Let’s get something out of the way. Thyroid brain fog is absolutely real. Does it have kind of a funny name? Well, yes, but it’s also a descriptive name. Thinking when you’re living the hypo life is like trying to think through a dense fog. There’s confusion and a lack of clarity. At its worst, it can feel like a complete mental block – and that’s pretty scary! You feel detached, forgetful… your ability to concentrate is at nil. Even just reading and comprehending an email can seem impossible.
You may even start to wonder if you’re losing your mind!
The good news is that brain fog is reversible. The not so good news is that Hashimoto’s brain fog is a sign that some very serious things are going on in your body. Powerful immune cells in the brain called microglial cells can react to inflammation caused by a thyroid imbalance and mount an autoimmune attack on the brain – which, as you can imagine, has a negative effect on brain health and function.
That means it’s very, very important that you do what you can to respond proactively when brain fog is one of your Hashimoto’s symptoms. It’s about more than just being able to think straight; it’s literally about protecting your brain.
Here are nine self care strategies you can use to beat brain fog and work toward a healthy life with Hashimoto’s:
Get rid of gluten. You hear it all the time, but we can’t stress it enough. The molecular structure of gluten’s protein, gliadin, is so similar to that of the thyroid gland that the body can confuse the two and so your immune system goes into overdrive when it’s in your system. Giving up gluten also lets you heal the gut, further reducing autoimmune flare ups that result in Hashimoto’s/hypothyroid symptoms like brain fog.
Add probiotics to your diet. As you heal the gut, restore the healthy bacteria in your digestive system. This can help prevent the kind of low grade infections that keep your whole body – including your brain – in a state of distress and worsen autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s.
Skip your morning coffee. And if you can manage it, eliminate all caffeine from your diet! Chances are the quick burst of energy coffee gives you is followed by a mid-morning crash because your adrenals are strained. If your Hashimoto’s fatigue is so bad that you simply cannot function without caffeine, swap coffee for something less caffeinated like matcha green tea.
Reduce (or better yet eliminate) sugar. By now, we all know how bad sugar is for our health – and how omnipresent it is in processed foods. But did you know that your brain actually still needs carbs to function? And that eliminating all carbs can actually make brain fog worse? Skip sugary foods and eat complex, unprocessed carbohydrates that are known to improve focus and memory, like veggies and ancient grains if you tolerate them.
Boost your B12. This nutrient supports neurotransmitter function, improves memory, and can enhance mental clarity. Talk to your practitioner if you are worried about overdoing it – they can test your B12 levels to see whether a deficiency is contributing to your Hashimoto’s symptoms.
Don’t neglect sleep. We know from experience that insomnia related to thyroid imbalance is no joke so getting adequate sleep may be challenging. But in the battle against brain fog, sleep is your number one weapon because an exhausted brain is still going to have trouble with cognition even if you’re doing everything else right.
Oxygenate your brain. Gentle exercise like yoga and even non-physical exercise like meditation ensure your brain has the oxygen it literally needs to function! If you can tolerate higher intensity exercise, go for it, but don’t let fatigue keep you from investing in your brain’s health. And remember that overexerting yourself can actually increase cortisol levels, so make sure you get plenty of rest between workouts.
Find your supplement mix. Certain supplements can help you beat brain fog but keep in mind that supplements are meant to enhance a healthy lifestyle, not repair the damage caused by an unhealthy one. The reason supplementation helps so many is that if the brain’s hormone levels are off, a nutritional boost can help speed up the healing process and restore proper brain function. Many people find relief from brain fog with adaptogens like holy basil and ashwagandha; fish oil; and B vitamins.
Try dry brushing. When coffee is no longer part of your morning routine, dry brushing can wake you up in the a.m. while also stimulating your lymphatic system – aka the body’s main system of immunity. Dry brushing can flush out toxins that can agitate the gut, thyroid, and brain, leading to better overall health and more clarity of mind.
Finally, it’s important to remember that sometimes the best treatment for brain fog is simply time. The more time you spend practicing healthy habits that help you live your best life with Hashi, the more likely it is your brain fog will begin to clear on its own.