Mar 16, 2022
Brain Fog - Causes and Treatments
On Monday, you lost your keys. Again. Yesterday, you found yourself tripping over your own words during a presentation, struggling to articulate an important piece of information to your boss - even though you practiced the night before. Your daily Wordle puzzle, once an amusing distraction, now feels like a punishment; and last night your partner remarked that you never seem to sit through an entire movie anymore. “Always distracted by something on your phone…”
Puzzled and more than a little concerned, you think back over the last few months, trying to identify a reason why your brain might not be firing on all cylinders. Perhaps you’re one of those people with long-haul COVID and don’t know it? Was that surge of heat after your workout last week from the exercise? Or a hot flash? Then again, maybe you’re pregnant? Could it be that new medication you started taking last week for anxiety? Or, heck, the anxiety itself? Are you jet lagged?
Whatever the reason why, it may help to know that there’s a name for what you’re experiencing: brain fog.
What is Brain Fog?
The term ‘brain fog’ isn’t a specific medical condition per se - you won’t find it listed in textbooks or diagnostic manuals - but refers to a collection of symptoms that commonly occur together, usually in connection with another illness.
Described by one sufferer as “cognitive challenges" , most people experience brain fog as a feeling of persistent mental “fuzziness” characterized by sluggish thinking, memory loss, poor concentration and disorganized thoughts. Many people compare the sensation to how you might feel after pulling an all nighter (minus caffeine) or accidentally mixing an antihistamine with alcohol - still able to function, but hardly quick on your feet and far from tip-top condition.
While most people will experience symptoms of brain fog at some point, persistent brain fog may affect approximately 600 million people  worldwide according to Dr Sabrina Brennan, author of “Beating Brain Fog: Your 30-Day Plan to Think Faster, Sharper, Better.” Both men and women appear equally prone to symptoms, though at different points in life. Hormone changes associated with pregnancy and menopause may lead women to complain of brain fog in midlife, while men are more likely to report symptoms during times of acute stress, regardless of age. That said, brain fog can appear in people at any stage of life , and isn’t correlated with getting older in the same way as dementia or Alzheimer’s, for example.
Regardless of age or gender, however, navigating brain fog can have a significant impact on quality of life. Even if others don't perceive you as functioning at a level less than your best, the feeling that something isn’t quite right can begin to erode your sense of self confidence and esteem. The feeling that you’re not as “good” as you used to be, perhaps even not as smart, can take a toll. For those for whom brain fog manifests as forgetfulness, difficulty focusing or memory lapses, constant anxiety over your on-the-job performance can also damage mental health. In a frustrating game of chicken-or-egg, it can become difficult to say whether brain fog led to depression, anxiety and PTSD, or if a pre-existing mental health issue is causing brain fog.
What Causes Brain Fog?
While many people may associate brain fog primarily with COVD-19, physicians note that it’s hardly the only reason why someone might experience symptoms. Among the more common conditions associated with brain fog are:
- Insomnia. Even mild sleep deprivation has been shown to negatively affect cognitive function, and chronic lack of rest can lead to confusion , mood swings and long-term memory impairment.
- Pregnancy. During pregnancy, the body diverts massive amounts of energy and other resources to the developing fetus. Dramatic changes in hormone production can also lead to memory issues.
- Menopause. The hormonal fluctuations associated with menopause and perimenopause can also lead to brain fog. Women often report increased forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating, in addition to hot flashes and other physical symptoms.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). With CFS, it’s not just the physical body that feels constantly tired, many people report mental exhaustion as well. While it’s not known what causes CFS, medication and exercise have been shown to improve symptoms, including brain fog.
- Diet. It’s no secret that excessive consumption of fats, refined sugars and alcohol can negatively impact your mood and your body mass index, but research has shown that a poor diet also deprives your brain of vital nutrients it needs to perform.
It’s important to remember that, because brain fog is, itself, a symptom of an underlying imbalance in the body, you can still suffer its effects even if you don’t fall into one of these categories. Additional testing may be necessary to uncover the root cause, so don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.
If additional screening doesn’t shed light on a possible cause for your symptoms, consider taking a look at your eating habits and nutrition. Long known as your “second brain” , the highly-sensitive system that is your digestive tract contains approximately 100 million neurons  responsible not only for managing digestion, but communicating important information about the body’s overall level of health and stress to the brain. And while the enteric nervous system may not have the capacity for conscious decision making, disruptions to the gut microbiome may impact the brain’s cognitive function as the two nervous systems attempt to work out what’s not right internally.
Can Probiotics Help with Brain Fog?
Research  has shown that probiotic therapies can positively impact brain health, with certain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium improving memory and cognition in mice. Other studies  have shown that imbalances in the gut arising from a diet high in refined sugars and fats can impair the brain’s ability to manufacture BDNF, an important neurotrophic factor  linked to memory. Probiotics, together with dietary changes, can help promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria and restore balance in the gut microbiome, leading to increased production of BDNF and reduced symptoms of brain fog.
Beyond directly impacting the brain, however, probiotics may alleviate the symptoms of brain fog by lessening stress on the brain. When the bacterial balance in your gut falls out of balance, the gut signals to your brain that something isn’t right, but it’s not a precise message: the brain has to work to understand what the gut is trying to tell it, which requires energy that it might otherwise devote to, for example, remembering the location of your keys. Likewise, good gut health correlates directly  to good mental health which, if you’re experiencing brain fog as a side effect of stress, PTSD or depression, may help control symptoms of brain fog.
For women experiencing brain fog as a side effect of menopause or other hormonal changes, probiotics can help regulate the production of FSH , stabilizing hormone levels throughout the body. Without fluctuations in hormone levels, many menopausal women experience higher levels of physical and mental well-being, including enhanced cognitive function and reduced memory loss. Pregnant women may also benefit from introducing probiotics into the diet, but should consult a physician before beginning treatment.
Learn More About the Gut-Brain Connection
At Clear Probiotics, we believe that a healthy gut microbiome is the foundation of physical and mental health, and we’re on a mission to bring you the most innovative treatments, designed to target specific ailments, including brain fog.
What started as a home-made formulation to treat lip issues such as cracked and sore lips has grown to become one of the leading developers of probiotic-based supplements and supports. From acne to immune health, our ProbioticsPLUS™ probiotic-based formulations have been shown to help regulate gut flora and improve health in people of all ages.
If you’re currently suffering from mental fogginess, memory loss, decreased concentration and disorganized thoughts, we’re here to help. The power of the gut brain axis is scientifically proven and medically accepted and crucial to overcoming brain fog.
See Clear Probiotics’ Clear Brain and Mood to learn more about the gut-brain connection and how probiotics-based blends can help you reach your full physical and mental potential..
We look forward to working with you to overcome these challenging symptoms so you can begin feeling like yourself again.