If you feel like some of the information you receive goes in one ear and out the other or describe your brain as “out to lunch” from time to time, you may have “brain fog”. Some examples of menopause brain fog in daily life could include: reading a few paragraphs and realizing you have to re-read everything, showing up to a Tuesday appointment a week early, wondering if you took your medications this morning, misplacing items, and making mistakes or errors at work. Individuals with brain fog may describe their memory as poor and their brain as “foggy” or in the clouds.
Brain fog symptoms are characterized by forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating or focusing, spacing out, information processing problems, and memory issues. Some describe it as having a “fuzzy brain”. Brain fog is not a diagnosis but rather a symptom of an underlying condition. It can be associated with a variety of conditions that can be short-term and transient, or longer-term.
It can result in a lot of frustration because it impacts every aspect of life. Not being able to think clearly can affect your relationships, your career, and your overall health and wellness.
What are the causes of brain fog?
There are some known brain fog causes.
- Increased stress
- Lack of sleep
- Perimenopause (see symptoms of menopause)
- Chronic condition (for example autoimmune diseases or fibromyalgia)
- Poor nutrition
- Medications/Chemo (antidepressants or blood pressure medications and up to 75% of chemotherapy recipients report brain fog after treatment)
- Pregnancy (related to hormones)
- COVID-19 Recovery (an estimated 22%-32% of those who experience COVID long haul symptoms also report brain fog that can last 6-9 months)
Can I clear brain fog instantly? If the culprit is known, then possibly! It is unlikely to resolve in an instant, but it can clear more rapidly if the root cause is addressed. If the culprit of your brain fog is unknown, it may take some effort to determine the cause and a little time for the treatment to be effective.
Here is where to start.
Stress has a broad negative impact on our bodies. If you need to decrease some work hours, or pick up a new hobby like yoga or meditation, it is important to prioritize stress management to help alleviate brain fog symptoms.
Catch some ZZZ’s
A common culprit of brain fog is not getting enough sleep. If you are experiencing additional symptoms like anxiety or insomnia, it can be even more difficult to get restful sleep. During perimenopause, this is a very common problem. See some resources for sleep aids here.
Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
The fuel you put in directly affects the output. Many essential nutrients are needed for cognitive function including vitamin B, vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium, and Zinc. Ensuring you are eating a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables as well as protein will overall improve your health and could alleviate brain fog.
If you are unsure or unable to get the essential nutrients needed to support optimal brain function, consider taking a vitamin or supplement to treat brain fog. During perimenopause, this list is a great place to start.
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
Aside from both of these substances being dehydrating, they can affect sleep, increase fatigue and also alter cognition. It is best to avoid both alcohol and caffeine when trying to improve brain fog symptoms.
Train your Body and Mind
Aerobic exercise has been proven to not only improve cognition but also prevent cognitive decline.
There is also research that suggests mental exercises build new neural connections in the brain and improve memory loss, and can improve symptoms of brain fog as well. This may involve new ways of training the brain to compensate for deficits (rehabilitation) and there is research that supports “Brain Training Games” as an effective treatment as well.
Talk to your Doctor
If you have a chronic condition, take medications, or are experiencing hormonal changes, such as during perimenopause, it is a good idea to discuss your brain fog symptoms with your doctor to determine treatment.
Find a Community for Support
There are many online forums and support groups. If you have a chronic condition or have recovered from a condition that has lingering brain fog symptoms, there are resources for you! You can ask your doctor or search online. It is helpful to know you are not alone.
- Chemotherapy Brain Fog (Chemo Brain): Symptoms & Treatment (clevelandclinic.org)
- Brain fog: Memory and attention after COVID-19 – Harvard Health
- The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities – PMC (nih.gov)
- Brain Training Games Enhance Cognitive Function in Healthy Subjects – PMC (nih.gov)
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.