Though statistics on the prevalence of brain fog are lacking, upwards of 16 million people in the U.S. live with a cognitive impairment affecting memory, attention, and lack of mental clarity. (1)
What is Brain Fog?
Brain fog is not a medical diagnosis but a term used to describe certain aspects of cognitive dysfunction. Symptoms include:
Fuzzy thinking, i.e., inability to think clearly
Problems with planning and organization
Slowed mental information processing speed
Lack of focus and concentration
Difficulty with multitasking
Though brain fog is part of age-related cognitive decline and can signify dementia, it has become widespread in younger people. Fortunately, there is no evidence that brain fog in your younger years inevitably develops into dementia later.
Most Common Causes of Brain Fog
Many factors can lead to brain fog, some of which may surprise you. Here are a few of them.
Chronic brain inflammation
High blood pressure
Lack of sleep
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) Both of these can be a medical emergency.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Syndrome (ADHD)
Hypothyroidism (decreased production of thyroid hormones)
Natural Treatments for Brain Fog
Though brain fog treatments vary depending upon the cause, here are a few natural ways to manage the symptoms and improve cognitive function.
Get Enough Sleep
Multiple research studies show that sleep deprivation can lead to a decline in cognitive performance, impaired memory, and slowed reaction time.
Though many of us routinely burn the proverbial candle at both ends, we may not realize its negative effect on our mental state and, by extension, our work, home, and social lives.
So, to reduce brain fog, you must make sleep a top priority. I know it's not easy. Believe us. ADHD makes it challenging for me to quiet my mind for sleep.
But because of these issues, we included these tips:
Maintain a regular sleep schedule. You should go to bed at the same time every night and arise at the same time each morning.
Make your bedroom dark and comfortable, not too hot, and not too warm.
Avoid caffeine late in the day.
Avoid the computer, TV, your smartphone, and other devices an hour before bedtime. (They not only stimulate your mind, but their screens reduce your brain’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin.)
Practice meditation or progressive muscle relaxation right before bedtime to relax your brain and body.
Do not eat a heavy meal before bed as the digestive process can interfere with sleep.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Enjoying a balanced diet emphasizing whole foods is a great way to reduce brain fog. After all, science is clear that unprocessed or minimally processed nutrient-rich foods are essential for proper brain function.
For example, research suggests that those who regularly consume more fish and vegetables have a better cognitive function and are less likely to suffer from cognitive decline.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Oily fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids crucial for proper brain function. (About 20% of the brain is composed of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.)
Plus, inflammatory alterations to the brain are a significant contributing factor to age-related cognitive decline.
And guess what?
Research suggests that omega-3s reduce brain inflammation, thereby improving brain fog and other mental issues. (2)
Oily fish is also rich in vitamin B-12, essential for healthy brain function. (A vitamin B-12 deficiency can contribute to brain fog.)
In addition, eating a wide variety of non-starchy veggies gives your brain and body the nutrients they need to survive and thrive.
For example, green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, and broccoli contain numerous brain-healthy nutrients, such as vitamin K, folate, and beta carotene.
So, to reduce brain fog, try to eat more whole foods and less processed foods, sugars, and starchy carbs. Your brain will thank you!
Exercise Your Brain
Mental exercises are essential for healthy brain performance.
The nervous system is composed of millions of neurons that communicate via synapses.
The pathways between neurons becomes stronger the more often they are used.
What if you don’t use a particular neural pathway very often? In that case, the brain cuts off the connection, a process called "synaptic pruning" to become more organized and efficient. But in practice, it leads to cognitive dysfunction and cloudy thinking.
The good news is that you can create and strengthen connections between neurons -- thereby lifting brain fog -- by keeping your brain active. One way you can do that is by regularly exercising your brain.
Here are a few great brain exercises we found to be effective.
Try to memorize the plot of a movie a couple of days after you've watched it.
Learn to play a musical instrument.
Do crossword and number puzzles.
Try to memorize a paragraph from a book or article. Or, go online and find a script from your favorite movie and remember all the lines for one of the characters.
Learn a foreign language.
Managing stress is SO vital for brain health. To be clear, stress isn't a bad thing. "Good stress" is a natural part of life and can help propel us to success. But chronic stress is harmful.
With chronic stress, the body makes more cortisol than it can release.
Consequently, the body continually has to deal with high circulating cortisol levels, impairing brain function.
Research shows that high cortisol levels can kill brain cells, reduce brain size, and interfere with synaptic regulation. All of these may play a role in brain fog and other cognitive symptoms. (3)
To prevent or reduce brain fog, try to reduce stress daily. Here are some techniques that can help.
Go for regular walks in nature
Play with your dog or cat
Practice yoga or tai chi
Participate in enjoyable activities
Go to lunch with friends
Binge-watch your favorite comedy series. (There is no better stress reliever than a belly laugh.)
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