“Brain fog” isn’t a medical condition, according to WebMD. It’s a term used for certain symptoms that can affect your ability to think. You may feel confused or disorganized, or maybe you find it hard to focus or put your thoughts into words.
Chronic stress can increase blood pressure, weaken the immune system, and trigger depression, says the health resource website Healthline. It can also cause mental fatigue. When your brain is exhausted, it becomes harder to think, reason, and focus.
Hormonal changes can also trigger brain fog, states Healthline. Levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen increase during pregnancy. This change can affect memory and cause short-term cognitive impairment. Similarly, a drop in estrogen levels during menopause can cause forgetfulness, poor concentration, and cloudy thinking.
Many women find it’s harder to remember things during pregnancy, states WebMD. Carrying a baby can change your body in lots of ways, and chemicals released to protect and nourish your baby may bring on memory problems.
Some kinds of over-the-counter and prescribed drugs can cause brain fog, according to WebMD. If you take medicine and notice that your thinking isn’t as clear as it should be or you suddenly can’t remember things, call your doctor. Be sure to let him know all the medications you take.
Refined carbohydrates like sugar and high fructose corn syrup send your blood sugar level skyrocketing up, then crashing down, states Be Brain Fit, a website run by health professionals. And since your brain uses glucose as its main source of fuel, this puts your brain on a roller coaster ride — first too much, then too little glucose. Low brain glucose leads to brain fog, mood swings, irritability, tiredness, mental confusion, and impaired judgment.
Consuming foods you’re to which allergic or sensitive can certainly put you in a mental fog. The average American gets two-thirds of their calories from wheat, corn, and soy, and these are among the most common food allergies. The other top allergy-causing foods are dairy, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts.
Lack of sleep
Poor sleep quality can also interfere with how well your brain functions, state Healthline. Aim for eight to nine hours of sleep per night. Sleeping too little can lead to poor concentration and cloudy thoughts.
When it’s really serious
Thyroid and adrenal imbalances
One of the functions the thyroid plays is to maintain brain health, states Aviva Room MD. Hypothyroidism – when the thyroid is under-functioning – has a known impact on cognitive function, to the extent that even at subclinical levels, hypothyroidism can cause focus and memory problems, and over time, can cause dementia. The impact of cortisol and adrenaline on the brain, both prolonged overexposure or excessively low levels, also brings the adrenals and Stress Response System as a whole into play in brain fog.
Depression and anxiety
Depression flattens out your brain signaling, states Aviva Room, MD. Your neurons (nerve cells) just don’t fire with the same frequency as when you’re in a more vibrant mood. Further, the lower levels of neurotransmitters including adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine that accompany depression can impact your ability to focus, remember, and feel mentally sharp.
Worry and anxiety are on a spectrum. Anxiety is a more debilitating form of worry, which like worry, creates mental distraction. This is because you’re focusing on the problem and this keeps your brain from processing new information easily, having easy recall, and paying attention to what’s immediately in front of you.
Room says brainflammation is a phenomenon that occurs when inflammation-causing chemicals cross the blood brain barrier and cause inflammation in the brain. Brainflammation has been associated with anxiety, depression, brain fog, and dementia, and can occur as a result of anything that causes general inflammation.