You might know this feeling…sudden fatigue and difficulty concentrating or processing a conversation. Your head may feel “cloudy” or fuzzy, and you start to feel slightly forgetful (where did you put those darn keys?) Maybe you’ve been standing or sitting for a while, but afterwards you just don’t have the energy to be productive and effective. Or worse, you start to have feelings of anxiety and/or restlessness for no apparent reason. Feeling groggy or like your mind is cloudy and you can’t concentrate being the most popular complaint, these are the many descriptors of “brain fog”.
Brain Fog: Why You Have It
On a cellular level most research shows, and most in the medical field believe, that brain fog is caused by inflammation. High levels of inflammation can do a number on three important hormones in particular: serotonin, dopamine and cortisol. These hormones help us navigate life and our surroundings by helping control stress, keeping us alert at the same time as keeping us calm, as well as bringing about the feelings of motivation and joy. They communicate with the brain, and when they are continually under attack then they can trigger changes in the brain structure and connectivity. Inflammation from sources like stress and environmental factors can trigger this feeling of “brain fog”. If left unchecked, it can lead to chronic inflammation that can do the real damage.
How To Prevent Brain Fog
- Movement And Blood Flow: Any form of exercise is good as it creates blood flow and movement. Forms of exercise and movement are personal for each of us. We all have different schedules and personalities that dictate how likely we are to stick to an exercise regimen. If you are a couch potato, then start out slow and take a short walk as often as you can. Take it slow if you are new to a fitness program so you can progress without injury. If your job requires you to sit or stand for long periods of time then set a timer on your smartphone to get up and move every hour or so. And just as important, keep yourself hydrated throughout the day! Our body is over 65% water, with the brain mainly comprised of water (over 70%). So you can see that when we are dehydrated, then our brain can’t function at its best.
- Nutrition: The brain functions best when we give it the proper fuel. When it comes to eating well and preventing brain fog, the goal is to be consistent. We all have cheat days, but we need our healthy days to be consistent. This way we can make sure that we don’t put ourselves in a position where we have a big drop in our blood sugar level, or eat things that spike it. By ensuring that you are getting those macronutrients in your day: high quality dense foods that contain healthy fats, complex carbs and protein, you are supporting brain health by reducing inflammation. Try including green veggies, salmon (preferably wild caught), blueberries, chia and flaxseeds, coconut oil, spices like turmeric and ginger, as well as cabbage, bok choy and beets to your daily meals. Also include whole grains, legumes and quinoa which help keep your blood sugar level from spiking.
- Sleep: When it comes to performance and being productive, it’s crucial that we get enough sleep each night (even though the amount varies per person). If we sabotage our sleep cycle, then we are impairing our brain’s natural process that takes place when we are asleep. So work on ways to get a restful night’s sleep and wake up feeling and thinking clearer. Try keeping a daily journal, including what you ate. Did you load up on junk food, sugar and alcohol? Before bedtime, sip on a warm glass of almond milk with a combination of turmeric, black pepper and ginger. Studies have shown that this combo (especially black pepper and turmeric) reduces inflammation that can contribute to brain fog.
- Sugar Consumption: It’s amazing how much sugar is in pre-packaged foods, canned goods and alcohol. Your brain on sugar can rob you of focus, memory and overall brain health. In addition to the large amounts of sugar we can consume, we get a double whammy because the hormone cortisol also raises blood sugar. Refined sugar raises inflammation so remember that by eating complex carbs, you lower inflammation. A word on artificial sweeteners: any foods that are “artificial” generally contain chemicals that aren’t good for you…period.
Other Things to Consider About Brain Fog
In doing research for brain fog, there were many thoughts on other contributing factors. We’ll mention them as a first start for readers to do their own research. These include:
Heavy metals like lead, aluminum and mercury; vaccines, yeast or bacterial infections, sensitivity to grains and leaky gut. As an example, there’s a field of thought that getting tested for heavy metals in your system and then detoxing if you have heavy metal toxicity can eliminate brain fog. Try avoiding fish high in mercury (like swordfish and king mackerel), having silver dental fillings removed and avoiding antacids and deodorant products containing aluminum. Among older adults, research is showing that certain drugs can cause “brain fog” symptoms of confusion and anxiety. So it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about the meds you, or an elderly family member, are taking.
This article is for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your medical, holistic or functional medicine practitioner to help make an informed decision based on your own health history.