org.au
Symptoms of brain fog
Brain fog is not a specific disease or disorder – rather, it is a set of symptoms that can point to a whole range of health issues. Anyone can have a bad day (remember the last time you came to work while having a flu), so these symptoms are only categorized as brain fog when they last for more than a few days. Here is how you know you have brain fog:
- Lack of focus and concentration
- Inability to multitask
- Issues with short-term memory
- General confusion
- Mental fatigue.
Brain fog can make work difficult and create a feeling or frustration, stress, and even fear. It is natural to start thinking immediately about scary scenarios (like a brain tumor), but in the majority of cases the underlying causes of brain fog are easy to find and fix.
What causes brain fog
A whole array of diseases and problems can result in confusing symptoms of brain fog, so a visit to a good doctor is essential!
- Anemia – Iron deficiency leads to a lack of hemoglobin in the red blood cells; brain does not receive enough oxygen, which results in brain fog. Another key symptom of anemia is physical fatigue.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency – vitamin B12 is found in animal products (meat, fish, dairy, eggs…), so its deficiency is common among vegans. Other symptoms include dizzines, the sensation of pins and needles, pale skin, and blurred vision (more info here).
- Thyroid malfunction – it can result in hormonal disbalance, which leads (apart from brain fog) to depression, anxiety, dry skin, constipation, and diarrhea.
- Chronic stress – constant deadlines at work are not just annoying. Constantly high levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, can damage the hippocampus, which is responsible for turning short-term memories into long-term.
- Celiac disease – gluten can induce brain fog in people suffering from celiac disease, though it is not common in gluten-sensitive persons (more on the topic here)
- Multiple sclerosis – brain fog can be one of the early signs of MS – a disease that unfortunately cannot be cured but that can be managed very well with modern methods.
- Side-effects of medicines – some antibiotics, antidepressants, and antihistamines can cause brain fog. Among chemotherapy patients, “chemo fog” is a very common condition.
Counteracting brain fog
If you have found yourself unable to concentrate and remember things for over a week, the first thing is to go to the doctor. Apart from specific treatments, there are a few things you should always do as a part of a healthy lifestyle:
- Sleep 7-9 hours every night. You cannot compromise here! Chronic lack of sleep can lead to early dementia and numerous memory and cognitive problems.
- Avoid stress – it wears you out physically and not must mentally, and memory damage can be permanent. Seek professional help if you have to and talk to your boss (see this study).
- Get enough vitamins. Eat a balanced diet with lots of lean proteins, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. If you are vegan, take B12 supplements.
- Exercise often. Physical exercise boosts metabolism and blood circulation, helping your brain immensely.
If you get brain fog, it doesn’t mean you have something serious. However, you should not ignore it, either: going to a doctor may cost you a few hours of your time, but you will feel much better knowing what you have.