Solutions To Brain Fog / Mental Cloudiness
Do you have trouble concentrating? Do you ever feel mentally tired or fatigued? Do you lack clarity of thought or find yourself fishing for names or words frequently? You may be experiencing what is known as “Brain Fog.”
The problem with Brain Fog is that most of us assume its a normal part of living – especially today with overpacked schedules and a million things on our mind.
Brain Fog is something your body was never meant to experience. In a healthy state, your brain is designed to be crystal clear with ability to recall and create memories in nanoseconds. One sign of your health declining is the presence of “brain fog” and it can have many causes.
Rooted in your lifestyle choices, Brain Fog is connected to your overall inflammatory load and hormonal balance. Think of Brain Fog as you would your check engine light for your car – its’ there to alert you into taking a deeper investigation of whats going on under the hood.
Causes of brain fog range from overall vitamin deficiencies, digestive dysfunction, lack of sleep, hormonal dysregulation (specifically the thyroid) and side effects of medication usage.
Here’s my top methods for understanding and overcoming brain fog:
INFLAMMATION: Connected with almost every known health condition today – inflammation is primarily caused by dietary triggers: Grains (wheat, corn, rice, oats), Corn, Pasteurized Dairy, Conventionally grown non-organic fruits and vegetables, Conventionally fed meats/fish, Vegetable Oils and Sugar. Obviously removing all of those from your diet and replacing with anti-inflammatory foods will combat this source of brain fog.
THYROID: One of the classic signs of an underperforming thyroid is Brain Fog. Deep within your brain are immune cells called Microglia which make up 10-15% of your brain. These cells are the powerhouse for the brains natural immune system. The Microglia cells can become agitated and overly active when thyroid hormone is disrupted and the resulting increase in immune function leads to a cellular attack on the brains healthy tissue. This can lead to neuronal loss = Brain Fog. An important step to discovering if this is happening is having the right thyroid test preformed. Under normal conditions T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) is converted into T3 (active thyroid hormone). T3 helps you have a boosted metabolism and overall is responsible for energy production. If T4 is converted into RT3 (reverse T3) due to high levels of inflammation, RT3 activates microglia cells and leads to a down regulation of you metabolism and energy. Unfortunately most MDs do not test for RT3 and its effects.
SLEEP: A recent study found that sleep deprivation (less than 5 hours nightly) results in the same mental and physical impairment as someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.05! Getting enough sleep (7-8 hours) is the fastest way to improve brain function and eliminate Brain Fog. Sleep deprivation has been linked to short term memory loss, weight gain and even increased risk for various diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer! This is mostly due to a disruption in cortisol, which when elevated depresses the neurotransmitter dopamine and suppresses serotonins ability to elevate your mood and brain function. Serotonin is also known as the “feel good hormone” so when its suppressed you generally feel tired and “foggy.”
VITAMIN DEFICIENCY: Vitamin B12 deficiency has been historically linked to Brain Fog, so much so that having brain fog is usually the sign for its diagnosis. B12 deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the US with an estimated 40% (~130 Million) of adults being affected. The good news is B12 is found naturally occurring in many foods including grass fed meats, free range poultry, wild caught fish, raw dairy cheese, eggs and sea vegetables (dulse, arame, nori, kombu, wakame, hijiki, agar, kelp). I personally like the sea vegetable source because they are also LOADED with naturally occurring iodine which helps to support normal thyroid function.
DIGESTIVE DYSFUNCTION: Your MICROBIOME consists of several pounds of trillions of bacterial organisms living in the intestines. These bacteria directly affect the brain’s chemistry through what is known as the “Gut-Brain-Connection” which has helped scientists to uncover a digestive link to Brain Fog, depression and even psychiatric disorders. Improper diet, stress, excess sugars, repeated antibiotic use and neurological inflammation can lead to damage within the intestines allowing specific proteins and other toxins to “leak” across the bodies protective gut-blood barrier. Once in the blood stream, these proteins and toxins can cause an auto-immune-like reaction which, if programmed properly, can spike neuronal death by activation of the Microglial cells found in the brain (see Thyroid Section)
MEDICATION SIDE EFFECT: Brain fog is one of the primary side effects of cholesterol lowering (statin) drugs. This lies in the fact that your brain is made of 70-75% cholesterol which is needed for normal brain function. Anti-depressants also have brain fog as a primary side effect – mostly because they change and interfere with neurotransmitters. Side effects come with any prescriptive medication – remember to always look for the cause vs covering up the symptoms with a drug.
SUPPLEMENTS THAT ASSIST OVERCOMING BRAIN FOG:
In addition to addressing the above causes, healthy fats such as MCT (medium chain triglyceride) Oil, Coconut Oil, Olive and Avocado Oil have all been shown to down regulate inflammation and support normal brain function. Ashwagandha is an herb that assists in decreasing cortisol levels, balancing dopamine and serotonin and also regulating inflammation by controlling blood sugar levels. Additionally, Omega-3 oils have a known anti-inflammatory effect on the entire body when taken in the correct 2:1 or 4:1 ratio. Lastly, maintaining the proper amounts of B Vitamins (including B12) can have an almost instant change on your energy and brain functions.