Thyroid brain fog is real. Oh, it’s real alright. You can read the lighter side of my brain fog experiences here, but in this post, I’m going to explore how and why thyroid patients experience it among their many other symptoms.
Brain fog is often described as feelings of mental confusion or lack of mental clarity. The phrase comes from the feeling of a fog that reduces your ability to think clearly. It can feel like a mental block. It can cause a person to become forgetful, detached and discouraged and even depressed as a knock on effect.
Brain fog is a known common symptom of thyroid problems, particularly hypothyroidism.
It is brain related, as thyroid hormones T3 and T4, used by the brain, have major influences over virtually every brain activity. So if a thyroid patient doesn’t have enough of these thyroid hormones in their body, brain fog often occurs, to varying degrees.
At times, mine was so severe that it seriously impacted my ability to work. I could read an email ten times and it still wasn’t computing in my mind, what I had just read.
What I have recently learnt, is that inflammation in the body can mean all sorts of things, from a leaky gut, to gluten sensitivity and Hashimoto’s, and brain fog can be an indication of inflammation in the brain. Dr Datis also comments on how Hashimoto’s, which 90% of hypothyroid apparently have, can cause inflammation in the brain, leading to symptoms like brain fog. I watched a seminar on this at the Healing Hashimoto’s summit, 13th-20th June 2016.
According to Hashimoto’s Healing, immune cells in the brain called microglia, are responsible for this;
These cells also respond quickly to pathogens and injury, accumulate in regions of degeneration and produce a wide variety of pro-inflammatory molecules. That’s right, they cause inflammation.
Thyroid hormone has a major influence on them. It can help keep them calm and modulate them. This is why some people with Hashimoto’s notice that their brain fog really improves once they are given thyroid hormone.
For many others, this doesn’t help at all. If this is the case, there is something else driving the inflammation and the immune attack.
This could be an autoimmune disease, where eliminating gluten from the diet can help dramatically, and/or a leaky gut, also likely involved with gluten. Going gluten free has severely helped my brain fog.
Something I find worrying is that it has been reported by numerous sources that brain inflammation can lead on to brain degeneration, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s etc.
Which is why it’s important to address your brain fog as soon as possible.
You would need a full thyroid panel doing, with results as indicated on this link, to rule out that it is from inadequate thyroid treament. Being hypothyroid means you have a high chance of also having an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s, so cutting out gluten or going paleo may also help to relieve brain fog due to the inflammation explained above.
Since depression can also cause symptoms of brain fog, receiving adequate treatment for that and treating any underlying conditions is also important. Many thyroid patients are also on antidepressants. My depression was caused by an inadequately treated thyroid problem, so once my medication was right for me (switching to NDT), my depression lifted.
Explore Vitamin B12, D, iron, ferritin etc. too to rule out other causes for brain fog and similar thyroid symptoms such as fatigue and weight gain. Keep pushing your doctor for more reasons as to what is causing your brain fog. It’s often one of the most debilitating symptoms of being hypothyroid.
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given, but more reading and references can also be found at:
Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism
Rachel is a Thyroid Patient Advocate and Expert with Six 2018 WEGO Health Award Nominations. She is a highly ranked writer appearing in the Top Hypothyroidism Websites and Top Thyroid Websites 2018. Currently studying for relevant qualifications and certificates in Life Coaching, Diet and Nutrition, Reflexology and more, she has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Dr. Hedberg, Thyroid UK and ThyroidChange, to name just a few. She is well recognised as a trusted and useful contributor to the thyroid community.