Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on
September 8, 2022
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on:

Do you feel like your brain is foggy? Are you having trouble thinking clearly? If so, you may be experiencing brain fog from anemia.

Anemia is a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. This can cause a number of symptoms, including brain fog.

In this article, we will discuss what brain fog from anemia is, what causes it, and how to manage it. We hope that this information will help you better understand this condition and improve your quality of life.

So, let’s get started.

What is anemia, exactly?

Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.

Causes of Anemia

There are many different things that can cause anemia. The most common cause is iron deficiency. This means that your body doesn’t have enough iron to make new red blood cells.

Other causes of anemia include:

  • Blood loss (due to injury, surgery, or heavy menstrual periods).
  • Sickle cell disease (a blood disorder that causes red blood cells to deform or break down).
  • Certain chronic diseases (such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, or rheumatoid arthritis).
  • Pregnancy or blood loss through childbirth.
  • Certain medications (such as those used to treat high blood pressure or cancer)

Symptoms of Anemia

If you don’t have enough red blood cells, your body tissues and organs won’t get the oxygen they need to function properly. This can lead to a number of symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pale skin
  • Irritability
  • Brain fog

What is brain fog?

Brain fog is a condition that can cause you to feel like your thinking is fuzzy or cloudy. You may have trouble concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions. It can make you feel tired and drained.

For some people, brain fog is a temporary symptom of anemia that goes away once the anemia is treated. For others, brain fog may be a chronic problem that persists even after the anemia has been resolved.

Causes of Brain Fog

There are many things that can contribute to brain fog, including:

  • Chronic stress
  • Sleep insufficiency or sleeping disorders
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of movement or exercise
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain medical conditions (e.g., anemia, thyroid disorders, or autoimmune diseases)
  • Mental health conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, OCD)
  • Neurological issues (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Bell’s palsy, epilepsy, seizures)
  • Certain medications (such as those used to treat high blood pressure, allergies, or seizures)
  • Treatments and therapies (e.g., chemotherapy, radiotherapy, radiation therapy)
  • Food sensitivities
  • Unhealthy drinks
  • Vaccine side effects

Symptoms of Brain Fog

Brain fog can cause a number of different symptoms, including:

  • Trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Memory problems or forgetfulness
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Poor judgment
  • Inability to multitask
  • Slow thinking or processing speed
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Depression
  • Headaches

Brain Fog and Anemia

Anemia can cause brain fog because it reduces the amount of oxygen that your brain gets. This can lead to a number of different symptoms, including trouble concentrating, memory problems, and fatigue.

If you have anemia, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the best way to treat it. In some cases, anemia can be resolved with lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet or getting more exercise.

In other cases, anemia may require medical treatment, such as taking iron supplements or getting blood transfusions.

If you’re experiencing brain fog from anemia, you can do a few things to help manage it.

Tips for Managing Brain Fog from Anemia

There are a few things you can do to help manage brain fog from anemia; we highly recommend taking the following steps:

Make sure you get enough quality sleep.

Sleep is essential for brain health. Make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep by setting a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, and creating a relaxing bedtime routine.

Studies also show that lack of sleep is associated with iron deficiency anemia, so it’s important to get enough rest if you’re anemic.

If you still find it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep as you’d like, talk to your doctor about sleep disorders or medications that can help.

Nourish your spleen.

The spleen is an organ in your body that helps to filter out old and damaged red blood cells. If your spleen isn’t functioning properly, it can lead to anemia.

There are a few things you can do to help nourish your spleen and improve its function. First, make sure you’re eating a healthy diet that’s high in iron-rich foods, such as dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, and lean meats.

Squash is also excellent in nourishing the spleen—this includes:

  • Pumpkin
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Acorn squash
  • Butternut squash
  • and other bright orange-colored foods.

Squash should be added to your diet on a daily basis, so aim for one to two servings.

Green leafy vegetables, like nutrition-rich spinach, kale, and chard, are another food group that is essential for sustaining your spleen and red blood cell creation.

One serving of vegetables, such as a Kale Caesar Salad or sautéed spinach, is also very nourishing to your spleen.

Bitter foods, in particular leafy greens like arugula salads and romaine lettuce, are highly beneficial to the spleen.

You may even take bitter herbs as a nutritional supplement before eating. However, anything that is somewhat bitter is extremely nutritious for the spleen.

Eat foods that are rich in iron.

If you’re anemic, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough iron in your diet. There are a few different ways to do this:

First, eat foods that are high in iron, such as leafy green vegetables, legumes, lean meats, and fortified cereals.

Second, cook with an iron skillet—research shows that this will help increase the amount of iron in your food and in your body.

Finally, take an iron supplement if you’re unable to get enough iron through diet alone.

If you’re not sure whether you’re getting enough iron, talk to your doctor. They can order a blood test to check your iron levels and recommend a diet or supplement regimen for you.

Eat foods packed with vitamins and minerals that help better iron absorption

There are a few vitamins and minerals that can help improve your body’s absorption of iron. These include:

Vitamin A

This vitamin is found in orange and yellow vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash. It’s also found in dark leafy greens, like spinach and kale.

You can also get vitamin A from the liver and other animal-based foods. Vitamin A helps your body to better absorb iron from plant-based foods.

Vitamin B12

Studies show that vitamin B12 is required for the formation of red blood cells, and a lack of Vitamin B12 can lead to an iron deficiency.

This is why the onset of anemia is most often due to a B12 deficiency instead of just an iron deficiency anemia.

Vitamin B12 is found in animal-based foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. It helps your body to better absorb iron from food.

If you don’t eat enough animal-based foods or if you have a condition that affects your ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food (such as pernicious anemia), you may need to take a vitamin B12 supplement.

Beta-carotene

This nutrient is found in orange and yellow vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkin. It’s also found in dark leafy greens like spinach and kale.

Research suggests that beta-carotene helps your body to better absorb iron from plant-based foods, such as rice, wheat, and corn.

Vitamin C

This vitamin is found in citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli. Vitamin C helps your body to absorb iron from animal-based foods better.

It’s important to note that while cooking food can destroy some of the vitamin C content; it actually increases the bioavailability of iron.

Copper

Research suggests that iron is necessary for your body to absorb iron from your gut, and copper deficiency can significantly decrease iron absorption.

So, make sure to eat foods that are rich in copper. This mineral is found in shellfish, nuts, seeds, wheat, bran cereals, and chocolate.

Folate

Folate is a water-soluble vitamin that’s found in leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fortified foods. It helps your body produce new red blood cells and prevent anemia.

Studies suggest that folic acid affects the iron status in the body—being deficient in this nutrient can also lead to severe iron deficiency.

So, aim for 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate per day. You can get this by eating one cup of cooked spinach or one-half cup of cooked black beans.

Consider taking dietary supplements.

If you’re unable to get enough iron through diet alone, you may need to take an iron supplement.

Iron supplements are available over-the-counter and in different forms, such as pills, capsules, liquids, and gummies.

The type of supplement you need and the dosage will depend on your age, gender, diet, and overall health.

If you’re considering taking an iron supplement, talk to your doctor first. They can order a blood test to check your iron levels and recommend the best type of supplement for you.

Get regular exercise.

Exercise plays an important role in maintaining a healthy body and preventing anemia.

When you exercise, your body needs more oxygen. This increases the production of red blood cells and helps to prevent anemia.

Regular exercise also helps to improve your circulation and increase the amount of iron in your blood.

So, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. This can include walking, jogging, biking, swimming, or any other activity that gets your heart rate up.

If you have anemia, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. They can help you create a safe and effective workout plan.

Rehydrate well.

Dehydration can cause anemia. When you’re dehydrated, your body doesn’t have enough fluid to carry oxygen to your cells.

This can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, and other anemia symptoms.

So, make sure you’re drinking enough fluids throughout the day.

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends that adult men should drink at least 13 cups (three liters) of fluids per day, and adult women should drink at least nine cups (two liters) of fluids per day.

Water is the best fluid to drink, but you can also get fluids from milk, fruit juices, and herbal teas.

If you’re exercising or in a hot environment, you may need to drink more fluids than usual to prevent dehydration.

Reduce your stress levels.

Chronic stress can lead to anemia. When you’re stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol.

Studies show that too much cortisol production can cause your body to break down red blood cells faster than it can produce them. This can lead to anemia.

So, it’s essential to find ways to manage your stress. Some helpful techniques include exercise, meditation, and deep breathing exercises.

Spend time in nature

Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce stress levels and improve overall health.

One study found that people who spent time in an urban park had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who didn’t spend time in the park.

So, make an effort to spend time outside in nature, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day.

Other activities you may enjoy around nature include:

  • hiking
  • walking
  • gardening
  • bird watching
  • sunbathing

Does anemia cause dementia?

Anemia has been linked to an increased risk of dementia.

One study found that people with iron deficiency anemia were more likely to develop dementia than those who didn’t have anemia.

Another study found that people with anemia were more likely to experience a decline in cognitive function and memory.

The exact cause of this link is unknown, but it’s thought that anemia may cause changes in the brain that lead to dementia.

If you’re concerned about your risk of dementia, talk to your doctor. They can order a blood test to check your iron levels and make recommendations based on your results.

Wrapping Up

Anemia is a common condition that is usually caused by iron deficiency, which causes a variety of symptoms, including brain fog.

If you’re experiencing brain fog from anemia, there are things you can do to manage your symptoms.

These include getting enough sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, taking an iron supplement, getting regular exercise, and reducing your stress levels.

By following these tips, you can help to improve your anemia symptoms and protect your brain health in the long run.

Do you want to learn more about clearing brain fog and improving your overall brain function? Check out these helpful resources on our blog.

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