Published April 23, 2012
Have you ever walked into a room only to realize you don’t remember why you are there?
I think we’ve all had that experience, but when it happens on a daily basis, it can be frightening. I know because I’ve been there. After my total hysterectomy, I had severe short-term memory loss. For a while it was so bad that when I saw a movie, I wouldn’t be able to remember the ending an hour later.
For me, my hysterectomy and the hormone imbalance that resulted was the core issue that caused my memory loss. I was taking hormone replacements, but it wasn’t the right protocol to provide all the hormones my body was missing. Once I balanced out my hormones, my memory improved, and I could think again. And by the way, it took nine visits to nine different doctors before I found one who could help me – so never give up.
As a health advocate, I’m always looking for the core problem. When people come to me complaining about memory loss or anything to do with brain function, I start by asking what changed recently. Have you changed your diet? Have you had surgery? Are you allergic to anything? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you taking any new medications?
Let’s stop right there for a minute. Medications are huge when it comes to brain function. I can't say that enough – medications can do all sorts of things to change how your brain works. I'm not saying medications are bad. But you need to be aware of the possible side effects of any medication you are taking. A drug that works just fine for me could cause serious side effects for you, including changing how your brain functions. It could put you in a fog, affect your memory, or even mess with your sleep cycle – making it harder to think.
So any time you start taking a new medication, look to see what the possible side effects are so you’ll recognize them if you get them. Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you think a medication is causing you problems. There may be something else that could work for you, and if not, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about whether the benefits of the medication are worth the side effects you are having.
Other factors that can cause brain fog include lack of sleep and too much stress – two things that can easily go together. When you’re stressed, you can’t sleep – making you stressed about not sleeping. It’s no wonder you feel like your brain is in a fog the next day. I’ve learned that I can stop the stress cycle by giving my brain a mini-vacation. A few days a week, I do yoga, which calms my thinking and helps me focus on the moment instead of my to-do list. It helps to clear my brain so I can think better when I go back to work.
Also, just as exercise is good for the body, it’s also good for your brain. Dr. Paul Bendheim, a certified neurologist and neuroscientist in Scottsdale, Ariz., said that doing mentally challenging activities can help your brain create new brain cells. It acts like strength-training to improve thinking and memorization. Do your brain a favor and give it a challenge, like doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku. You can read more from Dr. Bendheim in his article “You Are Your Brain” on EmpowHER.com or check out his book The Brain Training Revolution.
As usual, the bottom line for me is taking charge of your own health. Look for the core issue that may have triggered your brain to go into a fog, then take your ideas to the doctor to see what he thinks. Brain function is not something to mess around with. All of us can do research online and make educated guesses about what might be wrong, but don’t just self-diagnose anything, especially not something as critical as how your brain is working.
If you suspect your brain is not working quite right, see your doctor to check it out. And if your memory isn’t good, make sure you write down the time so you don’t forget the appointment.
Michelle King Robson (pronounced robe-son) is one of the nation's leading women's health and wellness advocates. She is the Founder, Chairperson and CEO of EmpowHER, one of the fastest-growing and largest social health companies dedicated exclusively to women's health and wellness. In 2011 EmpowHER reached more than 60 million women onsite and through syndication expects to reach more than 250 million in 2012.