Senior Health and Wellness: Understanding Brain Fog

In recent years, there has been a growing amount of discussion of something that oftentimes is referred to as brain fog. You likely have heard of brain fog. Nonetheless, you may be like many individuals and not really understand what is meant by brain fog. Through this article, we provide you with an essential discussion of what is meant by brain fog and how it can impact the life of an older person.

What is Brain Fog?

Brain fog in and of itself is not classified as a medical condition. Rather, it is a symptom that is an outgrowth of other medical conditions. These medical conditions are discussed in greater detail in a moment.

Brain fog is a type of cognitive dysfunction that involves:

  • memory problems
  • a lack of mental clarity
  • poor concentration
  • an inability to focus

Some people also describe it as mental fatigue. Depending on the severity of brain fog, it can interfere with various activities of daily living. You need to bear in mind that brain fog need not be a permanent fixture in your life. Dr. Jacob Hascalovici, the Chief Medical Officer of Clearing, explains that “when you have brain fog, it can feel as though your brain just isn’t working as fast or as well as usual.”

Causes of Brain Fog

There is evidence that some occasional bouts of brain fog can occur as a result of the normal, natural aging process. However, when brain fog is more persistent or pervasive, it can be a symptom of some other medical condition. These include:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Depression or other mental health conditions
  • Stress
  • Medication side effects
  • Overmedicated
  • Celiac disease
  • Blood sugar regulation issues
  • Hormonal changes
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Hypothyroidism

Physicians note that many of the underlying or associated causes of brain fog can be addressed through lifestyle changes. Examples of lifestyle changes that can positively impact certain medical conditions that result in brain fog include:

  • Healthier diet
  • Optimizing good sleep habits
  • Regular exercise
  • Engaging in stress reduction activities

Diagnosing Brain Fog

A multifaceted approach is necessary to diagnose brain fog. Because brain fog can be a symptom of a number of different types of issues, a single test is not sufficient to fully diagnose whether or not a person may be afflicted with brain fog.

In working to determine whether a person might have brain fog, a physician will perform a physical examination. This process will include asking a person questions about:

  • Mental health
  • Diet
  • Level of physical activity
  • Current medications or supplements

When being examined by a physician, a person also needs to let a doctor know about other symptoms that an individual might be experiencing. For example, someone with hypothyroidism may have brain fog along with hair loss, dry skin, weight gain, or brittle nails.

Blood work or blood tests can also be a part of the process of determining whether or not an individual has brain fog. A blood test can detect the following:

  • Irregular glucose levels
  • Por liver, kidney, and thyroid function
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Infections
  • Inflammatory diseases

Additional testing for brain fog may include:

  • X-rays
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • CT scans (computerized tomography scans)

In some cases, a person’s doctor will also conduct allergy testing. A sleep study may be initiated to identify the existence of a sleep disorder.

As part of the process of determining whether an individual is suffering from brain fog, that person might be asked by a physician to maintain a food journal. This tactic can assist in making a determination if an individual’s diet is a contributing factor in regard to brain fog.

Home Remedies for Certain Underlying Causes of Brain Fog

Sometimes, relieving brain fog is a matter of correcting a nutritional deficiency, switching medications, or improving the quality of your sleep. Healthcare experts have come up with home remedies for certain types of underlying brain fog causes. Home remedies to improve brain fog include:

  • Sleeping 8 to 9 hours per night
  • Managing stress by knowing your limitations and avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine
  • Exercising
  • Strengthening your thinking abilities (try volunteering or solving brain puzzles)
  • Finding enjoyable activities
  • Increasing your intake of protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats

Detailed Look at Treatments for Brain Fog

  • Get enough sleep: Sleep is important for your brain and body. Proper sleep is designed to clear out unhealthy toxins that can contribute to brain fog. Try to follow a fixed sleep schedule. Strive to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Avoid using electronic devices like your mobile, laptop, or television before you go to sleep.
  • Try new things: Keep your mind engaged with mentally stimulating activities. Make an effort to try new things on a regular basis. For instance, take a different route to work, try a different approach to a task you do regularly, or listen to different music. This can help increase the production of a brain chemical called norepinephrine, which stimulates the brain.
  • Avoid multitasking: Multitasking can drain your energy and lower your productivity. This particularly is the case if you are trying to do two activities that require conscious thought. Try focusing on one matter at a time.
  • Work on your memory: If you are prone to forgetting things, try using different tricks to improve your memory. Rhymes, mnemonics, or visual or verbal cues can help you remember important things more consistently. You can also try repetition as a means to enhance your memory. For example, if someone tells you their name, saying it back to them can help you remember it.
  • Take mental breaks: Make it a point to take a couple of mental breaks during the day. During a mental break, take the time to not think about anything. You need to be in the moment. You can close your eyes, take a short walk, or even just look out your window.
  • Focus your attention: If you get distracted by multiple things or lose focus, try to slow down and focus all your attention on one task. Strive to complete that task, no matter how small. 
  • Stay socially active: Participating in social activities can improve your mood, memory, and even your cognition.
  • Engage in deep thought: Exercise your mind by spending a little time engaged in deep thought each day. For example, if you have read an article, spend 10 minutes thinking about the article’s contents.
  • Try meditation: Meditation can help reduce stress and relax your brain and body. Even a brief period of meditation can be helpful to combating brain fog.
  • Exercise regularly: Staying physically active can improve your mental health. Physical activity can be helpful in preventing or combating brain fog.
  • Maintain a healthy diet: A healthy diet can help with memory, cognition, and brain health. An example of such a plan is the Mediterranean diet.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs: These substances can impair your senses and adversely affect your brain. They can underpin brain fog.
  • Receive medical treatment: If you suspect your brain fog may be related to depression, a thyroid disorder, a nutrient deficiency, or any other medical condition, be sure to consult with a doctor or health professional right away.

While brain fog can be troubling, it does not need to be permanent. By better understanding brain fog, and considering the suggestions set forth here to combat that condition, a person can obtain relief from brain fog.