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Brain Fog: A Condition As Unclear As It Sounds

March 9, 2015

Maybe you’ve felt it before — a hazy cloudiness of the mind, hampering your awareness and impeding your memory.

This confusing, vague feeling is known as brain fog, and can be a symptom of a multitude of conditions. But why exactly does brain fog happen, and how can you avoid it?

Celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and menopause have been linked to brain fog. More commonly, many people experience this feeling after indulging in a particularly big meal.

Medical research has yet to pinpoint an exact cause for this feeling, as it’s ephemeral quality makes it difficult to study in a clinical setting. As some studies have pointed out, the moment you ask a patient to describe their mental state, you actually alter their mental state.

In an article published in Psychology Today, psychiatrist Emily Deans explained that brain fog could be connected to gut health. Studies in rats and mice have shown that rodents with fewer healthy gut bacteria had lower levels of neurotransmitters needed for high brain function. While not conclusive in humans, this could indicate a link between an unhealthy gut microbiome and memory loss and low mental clarity.

Hypoglycemia, or extremely low blood sugar, could also cause feelings of light-headedness and dizziness. Though hypoglycemia isn’t very common in people without diabetes, it’s possible that what you’ve eaten (or not eaten) has something to do with your brain fog.

Without a more complete understanding of the cause of brain fog, it’s difficult to treat. That said, paying close attention to your diet and nutrition can’t hurt. Focus on eating whole foods with plenty of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, and stay hydrated. When your body is well nourished, your brain is well nourished.

You could also try an elimination diet — slowly remove foods you suspect you might be intolerant to, such as gluten or dairy, and see if the condition alters. Of course, you should always consult a health care professional before making any drastic changes to your diet or routine.

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Illustration by Katherine Prendergast

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Annalise Mantz

Annalise is a foodie, Brussels sprouts lover, grammar nerd, and political pet aficionado.

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