Published on: March 11, 2012
by Dawn Greenwald for The Alamogordo Daily News:
Do you suffer from brain fog or a notable decrease in the ability to focus with clarity during daily tasks? There are many factors that can cause these symptoms, but stress is a primary factor that can both cause and intensify them.
Whether there is stress in the work place, personal or family relationships, from sickness, environmental toxins, poor diet, sleep, or when stress is prolonged for an extended length of time, it can cause a disruption of mental focus, cognition faculties and memory.
Stress initiates a series of chemical releases and reactions. A flood of hormones and neurotransmitters create both the stimulation of some cell and body functions and the inhibition of others.
If this imbalance continues, and the body is caught in a long-term stress response, the cumulative effect can damage, and even kill, brain cells.
Research shows that sustained stress impacts learning and memory functions, particularly in the hippocampus, a two-part structure of the forebrain that helps to regulate memory and emotions. Studies indicate that the health and size of the hippocampus is associated with both short-term and long-term memory retrieval, as well as the ability to learn new skills.
When the hippocampus is damaged, it’s memory retrieval capacity falters and new memories may not be able to be formed. Some researchers believe that age-related memory loss may be due to long term exposure to stress-related hormones. In Alzheimer’s disease, the hippocampus is one of the first areas in the brain that exhibits damage.
Stress also has been shown to compromise the blood brain barrier. This is a network of blood vessels that protects the brain from harmful substances and helps to maintain a constant environment in the brain. When the blood brain barrier is broken down by conditions such as stress, trauma, infection or radiation, then substances not meant to penetrate into the brain will break through the barrier and damage brain cells and minimally impede brain function.
Stress-induced chemical and hormonal changes in your body can also affect your mood. When you become depressed and irritable for long periods of time, mental energy and focus are depleted. If this condition is sustained, prescription mood-altering drugs may be taken, thus creating more imbalances in the body. One of the more important imbalances is the potential depletion of B vitamins, which can eventually contribute to brain fog. Vitamin B’s are water soluble, meaning they only last for 24 hours in the body. It’s important to take them to replenish the store on a regular basis.
If you are experiencing brain fog and have problems with clarity and focus, examine the stress in your life. If it has been chronic or long-term, you need to consider some stress management options, perhaps including lifestyle changes. If you have moderate stress, now is the time to start preventative stress management techniques. Mental health and stress management professionals can assist in this process.
Also helpful are quantum biofeedback, yoga, exercise, supplements such as ginko biloba (also an anti-coagulant) or vitamin B complex, therapeutic-grade essential oils and meditation are some tools that are helpful in reducing stress and maintaining body balance. Eating a healthy diet and eliminating toxins in your daily life are essential. Be proactive with your brain health.
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