Brain Fog in Children
Generally speaking, brain fog is defined as a lack of mental clarity, difficulty focusing, or poor concentration. If the onset of brain fog is sudden and uncharacteristic for your child there are some common causes to consider.
Inadequate sleep or poor sleep quality interferes with how the brain functions. We all know how difficult it is to focus on anything serious after a poor night’s sleep. If there is a chronic low-level sleep disturbance a child may be misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder when physical and mental fatigue is the culprit.
Acute and chronic stress increases blood pressure, weakens the immune system and can trigger anxiety and depression. Many parents are not totally aware of the level of stress (self-imposed or otherwise) that their children feel. Stress causes mental fatigue over time. When the brain is exhausted, it is more difficult to focus and finish tasks. Managing stress levels in a way that is appropriate for your child is essential to helping their brain and their body endure stressful situations without lasting effects. I highly recommend that children and teens limit their screen time to “mellow out” and instead get outside in nature or learn to meditate to deal with stress. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children ages 2 to 5 years of age limit their screen time to one hour per day or less. For kids over age 6 screen time recommendations can vary. It is important to prioritize at least an hour of physical activity per day, social activities, homework and sleep over digital entertainment.
Hormonal surges that cause puberty greatly influence cognition and brain chemistry. Supporting the body with a healthy diet is the best way to ensure that the transition through puberty goes smoothly. Additionally, low thyroid function and adrenal insufficiency can cause symptoms of brain fog. It is important to get a blood test to closely look at hormone levels and rule out any imbalances. I advise eating a diet high in colorful fruits and vegetables as well as grass fed, free range protein in general but in particular when I suspect a hormone imbalance as the cause of brain fog. Sugar, simple carbohydrates, and processed foods can disrupt brain chemistry and liver function. By providing the body with the best fuel possible one can avoid symptoms we have come to associate with puberty such as acne, mood swings, and brain fog or “checking out”.
Have you ever had iron deficiency anemia? One of the presenting symptoms of low iron is brain fog. Iron is needed for the formation and binding of the neurotransmitter Dopamine which is needed for focus. If you are low in iron, it is more difficult for the body to keep dopamine levels consistent. Other important nutrients which can cause decreased mental clarity are B12, folate, and vitamin D. It is important to have your child’s blood levels checked for vitamin and mineral deficiencies and to use supplements accordingly.
If your child experiences symptoms of brain fog, headache, or digestive disturbances after eating certain foods he or she may have a food sensitivity. A food sensitivity or allergy causes the body to produce antibodies when the offending food is ingested. Identifying and eliminating food sensitivities can greatly improve brain fog in children and adults. Consult a Naturopathic doctor for help with how to recognize, test, and remove food sensitivities. I personally have seen diet changes help brain fog profoundly.
Certain medications like anti-depressants and stimulants can lead to brain fog. If your child regularly takes medication and has complained of brain fog it may be helpful to discuss different treatment protocols with his/her medical provider.
It is important to address concerns with brain fog in children and not use a ‘wait and see’ approach. An interesting psychological aspect of difficulty with concentration and focus is that children can develop a belief that they are incapable because they cannot think clearly. Removing obstacles to health, ruling out more serious conditions, and supporting the bodies of children with healthy, wholesome food can address the causes of brain fog before negative programming makes a lasting impression on self-esteem.
If you have concerns about brain fog consider a naturopathic approach to address the root cause. Schedule your child for a first office appointment at NaturoMedica to get back on the road to heath and optimize wellness.