If you are a woman looking for an effective treatment for brain fog I want you to keep reading.
In my quest to speak with 50 women suffering from brain fog symptoms, regardless of reason or diagnosis, I am finding a lot of misinformation and confusion.
In order to find women to interview for my program development, I do a lot of hashtag searches on a lot of different platforms.
#brainfogger #fogbrain #brainfogfix #brainfogbegone #nomorebrainfog #brainfogisreal #byebrainfog #nobrainfog #brainfogsucks #brainfogproblems #brainfog
Sometimes this helps me find women suffering from chronic or recurrent brain fog to reach out to directly. I am working on a program that will use nutritional and functional psychiatry principles along with wrap-around supports to help women get their brains back. And speaking to women suffering from symptoms while learning about their frustrations around getting better is an important part of that work.
But what I find more often than not are a lot of attempts to sell quick fixes or suggestions around how to shake mild brain fog off. Some are nootropics intended to mask the underlying symptoms and just get a brain to work. And there are some ingredients in some of these that I can see may temporarily improve symptoms. But they will not stop the underlying disease process going on that caused the symptoms to begin with.
Other suggestions include things like smelling certain essential oils, going for a walk and getting active, or working on your mindset about having brain fog. And I am sure these can be useful for the occasional brain fog day a woman may encounter. I like the smell of Rosemary oil, too. It is very invigorating. But did using it save my cognitive functioning at my worst? Absolutely not.
So for women searching for solutions to chronic or recurrent brain fog, these suggestions do not do justice to their symptoms. And they are certainly not strong enough interventions to reverse symptoms of cognitive decline.
The other types of posts I find with those hashtags are around nutrition. Some suggest plant-based diets; I am assuming they do so with the assumption that more micronutrients are better and the belief that those diets provide those in sufficient amounts to heal the brain (untrue from a purely nutritional biochemistry standpoint – there are fewer bioavailable forms of very important brain nutrients in Vegan diets). Some will suggest you eat more blueberries, declaring that the antioxidants in them will improve neuroinflammation and stave off neurodegenerative processes.
But I can tell you that when you begin to notice your brain fog symptoms start to affect your job performance or your relationships, regardless of whether your partner or coworkers notice, it’s time to begin to consider more powerful interventions. You know when your functioning is starting to decrease. Pay attention to that.
And I can tell you that if these symptoms are occurring, it’s time to stop playing!
- Word- or name-finding problems (noticeable to family or close associates)
- Impaired ability to remember names when introduced to new people
- Performance issues in social and work settings (noticeable to others)
- Reading a passage and retaining little material
- Losing or misplacing important objects
- A decline in the ability to plan or organize
Don’t just breeze by this list of symptoms. Think about how it might apply.
Do you read less than you used to? Do you find you are not holding the information as easily, and do you have to reread the passages? Do you find yourself making simpler meals because you are overwhelmed by complex recipes? Have you discontinued hobbies that were more cognitively demanding in the past? Do you feel anxious about remembering people’s names or finding words in conversations? Do you have to have a very rigid system for putting things back where you can find them? Are you losing important work emails or are things falling through the cracks that you would normally be on top of? Are you struggling to learn new technology or processes at work that other people are managing to master?
At this stage, blueberries are not a sufficient treatment for brain fog.
And while eating nutrient-rich foods like salmon a couple of times a week is a wonderful idea and will, in fact, give you things your brain needs to be healthy, eating fish alone will not reverse potential underlying causes causing your cognitive symptoms.
Doing brain games are helpful, but at a certain point, as you do them, you will find you do not have the mental energy to make very good progress. You will find that you become slightly overwhelmed by them, and you will stop using them regularly. They will become just another app on your phone that you don’t use and then blame yourself for not doing.
This brings us to another category of posts I find while searching these hashtags. And these are posts by well-meaning functional medicine practitioners who want to provide hormonal support and encourage people to heal their guts and unstress their adrenals in order to improve brain function. And yes, these may improve symptoms in the short term. But these interventions are not necessarily addressing the underlying metabolic factors that are going on that increase stress in the brain and body.
Giving you bioidentical hormones is not going to ferret out the reason your hormones are not functioning well in the first place. And giving you probiotics and certain fibers is not going to fix an energy crisis in the brain, although it may very well help with your digestive symptoms and have downstream effects on health that benefit the brain. Why are your adrenals so taxed in the first place? And why is your resiliency so low that you are told to avoid all stressors? Why are your adrenals not taking over the production of sex hormones you need in the peri and post-menopausal transition? Transitions we have had as females for millennia, but now cannot be successfully managed without hormone replacement therapies?
Almost none of these functional medicine posts are talking about the huge metabolic stressor that eating highly processed carbohydrates does to the system and how it disrupts hormone and immune functioning, which can cause neuroinflammation (autoimmune diseases, included). Or how brains can stop using glucose as fuel in certain parts of the brain due to insulin resistance. Your functional medicine person often wants to tell you to continue to eat more carbohydrates than your current metabolism can handle because they know that is what you want to hear. And they think they can both make you happy and treat your symptoms with a lot of supplements that will try to offset the damage your current diet is having on your brain, gut, hormones, and immune system (all relevant in recurrent and persistent brain fog).
But it’s just not going to be a powerful enough intervention to improve your cognitive function to an appreciable degree. And it is not going to sufficiently slow the underlying disease process that is traveling you towards possible dementia.
You deserve powerful and evidence-based treatments for brain fog to rescue your cognition. You are past the point of blueberries, brain games, mindset practice, and wishful thinking that your brain is going to get better on its own. I get it. You want your brain back. You have a career and goals you are trying to accomplish. You remember having way more mental stamina. A better memory.
Cognitive impairment in the form of brain fog shakes you to your very core. Your identity was built upon, to some degree, your intellectual confidence. A large part of your joy came from having the mental energy to pursue knowledge and curiosity. To understand your world or how to do something just a little bit better was a satisfying part of your life.
Maybe you were more social. But now that you are forgetting peoples’ stories from the last visit, maybe you feel less confident in social situations. You may feel less supportive and maybe even less present. Why? Because real emotional presence takes a lot of brain energy. And if you have recurrent or chronic brain fog, that energy is just not available. Social interactions are more fatiguing and you find you go to them less often.
Maybe you are less present with a partner or children. And this is missed time and missed experiences together. It takes cognitive energy to be present and to be playful, and pay attention. It takes cognitive energy to be spontaneous and joyful. Telling you to eat more blueberries, go for a walk and learn to “accept” brain fog is insulting. It doesn’t acknowledge what your symptoms cost you on a daily basis in terms of your quality of life. It doesn’t acknowledge that there are parts of life you are actually missing out on.
The other types of posts I see are the ones that are not offering treatment for brain fog at all. The medications available to treat brain fog or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and even early dementia are abysmal. And so, discussion of options that are treatments for brain fog doesn’t exist except as pharmaceutical advertisements. This doesn’t mean there are no powerful and effective biological treatments for brain fog available. It just means they are not well known because they don’t have an advertising budget.
And so, at some nebulous point, these posts stop talking about how to improve brain fog symptoms. The posts begin to make suggestions on how to cope with brain fog symptoms, as opposed to successfully treating them.
They suggest writing more lists and putting keys where you will remember them. They want you to take lots of notes at work so that your coworkers will not notice the decline in your performance. The unspoken assumption is that at some point, you should stop trying and just accept it as a part of your life and accept your current level of functioning.
This attitude comes from the medical establishment not being able to assimilate current research and treatment progresses into the existing system in such a way that the information gets to you.
You don’t need an antidepressant to help you cope with the upset you are having at the loss of your brain. This is what most women are prescribed who go to their doctor when they notice their brain is not working well. This is why my program research is focused on women. I am on a mission to save women’s cognitive function. I believe you when you say your brain is not working as well as it used to.
You need real treatment for brain fog. And you are going to need help and support for the bravery to go out of the current medical establishment to get it.
You will need accurate, evidence-based information and guidance in your fight to get your brain back.
But I think you are worth the fight.
And I think that telling you to eat more blueberries until your cognitive symptoms are so severe that the next step is to accept them and learn memory aids is a travesty.
I am here to tell you that there are effective treatments for brain fog, regardless of the reason for your brain fog symptoms.
- Suspected pharmacological damage (e.g., common OTC or Rx medications, psychotropics, alcohol or pain medications)
- Autoimmune Conditions (Hashimoto’s, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, MS, Crohn’s Disease)
- Mental Health Diagnosis (ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD)
- Digestive Disorders (Leaky Gut, Dysbiosis, SIBO)
- Suspected or confirmed hormone dysfunction (e.g., Peri or Post Menopause, PMS, and PMDD)
- Autonomic Dysregulations (e.g., POTS)
- Current or past head or brain injury (TBI, Stroke)
- Post-Viral Syndromes (CFS, Epstein-Barr, COVID)
If you are a woman suffering from recurrent or chronic brain fog that reduces your quality of life, please consider jumping on a short call with me to assist me with program development. I would like to hear about your symptoms and I would like to learn about your frustrations in your attempts to feel better.
Because you have the right to know all of the ways that you can feel better.
If you would like to sign up for announcements on programs and ways to work with me you can do so here:
If you would like to read more about brain function and memory I encourage you to explore the following blog posts:
Gillis, C., Mirzaei, F., Potashman, M., Ikram, M. A., & Maserejian, N. (2019). The incidence of mild cognitive impairment: A systematic review and data synthesis. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, 11, 248–256. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dadm.2019.01.004
Top Ten Signs of Alzheimer’s | Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2022, from https://www.alzinfo.org/understand-alzheimers/top-ten-signs-of-alzheimers
What Is Dementia? (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Retrieved April 10, 2022, from https://alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia