5 ways to help alleviate brain fog symptoms
If you find yourself struggling to think clearly, it could be a result of brain fog.
Brain fog is a collection of symptoms that give rise to foggy thinking or a loss of mental clarity. When you have brain fog, your symptoms are persistent and occur regularly. They also interfere with the quality of your life, your relationships and your work.
What are the symptoms associated with brain fog?
Brain fog is a general term that describes a variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms are:
- Loss of mental clarity
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Problems with learning and remembering
- Slow thinking
- Issues with language or word finding
- Trouble navigating spaces (many people may describe this as ‘clumsiness’)
It’s not a diagnosis, disease or disorder. Rather, it’s a sign or a symptom of an underlying health condition, a side-effect of medication, the result of hormonal changes, of dietary issues or lifestyle choices. For instance, it’s a common symptom of menopause.
Once you’ve established the underlying cause, try these tried-and-tested ways from neuroscientist, Dr Sabrina Brennan, to help alleviate brain fog symptoms.
5 ways to help alleviate brain fog symptoms
Becoming aerobically fit will help to strengthen your heart and lungs, allowing your body to pump more blood, containing oxygen and nutrients, to your brain.
Research shows that regular physical activity protects cognitive function in older adults, young adults and children.
Research carried out at Columbia University shows that aerobic exercise is good at rescuing lost executive function in adults of all ages. Aerobic exercise will also help you to sleep better, boost your mood and ease depression and anxiety. This is really important, since poor sleep, low mood, depression and anxiety all contribute to making brain fog worse.
Identifying your brain fog profile should help you to talk about your experience of it in a tangible way that will make it easier for others to grasp.
Explain to family and friends how your experience of brain fog affects your specific functions. Let them know that, with their support, you can be more like yourself and continue to make decisions and plans. Write out possible solutions to a problem you are facing. You can also list the pros and cons of decisions and thrash them out with someone you trust.
Choose wisely – pick someone who you know for sure has your best interests at heart.
The menopause is a common cause of brain fog and there is scientific evidence from numerous studies that show that women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) containing estrogen seem to have a protective effect against cognitive decline and dementia.
The greatest benefit from taking HRT comes when it is started within 10 years of the menopause. Young women who experience an early menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) see the most benefit from taking HRT, as they have lower levels of estrogen for longer.
Various studies show that these women taking HRT have a lower future risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Women of all ages who start taking HRT within 10 years of their menopause also have a lower future risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis and clinical depression. For the majority of women, taking HRT outweigh any risks.
Research also indicates that anti-hormonal agents widely used in breast cancer treatment can cause cognitive dysfunction and other changes in the brain and central nervous system. If you suspect that your brain fog might be related to this type of medication, it would be worth discussing with your prescribing doctor. Never stop prescribed medication abruptly unless instructed to do so by your prescribing doctor.
Plenty of protein
To function properly, your brain and nervous system need an adequate supply of amino acids found in protein-rich foods. These amino acids are the raw materials used to make neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry signals throughout your brain.
Amino acids, the building blocks of the protein that you eat, are essentially the precursors or neurotransmitters.
For example, protein-rich foods like turkey, soy, eggs, dairy and legumes contain an amino acid called tyrosine. When you eat any of these proteins, enzymes in your body can turn the amino acid tyrosine into the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is involved in a variety of brain functions, including memory, attention, mood, reward and sleep.
Are you sleep deprived? If you are, then there is a very real chance that loss of sleep or poor sleep quality is the cause of, or, at the very least, contributing to your brain fog. If sleep loss is the main driver of your brain fog, you could eliminate your symptoms by prioritising sleep.
The longer you have sleep problems, the longer it will take to make up for the loss and restore focus and clarity to your thinking.
Sleep loss, irrespective of its cause, doesn’t just make you sleepy during the day. It can make you forgetful and interfere with your ability to concentrate, pay attention and learn new concepts. Ongoing sleep loss can also make you feel clumsy, irritable, moody, demotivated and depressed, leaving you with food cravings and a bigger appetite than usual but no desire for sex.
Yet many of us voluntarily deprive ourselves of sleep to binge-watch a show or surf social media.
According to the World Health Organisation, we are in the midst of a sleep-loss epidemic, with one in three people not getting enough sleep. If you are sleep deprived, you have the power to change your behaviour to ensure that you get enough good-quality sleep each night to restore your brain function to optimum levels and support brain activity each day.
For more tips on how to beat brain fog, including Sabina’s comprehensive 30-day plan, pick up a copy of Beating Brain Fog
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