What’s causing your brain fog?
November 11, 2022

What’s causing your brain fog?

Our fave lifestyle changes that can help your sluggish brain get moving again.

If you’ve ever dealt with brain fog, you know what a wrench it can throw into your life. Brain fog affects your cognitive skills, making tasks that are usually a breeze into a burden. Suddenly it’s harder to concentrate on that work project, remember information like where you left your keys, or make decisions such as what you want to eat for dinner. 
And if you’ve noticed that it tends to crop up around your period, you’re not imagining things. 
While it hasn’t been well-researched (due to it being shrugged off as a “women’s issue”), there is lots of anecdotal evidence that suggests sex hormones come into play when it comes to “period brain.”
The most popular working theory as to why brain fog appears in sync with your cycle is because of how some women’s brains respond to the fluctuation of certain hormones.¹ When those fluctuations are more extreme, such as in the case of a hormonal imbalance, the chances of developing brain fog are all the more likely.
Associate Professor Caroline Gurvich, a Senior Research Fellow and Clinical Neuropsychologist at Monash Alfred Psychiatry (MAP) Research Center, says that brain fog is a real problem for many women because sex hormones directly affect and interact with the brain.²
Some studies have even found a direct relationship between estradiol and cognitive functions such as memory.³ The more severe PMS symptoms are reported, including in cases of PMDD, the more likely brain fog is to appear as well. 
So how do you kick your brain fog and get back to your usual smart self? Here are a few lifestyle changes that can help your sluggish brain get moving again.
  • Get better sleep - It’s no secret that poor sleep can lead to impaired cognitive function, and PMS can take a serious toll on your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Studies have found that women who suffer from PMS are twice as likely to report insomnia before and during their period - which can leave you with brain fog the next day.⁴

    During times when you’re likely to encounter brain fog, it’s extra important to engage in good sleep hygiene: making sure your room is dark and cool, putting away screens an hour before bed, and eating a healthy diet that won’t keep you up at night.

  • Eat to beat brain fog - Speaking of diet, your brain needs the right food to function at its best. When it comes to beating brain fog, making sure that you get plenty of certain vitamins and minerals is key to boosting your brainpower. This includes B group vitamins, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids (brain power), Vitamin D (helps mood and concentration), and Magnesium (for your nervous system).

    The best place to find these is through whole food sources such as leafy greens, lean proteins and nutrient-dense nuts and seeds. Seed cycling can be a great option to bring a variety of necessary brain food into your diet while also balancing out the hormones that play into your PMS in the first place.
  • Keep your body moving - When you feel like you can’t get your brain moving, try to get your body moving instead. You don’t need to hit the gym for a hard workout, but rather find some gentle aerobic activity that you can enjoy for about 30 minutes a day. Such exercise has been linked to increased mental clarity that can combat your pre-period brain fog.⁵

    Even a light walk can have serious benefits for your brain. Studies have shown that white matter, which connects and supports brain cells, can be built up by the simple act of walking.⁶ Exercise can literally rewire and shape our brain for the better. Take that, brain fog.
Not all brain fog is caused by hormonal imbalances, so if you find that these suggestions don’t help, you may need to talk to your doctor to test for other root causes. Brain fog is often a long-term symptom related to COVID-19, and can also be a sign of more serious problems such as chronic fatigue syndrome.⁷⁸ 


Sources Referenced:
¹ Sex Differences and Mestrual Cycle Effects in Cognitive and Sensory Resting State Networks - Science Direct
² Clearing the Fog - Jean Hailes
³ PMID: 25205317
⁴ PMID: 22417163
⁵ PMID: 16862239
⁶ How Walking Can Build Up The Brain
⁷ Brain fog: Memory and attention after COVID-19 - Harvard Health
⁸ PMID: 32248536