Brain fog symptoms and causes
How to determine whether you have what is called “brain fog”? The most common symptoms that characterize this condition are constant fatigue, distractibility and poor attention, bad mood, lack of inspiration and motivation, and just feeling “off”. There are plenty of factors that can cause foggy mind and majority of them are byproducts of our fast-paced modern urban life. Processed foods, nutrient deficiencies, too much sugar, sleep deprivation and huge amounts of stress – you name it. All of them drain our energy levels. We need constant supply of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids, coupled with good sleep and stress relief in order for our brain to work properly. But it’s not that easy to maintain every single resource we mentioned, let alone spending our time productively to support our brain health.
But don’t dwell into despair – brain fog is not a sentence and is considered a reparable condition. Want to regain your sense of clear-headedness, focus and joy? Like nearly all things health-related, it starts with addressing the underlying issues, including your diet, stress levels, sleep and level of physical activity.
Symptoms of Brain Fog
The opposite of being in brain fog state would be feeling calm, inspired, optimistic and motivated. For people with artsy jobs brain fog is easily noticed as lack of inspiration and will to create. For everyone else it’s just a procrastination, laziness, anxiety and depression. Usually brain fog has its roots in a lifestyle and health choices that promote inflammation and hormonal imbalances. All of it is then exaggerated by stress.
Main brain fog symptoms usually include:
– low energy or fatigue
– troublesome concentration
– headaches and migraines
– memory loss and difficult remembering information
– lack of motivation, fatalism or depression
– low grade sleep or insomnia
– difficulty exercising
Causes of brain Fog
Sleep deprivation is the main reason of getting the “foggy brain” condition. The rule of thumb is to have 7-9 hours of quality sleep every single night in order to think and act with clarity. Children and teenagers need even more. However, let’s be honest – in a hectic modern-life pace sometimes it’s almost impossible to get a good sleep every day.
If you do consistently get a quality sleep but still experience brain fog symptoms such as ongoing fatigue and low motivation, chances are this might have something to do with the quality of your diet. Deficiencies, coupled with sugar, alcohol, refined carbohydrates and caffeine overdose can majorly impact brain function.
A 2013 study printed in the Journal of the Clinical Autonomic Research Society used the Wood Mental Fatigue Inventory test (WMFI) to gather information from 138 subjects suffering from brain fog. The top-ranked descriptors of brain fog were “forgetful,” “cloudy,” and “difficulty focusing, thinking and communicating,” while the most commonly reported brain fog triggers were fatigue, lack of sleep, prolonged periods of standing, dehydration and feeling faint.
On the micro-level brain fog can be triggered by high levels of inflammation and 3 hormonal changes that affect your mood, energy and focus: dopamine, serotonin and cortisol. The last one is also called “stress hormone” since it keeps you alert and awake, always ready to react to danger. As you can see it’s a good thing sometimes, especially when you are at real danger, but most of the times different life factors “fool” our brain, making it think we are under constant threat, so it orders your body to discharge serotonin non-stop, and that is actually a bad thing. Two other hormones, dopamine and serotonin are responsible for pleasant emotions, like joy, inspiration, relaxation, pleasure, and etc.
The brain and entire body rely on a complex symphony of hormones that work to keep one another in check, so when levels of one hormone either falls too low (for example, serotonin drops due to a very low carbohydrate intake) or climbs too high (cortisol increases due to stressful events over money), the whole system can be thrown off. Rebalancing your production of these chemicals helps put you on the right track for better brain function.
The other factor that increase brain fog symptoms and robs you of your usual personality “spark” is, unsurprisingly, inflammation, which is at the root of most diseases. Inflammation is caused by low-grade overactivity of the immune system and is tied to mental disorders like depression, Alzhemier’s disease, dementia and insomnia.
Microglia activation is commonly found in brains of children with autism as well as in other psychiatric diseases and is related to corticotropin-releasing hormone that seems highly tied to mental disorder development. According to a 2015 report published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, people most likely to suffer from brain fog include those dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome; autism spectrum disorders; celiac disease, gluten intolerance symptoms or other food allergies; fibromyalgia symptoms; mastocytosis; Alzheimer’s disease; and other neuropsychiatric disorders.
The good news is that anti-inflammatory foods support brain health, and high intakes of vitamins and minerals have been shown to benefit people’s moods and mental capabilities.