Beat the hidden cause of brain fog

“I’m Just Too Frazzled to Think Straight”

How often do you hear a co-worker… a friend… or even a family member say something like that? You may even feel that way yourself every so often.

But it’s more than a feeling. It’s a medical fact. Stress can have a strong impact on your ability to think clearly… and on your memory.

Today, we’ll look at how stress affects your mind… and how to clear out the fog that stress carries with it.

You probably know that one of your body’s reactions to stress is to release the “stress hormone” – cortisol.

Cortisol was an important defense mechanism for our distant ancestors. Imagine you’re out hunting for food – armed only with a bow and arrow – and an angry grizzly suddenly charges you.

This sudden stress would cause the release of a flood of cortisol – and trigger the “fight or flight” response. With cortisol, your reaction could be swift and instinctual… and your chances of survival would increase.

Cortisol performs the same function for us today. But there probably aren’t a lot of angry grizzlies after you these days. Instead, your stress is more likely to be linked to problems at work… caring for a sick family member… or having an “upside-down” mortgage.

Your body still releases cortisol in response to these stresses. But they don’t ramble off after a few minutes like an angry bear. Today’s stresses stick around. And all that extra cortisol can take a toll on your brain.

One problem cortisol causes is with your memory. Doctors in San Diego tested the memories of two groups of people – one low stress and the other high stress. The high stress group – who had high cortisol levels over a fairly long time – performed much worse.(1)

Cortisol can even hurt your memory in the short term. That’s what Iowa researchers discovered. They stressed a group of people with speech and math tests – similar to the types of stress you face today. Those who responded to the stress with a burst of cortisol had problems remembering vivid pictures they’d seen just 24 hours before.(2)

Cortisol can also affect your ability to think clearly.

At Johns Hopkins University, scientists looked at nearly 1,000 people from age 50 to 70. All the participants took a series of tests to measure their ability to think clearly and remember. The researchers measured the group’s cortisol levels before, during and after the tests.

The results? People with high cortisol levels performed much worse than those with low cortisol. In other words, the cortisol brought on an attack of “brain fog.”(3)

So what do you do if you have a lot of stress? The first step is to see if you can remove the cause of the stress. You can also use nutrients such as B vitamins – and calming herbs such as passion flower – to help your body handle the stress.

But you can also promote lower cortisol levels. Here are three easy tips…

Heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids support healthier cortisol levels, too. In one study, men taking fish oil – high in Omega-3’s –had much lower cortisol levels after just 3 weeks. Their other signs of stress also dropped. (4)

Pampering yourself can help. Florida researchers found that therapeutic massage helped lower cortisol levels – and boost “feel good” chemicals in the brain.(5)

Finally, laugh. Watch a sit-com, read a funny book, listen to your favorite comedian. A team at Loma Linda University discovered that not just laughter – but even just anticipating something funny – promotes a decrease in cortisol.(6)

We all may have those days when we feel “too frazzled to think straight.” But now you know how to have fewer of them… and how to make them bother you less.



1 Peavy GM, et al. Biological Psychiatry. The Effects of Prolonged Stress and APOE Genotype on Memory and Cortisol in Older Adults. Biological Psychiatry, Volume 62, Issue 5, 1 September 2007, Pages 472-478.

2 Buchanan TW, et al. Stress and emotional memory retrieval: effects of sex and cortisol response. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2008 Feb;89(2):134-41. Epub 2007 Aug 16.

3 Lee BK, et al. Associations of salivary cortisol with cognitive function in the Baltimore memory study. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007 Jul;64(7):810-8.

4 Delarue J, et al. Fish oil prevents the adrenal activation elicited by mental stress in healthy men. Diabetes Metab. 2003 Jun;29(3):289-95.

5 Field T, et al. Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. Int J Neurosci. 2005 Oct;115(10):1397-413.

6 Berk LS, et al. Cortisol and Catecholamine stress hormone decrease is associated with the behavior of perceptual anticipation of mirthful laughter. The FASEB Journal. 2008;22:946.11.

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Dr. Kenneth Woliner

Dr. Woliner is a board certified medical physician and modern day pioneer in the world of alternative men’s health and nutritional science. Using a unique combination of modern “Western” medicine and traditional holistic healing practices, Dr.Woliner has revolutionized men’s health care treatments for many of today’s most common male health concerns – specializing in alternative treatments for Prostate enlargement (BPH) and a myriad of erectile concerns and men’s sexual health issues.

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  1. Boomer12k says

    Not Enough!
    Normally, under STRESS, you don’t have “BRAIN FOG”!!!!! You might be “confused”, you might be in an agitated state, and not “think straight”. Because you don’t know what to do. You may be in a state of Shock and Trauma. BUT THAT IS NOT BRAIN FOG!!!!!!!!!!! TRUTH!!!!!!
    I HAVE HAD “Brain Fog”. There is MORE to this condition than you think! It is a symptom. It has a hidden cause. In my case it was INTESTINAL CANDIDA OVERGROWTH!!! That was the underlying cause. The stress came from no Doctor figuring out what I had. Also, your body is SICK, and the Candida is dumping TOXINS, into your bloodstream. I had the resultant “Leaky Gut Syndrome”, which is perforated intestines, they get worn thin, and can “LEAK” bowel matter into your body, more toxicity. Your body reacts with stress, so the Cortisol dumps into you. My cortisol lab tests were all over the chart and out of “range” at every point!!!
    The suggestions above might help a very mild case of normal stress. AND I DID THEM!!!!! But if you are having an ongoing, sever case, the above will be just a drop in the ocean of what is needed. No kidding. IT WILL NOT HELP!!!!! AND YOU NEED HELP!!!!! IT IS A SERIOUS CONDITION!!!!!!!
    To stop the cortisol, you need PRO-CORTISOL BALANCE, an orange tasting, chewable tablet. You need to replenish your adrenal glands, and kidney energy. You need to stop the candida in its tracks. For me that was a product called THREELAC. It can be bought on Amazon. You need to then heal the intestines and get them THICKENED UP AGAIN, so they don’t “LEAK”. A product called Intestinal Repair Complex, and Ultra-Clear Plus.
    I was on the Threelac for about 10 months. I was on the Intestinal Repair Complex for about FOUR YEARS!!!! And maybe less for the Ultra-Clear Plus. But they did the job!!!
    The “BRAIN FOG” subsided as the THREELAC did is job, and the TOXICITY WENT DOWN!!!!! The Brain Fog is not so much from the cortisol in my opinion, it is from the TOXINS getting into your BRAIN!!!! My Brain was “ON FIRE”!!!! It felt on fire. Doctors said that is impossible as the Brain does not feel anything. But it was like having tobasco sauce in your blood and having that go to your brain. Which is what Leak Gut will do…. and I did have tobasco with my food!!!!! I could not eat spices, and other food additive. I just about could only eat YOGURT!!! PLAIN YOGURT AT THAT!!!!!!!
    So, I believe there is more to “Brain Fog” than just a little cortisol from our little stresses in our daily lives. And if you are 50-70 you can can have a condition, (and everybody does), called SMALL VESSEL ISCHEMIA. Restricted Blood Vessels in the brain. That can cause memory problems. Everybody over 40 has it to some degree.
    I had a sever case of the candida. I still live with the effects of it. 9 YEARS LATER!!!!!!! I cannot have gluten, because of the intestinal damage! I think it caused my thyroid problems, my autoimmune problems, and the resultant Grave’s Disease. So, I will tell you what NO DOCTOR WILL!!!!!!
    AFTER ANTI-BIOTICS have done their job, (about two weeks after you are BETTER)….GET PRO-BIOTICS and replenish your intestinal flora!!!!!!!!! You will save your intestines and your LIFE!!!!!!!!!!

    Be well and happy!!!!

  2. Lori says

    Low thyroid function, adrenal fatigue (often stress related), blood sugar issues from eating too many carbs, and lack of exercise are also causes of brain fog.

  3. Sunday says

    I agree with boomer12k. Very rarely do people understand this issue. I’ve had it my whole life and have only just learned what it is. I’m 40. It’s not stress.. There are different metabilic types out there which govern how much cortisol you release. Unfortunately I think this kind of thing is a derivative of the carbohydrate age, where we have ultra fast methods of getting sugar into ourselves like beer etc. The problem is definitely inherited. I got it from my father but it could have been is great grandfather who gave it to him. Somebody who doesn’t have this could never understand what it’s like. You will always here the same answers like the one Lori just gave from people who don’t truly understand this issue or have ever felt it and watched it destroy their life.

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