Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on
August 30, 2022
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on:

Brain fog can be a debilitating side effect of treatments for various illnesses. It can cause problems with focus, memory, and decision-making.

If you are experiencing brain fog during your treatments, don’t worry—you are not alone.

This guide will provide information on treatments that cause brain fog and steps you can take to help manage the symptoms more effectively.

Let’s get started.

What is brain fog, exactly?

Brain fog is a condition that can cause problems with thinking, remembering things, making decisions, and focusing on tasks.

There are several causes of brain fog, including treatments for various illnesses, such as cancer, Lyme disease, and multiple sclerosis.

The reason why some treatments cause brain fog is not known. However, it is observed to be related to the body’s inflammatory response to treatments.

Symptoms of Brain Fog

The symptoms of brain fog can vary from person to person. However, common symptoms include:

  • problems with focus and concentration
  • difficulty remembering things
  • difficulty making decisions
  • struggles with thinking clearly
  • struggles with thought organization
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • dizziness

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be suffering from brain fog.

Common Treatments that Cause Brain Fog

Some of the most common treatments that have been observed to be causing brain fog include:

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, chemotherapy can also damage healthy cells, including the brain cells that are responsible for learning, focus, and memory.

Some studies show that the majority of cancer patients experience brain fog during chemotherapy treatments.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy is a treatment that uses hormones, commonly estrogen and progesterone, to treat various conditions, such as menopause and cancer. This type of therapy can cause brain fog by affecting the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.

A study of women undergoing hormone therapy found that those who experienced the most significant changes in hormone levels were more likely to experience short-term cognitive impairment during the treatment.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses substances to stimulate the immune response to fight against diseases, such as cancer. This type of therapy can cause brain fog by affecting the levels of inflammation in the brain.

A study of cancer patients found that those who underwent immunotherapy treatments were more likely to experience brain fog and other types of cognitive impairment during and after therapy, although the effect is not long-term.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, is a treatment that uses high doses of radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, radiation therapy can also damage healthy brain cells, which can lead to brain fog.

A study of cancer patients found that those who underwent radiation therapy treatments were more likely to experience problems in their brain function during treatment.

Surgery

Surgery is a treatment that involves the removal of diseased tissue. It can cause brain fog by affecting the levels of hormones and inflammation in the brain, which also depends on the amount of anesthesia used.

A study of patients who underwent surgery found that those who experienced the most significant changes in hormone levels and inflammation were more likely to suffer from brain fog.

Lyme Disease Treatments

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by ticks. It can cause a wide range of symptoms, including brain fog.

The standard treatment for Lyme disease is a course of antibiotics. Unfortunately, as studies show, antibiotics can also kill the healthy gut bacteria that are essential for cognitive function.

Multiple Sclerosis Treatments

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system. The most common treatments for multiple sclerosis are immunosuppressants, which can cause brain fog in some patients.

A study of brain fog in multiple sclerosis patients found that treatments that suppressed the immune system were more likely to cause brain fog than treatments that did not.

Medications

Some of the most common medications that have been linked to brain fog include:

Antianxiety Drugs

Antianxiety drugs, such as benzodiazepines, are a type of medication that is used to treat anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, they can also cause brain fog by affecting the levels of chemicals in the brain.

A study of people with anxiety disorders found that those who took antianxiety drugs were more likely to experience brain fog.

Antidepressant Drugs

Antidepressant drugs, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are a type of medication that is used to treat depression. Unfortunately, they can also cause brain fog by affecting the neurotransmitters in your brain.

A study of people with depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) found that those who took antidepressant drugs were more likely to experience brain fog.

Antiseizure Drugs

Antiseizure drugs, such as carbamazepine and valproate, are a type of medication that is used to treat epilepsy. Unfortunately, they can also cause brain fog by affecting the levels of chemicals in the brain.

In a recent study of persons with epilepsy found that people who took antiseizure medications were more prone to experience cognitive fog.

Hypertension Drugs

Hypertension drugs, such as beta-blockers, are a type of medication that is used to treat high blood pressure. Unfortunately, they can also impact the amounts of chemicals in the brain, often resulting in brain fog.

According to research on elderly people with hypertension, those who took antihypertensive medicines were more likely to suffer from brain fog during the treatment.

Sleeping Aids

Sleeping aids, such as Ambien and Lunesta, are a type of medication that is used to treat insomnia. Unfortunately, they can also cause brain fog by affecting the levels of chemicals in the brain.

A study from Harvard Medical School found that those who took sleeping pills were more likely to experience brain fog.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine and cetirizine, are a type of medication that is used to treat allergies. They can also cause drowsiness, blurred vision, and headache as side effects which often lead to brain fog.

According to research on people who suffer from allergies, those who use antihistamines are more prone to experience cognitive fog.

Narcotic Painkillers

Narcotic painkillers, such as oxycodone and morphine, are a type of medication that is used to treat pain. Unfortunately, they can also cause brain fog by affecting the levels of chemicals in the brain.

A study on people with chronic pain found that those who took narcotic painkillers were more likely to experience brain fog.

How to Clear Brain Fog and Improve Overall Brain Health

Here are a few steps you can take to help clear brain fog and improve your overall brain health:

Talk to your doctor about treatment alternatives and medication dosages.

Consulting your doctor is one of the crucial things you can do to achieve optimal mental clarity and well-being.

So, if you are experiencing brain fog from your current treatment, make sure to speak with your doctor about adjusting the dose of your medications or considering alternative treatments that may be better for you.

Get adequate sleep.

Getting enough sleep is crucial for your overall health, especially brain health.

It’s recommended that adults get seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night.

If you find it difficult to get enough sleep, there are a few things you can do to help improve your sleep habits.

For instance, avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed, establish a regular sleep schedule, and create a relaxing bedtime routine.

Additionally, you may want to consider speaking with a sleep specialist if you’re still having difficulty getting quality sleep.

Follow a well-balanced diet.

What you eat plays a big role in your overall health, especially brain health.

So, if you want to clear brain fog, make sure to follow a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.

You should also limit your intake of processed foods, sugary foods, and alcohol.

And if you’re unsure of how to create a well-balanced diet, consider speaking with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to make sure that any nutritional deficiency you may have is addressed properly.

Work out regularly.

Exercising on a regular basis is not only good for your physical health but also your mental health, and the lack thereof can aggravate health problems

In fact, research has shown that exercise can help improve cognitive function and memory.

So, if you want to clear brain fog, make sure to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.

And if you’re new to exercise, start with low-intensity exercises and gradually increase the intensity as you become more physically fit.

Exercise your brain regularly.

Just like you exercise your body to stay physically fit, you need to exercise your brain to stay mentally sharp.

There are a number of ways you can do this, such as puzzles, brain games, and memory exercises.

So, if you want to keep your mind clear and focused, make sure to exercise your brain regularly.

Reduce your stress levels.

Chronic stress can take a toll on your mental and physical health.

So, if you want to clear brain fog, it’s important to find ways to reduce your stress levels.

There are a number of things you can do to help reduce your stress, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and journaling.

And if you find it difficult to manage your stress on your own, consider speaking with a therapist or counselor.

Spend time in nature.

Spending time in nature has been shown to have a number of benefits for your mental and physical health.

So, if you want to clear your brain fog, make sure to spend time outside in nature each day.

And if you live in an urban area, consider visiting a nearby park or green space.

In Conclusion

If you want to clear brain fog, make sure to talk to your doctor about treatment alternatives and medication dosages.

You should also follow a well-balanced diet, get regular exercise, and spend time in nature.

Additionally, it’s important to find ways to reduce your stress levels and exercise your brain regularly.

By following these tips, you can help improve your cognitive function and memory.

If you want to learn more about fighting brain fog and improving your overall cognitive performance, check out the educational resources we compiled on our blog

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