Millions of people experience brain fog every day. But what causes it and what can you do to overcome it?
We’ve all experienced it at one time or another. That moment when you suffer from a little lapse in mental clarity. We’ve all had moments where we forgot a name, misplaced our keys, had trouble remembering a word, or just felt a bit hazy.
We chalk it up to having a “senior moment” and feeling “spacey.” However, having regular bouts of memory loss, feeling lost or confused, or having trouble concentrating, certainly isn’t normal.
It is true that age is a contributor to cognitive decline. However, those “senior or spacey moments” actually have less to do with the number of years you’ve been on the planet than they do with your overall health.
This troublesome lapse of cognitive ability is a condition called brain fog.
What is Brain Fog?
Brain Fog is not a disease or disorder. It is a condition where the brain is not working correctly. This doesn’t have anything to do with a person’s intelligence or IQ. That foggy-headed feeling is simply the result of one or more imbalances within the body.
Some common symptoms of brain fog include:
Lack of focus and concentration
Confusion and disorientation
Short term memory loss
Trouble “finding words” when speaking
Feeling detached, disconnected, or spaced out
If that wasn’t bad enough, there are many additional symptoms that often accompany brain fog. Issues such as allergies, acne, blood sugar imbalances, sleep disorders, headaches, digestive issues, fatigue, lethargy, inflammation, asthma, restless leg syndrome, low sex drive, PMS, irregular menstrual cycles, depression, anxiety, emotional fragility, cholesterol problems, weight issues and more are often seen along with brain fog. These symptoms are ways your body signals you to let you know that something is out of balance.
Brain fog can make it difficult to complete daily tasks. People with brain fog struggle to focus, which can threaten work performance. And it can take a toll on relationships as well. If not properly addressed, brain fog can be progressive, becoming even more debilitating over time.
You need to know what’s causing your foggy head if you wish to improve it.
The hardworking brain
The brain is always working. It is constantly processing, sorting, sending, and receives messages. These messages do things like keeping your blood pumping, lungs breathing, hormones releasing, and muscles moving. All this work requires a significant amount of energy, oxygen, and nutrition.
But inflammation, food allergies, and sensitivities, as well as changes to the fuel and oxygen supply profoundly affect the brain and its ability to function.
There are many things that contribute to a foggy brain. And they all have one thing in common:
Each potential cause of brain fog creates stress in the body. And that stress causes imbalances, which ultimately lead to symptoms.
What are the major causes of brain fog?
Top common causes:
- Physical, mental, and emotional stress
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Food Intolerances and sensitivities
- Nutrient deficiencies and mineral imbalances
- Metal toxicity
- Liver and kidney dysfunction
- Leaky gut and digestive system issues
- Structural misalignment
- Dehydration or insufficient oxygen
- Hormonal imbalances (including menopause and pregnancy)
- Candida overgrowth
- Parasite infections
- Serious medical conditions such as Lyme infection, brain tumors, meningitis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, autoimmune diseases, and physical head trauma
- Anything mental, emotional, physical, or chemical that chronically stresses the body
- Thyroid dysfunction
If you are experiencing symptoms of brain fog, then your health has already begun breaking down. However, acting today can help to reverse brain fog and get you thinking clearly again!
Simple Steps to Get Your Brain Working Again
The good news is that the brain is extremely adaptable and wants to be well. Losing mental clarity, while “common,” is not “normal” and should not be considered an inevitable consequence of growing older.
Once you have identified and reduced the sources of stress that are affecting your brain, then all you need to know is how to properly feed and care for it.
The key to restoring function and overcoming most health complaints is identifying the source of the problem. The same is certainly true for brain fog. Here are a few areas where FDNthrive health detectives look for clues:
There are very strong connections between the gut and the brain. If your gut is toxic, chances are you will eventually end up flooding your brain with toxins.
Increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut) is a condition in which waste, bacteria, undigested foods, and other harmful substances are able to cross through the gut lining and into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, these toxic substances can travel to other organs in the body, including the brain.
Many people who experience brain fog are also prone to constipation, bloating, gas, or diarrhea. Often this means there is an imbalance between the friendly and “bad” microbes that reside in your gut. Bad bacteria can secrete toxins that enter your bloodstream and actually pass through your blood-brain barrier, muddling your thoughts and raising the risk of depression or anxiety.
Gut problems can be caused by a number of things including hormonal imbalances, bacterial or yeast overgrowth, food intolerances, toxins, and parasite infestations. Easy to use functional lab tests can help identify what’s going on and how to address it naturally.
Balancing blood sugar
The brain likes a steady supply of its favorite fuel…blood sugar. It doesn’t like too much or too little at any time. High blood sugar is a major risk factor for the development of dementia in your later years, and even a mild elevation in blood sugar can be harmful to your brain. Low blood sugar can be equally as troubling. Brain fog, headaches, nausea, irritability, hunger, and fatigue are just a few common effects of low blood sugar. Low blood sugar can be life-threatening. Learning how to manage your blood sugar through diet and lifestyle is essential to having a healthy functioning brain.
Food sensitivites and intolerances
Food is nutrition. Nutrition is necessary for optimal health. However, many people have allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances to certain otherwise healthy foods. Our bodies perceive these foods as enemies and may go on the attack. The resulting elevation in antibodies and inflammation can lead to a variety of symptoms including digestive issues, fatigue, skin problems, and brain fog.
Heavy metal toxicity
Toxic metals in our food and our environment can have a huge impact on cognitive health. Neurotoxins like copper, cadmium, and mercury can be found in many food products, household items, second-hand smoke, old dental work, and in many industries and workplaces.
Steps you can take to get rid of brain fog
There are some simple, low-cost lifestyle changes you can adopt to help lead you to a brain fog-free future.
We know that dietary advice has gotten ridiculously complicated. People suffering from brain fog need to keep it simple. So here are some simple tips to get you started.
Eat real food!
Just remember these three simple words and you will be on your way to a healthier brain (and body). Minimize consumption of packaged and processed foods. Eating real food will automatically eliminate common food additives that are known to be neurotoxins. Things like MSG, aspartame and hydrolyzed vegetable oil are some of the most commonly consumed brain “poisons” and are lurking in many popular packaged foods and beverages.
Avoid Wheat, Corn, Soy, and Dairy. These four foods are the most common food allergens and may be contributing to your brain fog. You can confirm food sensitivities with the right testing. An FDNthrive health detective can help get you testing that can confirm which foods could be contributing to your brain fog.
Gluten, in particular, has been linked to memory loss and cognitive decline, so even if you don’t have any digestive issues, it may be affecting your brain. Although wheat, corn, soy, and dairy are the most commonly allergenic foods, 67% of the calories in the Standard American Diet come from these foods.
Healthy fats like coconut oil, grass-fed organic beef, and free-range egg yolks are necessary for the protection and maintenance of your brain. Don’t forget, outside of water, your brain is mostly made up of fat.
Are you drinking enough water each day? If not, drink it! Over 60% of your brain is water. Almost every function in the body depends on the efficient flow of liquid and hydration at a cellular level. Water is needed for the transport of hormones, chemical messengers, and nutrients. Drink at least half your body weight in ounces per day. If you weigh 200 lbs, drink 100 ounces.
Do some deep breathing every day. Unlike other cells in the body, the brain is extremely vulnerable to changes in oxygen supply. After just 5 minutes of oxygen deprivation, brain cells will begin to die. When under stress, people tend to take short, shallow breaths. This creates oxygen deprivation for the brain. When you’re feeling stress, take some time to practice doing some deep breathing. It can shut off the stress response in the body and help to keep brain fog away. As little as 3 minutes of deep breathing at different points throughout the day can make a big difference!
Get some sleep
Sleep is critical to the way your brain works in both the short and the long term. If you have ongoing problems with sleep, just overcoming insomnia is a potential brain fog cure. While you sleep, your brain cleans and organizes information. It also generates brand new brain cells. Do what you can to get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.
Brain fog doesn’t have to be permanent
With the complicated, overlapping symptoms that fall under the umbrella of “brain fog,” it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that you are losing mental abilities. It is a common notion that as we age our brains lose function. It doesn’t have to be the case. Brain fog is not a fixed state and changes depending on how we treat ourselves and our bodies – for better or worse. This is true for people of all ages, whether you have a clinical condition or not. So put your mind over matter and take action.
Symptoms such as brain fog are common, but not normal. Cleaning up your habits and lifestyle as suggested above are important, but perhaps it’s time to talk to an FDN practitioner about a full assessment and some specialized lab tests — and lose those hazy-headed moments for good.