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Overview

Brain fog is defined as a symptom of other conditions such as those involving poor concentration, an inability to focus, lacking mental clarity, and memory problems.

The symptom is also described by some as mental fatigue and, depending on its severity, it can negatively impact productivity at school or at work.

Causes

The following are possible causes of brain fog:

  • Lack of sleep - a reduced amount of hours slept at night can lead to poor concentration and obstructed thoughts during the day. Research has shown that around eight to nine hours of sleep allows for optimal brain functioning and it also helps the brain clear out proteins that are linked to an increased risk of Parkinson's disease. 
  • Increased stressors - exposure to an increased amount of stressors can result in mental fatigue. When the brain is tired, thinking, focusing, and reasoning becomes more difficult. Persistent stressors can also result in increased blood pressure, depression, and a weakened immune system which causes physical fatigue and this also leads to mental fatigue.
  • Dietary changes - vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for maintaining a healthy and functional brain. Therefore, a vitamin B12 deficiency can result in brain fog. Omega-3 is also known to be beneficial for brain function and is derived from the oils of fatty fish. Certain food products may also result in brain fog, especially if one has an allergy or sensitivity to foods containing ingredients such as aspartame, dairy, peanuts, and MSG. 
  • Hormonal fluctuations - estrogen and progesterone levels increase during pregnancy and these hormones have been shown to affect short-term memory and cause mild cognitive impairment in pregnant women. Conversely, a decrease in estrogen levels, as happens during menopause, also causes poor concentration and forgetfulness.
  • Medical conditions - illnesses and disorders associated with fatigue, inflammation, and fluctuating glucose levels are also associated with brain fog. These include chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression, anemia, diabetes, migraines, Sjogren's syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus, hypothyroidism, and dehydration.
  • Medications - mental fatigue can occur as a side effect of certain medications, especially those that act on the central nervous system. Certain chemotherapy drugs may also cause this problem and this is referred to as "chemo brain".

Management

Essentially, the management of brain fog will depend on the cause of the problem. This may involve replacing lost nutrients by supplementing or addressing issues such as poor sleep or stressors one may be exposed to.

Suggested home remedies to help counter the effects of brain fog include:

  • Exercising.
  • Sleeping around eight to nine hours every night.
  • Finding enjoyable activities to perform as this improves one's drive and mood.
  • Managing stressful situations and scenarios by being aware of one's limitations.
  • Avoid excessive intake of caffeine and/or alcohol.
  • Incorporating appropriate dietary changes such as making sure to consume fruit, vegetables, sources of omega-3, and whole-grain foods.
  • Using an appropriate daily multivitamin to help make sure that the recommended daily intake of essential vitamins and nutrients is absorbed by the body.

If these suggestions are not effective, then it's important to consult with a primary care doctor in order to be assessed and investigated thoroughly so that the correct diagnosis can be made.

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