What Causes Brain Fog In Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? – 5 Known Reasons

What Causes Brain Fog In Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? – 5 Known Reasons

Hang On A Sec…… I Just Need To Think Of The Right Word!

If this sounds like you, no you’re not going crazy, it’s just the annoying brain fog of chronic fatigue syndrome temporarily affecting your thinking.

During the time I had chronic fatigue syndrome, I’d go through periods when I would be literally lost for words. My brain would be searching around for a known word for what seemed an interminably long time. Then – ping it would suddenly appear in my mind, usually right in the nick of time before I began looking like a blithering idiot.

This didn’t happen too often thankfully. But I did have other weird brain fog symptoms too. I’d often find myself at the top of the stairs in my home thinking ‘now what did I come up here for?’ I’d go back downstairs again and remember what I was going upstairs for….. and up I’d go again.

And once after searching everywhere for my purse, I found it in the fridge. Why on earth I put it there I have no idea, and I have no recollection of doing so either.

Whilst these experiences can have a funny side, they can also be scary if you don’t know that brain fog is one of the symptoms of this illness, or what causes brain fog in chronic fatigue syndrome. At times, it can feel as if you’re starting to lose your marbles, but don’t worry………you’re not.

What Are The Symptoms Of Brain Fog?

If you are suffering with numerous other chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms, brain fog can add further frustrating symptoms into the mix.

Particularly when you are fatigued and struggling to find enough energy to get through each day, it can already be difficult to concentrate on tasks. Add brain fog to the list of your many baffling symptoms and it becomes almost impossible to focus.

Of course, this can affect your work life and daily life depending on just how bad your brain fog symptoms are.

Simply put, brain fog is a number of ‘thinking-related’ issues such as confusion, short term memory problems and difficulty with focus and concentration.

Brain fog symptoms include:

  • Difficulty with finding a word or words – known words become difficult to recall.
  • Issues with short-term memory.
  • Disorientation Episodes – Lasting only a few seconds you may not know where you are, or might not recognize people you know.
  • Trouble Concentrating – Difficulty learning new information and you become easily distracted.
  • Forgetfulness – Inability to remember what you’ve heard or read.
  • Attention Difficulty – Multitasking is difficult, you cannot pay attention to more than one thing at a time.

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Brain Fog Causes

It’s thought that low energy production in the brain with its alterations in blood flow, and changes in brain chemicals like adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin (neurotransmitters) can contribute to brain fog.

Some of the major contributing factors to brain fog in chronic fatigue syndrome can be attributed to the following:

Low Adrenal/Thyroid Hormones

Changes in blood sugar levels, common if you have an adrenal component to your chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as alterations in blood pressure, can also contribute to brain fog. Carry out saliva testing for adrenal hormone levels and blood tests to find out your thyroid levels.

Both adrenal and thyroid levels can be normalized with the use of nutrition, supplements and herbs.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Low levels of Vitamin B12, magnesium, amino acids or dehydration can be causes of brain fog. Make sure you are staying hydrated and your nutritional profile is optimized.

Changes In Hormone Levels

Changes in hormone levels can set off brain fog. For women, certain life stages e.g., pregnancy and menopause can cause hormonal fluctuations. These fluctuations can cause brain fog, forgetfulness and lack of clarity in thinking. In men, changing levels of testosterone can cause brain fog. Blood testing can help gauge your hormone levels.

Food Sensitivities

Sensitivities to certain foods can cause brain fog. Blood testing can show if you are sensitive to common foods such as MSG, peanuts, dairy, yeast and gluten etc.

Poor Gut Health

In my case I’m pretty sure my brain fog was caused mainly by the issues I was having with my gut, namely gut dysbiosis, a parasite infection and yeast overgrowth. Many factors can underlie the symptoms of brain fog but one of the best known is poor gut health.

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The gut and the brain are closely connected via what is known as the brain- gut axis.

Intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut,” occurs when the lining of your gut becomes over-porous. When this happens it allows undigested food, and toxins to enter the bloodstream.

This triggers an immune cascade in your body resulting in system wide inflammation which sets you up for developing food sensitivities, pain, and autoimmune disease.

Leaky gut is responsible for a leaky brain as the protective membrane around the brain (the blood – brain barrier) also becomes permeable. This allows pathogens and toxins to enter the brain resulting in inflammation.

When your brain is inflamed the tissues are damaged and your brain can age more rapidly causing symptoms of brain fog, fatigue, memory loss etc.

It is well-known that gluten can cause gut symptoms for people with gluten sensitivity. However, research shows that many people with celiac disease have no gut symptoms, but DO have brain related symptoms instead. This can be a very good reason to carry out food sensitivity testing to find out if gluten is a problem for you.

Brain Fog Treatment

There is no test for brain fog and therefore no specific treatment. However, generally the brain and gut respond well to anti-inflammatory protocols. If you are working with a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner for your chronic fatigue syndrome they will no doubt start you on this type of treatment.

As you work together to unearth the root cause(s), carry out testing and start treating your chronic fatigue syndrome your brain fog will begin to disappear.

Besides this treatment, you should also aim to make sure of the following:

  • Optimize your sleep to ensure you get a solid 8 to 9 hours sleep each night.
  • Make sure you are eating a healthy anti inflammatory diet consisting of fruit, vegetables, protein and healthy fats from fish, avocados and other healthy oils such as olive, coconut and flax.
  • Manage your stress levels by introducing simple techniques into your daily life.
  • Avoid caffeine, sugar and alcohol.
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Putting It All Together

When brain fog is a part of your chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms, work with your practitioner to carry out testing and find out where you need to make improvements. Following an anti inflammatory protocol can help reduce your brain fog. While you work on your recovery there are some products that can help you manage your brain fog symptoms. 

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