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Brain fog and fuzzy thinking

Have forgetfulness and lack of focus become your new norm? As many as 60% of middle-aged women report experiencing “brain fog,” the encompassing nickname given to cognitive symptoms including mental fatigue, momentary confusion, forgetfulness, lack of mental clarity and inability to concentrate. 

Despite how common these symptoms are, the frustrating truth is that conventional medicine doesn’t offer women struggling with brain fog much in the way of support or a path to relief. Brain fog may be waved off as simply a temporary side-effect of being middle aged, or even worse, a woman may be told by her doctor that her debilitating symptoms are “all in your head” – no pun intended. 

With so many women unable to focus or feel present and engaged with their daily lives, it’s time to clear up the confusion: fuzzy thinking in middle age has almost nothing to do with aging itself, and far from being “all in your head,” brain fog can be a key sign that you have an underlying health issue somewhere else in your body. 

Is brain fog clouding your life? Then it’s time for some real answers – and solutions – to start thinking clearly again. 

What’s causing your brain fog? 

There are numerous explanations for why brain fog occurs. Once you identify the underlying cause triggering your symptoms, you can begin to fix the problem. 

Perimenopause: Hormonal brain fog is a common symptom for women in perimenopause, brought on by sudden shifts and imbalances in hormone levels. Estrogen and progesterone are key neurotransmitters in the brain. When these hormones are thrown into states of flux, it can temporarily affect brain function and cognition, creating difficulties with focus, memory and clear thinking.

Chronic stress: When left unchecked, chronic stress can increase blood pressure, weaken the immune system, and trigger mental fatigue. The culprit behind all these negative consequences? High cortisol. When the body’s adrenal stress response is constantly activated, cortisol levels surge. Over time, elevated cortisol can reduce brain function and even harm brain cells. 

Low thyroid: Thyroid hormones support areas of the brain that are crucial for memory and cognitive skills. When  women develop  symptoms of hypothyroidism (low thyroid), brain fog is often one of the first red flags that something is wrong. Cognitive symptoms associated with hypothyroidism include memory loss and difficulty concentrating.

Gut health issues: The gut and brain are connected via the gut-brain axis, a super highway of sorts in which neurotransmitters created in the gut, including serotonin, help to regulate mood and brain function. Developing GI issues can disrupt this axis and lead to brain fog. One of the worst culprits for this is leaky gut syndrome, a condition in which the gut lining is damaged and cannot optimally function as a barrier. Untreated leaky gut suppresses serotonin levels and increases inflammation, both triggers for brain fog. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is another notorious contributor to brain fog.

Diet: Eat lots of sugary foods? The inflammation and unsteady blood sugar levels refined sugars and carbs create in the body can impair brain function and leave you feeling foggy and unfocused. Certain nutrient deficiencies in the diet also contribute to brain fog. Vitamin B-12 is critical for brain function, but vegans and some vegetarians may not get enough since it’s naturally present in foods of animal origin, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids  are also essential for optimal brain function, so when you don’t get enough or develop a deficiency, it can lead to mental fatigue, poor focus and related symptoms.  

Food allergies: If you have hidden food allergies or sensitivities, brain fog may develop after eating certain foods, a side effect of inflammation and the allergic response. Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are both highly associated with symptoms of brain fog. 

Covid-19: Among people who are sufferers of “long Covid,” or symptoms related to Covid that persist months after recovering from the virus, as many as 20-30% report experiencing episodes of foggy thinking and mental confusion. Long Covid may be related to the immune system having problems re-regulating itself post-virus. 

Lack of sleep: Feel foggy after a night of too little sleep? Research shows just how significantly sleep deprivation can disrupt brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other, leading to temporary mental lapses that affect memory and even visual perception. If you suffer from insomnia, you probably already know just how significant next day brain fog can be.

Medications: Certain over-the-counter drugs (Excedrin PM, Tylenol PM, Benadryl, for example) that affect brain function or suppress neurotransmitters can lead to feelings of fogginess and mental fatigue. Some prescription medications are also known triggers for mental fogginess, including the diabetes drug metformin. 

Is my brain fog a sign of dementia? 

Experiencing a temporary loss of mental function doesn’t mean you’re at greater risk of getting Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, if brain fog persists over time or appears to worsen, or if you are older and have a family history of dementia, it’s a good idea to seek an evaluation with a qualified health care provider. Our Memory Solutions quiz is another tool that can help you understand your symptoms. 

Finding relief from brain fog

In our over two decades of helping women with their health issues, here are some tips that we’ve found to be really helpful in clearing up brain fog: 

Take a quiz 

We know that the list above may have you scratching your head wondering – is it stress or my thyroid…or menopause?! To make it is as easy as possible for you to pinpoint the underlying cause of your brain fog, you can take our free Hormonal imbalance quiz to understand if your symptoms are related to your thyroid, your adrenals (cortisol imbalance), or perimenopause/menopause. Suspect that you may have a gut-related issue at the root of your brain fog? Try our Digestive Health Quiz to learn more. If you are suffering from long Covid, take our quiz to check in on your immune system health. 

Clean up your diet

Try eliminating coffee and other sources of caffeine (the stimulant can spike cortisol) and avoid foods made with refined carbs and added sugar. Focus on eating nourishing whole foods. To bridge any nutritional gaps, add a high quality daily multivitamin supplement or take an Omega-3 supplement, probiotic, and/or Vitamin D3 supplement, depending on your nutritional needs. 

Check for hidden food allergies 

If brain fog seems to follow eating certain meals and foods, explore how following an elimination diet for a few weeks can help you to pinpoint hidden allergies or sensitivities. An elimination diet  excludes the top known food allergens (wheat, dairy, corn, soy, etc.) and then gradually reintroduces them so you can see how your body reacts to each type of food. 

Support your hormones 

If you are a women in your late 30s or 40s or beyond, explore how best to support your hormonal balance as you enter the outer fringes of the menopause transition (aka perimenopause). Two products that help women find relief from hormonal symptoms, including brain fog, are our landmark Herbal Equilibrium supplement and Biodientical USP Progesterone Cream

Give your focus and memory a boost 

We partnered with neurologist Julie Schwartzbard, MD to develop Memory Solutions, a research-backed formula that helps protect brain cells from oxidative damage with ingredients like curcumin and quercetin, proven by scientific studies to be highly effective for supporting healthy brain activity. Memory Solutions helps counter memory issues associated with normal aging. Our Brain Health Combo also comes with our exclusive Super Biotic to support gut health. 

“I had trouble concentrating and couldn’t remember what I just said or did. It was horrifying for me. Now, I’m way more into the moment of what I’m doing.”

Lauren, customer

Last Updated: November 10, 2022
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