Critter Corner: What Is Brain Fog and What Causes It?

kiwi mangoDear Kiwi and Mango,

I’m often in the middle of something, and I forget what I am doing, or I’m talking to someone and forget what I wanted to tell them. What causes my brain to be so “foggy” sometimes, and is there anything I can do to feel sharp again? Thanks for your help!

Phil N. Foggey

Dear Phil,

We know exactly what you are referring to — when you just can’t remember what you want to say and things seem fuzzy. It can be quite frightening!

Ever feel like you are in a constant state of jet lag? You might forget what you just did earlier in the day or something important that a loved one told you. If you’re normally quick-witted, you might find yourself processing information so slowly that you’re unable to properly respond in a conversation with friends or during a presentation at work. Or you might suddenly feel ill-equipped to do tasks at which you’re normally an expert. Uma Naidoo, M.D., a Harvard-trained nutritional psychiatrist, calls it “brain fog” or “mental fuzziness.”

What Is Brain Fog?

Brain fog is a colloquial term for a collection of symptoms that may include having a lack of concentration, memory loss, heightened clumsiness, or the inability to recall words, process information quickly, or multitask. While everyone has moments when a word escapes them or they forget where they put their keys, brain fog will have a noticeable negative impact on your life.

When you have brain fog, the symptoms occur regularly and actually interfere with the quality of your life, and can affect your relationships and with your ability to carry out your job.

Causes of Brain Fog

The following can be the causes of brain fog: 

  • Hormonal changes can lead to brain fog during pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause, and diseases such as hypothyroidism and diabetes can also cause hormonal changes, which can affect cognitive ability.
  • Autoimmune inflammatory diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis, which affect women much more frequently than they affect men, as well as fibromyalgia and Crohn’s disease, can all cause brain fog. 
  • COVID-19 can cause brain fog, and it’s a common lingering effect of the virus. A recent study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that large numbers of people experiencing COVID symptoms reported difficulty concentrating (78 percent), brain fog (69 percent), forgetfulness (68 percent), tip-of-the-tongue (ToT) word finding problems (60 percent), and saying or typing the wrong words when communicating (44 percent).
  • Depression, cancer, or viral or bacterial infections can also lead to brain fog.
  • Medications used to treat many of these illnesses can also cause brain fog as a side effect.

What Can You Do about Brain Fog?

It’s a good idea to keep a journal of your symptoms, so you can understand whether you’re just having an off day or if your brain fog is a sign of something more serious. This can also help you when you talk to your health care provider about treatment. 

If you’re on medication, it’s important to talk to your doctor about whether the medicine may be the cause, and if a change in dosage might help. Additionally, you can ask for a blood test to evaluate your vitamin B12, vitamin D, and iron levels, as deficiencies in these can lead to brain fog.

While you’re working to find the cause and appropriate treatment with your medical provider, there are also lifestyle changes you can make to help your body beat brain fog. Getting enough sleep is critical for brain health and optimal cognitive functioning! 

Diet may also help fend off brain fog. Nutrition has a tremendous power to help us reduce mental cloudiness and maximize focus, productivity, and brain power in the workplace. Staying hydrated is also important, as many symptoms of poor mental health and cognitive function are tied to dehydration. Caffeine can affect your sleep and cause you to crash, keeping you in a vicious cycle. 

If your brain fog persists or gets worse, be sure to see your doctor to find out what could be the cause and what you can do to feel less foggy!

Hope this is helpful!

Kiwi and Mango

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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