Thinking clearly and effectively allows one to live their lives efficiently and happily. However, if one is constantly plagued by distractions, moodiness, fatigue, and feeling mentally scattered, life becomes a frustrating challenge. In the modern world, it is becoming increasingly common for people to experience brain fog and inhibited mental clarity. Western society contains several elements that promote poor mental health. A fast-paced lifestyle of supply and demand, technological influence, and heavy stress are all possible contributors of brain fog. However impactful these aspects are, there may be an even greater cause of brain fog; the thyroid.
Making the Connection
On a physiological level, high pace lifestyles negatively influence the stream of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, glucose and various hormones needed to support proper brain function. Part of the reason a high stress and busy life can induce brain fog is because it significantly impacts thyroid function. The thyroid is a small gland located in the front of the neck, which controls the body’s production, regulation, and distribution of thyroid hormones. Therefore, it is incredibly influential over nearly every bodily function.
Thyroid function is closely tied to metabolism and therefore energy production and regulation. Fluctuations in metabolism can cause one to feel fatigued, sluggish, and neurologically defunct. When energy levels dip too low, the brain is one of the first systems to experience a decrease in its ability. Therefore, it is not surprising that those with hypothyroidism (reduced thyroid function), especially if their condition is undiagnosed or under-treated, frequently experience brain fog or inhibited mental ability.
A thyroid disorder can cause a variety of symptoms. Often, thyroid disorders are overlooked because their symptoms can be vague and may possibly be caused by other conditions. Recognition of thyroid dysfunction requires that one be aware of the group of symptoms associated with it. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Slowed heart rate
- Poor toleration of cold temperatures
- Weight gain
- Muscle cramps
In addition to these common symptoms, poor mental function and brain fog can frequently be attributed to poor hormone regulation and production due to inadequate thyroid function.
Thyroid and the Brain
One’s thyroid is critical for healthy brain function. The brain requires a regular stream of thyroid hormones to work at its best. When there is a lack of thyroid hormone being produced or not enough reaching the brain, frequently caused by hypothyroidism, one can experience neurological disruption and brain fog.
A slowed thyroid gland slows down everything, including the brain. Neurological specific symptoms of poor thyroid function include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems, both short and long term
- Poor focus
- Frequently losing focus and/or staring into space
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Unexplainable anxiety and irritability
- Difficulty getting motivated
- Poor self esteem
- Reduced reaction time
- Inability to synthesize information
The medical term for brain fog, which encompasses most of the above symptoms, is Critical Mood Deterioration (CMD). Studies have shown that hypothyroidism may severely cripple one’s health and induce CMD. Some patients have reached a point where brain fog is so severe that they are unable to carry on in everyday conversation. It can be incredibly frustrating to navigate life when one’s brain is not responding correctly and is incapable of comprehending common situations.
Even if one is being treated for a thyroid condition, they may experience brain fog. This is a sign that treatment is not optimized and additional tests and treatment methods should be considered. The most common method for testing thyroid function is through measuring TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). Unfortunately, the “normal” range for this test is far too broad to be and accurate gauge of health. Additionally, the test only investigates one aspect of thyroid function. Testing should include multiple influencing factors including T4, T3, Reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies. Without testing each of these areas, one acquires only a partial image of thyroid function.
Reducing Brain Fog by Supporting Thyroid Health
There are various common contributors to hypothyroidism leading to a greater occurrence of brain fog. By resolving the following issues one may be able to improve both brain and thyroid function. Common contributors of brain fog include nutrient deficiencies (specifically iron), lack of sleep, inflammation, and autoimmune dysfunction.
Anything that causes the brain’s neurotransmitters to misfire can induce brain fog. It’s important to recognize the underlying causes of brain fog and treat them appropriately. Below are a few ways one can improve their brain function while supporting better thyroid health.
Support the Gut
Inflammation frequently begins in the gut. The gut also houses the bulk of the body’s immune system. Ensuring that this system is working at its best can improve brain function, thyroid efficacy, and overall health.
Reducing inflammation, losing weight, and halting overactive immune responses can all help support better health. Diet is an impactful way of doing just that. Although coffee is considered by many to be one of man’s greatest accomplishments, overindulgence of this substance can cause inflammation and gastrointestinal stress. Reducing or eliminating coffee from one’s diet may improve their gut function.
Adding a probiotic to one’s diet can also improve gut function by promoting the production of good bacteria. An imbalance of bacteria in the gut, also known as dysbiosis, can lead to system wide dysfunction and physical discomfort. Resolving an imbalance of this nature can improve gut function and thereby brain health.
Lack of sleep is becoming an epidemic in modern society. Poor sleep is also a common complaint from hypothyroid patients. Unfortunately, poor sleep among those with a thyroid condition creates a cycle of degrading health. The body needs to sleep to restore various parts of the body including the brain and endocrine system. Loss of sleep can cause one to experience the following symptoms:
- Weight gain
- Cardiovascular stress and associated conditions such as heart attack, diabetes, and high blood pressure
- Reduced libido
- Slowed reaction time and poor judgment
- Reduced memory
- Increased skin aging
Improving sleep quality and getting enough sleep can help resolve brain fog and support thyroid wellness. The following tips can help one achieve greater sleep quality and consistency.
- Choose a sleep schedule of at least 8 hours and stick to it: 10pm to 6am, 12am to 8am or whatever regularly scheduled block of time works for you with the stipulation that it is at least 8 hours.
- Reduce the intake of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other substances that disrupt sleep.
- Make sure to have a suitable sleep environment. Turn off all lights including TVs, computers, and lamps. If needed, consider light blocking blinds or black-out curtains.
- Follow a pre-sleep routine like drinking non-caffeinated tea before bed, which can prime the body for sleeping.
Healthy physical activity supports both mental and physical wellness. Through activating various systems and hormones in the body, one can reduce the impact and occurrence of brain fog. Studies have found that aerobic activity increases brain size, memory, concentration, and executive thought (including complex thinking and planning). Alternatively, a sedentary lifestyle can cause brain degradation which leads to serious neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Healthy exercise improves oxygenation and blood flow, which is a primary factor in brain function. This allows for greater stimulation of numerous protective genes, and promotes the production of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). This substance is needed for neuron growth and survival. BDNF also protects already established neurons. Exercise also helps prevent damage associated with stress, brain injury, and environmental toxins.
Think Clearly by Thinking Thyroid
Although one’s brain fog may not be caused entirely by poor thyroid function it is important to consider its influence. Without a healthy thyroid, the body suffers in numerous ways including poor cognitive function. By supporting thyroid and overall bodily health through better gut health, improved sleep, and healthy physical activity, one can help clear their brain of constricting and confusing brain fog.