We are currently hearing a lot in the media about the concept of brain fog because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll go into more details about the links between COVID and brain fog below, and also how brain fog, in general, can affect your life.
Many of us don’t even realize just how much dealing with brain fog can be a risk in our daily activities.
For example, just like alcohol and drugs can impact our cognition and decision-making when we’re driving, brain fog can similarly affect our coordination and motor skills. You could be experiencing brain fog and it could put you at greater risk of not only a vehicular accident but other types of injuries, such as falling when you’re at home.
Brain fog can affect your job and your ability to work at a peak level and even impact your relationships.
Below are some of the things to know about what causes mental fogginess and how it could be affecting you.
What Is Brain Fog?
Brain fog isn’t in and of itself a medical condition or a diagnosis. Instead, it’s a form of cognitive dysfunction with symptoms like a lack of mental clarity, problems with memory, an inability to focus, and a lack of concentration.
Depending on how severe your brain fog is, it can affect your quality of life and your ability to do tasks in your daily life.
Common causes of brain fog include:
- Stress: When you have high stress levels, it can lead to high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Chronic stress also puts you at risk of depression, and all of these things can then lead to mental fatigue.
- Lack of sleep: Americans are known for chronically being sleep-deprived. Even if you think you’re sleeping enough every night, you might not be getting quality sleep. Poor sleep quality interferes with your brain function and can lower your concentration and ability to think clearly. You should try to get at least eight to nine hours of sleep every night.
- Changes in hormones: Fluctuations in your hormone levels are linked to brain fog. For example, when you’re pregnant, you may have increased levels of estrogen and progesterone, which can lead to short-term cognitive problems. When you’re going through menopause, declines in estrogen can cause brain fog and clouded thinking.
- Nutrition: If you’re not getting the nutrients you need, it can affect your physical and mental health. For example, we know that B vitamins and B-12, in particular, play a role in healthy brain function. If you’re sensitive to certain foods and consume them, that can also impair your cognition.
- Medication side effects: Certain medicines can trigger brain fog, including chemo drugs. If you have brain fog as a side effect of a medicine and it doesn’t go away after a period of time, you should tell your doctor and they may be able to adjust your dose or change the medicine.
- Medical conditions: There is a wide range of medical conditions with brain fog as a symptom. For example, migraines, hypothyroidism and autoimmune diseases are all associated with brain fog.
COVID-19 And Brain Fog
As was mentioned above, the concept of brain fog is getting a lot of attention right now because of its association with COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only led to hundreds of thousands of deaths in the U.S. alone but has also contributed to ongoing symptoms for many people, which are sometimes called long-haul COVID.
Brain fog is one such symptom that seemschallenging to overcome, months or more past your actual infection with COVID.
Neurological symptoms affecting the nervous system and brain are reported in up to ¼ of people who get COVID-19. Lingering brain fog and cognitive impairment can include symptoms like feeling out of it, confusion, headaches, and memory problems.
We’re only just starting to learn more about why COVID-19 might cause ongoing brain fog.
One reason is that coronavirus enters cells through the ACE2 receptor, which is an enzyme. The virus can enter your brain tissue. Studies have shown that the virus causes inflammatory cytokines in the fluid surrounding your brain for weeks after you’re infected with COVID. Cytokines are molecules that your immune system produces, encouraging inflammation.
When you have inflammation in your brain, it impacts your neurons’ ability to communicate with each other.
Researchers have also found tiny structural changes in the hippocampus and other parts of the brain after infection with COVID-19 that can cause cognitive impairment.
How Can You Clear The Fog?
If you have brain fog, the first thing you should do is tell your health care provider. You do want to make sure there’s not an underlying condition causing it that requires treatment. You also want to ensure that you’re not experiencing side effects of medication.
If your doctor rules out any underlying reasons for your brain fog, then you can start to take steps on your own that may help you clear it up, including if it’s linked to a past COVID-19 infection.
- Get plenty of sleep: You should never do certain things when you’re experiencing fatigue or brain fog, including driving. It can be incredibly dangerous to drive while you’re tired. In fact, some research shows it can be as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. In general, one important thing to do if you have brain fog is make an effort to get plenty of sleep each night and follow a sleep routine.
- Meditation: Meditation can help you learn how to focus and concentrate more effectively, and you can then translate those skills to other areas of your life.
- Take care of your physical health: Getting exercise, being outside every day, and eating a balanced, healthy diet are all excellent ways to improve your physical health, which can, in turn, help your brain fog and mental health.
Finally, if you change your lifestyle and still can’t get rid of the brain fog and medical causes have been ruled out, you might benefit from working with a therapist or counselor.