Brain Fog Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
“I feel I’m just getting by on autopilot. I feel delayed with my actions and reactions to questions and situations.”
“It’s almost identical to what I go through when I’m awakened from a dream–just total bewilderment and almost complete inability to process anything that’s going on.”
“Sometimes I am very far off. I’ll pause and get confused in the middle of doing things. I’m drowsy all the time and just don’t know what’s going on.”
“I feel heavy on the front of my head, unrefreshed, similar to a hangover or jet lag.”
“I feel like Dory in Finding Nemo.”
If any of these sound familiar, then you know what “brain fog” feels like. Brain fog is a symptom—not a diagnosis or disease. It leaves a person temporarily unable to concentrate or think clearly.
Not all brain fog is created equally: anything from stress to dehydration to a urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause mild, temporary brain fog. COVID-19 itself may be increasing rates of a particular kind of brain fog seen in “long-haul” COVID cases.
Regardless of the cause, the forecast for the brain remains the same: foggy, forgetful, and fuzzy around the edges.
Fortunately, new treatments, such as the innovative hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) medical protocol at Aviv Clinics, may offer relief from brain fog. Understanding brain fog causes, symptoms, and tips to manage brain fog can help you take charge of this difficult cognitive condition.
What is brain fog?
Brain fog describes a feeling of confusion and forgetfulness, as well as a lack of mental focus. The effects of brain fog can range from mildly annoying to completely debilitating.
The term “brain fog” can refer to isolated or minor cognitive effects that last hours or days. Still, it can also refer to significant, constant, and debilitating cognitive struggles.
What Causes Brain Fog?
Brain fog isn’t a specific medical diagnosis, but a side effect of an emotional or medical condition.
Your mental muddiness may be for more common reasons:
- Stress—Stress impacts the entire body—the brain included. When stress becomes chronic, it can negatively affect the brain, inhibiting it from functioning at an optimal level.
- Lack of sleep—Another obvious, but often overlooked, cause of brain fog is lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation interrupts the brain cells’ ability to communicate with one another, resulting in a lack of focus or clarity. More severe sleep issues, such as sleep apnea, can also cause brain fog and cognitive decline.
- Hormones—Menopause is known for wreaking havoc on the brain. The drop in estrogen levels can trigger memory and concentration issues. Hormonal changes are also known to exacerbate sleep deprivation, which may contribute to brain fog. Learn more about menopause and brain health.
- Diet—Some food allergies have been shown to contribute to brain fog. In addition, a vitamin B12 deficiency (which supports healthy brain function) can drive brain fog. Depression and fatigue are noted as common symptoms in research studies.
- Medications—Medications, especially psychiatric and antibiotics, can have side effects that impact brain performance. This is especially common in older adults whose metabolic process is slower, making them more sensitive to medications.
What Chronic Conditions Cause Frequent Brain Fog?
People who have myalgic encephalitis, chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), or fibromyalgia often experience brain fog.
In fact, the term most likely came from “fibro fog” that sufferers of fibromyalgia have used to describe the frequent cognitive challenges. Chemotherapy patients may also be familiar with “chemo brain,” which refers to the fogginess caused by chemotherapy treatment.
Other medical conditions that sometimes feature cognitive dysfunction include:
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid disorders
- Autoimmune diseases
When Should You Be Worried about Brain Fog?
A sign that your brain fog may be cause for concern is when memory problems and other cognitive issues interfere with normal functioning. People with mild cognitive decline and/or early stages of dementia may find they have difficulty completing simple, everyday tasks like paying bills.
This infographic from the National Institute on Aging details some common differences between normal aging and signs of serious memory loss.
Brain Fog and COVID-19
Experiencing brain fog long after recovering from COVID-19 is common. As Aviv physician Dr. Mohammed Elamir, MD, FACP, explains, there is a link between where the COVID-19 virus attacks the brain and how that impacted location affects long COVID symptoms.
If you’ve had COVID-19 and haven’t felt the same since, reach out to a trusted physician.
Your physician may ask about:
- Your current physical activity levels
- Medications or supplements you’re taking
- Possible nutritional deficiencies
- Possible infections and inflammatory diseases/conditions
- A timeline of symptoms
- How symptoms have changed over time
Your doctor may also request a blood test, CT scan, or advanced MRI.
What Can You Do to Fight Brain Fog?
Brain fog may be a sign that your body isn’t operating at peak performance, much like when you get sick with a cold or flu. The brain needs constant oxygen, the right supply of nutrients, and rest in order to function well.
When we fall short in one area of health, it’s easy to spiral out of control. Looking at the list of causes for brain fog, the cycle becomes clear: lack of sleep can lead to stress, which can lead to poor diet, and so on.
Often, the key to managing brain fog lies in good self-care. To ensure general health and wellness, try to:
- Manage stress—Many people find meditation helpful in dealing with stress.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods—Maintain a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients.
- Get enough sleep—What qualifies as a “good night’s rest” varies from person to person, so figure out what is right for you and stick to it.
- Maintain physical activity—Exercise has proven benefits for the brain. Start with 30 minutes per session, three days per week.
- Drink enough water every day—Some cases of brain fog are due to simple dehydration.
- Challenge the brain with games, puzzles, or novel experiences—Here’s a free brain training game to get you started.
- Try intermittent fasting. Many report that intermittent fasting helps clear brain fog and sharpen the mind.
Unique Medical Protocol at Aviv Clinics
An effective cognitive treatment plan may involve hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in combination with cognitive, nutritional, and physiological protocol. Aviv Clinics’ science-based treatment protocol helps to enhance brain performance and reduce brain fog for many conditions like traumatic brain injuries, fibromyalgia, Lyme, and dementia.
Based on over a decade of research and development, the intensive treatment protocol is customized to your needs. Aviv Clinics in central Florida is the only center in the United States to offer this program.
Get Back to Optimal Cognitive Health with Aviv
For more guidance on managing your self-care and staying healthy, contact Aviv Clinics. Our diverse medical team will be happy to provide the personalized care you need to get back to optimal health.
Aviv Medical Program provides you with a unique opportunity to invest in your health while you age