"There are a number of steps we recommend to address, treat, and prevent brain fog."
In today’s post, Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD takes a deep dive into what’s really explore going on when our heads feel foggy and thoughts come slowly.
Today we’ll go through the causes of slow thinking and brain fog, and what we can be do to make sure it doesn’t become the new norm. She’ll also share her top 5 foods that we must have each day to help lift brain fog, and restore clarity and focus to our brains, and so much more.
- 03:12: What is Brain Fog?
- 05:25: Symptoms of Brain Fog
- 08:08: Brain Fog is a Symptom
- 09:55: Contributing Factors
- 12:20: Brain Fog and Inflammation
- 14:46: Treating and Preventing Brain Fog
- 29:16: Top 5 Foods For Tackling Brain Fog!
- 34:50: Wrap-Up
What is Brain Fog?
Brain fog is not just an age-related condition — it can and does affect anyone of any age, regardless of your health. In fact, the number of people aged 18-39 reporting brain fog symptoms has dramatically increased, with nearly 20% of the population now reporting that they experience brain fog on a regular basis.
There are a lot of beliefs about why brain fog occurs, and specifically why it is occurring at younger and younger ages. But like so many health issues, there are a few common lifestyle choices that contribute to this condition — diet, exercise, stress, and quality of sleep. We’ll dive into each of these, so keep reading.
Symptoms of Brain Fog
People who experience brain fog often describe it as a sense of confusion or disorganization, disorientation or feeling scattered. A diminished ability to react and difficulty thinking, expressing your thoughts or thinking through situations can all be considered brain fog. Here are just a few examples:
“Where did I put my car keys?”
"The right word is on the tip of my tongue… I just can’t think of it"
"Why did I come into this room, again?"
“Oh, I lost my train of thought, it will come back to me.”
“I know I gave birth to that child, but was his name again”
The symptoms of brain fog can make you feel like your thoughts are trapped somewhere in your head or as the name brain fog implies, like you are trying to wade through a thick fog or look through a hazy or dirty window.
According to a recent study, the top-ranked descriptors of brain fog were “forgetful,” “cloudy,” and “difficulty focusing, thinking and communicating.”
Symptoms of brain fog usually don’t lead to anything debilitating or life-threatening, but they do inhibit your normal functionality, and if they are occurring on a regular basis, brain fog could be a sign of a more serious condition — it’s just one more thing keeping you from being your best self!
Brain Fog is a Symptom
Brain fog isn't a medical condition itself, but rather asymptom of other medical conditions. It’s a type of cognitive dysfunction involving a number of symptoms, including:
- An inability to think clearly or grasp a thought — a lack of mental clarity
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
- Forgetfulness — for example, walking into a room but not remembering why
- Short-term memory problems (not remembering what was said in conversations or what you ate for breakfast — or if you even ate breakfast)
- Decreased productivity despite trying to accomplish something
- Lack of energy and fatigue
- Wandering attention
- Problems communicating, following what someone is saying, or finding words to express your own thoughts
So why do we feel this way and why do some of us experience it more than others?
There are many things that can contribute to brain fog, including:
- Hormonal changes, such as those that occur with menopause, pregnancy and thyroid disorders
- Medications, such as antihistamines, blood pressure medications, anti-anxiety medications, anti-nausea medications and some sleep aids
- Low blood sugar
- Alzheimer's disease, other forms of dementia and age-related cognitive decline
- Chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and other autoimmune disorders
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet
- Vitamin deficiencies, such as low levels of B12 or D
According to a recent report published inFrontiers in Neuroscience, people most likely to suffer from more serious bouts of brain fog include those dealing withchronic fatigue syndrome; celiac disease,gluten intolerance symptoms or other food allergies;fibromyalgia symptoms; Alzheimer’s disease; and other neuropsychiatric disorders.
Brain Fog and Inflammation
The other factor the report mentions that increases brain fog symptoms, not surprisingly, is inflammation. Inflammation and related low-grade over-activity of the immune system is tied to a ton of health issues, with brain fog on the list.
One of the less discussed underlying reasons for brain fog is that higher levels of inflammation in the body affects the essential balance of hormones that help us feel healthy, and help our brains to function normally and with clarity.
On a cellular level, brain fog caused by high levels of inflammation changes three specific hormones that determine your mood, energy, and focus: dopamine, serotonin, and cortisol. Cortisol is often called the body’s “stress hormone,” since it helps keep you awake and alert, while dopamine and serotonin help keep you happy, motivated and calm.
The brain and entire body relies on these hormones staying in balance in order to keep one another in check, so when levels of one hormone either fall too low or climb too high, your whole system can be thrown off, which often results in brain fog.
Reducing inflammation and rebalancing your production of these hormones helps put you on the right track for better brain function.
Treating and Preventing Brain Fog
So how do we do that? How can we treat and prevent brain fog? Well, in many cases, that depends on what’s causing your brain fog. For example, it might be a result of a nutritional deficiency or a reaction to a specific prescription medication — in those cases, it’s important to talk with your doctor to determine the root cause and develop a plan to address these specific issues.
For most of us, brain fog is the result of a combination of factors, including:
- Hormonal imbalance
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet
- Undiagnosed autoimmune disorders
- Chronic inflammation
As such, there are a number of steps we recommend to address, treat, and prevent brain fog, including:
Exercising On A Regular Basis
Exercise reduces your levels inflammation, helps manage stress, and increases energy levels.Moderate and regular exercise can help youbalance hormones,improve blood sugar levels and help you toget better sleep, all of which are essential for combating the symptoms of brain fog and getting you clear and focused again.
Getting More Sleep
One of the fastest and more reliable ways to improve brain function is toget better sleep. The hormones in your brain stay balanced when your body gets adequate rest every night — at least seven hours for most adults. When you’re constantly exhausted, you're very likely to find it hard to pay attention at work, engage in meaningful conversations, and retain information. Plus, you are better equipped tomanage hunger, food cravings, and emotions when well rested, which can benefit your overall quality of life in multiple ways.
Brain fog is also a result of lack of sleep because not getting enough sleep raises cortisol levels, which means you can become more irritable and, ironically, might find it even harder to get good rest through the night. High cortisol levels suppress dopamine levels and make it difficult for serotonin to work like it’s supposed to, so it feeds into a vicious cycle of poor moods and behaviors.
Relaxing and Reducing Stress
Not only does stress contribute to brain fog,stress can literally be a killer, so practicing ways toreduce stress in your daily life is essential. In addition to regular exercise to reduce stress — likeyoga — practicedeep breathing, get outside and enjoy nature, make time for a hobby that you love, use essential oils, read, or take part in other calming practices.
Eating Better Food
When it comes to your brain, chronic inflammation can cause your protective blood-brain barrier to be more permeable, leading to brain inflammation. This type of neuro-inflammation has a name: it’s calledleaking brain syndrome and it is one of the most misunderstood contributors to brain fog.
The brain’s hypothalamus isa region of the forebrain below the thalamus which coordinates both the autonomic nervous system and the activity of the pituitary, meaning that it’s responsible for controlling body temperature, thirst, hunger, and other homeostatic systems, and it’s involved in sleep and emotional activity.
Unfortunately, the hypothalamusisextremely sensitive to inflammation. It’s the inflammatory oxidative stress on the hypothalamus that is theprimary underlying cause of brain fog. What’s interesting to note is your hypothalamus also controls your emotions, so you can see why brain fog and mood issues go hand in hand.
Now when we look at tackling the issue of brain fog, it’s involves the same approach we take to ridding the body of other inflammatory issues, like aching joints or digestive issues. It goes back to our equation of health:
Less Inflammation In + More Inflammation Out = A Healthier You!
In order to prevent brain fog and reduce mental decline,you need to reduce the levels of inflammation in your body.
You also have to watch out forenvironmental toxins such as mold, pesticides, and heavy metals, which are known contributors to inflammation and brain fog too. That’s why eating all-natural foods and ensuring your fruits and vegetables areorganic is essential to your health!
Get Antioxidant and Probiotic Support
Eating from Dr. Nancy’santi-inflammatory diet will naturally increase your levels of antioxidants, but even this is not enough to combat the high levels of free radicals in your body from today’s world that drive inflammation and contribute to brain fog. The higher fiber and natural probiotics in the anti-inflammatory diet will help, but you need additional support there as well. In order to achieve optimum mental clarity, supplement withSmarter Curcumin to help defend against free radical damage, as well as a complete Pre and Probiotic formula likeSmarter Gut Health.
Address Any Unknown Food Allergies or Sensitivities
When people suffer from a food sensitivity but don’t cut out all sources from their diets, they experience gut-related damage that affects brain function.
Food sensitivities to things like gluten anddairy cause significant changes in the gut microbiota — which is problematic because your overall health depends heavily on thehealth of your gut. Anallergy triggers inflammatory reactions, which affect everything from nutrient absorption to hormone production, to brain health and brain function and contributes to brain fog. Nearly every cell, tissue and system in the body, especially thegut-brain connection, suffers when a food sensitivity is present. Avoid gluten and dairy, or if you are not willing to go gluten or dairy free, at least limit your intake of each. We do recommend you at least try eliminating these inflammatory agents from your diet — give it a week, see how you feel.
Get more Vitamin D
Vitamin D levels are often lacking in people that suffer from lack of mental clarity and cognitive function. So, taking a daily complete plant-based Vitamin D supplement likeSmarter Vitamin D can help provide the nutrients needed to encourage mental function and performance.*
The reason finding plant-based supplement is so important is that 99% of Vitamin D sold in stores is animal-based, and comes from the glands of sheep. Yes, sheep glands. So stick with plant based. And what you need is a formula with 5,000 IU of Vitamin D3 that includesVitamin K2 as well.
On sunny days, try to spend at least 20 minutes outside soaking up the rays. If you can’t make it outside or live in a cloudy climate, then infrared saunas are another great option.
Top 5 Foods For Tackling Brain Fog!
Blueberries are a great choice — they are rich in antioxidants, reduce oxidative stress on the brain, and have even been shown to improve learning capacity and motor skills. They are also rich in Phytochemicals, which give fruits and vegetables their color. Foods high in phytochemicals are among the most effective means of improving your health, and blueberries have one of the strongest concentrations available. Don’t limit your options to just blueberries though — raspberries are also great!
Lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits can all help your brain stay healthy — whether you're including it in a salad dressing, squeezing a lemon on some avocado, peeling and eating an orange, or adding it to a smoothie. Studies show that people who have citrus fruits every day are able to prevent or delay cognitive decline by more than two years!
Almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are high in vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, and other vitamins and minerals, making them a brain-fog busting no-brainer — particularly when it comes to preventing cognitive decline and preserving memory. Studies have shown over and over that including nuts in your diet can improve brain cell communication and growth and reduce the symptoms of brain fog.
Homemade trail mix recipe
- ¼ cup of nuts
- ¼ cup of gluten-free granola
- 2 tbsp dried blueberries or cranberries
Combine all ingredients and keep this on hand as a great brain food snack!
Spinach is high in lutein, an antioxidant that protects the brain from free radical damage and inflammation. People with mild cognitive impairment have been shown to have reduced lutein levels, and boosting lutein levels has been shown to enhance learning, memory, and reduce symptoms of brain fog. Other good sources of lutein are kale, chard, collards — any dark leafy green, really.
Avocados are rich in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals - especially vitamin E, which not only supports brain function, but also reduces inflammation, supports heart health, and provides tons of essential nutrients. In fact, avocados are also another good source of lutein. Studies show that people who ate one avocado every day for six months improved in several cognitive functions. An Avocado a Day Keeps Brain Fog Away!
Today we talked about some of the specific symptoms and causes of brain fog — specifically how hormones, diet, exercise, stress, and most importantly inflammation contribute to brain fog, which interferes with your quality of life.
We shared some of our sleep, stress-reduction, and exercise advice to help reduce brain fog and provided recommendations for improving your brain health and function — including 5 great foods for reducing brain fog: blueberries, citrus fruits, nuts, spinach, and avocados!
We hope you found this episode helpful. Share it with your friends and family, grab some homemade trail mix or a cup of blueberries, and enjoy a brain-fog-free day!