Do you ever have days where it’s hard to focus clearly on your thoughts and your brain feels a bit sluggish? You might be finding it harder than usual to concentrate and feel like your memory is playing tricks on you. This is sometimes referred to as ‘brain fog’. You might expect to feel like this from time to time if you’re temporarily lacking sleep, jetlagged, taking certain medications or are unwell. But for some of us, this brain fog seems to last longer than expected and starts to affect our daily lives.
‘Covid brain’ is that a thing? Yes, it is. There has been lots of evidence proving that many people have struggled with lingering ‘brain fog’ whilst having Covid and experiencing these symptoms for a number of weeks after they have recovered. These symptoms can often occur due to post-viral fatigue.
What is brain fog and why does it happen?
You might experience brain fog as difficulty concentrating, focusing or thinking clearly; as feeling “fuzzy” headed or having trouble recalling information or remembering things; slower reaction times; difficulty making decisions.
Brain fog isn’t a medical condition, but if it persists it may be a sign of a deeper issue and is worth following up with a health practitioner. It can be caused by a range of things from stress or a mood disorder, nutrient deficiencies, blood sugar or hormonal imbalances (menopause, hypothyroidism), food allergies or sensitivities, as a side effect of medications or other treatments, post-viral fatigue, an inflammatory condition or something as simple as too much or too little sleep.
But don’t worry, brain fog doesn’t have to last forever. Take a look at these 7 effective strategies you can look into to clear the fog:
Sleep: Lack of sleep can lead to impaired brain functions, such as memory and focus. Memory consolidation, where your brain works to keep useful memories and get rid of unnecessary information, happens when you sleep. So, sleep deprivation means that your brain might be unable to perform this important task, leading to symptoms of brain fog. Aim for a good 7-8 hours of sleep per night to give your body and mind time to recuperate overnight. If you have difficulties sleeping, try drinking a small cup of caffeine-free tea after your dinner. Find a herbal blend that contains relaxing herbs like chamomile, oat straw and valerian. If this doesn’t help, try also taking two Pukka Night Time capsules with a small glass of water or tea 1-2 hours before you go to bed to help improve sleep quality throughout the night.
Stress: It is no surprise that stress can lead to symptoms of brain fog. Long-term stress can lead to depression and headaches and can increase your risk of so many health issues. So, what can you do to reduce stress? Exercise is a proven way to improve brain health because it leads to improved flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to your brain. All types of exercise that get the circulation moving and blood pumping are going to be good for you, but if you struggling to make time for classes or getting to the gym, just making time for a brisk walk in the fresh air – 40 minutes of walking a few times a week – has been heralded as the ideal amount of walking to help preserve memory and keep our brains in tip-top form. Struggling to get motivated? Invest in a fitness watch, such as the Garmin Venu, which will track your steps, remind you to move more and also helps you monitor your stress levels and heart rate throughout the day.
Relaxation: It’s easy enough to download a meditation app and try to use it every day – if you haven’t already done this, then now is the time. There are plenty around that are free to use, or for a small monthly cost. Taking 10-15 mins out of your day to try meditation or mindfulness techniques can be really impactful to help your brain cope with the daily stressors we face, as well as help shift that foggy brain.
Swap your coffee for Tulsi tea. Tulsi, an Ayurvedic herb, is known to be fantastic to rejuvenate mind and spirit and can help improve mental clarity and clear brain fog. It is known to improve circulation to the brain, whilst also providing oxidative protection to the brain cells – basically helps prevent ageing caused by stress. It also steadies the adrenal hormonal stress response allowing you to cope better under pressure.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom – Lion’s mane is super brain-boosting food. Study’s have found that Lion’s mane mushroom can stimulate the growth of new brain cells. This specific mushroom is the only food source of the compounds which support the production of NGF (Nerve Growth Factor), which stimulates the growth of nerve cells. There’s mounting evidence that regular intake of Lion’s mane can also increase levels of BDNF and pro-BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which are essential for myelination of nerve fibres and supporting concentration and sleep, and regulating mood. Lion’s mane helps both to regulate your gut microbiota for all the benefits of a healthy gut-brian axis, as well as containing the compounds hericenones and erinacines, which can cross the blood-brain barrier and directly support mood, concentration and mental clarity. This mushroom is a useful part of a plan to promote emotional and physical wellness to help manage the increased pressures and stresses of life back at work or school. It can be taken as a superfood powder, capsules, or a concentrated extract for a more powerful effect. Take it daily for best results.
Try: Hifas da Terra Lion’s Mane
Dine on Mediterranean food – research has shown that the Mediterranean diet can improve memory, so try and plan your meals to include grilled fish, mixed fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and unsaturated fats, such as olive oil.
Hormones: Research shows that around 60% of women in their 40’s report that they often have brain fog. And this number increases as we reach our late 40’s and early 50’s with the onset of perimenopause. It is believed that this brain fog is caused by hormonal changes, as the hormones we associate with menopause are also responsible for cognition. Don’t worry as these hormonal fluctuations generally last only a few years and then stabilise. The best advice if to try and eat a balanced diet, exercise your mind and your body, and de-stress when possible. I also recommend a multivitamin and mineral complex aimed specifically at women’s health, as the right nutrients can help to support and regulate your hormones. I recommend Evity’s multivitamin for women. It’s well priced and includes high-quality, science-based nutrients designed especially to support women’s mental and physical health.
Dr. Naomi Newman-Beinart, Nutritionist (BSc) and a Specialist in Health Psychology (PhD).