Difficulty concentrating/ fuzzy brain

9 March 2017.

Difficulty concentrating (aka ‘fuzzy brain’) is a normal occurrence for all human beings (and possibly other species, too!); the most common causes are tiredness, emotional stress, or dehydration [1]. For this reason, difficulty concentrating is associated with multiple chronic health issues, especially those involving inflammation [2], or disruptions in sleeping patterns – e.g. anxiety, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome [3], depression, or fibromyalgia [4].

In terms of hormone-related symptoms, this is an interesting one… although ‘difficulty concentrating’ is frequently listed as a menstrual cycle-related symptom (e.g. in premenstrual syndrome –PMS), there is no evidence to prove that cyclical hormonal changes directly cause cognitive dysfunction, or attention deficit [5]. So, it is perhaps more likely that cyclical ‘fuzzy brain’ symptoms, or those in response to hormonal medication, are in response to other hormone-related symptoms such as pain, sleep disruption, fatigue, or low mood, rather than changing levels of hormones.

Similarly, the ‘fuzzy brain’ sometimes associated with pregnancy (aka ‘baby brain’), is more likely to be a side-effect of other symptoms, such as lack of sleep, or low mood/ depression, rather than a direct hormone-related symptom [6]. The only cognitive change that has been observed in pregnant people, is greater emotional reactivity, which is thought to help improve bonding with the baby [7].

In regard to the menopause, some people do report experiencing ‘brain fog’, but again, research shows that there is no detectable decline in cognitive abilities [8]. However, some studies do indicate that the menopause, particularly when triggered early (e.g. surgically through the removal of the ovaries), can have a negative effect on memory function- but it is not known if this is the same thing that people describe as ‘brain fog’ [9].

Main symptoms; difficulty concentrating, fuzzy brain.


Note: Since ‘fuzzy brain’ is likely a by-product of other hormone-related symptoms, rather than one in its own right, we suggest that you look up the tips and tricks relating to anxietydepression, fatigue, low mood or sleep problems– as makes the most sense to your experiences. If you find that you are experience longer-term memory loss, please consult your doctor.

TOP TIP! Make sure you drink plenty of water each day- dehydration is a really common cause of ‘fuzzy brain’…

If you find that you tend to have difficulty concentrating at certain times in your menstrual cycle, check out the ‘all symptoms‘ page for tips on balancing your hormones, to help tackle the underlying cause.

If you are experiencing ‘memory lapses’ during the menopause, we highly recommend that you watch this really fantastic video from A. Vogel- they also have some suggestions for dietary and lifestyle changes you may wish to try out, here.


Further information:


Page last reviewed and updated: June 2018


References:

  1. MedicineNet. (2017) Difficulty Concentrating. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.medicinenet.com/difficulty_concentrating/symptoms.htm. [Accessed 17 April 2017]
  2. Ocon, A. J. (2013) Caught in the thickness of brain fog: exploring the cognitive symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Frontiers in Physiology, 4, 63. http://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2013.00063
  3. Theoharides, T. C., Stewart, J. M., Hatziagelaki, E., & Kolaitis, G. (2015). Brain “fog,” inflammation and obesity: key aspects of neuropsychiatric disorders improved by luteolin. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 9, 225. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2015.00225
  4. Ambrose KR, Gracely RH, Glass JM. (2012) Fibromyalgia dyscognition: concepts and issues. Reumatismo Sep 28;64(4):206-15. doi: 10.4081/reumatismo.2012.206. Review. PubMed PMID: 23024965
  5. Sundström Poromaa, I., & Gingnell, M. (2014). Menstrual cycle influence on cognitive function and emotion processing—from a reproductive perspective. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 8, 380. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2014.00380
  6. NHS. (2015) No such thing as baby brain, study argues. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2015/04April/Pages/No-such-thing-as-baby-brain-study-argues.aspx. [Accessed 17 April 2017]
  7. Science Direct. (2014) Preparing for parenthood: Pregnant women show increased activity in right side of brain. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140506204038.htm. [Accessed 17 April 2017]
  8. Greendale, G. A., Wight, R. G., Huang, M.-H., Avis, N., Gold, E. B., Joffe, H., … Karlamangla, A. S. (2010) Menopause-associated Symptoms and Cognitive Performance: Results From the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. American Journal of Epidemiology, 171(11), 1214–1224. http://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwq067
  9. Greendale, G. A., Derby, C. A., & Maki, P. M. (2011). Perimenopause and Cognition. Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America, 38(3), 519–535. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ogc.2011.05.007

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