Everyone experiences moments of fogginess or forgetfulness but when do these symptoms indicate there is an underlying issue?
Mental dysfunction or “brain fog” is associated with a variety of conditions and is characterized by the following:
- Poor focus
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lost desire to socialize
- Inability to synthesize information
- Slowed reaction time
- Difficulty recognizing details
Below we explain potential causes of brain fog and how to combat it:
The thyroid is a small gland located in the neck that has an impressive influence over nearly every aspect of health. Perhaps the most important role of the thyroid is regulating metabolic function. If the thyroid is not functioning properly, the body’s energy level can fluctuate resulting in slowing or hastening of cellular activity. In the case of hypothyroidism, or decreased thyroid function, the entire body begins to slow down.
As the brain relies on a steady supply of thyroid hormone to function properly if this supply is disrupted the brain begins to malfunction.
In fact, thyroid-induced brain fog is described in the medical community as critical mood deterioration. In severe cases of thyroid dysfunction, patients may even reach a point where engaging in everyday conversation becomes difficult.
The adrenal glands produce hormones that help balance blood sugar levels, manage our energy levels, and help us handle stress. If a person is under constant physical or emotional stress, their adrenals may become weak and unable to produce adequate amounts of critical hormones, especially a hormone called cortisol. This creates an illness commonly known as adrenal fatigue.
Cortisol increases to wake us up in the mornings, then gradually declines throughout the day so that we’re tired when it’s time to sleep. When we are stressed, our adrenals produce extra cortisol, which activates the body’s stress responses. When stress, which can be physical, mental, or emotional, continues over a long period of time, the adrenals become unable to keep up with the increased demand, and cortisol levels can drop.
Low cortisol levels can cause symptoms such as severe fatigue, hypoglycemia, muscle aches, sugar or salt cravings, and shakiness that is relieved by eating.
Additionally, low cortisol levels can greatly impact one’s mental state. Low cortisol can lead to moodiness, decreased ability to handle stress, cognitive impairments, and of course, brain fog.
Experts estimate that approximately 80% of the population suffers from some form of adrenal insufficiency. Thus, it is all too common for adrenal dysfunction to contribute to a patient’s brain fog without it being properly addressed and treated.
The gut and brain are intricately connected, in fact, the gut produces 95% of the body’s serotonin. The gut is also physically connected to the brain through millions of nerves, meaning the gut microbiome has the ability to affect the brain by helping control the messages that are sent to the brain through these nerves. Studies have even shown that people with various psychological disorders have different species of bacteria in their guts, compared to the control group. Therefore, when brain function is not optimal, oftentimes it can be due to dysfunction in the gut:
Candida albicans is a type of single-celled yeast that resides in the digestive tract. In healthy amounts, it is benign and even aids in proper digestion and nutrient absorption. But when candida overgrowth occurs, it can cause a myriad of health issues.
Once candida takes a foothold, it can be much more difficult to treat. Since yeast releases toxic by-products that further weaken the immune system, it can become a vicious cycle. This chronic form of candida overgrowth is sometimes referred to as candidiasis, which can cause systemic issues including:
- Leaky gut/dysbiosis
- Allergies (food or seasonal)
- Chemical and environmental sensitivities
- Muscle/joint pain
- Autoimmune conditions
- Skin problems
- Frequent vaginal yeast infections or urinary tract infections
- Digestive complaints
Moreover, candida can greatly impact one’s mental state and lead to symptoms such as:
- Decreased libido
- Mood disturbances
- Poor concentration
- Brain fog
Beating Brain Fog
If you are suffering from any kind of thyroid, adrenal, or gut dysfunction, it is important to seek help from a medical professional. However, there are also many activities and practices that can help support and improve your brain activity.
The following sections highlight easily implemented and practical methods of boosting mental wellness:
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep is essential for the health of many bodily systems, specifically the thyroid and the brain. Supporting these systems through improved sleep can be done in a variety of ways. Avoid consuming certain substances such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, which impede sleep and promote intermittent or disrupted sleep. Using electronics before bed can also reduce sleep quality. Try to avoid computers and phones while in bed because they trigger brain activity and trick the body into thinking it should be awake.
Optimally, an individual gets at least 8 hours of sleep every night. To do so, it is best to establish a specific sleep schedule and maintain it consistently. This helps the body naturally wind down and prepare for sleep at about the same time every night making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. It can be difficult to follow a strict sleep regiment but doing so helps combat stress, poor memory, depression, slowed reflexes, and brain fog.
Support Gut Health
Supporting the gut helps keep the brain supplied with the nutrients it needs to keep working at its best. Utilizing a probiotic can help restore and maintain healthy gut function, thereby keeping supply lines open to the brain. Probiotics do this by combatting dysbiosis, or bacterial imbalances, that can contribute to widespread dysfunction including thyroidal and neurological disruption. We suggest HoltraCeuticals’ Ultrabiotics.
Reducing intake of inflammatory foods such as refined sugars, processed foods, gluten, and coffee can also support gut health by relieving intestinal stress. Additionally, consuming soothing and nutrient-rich foods further supports gut health. Bone broth is an excellent place to start as it contains a wealth of beneficial vitamins and minerals and actively soothes the lining of the digestive tract. This helps combat food sensitivities and allergies that can contribute to neurological issues.
Stress is a major contributor to health problems and promotes the occurrence of brain fog. Therefore, it is highly beneficial to reduce stress and implement stress management techniques.
Regularly engaging in calming activities such as praying, meditation, reading, journaling, and gardening can help relieve stress levels throughout the day. Scheduling time for enjoyable activities and passion projects can also be beneficial. Engaging in activities such as these prompts the release of dopamine, which is the primary pleasure hormone. The benefits of this chemical include sensations of excitement, happiness, and motivation, which all help reduce the impact of stress on the brain. Eliminating stress and improving dopamine levels helps burn off brain fog and improves neurological function.
Many people know that exercising is an important part of keeping the body physically fit and healthy. However, regular physical activity also has a positive impact on neurological function and the elimination of brain fog.
Increased blood flow and greater oxygenation occur when engaging in aerobic activity. This is essential for brain health. Exercise also bolsters neurological function by supporting brain growth, memory, concentration, and decision-making skills. Furthermore, exercise helps relieve stress and subsequent brain fog.
Exercise also promotes healthy hormonal activity such as the release of endorphins (the feel-good hormone) and protective gene production. One of these powerful genes, Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), is stimulated through exercise. This protective agent supports neuron development and sustainability. BDNF also prevents neuron damage caused by stress, environmental toxins, and even physiological damage. Protecting the brain and its development in this manner is an excellent way to fend off brain fog.
Sadly, the symptoms of brain fog are frequently overlooked or misappropriated. This causes many patients to suffer unnecessarily for extended periods due to improper treatment. Many practitioners turn to prescription psychotropic drugs and therapies that do not improve thyroid, adrenal, or gut activity and may actually increase symptom severity in the long term. If neurological dysfunction such as brain fog and depression are caused by underlying issues, the only effective way to alleviate them is through properly supporting and healing the root cause.