Suffering from Brain Fog? Here are 6 Steps You Can Take to Restore Clarity to Your Mind.
Are you struggling to remember details, unable to focus or feeling like you're processing information more slowly than usual? You're not alone. Brain fog affects multitudes of people, but not for the same reason. Brain fog is a symptom of a deeper problem that can have a variety of causes, including blood sugar imbalance, a leaky gut, toxic overload, and Lyme Disease.
The functional medicine approach addresses the source of your brain fog. While this healing process can take time, there are steps you can take today to restore mental clarity, boost memory, and improve the overall health of your brain.
Step 1: Give Your Brain the Right Fuel Regularly
Your brain has the highest metabolic need of all your organs. It requires a continual source of fuel in the form of glucose. Unlike your other organs or your muscles, the brain does not have the capacity to store fuel. That's why it is so important to get good nutrition and eat regularly -for most people, that means eating every 3-4 hours during the day. Proper fuel for your brain includes the following foods:
Eating balanced meals: protein + carbohydrate + healthy fat:
Carbohydrates alone will spike your blood sugar which can lead to inflammation. Adding a source of lean protein & a small amount of healthy fat to your meals promotes a more stable blood sugar and provides you with more fuel for a longer period of time.
Rethink Your Carbs: Choose vegetables & fruits as your go-to sources for carbohydrates, especially:
Green, leafy vegetables
Be sure to eat adequate amounts of animal & plant protein, especially:
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel & sardines; poultry; and occasionally lean red meat.
Healthy sources of fat, especially foods rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids such as:
olives, olive oil, avocado
Step 2: Keep Your Gut Healthy
Gut Inflammation Drives Brain Inflammation. Common sources of gut inflammation include:
Food Sensitivities: Sensitivity to gluten and dairy often cause gut inflammation which can lead to a leaky gut & neuroinflammation, if not addressed properly. If you think you might be sensitive to either gluten or dairy - or both - consider a trial elimination of the food(s) for at least 2 weeks and see if your brain fog lessens.
Overgrowth of harmful bacteria or fungi: Overconsumption of highly processed foods or foods high in sugar/high fructose corn syrup feeds harmful bacteria and fungi.
Alcohol: All alcohol is irritating to the gut; consider limiting your alcohol intake or avoiding it until your gut is healed.
Step 3: Detoxify Your Body & Your Brain
An overload of toxins affects not only your body, but also your thinking. Toxic overload can be caused by one or more factors including:
Increased exposure to toxins including, BPA, pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.
Insufficient detoxification: Weak or genetically impaired detoxification pathways allow toxins to build up in your body more quickly and create inflammation, including brain inflammation.
Excessive Alcohol Intake: Alcohol strains your body's detoxification system.
Chronic Stress: Chronic stress drives inflammation which can translate into brain inflammation.
You can start to reduce your exposure to toxins by focusing on these areas:
Eat clean: Choose whole foods over processed foods. Favor wild-caught fish over farm-raised & grass-fed beef & organic poultry over "naturally" raised. Whenever possible, choose organic fruits & vegetables over conventional produce.
Drink Clean: Skip plastic bottles and get yourself a glass or stainless steel travel bottle.
You can read more about ways you can reduce your toxic burden here.
Step 4: Prioritize Sleep
We all know that our brain functions better on a good night's sleep, but when life is busy, sleep is often the first thing we cut back. Too little sleep creates inflammation which leads to brain fog. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep regularly is key to a sharp mind, but even more important is getting enough quality deep sleep. While getting adequate amounts of REM sleep is important to your health, getting enough of the slow-wave, non-REM, ultra deep sleep is even more important - especially for memory consolidation and ability to access knowledge needed for decision-making & planning. Here are some ways you can track your sleep habits:
Step 5: Get Moving
Physical activity is one of the best ways to combat brain fog. In fact, regular exercise - especially aerobic exercise like running or swimming - increases your gray matter, the portion of your brain involved in processing & cognition. You may have heard the phrase, "sitting is the new smoking". As a society, the percentage of time we spend sitting each day has continued rise, even for those individuals who work out regularly. So what changes can you make to your daily routine to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting? Here are some options:
Add in a short walk before you go to work or during your lunch break or after dinner.
Take a 10 minute work break to walk around your office building or climb the stairwell.
Park further away from the store or your office.
Find an online stretching or yoga routine you like that you can do in the evening - even if it is just 10 minutes long, your body and mind will thank you.
If you have joint issues or a chronic health condition like heart disease or diabetes, check with your healthcare practitioner first before starting an exercise regimen.
Step 6: Balance Your Hormones
Hormones and hormone levels strongly influence your cognitive functioning. One or more of these hormone imbalances could be contributing to your brain fog:
Low Thyroid Function
Low Estrogen or Estrogen Resistance
Too Much or Too Little of the Stress Hormone, Cortisol
A functional medicine consultation will assess whether hormone imbalance is contributing to your brain fog and, if indicated, will use diagnostic testing to pinpoint the underlying cause so that it can be addressed directly. Here are a few steps you can take today to counter low hormone levels:
Eat healthy fats: Healthy fats are necessary for the production of hormones. Essential fatty acids are particularly important because they are not only the building blocks for your hormones, but when it comes to the Omega 3 fatty acids, they also reduce inflammation.
Omega 3 Fatty Acid rich foods include: salmon, flaxseeds, olives & olive oil, walnuts & avocados
Omega 6 Fatty Acids: Most foods high in Omega 6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory, but a few are beneficial like Hemp seeds, borage oil, & for some hormone imbalances, evening primrose oil.
Saturated fat like coconut oil & grass-fed sources of butter in moderation are also used by your body for hormone production.
Eat to promote a stable blood sugar:
Fill half your plate with veggies: Use veggies as your main source of carbohydrates - they contain more nutrients and fiber than your typical carbs like grains. Fiber helps to blunt the rise in your blood sugar, avoiding a both a blood sugar spike and an insulin spike.
Eat balanced meals at every meal: When eaten alone, carbohydrates (especially, refined grains & pasta) cause your blood sugar to spike which promotes inflammation. By combing protein, healthy fats, and high fiber foods with carbohydrates, you get a more stable blood sugar response that also provides you with a steady source of fuel.
Find out what's eating you: Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your hormones, including the sex hormones produced by your adrenal gland. Addressing your stress triggers can help you to build resilience and bring more balance into your life. You can learn more about the steps to stress recovery here.
Are you ready to get to the bottom of your brain fog?
Let us help you restore clarity to your mind and health to your body.
Set up a set up a free Discovery Call to learn more.
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The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.
~ Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord & Nantucket, Massachusetts ~