Do you feel like you’re not yourself lately? Is your blood sugar a bit unstable, and your thinking skills are a little foggy?
You might be wondering if diabetes is causing brain fog. It’s a valid question – after all, diabetes and brain health are two areas of our lives that are intimately connected.
In this article, we’ll explore the link between diabetes and brain fog, what could be causing it, and how to get rid of it naturally.
Let’s get started.
What is diabetes, exactly?
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition that affects the way your body metabolizes sugar and how it turns food into energy.
Your body converts food into sugar (glucose) and sends it into your circulation. When blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas instructs your kidneys to release insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that helps cells absorb sugar from the bloodstream, so it can be used for energy.
In high blood sugar, however, either the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or your cells have become resistant to it and don’t respond properly.
This results in too much sugar in your blood, which can lead to a host of blood sugar-related complications like heart disease, nerve damage, and kidney disease.
There are a few types of uncontrolled blood sugar levels, such as the following:
Type 1 Diabetes
This is one of the common types of the condition, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes.
In type I, the pancreas makes little to no insulin. People with this form of mellitus must take insulin daily to survive.
While this type usually develops during childhood or adolescence, it can appear in adults.
Type 2 Diabetes
This is the most common form of unstable blood sugar, and it’s characterized by too much blood sugar levels due to either a lack of insulin or insulin resistance.
Obesity, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle are some of the main risk factors for type II.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that manifests when the body has difficulty regulating and using sugar (glucose) as fuel. This condition results in excess sugar circulating in the bloodstream.
High blood sugar levels can eventually cause inflammation of the circulatory, neurological, and immune systems.
The two primary issues with type 2 mellitus are that the pancreas does not secrete enough insulin, and cells have a resistance to insulin which causes them to take in less sugar.
Type II mellitus was formerly referred to as adult-onset diabetes, but type 1 and 2 can develop during childhood or adulthood.
Though type II diabetes is more typical in older individuals, the number of obese children has caused an increase in type 2 cases among younger people.
Gestational diabetes is a type of mellitus that only pregnant women get.
It develops when the body can’t make enough insulin to meet the needs of pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes typically goes away after the baby is born but increases the risk of developing type II mellitus later in life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 2%-10% of all pregnancies in the US every year are affected by gestational diabetes.
Therefore, it is crucial to take care of and manage gestational diabetes during pregnancy for the safety of both mother and child.
Prediabetes is a condition where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to diagnose diabetes.
If you have prediabetes, you’re at increased risk of developing type 2, heart disease, and stroke.
You can usually reverse prediabetes through lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.
If you don’t make these changes, you may develop mellitus within five years.
There are many different causes of diabetes, but the most common include the following:
Obesity, being overweight, and lack of physical activity
If you are sedentary and overweight or obese, you have a greater chance of developing type II diabetes.
Being overweight can sometimes lead to insulin resistance, which is a problem for many people with type 2. It also matters where on your body you carry that extra weight.
Extra belly fat is linked to insulin resistance, type 2 mellitus, heart and blood vessel disease.
Here’s the normal to obese range for Body Mass Index (BMI) of adults according to the World Health Organization:
- 18.5 to 25 BMI is normal
- over 25 BMI is overweight
- over 30 BMI is obese
Calculate your Body Mass Index with this BMI calculator to see if your weight puts you at risk for type 2 mellitus.
Insulin resistance is a condition in which your cells don’t respond properly to insulin.
As a result, the pancreas has to secrete more insulin to make glucose available to your cells.
If this process goes on for too long, it can lead to diabetes.
Type II and insulin resistance are closely linked, but insulin resistance can occur without diabetes.
You can develop insulin resistance from carrying extra weight, especially around your waist.
Genes and family history
If you have certain genes, you are more likely to develop type 2, similar to how some genes contribute to type 1.
The disease is more likely to develop in people who have family members with the condition or belong to certain racial or ethnic groups, such as the following:
- Pacific Islanders
- African Americans
- Native Hawaiians
- Alaska Natives
- American Indians
- Asian Americans
A person’s genes can also raise the risk of type 2 by boosting their propensity to get overweight or become obese.
The body produces too many of certain hormones in certain situations, which can lead to insulin resistance.
Here are a few examples:
- Cushing’s syndrome: This condition is caused by the overproduction of cortisol, a stress hormone.
- Acromegaly: This disorder is caused by excess growth hormone in adults.
- Pancreatitis: This is an inflammation of the pancreas that can damage insulin-producing cells and lead to mellitus.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): This is a hormonal disorder that can cause high blood sugar and make it difficult to get pregnant.
- Hyperthyroidism: This condition is caused by an overactive thyroid gland, which produces too much thyroid hormone.
Removal or damage to the pancreas
The pancreas is an organ that produces insulin.
If the pancreas is removed or damaged, diabetes can develop.
This can happen as a result of the following:
- Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas that can damage insulin-producing cells and lead to diabetes.
- Pancreatectomy: Surgery to remove part or all of the pancreas, which affects beta cells that create the insulin.
- Trauma: A severe injury to the abdomen that can damage the pancreas.
Common Signs & Symptoms
There are a few common signs and symptoms of diabetes, which include the following:
- Increased hunger
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Unintentional weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Cognitive dysfunction (i.e., brain fog)
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor right away. They can give you a test to see if you have the disease.
If the condition is left untreated, it can lead to a number of serious complications, such as:
- Heart disease (cardiovascular disease)
- Stroke or blood vessel diseases
- Kidney damage (nephropathy)
- Nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Eye damage
- Foot damage
- Skin conditions
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cognitive impairment (i.e., brain fog, dementia)
These complications can be serious and even life-threatening. That’s why it’s so important to get your blood sugar levels under control through lifestyle changes, medication, or insulin therapy.
If you have unstable blood sugar levels, you should see your doctor regularly to check for these complications and treat them early if they do develop.
There are a few lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent diabetes, such as:
Eating healthy meals
Eating a well-balanced diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein can make a huge difference in your weight and blood sugar levels.
It’s also important to limit your intake of processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats.
Food is basically medicine, so what you eat can help prevent the disease or make it worse.
Get more physical activity.
Exercise helps your body use insulin more effectively and can lower your blood sugar levels.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. This can be anything from brisk walking to biking, swimming, or running.
Maintain a healthy weight
If you’re overweight or obese, losing even a few pounds can help reduce your risk of developing high blood sugar.
Aim to get to a healthy weight by eating a nutritious diet and getting more physical activity. Some recommendations include the following:
- A diet that consists of 50-60% carbohydrates, 15-20% protein, and 25-30% fat.
- Eating smaller portion sizes
- Limiting your intake of processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats
- Getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day
Smoking is one of the worst things you can do if you are diabetic or prediabetic. It increases your risk of complications like heart disease, stroke, and nerve damage.
If you smoke, it’s important to quit as soon as possible. There are a number of resources available to help you quit smoking for good.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to see your doctor regularly to check for complications and treat them early if they do develop.
Your doctor will likely recommend the following tests:
- A fasting blood sugar test: this is done after you fast for at least eight hours. A normal fasting blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/dL.
- A hemoglobin AIC test: this is done to see how well your diabetes is controlled over time. A normal AIC level is less than 7%.
- A blood pressure test: this is done to check for hypertension (high blood pressure). A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mm Hg.
- A lipid panel test: this is done to check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. A normal cholesterol level is less than 200 mg/dL.
- A urine test: this is done to check for diabetes-related kidney damage.
If you have diabetes, there are a few things you can do to manage the disease and prevent complications:
- See your doctor regularly
- Check your blood sugar levels regularly
- Take your medications as prescribed
- Get more physical activity
- Eat a healthy diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking if you smoke
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Monitor your feet for any changes
Diagnosing diabetes early and managing it properly can help prevent complications.
How does diabetes affect the brain?
Diabetes can lead to a condition called diabetic encephalopathy, which is a type of brain damage, especially the brain cells and nerves.
Diabetic encephalopathy can cause problems with the following:
- Cognition: thinking, learning, and memory
- Emotion: depression, anxiety, and irritability
- Sleep: fatigue and insomnia
- Motor skills: tremors, weakness, and paralysis
Diabetic encephalopathy is caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the blood vessels in the brain. This damage can lead to a decrease in brain function and an increase in psychiatric symptoms.
Gray matter is responsible for processing information from the senses, controlling muscle movement, and making decisions. So, a decrease in gray matter density can impact your ability to think clearly and make decisions.
All of these factors can contribute to the development of brain fog—a general term used to describe feelings of confusion, forgetfulness, and mental fatigue.
If you have diabetes and are experiencing brain fog, it’s important to see your doctor. They can help you manage your diabetes and treat any complications you may have.
How to Cope with Diabetes Brain Fog
There are a few things you can do to help cope with diabetes brain fog:
Get regular exercise: Exercise can help improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of diabetes complications. It can also help increase blood flow to the brain and improve cognitive function.
Eat a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet can help you control your blood sugar levels. It’s also important to eat a diet that’s rich in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B complex, and magnesium.
Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep is important for overall health and can help improve brain function, stabilize your blood sugar levels, and basically clean your brain from all toxins.
Manage stress: Stress can make diabetes brain fog worse. Try to find ways to manage your stress levels through relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation or spending time in nature.
Train your brain: There are some cognitive training exercises you can do to help improve your memory and thinking skills. These exercises can help “train” your brain and make it more efficient.
Diabetes is a long-term condition that is without a cure and can lead to other serious health problems.
It can be debilitating and life-altering. It is often notorious for tying its victims to a lifetime of prescription medicine maintenance and unpredictable blood sugar fluctuations, often fatal when left untreated.
Diabetes brain fog can also become overwhelming and frustrating, impacting your productivity at work, personal relationships, and day-to-day activities negatively.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to manage both conditions and live an active, productive, full life, such as the tips we laid out above.
If you want to learn more about clearing brain fog naturally and improving your brain functions, check out the plethora of educational resources on our blog.