Some days you can feel like you’re just not “with it”. You’re usually an efficient taskmaster who gets stuff done and rarely needs a reminder. Then suddenly, you can’t remember your co-worker’s name, you left your lunch at home, and three hours later you’re still working on a project that should’ve taken minutes. You feel like shouting, “what’s wrong with me?!!” Well, it’s not you, it’s brain fog.
You likely wrote it off as feeling tired or being overworked – two things that can definitely have an effect on brain fog. But when you feel as if you’re living under a constant cloud — perhaps it’s time to delve a little deeper.
What Are The Symptoms of “Brain Fog”?
According to one study, those suffering from mental fog commonly describe themselves as feeling “forgetful,” “cloudy,” and having “difficulty focusing, thinking, and communicating.”1
The Anxiety Centre describes brain fog a little more in depth, adding that:2
- Your short-term memory doesn’t seem as good as it used to be
- Everyday intellectual tasks seem more difficult
- Your thinking doesn’t feel as clear
- You get muddled by simple things
- You have difficulty carrying on conversations
- Your thoughts are hard to recall
What Causes “Brain Fog?”
If you’re getting a foggy brain regularly it can be quite alarming. You might start to think that something is seriously wrong with your brain. But it’s way more common than you think. Perhaps even more interesting is that the triggers may be found… in your diet.
Let’s take a look.
1. Is Your Diet Heavy in Sugar and Refined Carbs?
Refined carbs have had the bran and germ extracted, which makes them all white and pristine (hello, white bread!). But in the process, the fiber and most of the nutritional value have been removed. These types of carbs are broken down by the body a lot quicker and, in turn, raise blood sugar levels quickly.
Glucose levels are tightly connected to brain health and function. If there isn’t enough glucose, neurotransmitters (the brain’s chemical delivery men) are not produced and communication in the brain breaks down.3
On the flip side, if there’s too much glucose the brain may actually set off an immune response, which may cause that dreaded “foggy” feeling.4
So, stabilizing your blood sugars by eating a diet rich in vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats could be a great way to clear the fog.
2. Are You Getting Enough Healthy Fats and Protein?
The human brain is around 60% fat, and essential fatty acids are some of the most important molecules for brain strength and performance. Omega-3 fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acids (DHA) – found in fatty fish and egg yolks – are needed for:
- Optimal brain function
- Production of neurotransmitters
- Protection of the brain’s neurons5
When you support your brain health with Omega-3’s, it can help you avoid feeling like you have a foggy brain.6
If you know you’re not getting enough essential fatty acids, and you’re suffering from recurring brain fog, consider investing in an omega fatty acid supplement.
Now, the rest of your brain is made up of proteins, so your brain needs plenty of healthy proteins. Proteins contain amino acids which are needed for a great many bodily functions.7 Healthy proteins should be low in saturated fats such as fish, lean cuts of meat, milk, nuts, and seeds.
3. Are You Gluten-Sensitive?
Brain fog has proven to be exceptionally common in those who are sensitive to gluten – from mild gluten intolerance to celiac disease. Though science is still at a loss as to why this happens, researchers believe it’s linked to inflammation.
One thing they have discovered is that a gluten-free diet in those who are sensitive can help improve mental clarity.8
If you’re battling consistent brain fog, you might want to talk to your allergist about gluten sensitivity testing.
4. Are You Drinking Too Much Caffeine and Alcohol?
Coffee is a pick-me-up and it actually seems to clear your head. So, how can it be a cause of brain fog?
Well, when the coffee hit wears off, brain fog can set in, which means you’ll probably reach for another cup and continue the cycle.
In a study of caffeine withdrawal symptoms, 72% of volunteers reported symptoms under the banner of “fatigue and headache” which included the sub-symptoms of difficulty concentrating, drowsiness, and foggy head.9
Similarly with alcohol, while you may initially get a buzz from drinking, the resulting hangover can bring about a foggy head. Even a small intake of alcohol before bed can leave you feeling foggy in the morning.
In fact, studies have shown that hangovers can result in a 5-10% drop in memory performance and can increase error commitment by 30%! Researchers believe that’s partly because of dehydration and partly because the ethanol and methanol in your drink form toxic molecules when broken down. 10
Furthermore, some alcoholic drinks contain gluten (especially beer). And other drinks, like wine, can be high in histamines, which are also commonly released when we have an allergy to something, and can promote mental fogginess.11
Are Some People More Susceptible To “Brain Fog”?
Generally speaking, there are certain conditions that seem to trigger brain fog. Those suffering from conditions directly relating to the brain — like autism-related conditions and Alzheimer’s — or neuropsychiatric disorders — like anxiety and ADHD — may have a harder time.12
But there are other conditions that may produce “brain fog:”
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Gluten intolerance
To Part the Brain Clouds
Finally, outside of your diet, there are other things that you can do to help fight brain fog.
Try to better manage your stress levels. Stress produces too much cortisol, which can make you feel like you can’t remember things properly.
Make sure you get enough sleep. Sleep boosts mental clarity and may provide a 32% advantage in problem-solving skills.13 Aim for 7-8 hours a night.
Limit your exposure to blue light. Too many hours in front of a computer screen, tablet, or smartphone increases your exposure to “blue light”. This can affect your body’s production of melatonin, which can interrupt your sleep cycle.14
If you change the way you’ve been eating and take these three tips into consideration, you may just find that your “fog” starts to dissipate much quicker than you expected.
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7.The Whole Brain: The Microbiome Solution to Heal Depression, Anxiety, and Mental Fog without Prescription Drugs; Kellman, Raphael M.D.