Have you ever experienced these? Mental confusion. Lack of mental clarity. Difficulty thinking most of the time, in varying degrees. It’s called brain fog, although there is still a lot of mystery surrounding it in various medical and psychological arenas. What is known, however, is that it can be brought on by various triggers.
Stress is one of those. Chronic stress can overstimulate the brain, so giving your brain a break—and proper nutrients—can help quell the damage done to it and its nerve cells. In fact, your brain is fueled by an array of nutrients. Among those are omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, CoQ10, zinc, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin C and vitamin E. So, be sure your noggin gets the diet it needs to function properly. Likewise, adaptogens, such as ashwagandha, can help your body manage stress more effectively.
This next trigger may seem like a “Captain Obvious” reason, but fatigue and lack of adequate sleep or rest can adversely affect your brain, leading to muddled thinking. On average, an adult requires 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep per night. Not getting that amount will cost you some brain power.
Then there’s gluten. Believe it or not, gluten-ridden foods, including that morning bagel, lunchtime sandwich or pasta dinner can all contribute to brain fog. Gluten, of course, is a protein found in most grains, including wheat, and can disrupt the balance of chemicals and hormones in the brain. Those who have gluten sensitivity often have malabsorption of nutrients, which can adversely affect mental abilities. What happens is that the body attacks gluten as an invader, which damages the villi lining the intestine, which are there to absorb nutrients as food passes through the small intestine. With damaged villi, however, nutrients are not absorbed properly.
For those who are sensitive to gluten, eating any gluten activates the immune system and can damage the gut villi. Symptoms spread from the gut throughout the body, including the brain. Hence, brain fog.
For some women, however, there’s more to the story of brain fog. Surgical menopause at an earlier age can lead to decline of memory and thinking skills, says a study released just weeks ago and set to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 6th Annual Meeting in San Diego. Surgical menopause occurs with the removal of both ovaries prior to natural menopause onset and typically accompanies a hysterectomy—a procedure one-third of the women in the U.S. will have before they turn 60. However, stats indicate that nearly two-thirds of the hysterectomies are unnecessary.
Now back to surgical menopause and brain fog. . . Researchers found that women who had surgical menopause had a faster decline in long-term memory related to concepts and ideas, in memory that relates to time and places, and in overall thinking abilities. What’s more is that the researchers also found a significant association between age at surgical menopause and the plaques linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Those who underwent surgical menopause at younger ages had significantly more of the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s than those of women who had the procedure later in life.
Interestingly, no such associations were seen between cognitive decline and the onset of natural menopause.
It’s not unusual, however, for women to report short-term brain fog after menopause—both surgical and natural—but researchers believe that this results from a sudden drop in the levels of estrogen, which plays a significant role in cognition and memory. With natural menopause, however, cognitive changes are temporary and aren’t linked to the risk of dementia.
The changes with surgical menopause, however, appear to be more long-term, leading to continuous negative effects to the brain.
Now you know some triggers of brain fog, so do all you can to avoid them.