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Addressing the Issue of Brain Fog

by Dr. Fred Harvey


Have you ever felt that you were just not thinking clearly? Have you experienced trouble with staying focused on a task? Have you needed to read and reread a text so you could understand it? If so, these can be symptoms of “brain fog,” or a clouding of consciousness.

The term “clouding of consciousness” has been used in the medical definition of delirium which is an acutely disturbed state of mind according to the dictionary. It is a condition induced by illness or intoxication. Delirium is a sudden onset problem that will often resolve when the person recovers from the illness like fever or the toxicant wears off. However, in this case, I refer to a chronic state of altered thinking.

This is a subjective experience for the sufferer that is a perception of mental sluggishness often described as a “foggy feeling.” People afflicted are awake, but they don’t feel quite fully awake. This is different from what we describe as dementia which involves more severe symptoms of memory loss, personality changes and loss of reasoning abilities. Because these symptoms are more vague, it is often difficult for healthcare practitioners to make a diagnosis.

It is frustrating for the patient suffering with the symptoms because they have severe difficulty with finding solutions. There are many possible causes for subjective cognitive impairment. One of them is early dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, so that should prompt a search for more answers because of the dim prospects for treating advanced dementia.

Other causes can include toxicity from the foods eaten or from the environment. Medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, can interfere with thinking. Impaired sugar metabolism of diabetes or hormone imbalances like those experienced in menopause or thyroid disease can cause mental changes.

These are a highly diverse group of causes for one set of symptoms. The nature of contemporary medicine is such that it can evaluate the acute problem, but it has difficulty discerning the root cause of a chronic issue like this. The tools available to the traditional doctor may help to alleviate some of the symptoms like alertness and focus with amphetamines or mood changes with anxiety medications and antidepressants. While these are helpful for some people, they fall short for many others because the problem does not start with alertness or mood issues. As you see, it can have deeper roots.

Functional medicine is the specialty of healthcare that focuses on the chronic problems that are ill-defined and lack specific diagnosis that enable rapid treatment like one might treat a pneumonia with antibiotics. For those who suffer with brain fog, it could take time to unravel the root cause. However, it can be as simple as eliminating wheat gluten or aspartame from the diet. To discover the cause takes time.

That is why an initial consult with a functional practitioner is long and involves much information gathering. We want to find the root cause so that we can help you to eliminate it in order to achieve optimal function and vibrant health. If you suffer from brain fog, I look forward to working with you to identify the cause.


For more information or to schedule your consultation with Dr. Fred Harvey, please call 941-929-9355. The Harvey Center for Integrative Medicine is located at 3982 Bee Ridge Rd., Suite J, Sarasota.  


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