Integrative Nutrition Blog

Brain Fog

July 21, 2018

Image via Shutterstock.

Do you ever have a hard time focusing or finding the words you’re looking for? Perhaps some of your regular tasks take longer than usual to complete. It might have been brain fog.

So what is brain fog? It’s a term used for a range of symptoms that essentially make it difficult to concentrate and leave you feeling like you’re not on your A game.

Here are three factors that may contribute to these foggy feelings:

Lack of Sleep
Not getting enough sleep takes a major toll on long-term health and increases the risk of everything from obesity to cardiovascular disease. In the short term, though, inadequate sleep has been shown to decrease mental clarity, concentration, and vigilance, meaning you’re less aware and less focused.
In fact, sleep deprivation has such an impact on focus and decision-making abilities that it is often compared to being intoxicated. Forty-eight hours of sleep deprivation has a similar effect on these things as a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1%.
Sleep deprivation can also lead to poorer memory consolidation – the process of turning our short-term memories into long-term memories – making recent events difficult to recall later.

Hormonal Changes
Women experiencing hormonal shifts common in menopause may be familiar with the symptoms of brain fog, particularly in regard to memory.  
Women may also experience a bit of brain fog during pregnancy – priorities, as well as sleep patterns, may be shifting, but hormones may also play a role. Research on the phenomenon of “pregnancy brain” has shown that pregnancy doesn’t have a significant impact on mental performance, but a quick Internet search shows that many women seem to experience this feeling.
Interestingly, this study found that women carrying girls may be more affected by memory issues or forgetfulness than those carrying boys.

Poor Nutrition
A diet high in processed foods and low in nutrients can lead to brain fog. For example, a deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to memory loss or difficulty focusing, and a deficiency in vitamin B6 may lead to confusion.
In addition, fluctuating blood glucose levels can lead to some degree of brain fog. Since the brain runs most efficiently on glucose, when those levels start to diminish, it can affect the brain’s ability to function optimally. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, may increase feelings of forgetfulness and reduce one’s ability to concentrate.
Brain fog may also be a potential symptom of a food allergy or sensitivity. If you notice you feel unfocused or “fuzzy” after certain foods, you might want to get tested to determine the exact cause and which ingredients to exclude from your diet as a brain fog fix.

To avoid brain fog, opt for a diet based mostly on whole foods, prioritize your sleep, be physically active, and incorporate a stress-management practice into your routine. If you find yourself (or a client) frequently experiencing brain fog, it may be a symptom of a condition needing more attention, so you or your client should speak to a healthcare provider.

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