What exactly is brain fog? It’s a term that’s widely used to indicate hazy thought, difficulties focusing or concentration, or, in some cases, difficulty remembering or memorizing new information. If you have brain fog, you may find it challenging to cut through to that clear, incisive thinking you used to have.
While brain fog can be a natural reaction to specific circumstances, as we’ll describe below, it is never normal to experience brain fog – certainly not in our 20s, but also not in our 60s, 70s, and beyond. We should be able to age with cognitive function intact if we are in good health. We should all grow up to be wise and sharp old ladies, and we don’t need to believe ageing myths that tell us differently. While our brains do age, if we maintain them fed and supple, as I’ll discuss in this piece, we should avoid brain fog or cognitive impairment.
Digestion issues, hormone imbalances, immune system imbalances, and possibly autoimmune illness, diabetes, heart disease, and dementia And, hey, wasting your mind is a bad thing to do!
The positive news is that all of our symptoms are our bodies way of informing us that something needs to change in our food, lifestyle, self-care, or surroundings. Making the modifications, I discuss in this article to address your unique underlying causes can help to halt and reverse your current symptoms, as well as prevent and frequently reverse the onset of chronic disease.
The Top Ten Sources of Brain Fog
Overwhelm, worry, and distraction are all symptoms of stress.
The first thing to consider is your stress level, as well as what’s going on in your life. If you’re stressed out, anxious all the time, overloaded, or preoccupied, this could be the source of your brain fog. Stress, worry, and overwhelm cause the Stress Response System (the “fight, flight, or freeze” reflex – or “survival mode”) to activate, which has various effects on the brain that can lead to brain fog. Adrenaline, a neurotransmitter generated by the adrenal glands when you are in survival mode, causes your brain to become focused on danger detection. When your brain is trapped in this response, it is nearly impossible to focus, learn new information, and draw on your memory centres for higher levels of information processing. At the same time, the hormone cortisol is generated by the adrenals, and cortisol actually rewires your brain over time, making it more difficult to exercise your higher thinking mode. While we all experience stress or overwhelm on occasion, we don’t want this to become our default mode. Increasing your time spent on relaxation techniques such as meditation, time spent in nature, deep breathing, yoga, calming self-care, and light exercise can all help your brain shift away from survival mode.
Distraction is a fascinating phenomenon; most of us have become acclimated to an unhealthy degree of distraction – often far more frequently than we realize – as a result of our exposure to social media. Evidence now suggests that this is affecting our ability to focus – thus, if you use social media on a daily basis and have observed a drop in attendance and an increase in brain fog, this could be the cause. I’m currently utilizing a Deep Job approach in which, while I don’t completely avoid social media because my work is so based on it, I’ve cut back significantly by remaining off the internet, including email, until after I’ve had a substantial block of several hours of uninterrupted, focused time for my writing. Also, when I do go to Facebook, I go for my work and then go, as opposed to the habit I’d unintentionally developed of following one topic after another. The great thing is that not only does my own brain feel better, but my anxiety level has decreased as a result of the practically unavoidable “compare and despair” phenomenon I was gradually experiencing. I’d like to invite you to join me in making’ intermittent social media fasting’ a regular part of your life!
Fatigue is one of the most significant impediments to proper brain function. Whether it’s due to adrenal stress, life stress, work shifts, or simply not making sleep a priority in your life, not receiving enough or excellent quality sleep can be a single cause of brain fog. For optimal brain function, we require at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Even a single night of merely 5 hours of sleep can have a detrimental impact on your cortisol level. If you don’t get enough sleep, you can pretty much bet on gaining at least 5 pounds, having sweets cravings, and experiencing brain fog. Don’t believe anyone who claims to be able to reduce their sleep time to 5 hours a night – or less – by using certain coffee products, for example. It is not sustainable – or good – for your brain or your overall health. You may learn more about increasing your sleep by clicking here.
Imbalances in Blood Sugar
For healthy functioning, including focus, memory, and clarity, your brain needs a regular supply of glucose in your blood. Low blood sugar is like a 4-alarm fire to your brain, and when it happens on a regular basis, you get SOS – Survival Overdrive Syndrome – a phenomenon I discuss extensively in The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution, and which is a major contributor to not only brain fog in the short run but possibly dementia in the long run. Skipping meals, particularly breakfast or lunch, is a leading cause of low blood sugar in women. Furthermore, low blood sugar causes us to desire quick fixes such as sweet meals and rapid carbs (for example, muffins, cookies, and pastries), which induce toxic inflammation that can negatively affect your brain function. A healthy breakfast that combines high-quality protein and fat, such as an egg boiled in coconut or olive oil and 12 avocados on the side, is the foundation of a sharp mind all day. It’s also critical to be aware of the signs of low blood sugar so you can avoid them. My book places a strong emphasis on maintaining proper blood sugar balance, and you can learn a quick approach to do it in my article The Natural MD’s One-Day Plan To Balance Your Cortisol.
Anxiety and Depression
Depression flattens out the signaling in your brain. Your neurons (nerve cells) simply do not fire as frequently as they do when you are in a more upbeat mood. Furthermore, depression can impair your capacity to focus, remember, and feel mentally sharp due to lower levels of neurotransmitters such as adrenaline (adrenal depletion can lead to decreased adrenaline production over time), serotonin, and dopamine. Worry and anxiety are on a scale, with anxiety being a more debilitating kind of worry. Both generate mental distraction — you’re focusing on the problem, which prevents your brain from processing new information effectively, having easy recall, and paying attention to what’s right in front of you. Your brain has shifted its focus to worry. There are numerous causes of depression and anxiety, including current life circumstances, a history of trauma, “brain flammation” (chronic inflammation affecting your brain), changes in your gut microbiome, nutritional insufficiency, gluten or dairy intolerance, and others, all of which I discuss in The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution, where I teach you how to shift your brain back to health by addressing all of these root causes.
Brain fog is not an unavoidable consequence of life or aging. We should all grow up to be wise, sharp-witted old ladies! @avivaromm
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Problems with Your Microbiome
Disruptions in the gut microbiota, particularly when a variation of Candida, a naturally occurring kind of yeast, overgrow, can cause weariness, anxiety, and sadness, as well as a state of low-level intoxication similar to alcohol consumption, all of which can impair focus, memory, and concentration. Stress, food, a history of antibiotic use, leaky gut, and other gut disturbances can all affect the microbiome. As a result, restoring microbiome health is an important step I take with all of my patients who have brain fog and either have gut symptoms or don’t have the grounds for brain fog listed above, even if they don’t have evident gut symptoms. This begins with an Elimination Diet Reboot, during which I advocate adding fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, Lacto fermented vegetables, and if tolerated, organic sheep, goat, or cow yogurt or kefir) and, in most cases, a probiotic. See this article for additional information on how to undertake an elimination diet, and get my comprehensive 4R Gut Healing Plan in The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution.
Yes, this is a real phrase – and it refers to a phenomenon that occurs when chemicals and immune system components that cause inflammation in the body’s general circulation breach the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and produce inflammation in the brain. Anxiety, sadness, cognitive fog, and dementia have all been linked to brain inflammation, which can arise as a result of anything that causes systemic inflammation. In my medical practice, the first step in determining the source of inflammation is to eliminate the most common food causes of brain inflammation, such as gluten, grains/flour products, and dairy, followed by the 4R Gut Reset or Reboot + 4R Gut Healing Plan. I’m not opposed to these foods, but if you suffer from brain fog, they may be a problem for you.