4 reasons you are experiencing brain fog
Brain fog can be described as the inability to have a sharp memory or to lack a sharp focus. You just really feel like you're not yourself, your thinking is clouded or fuzzy and you're unable to think clearly. Brain fog has been linked to several medical conditions, but can also be experienced independently of disease. You may find yourself coasting through your day, unable to put your full focus into work tasks, or perhaps you keep forgetting where you left your keys, purse, phone...Brain fog can be annoying, incredibly frustrating and in some cases, quite debilitating, and it can really impact day-to-day life. But luckily, there are a number of steps you can take to clear your brain fog - in this article, we’ll be exploring some of the things (or things that may be lacking) in your diet that may be contributing to your brain fog, so that you can make some simple changes to lift the cloud and experience more clarity.
1. Leaky gut
Our gut helps us to digest and absorb nutrients from the food we eat, but it also contains most of our immune system. The cells of the gut lining are joined by tight junctions which create a barrier between the outside world and our inside world, helping to filter out pathogens to prevent them from entering the bloodstream. When this barrier is compromised, harmful pathogens are able to effectively bypass the immune cells in the gut lining and pass straight through, which activates an inflammatory response (1) - this is leaky gut (you can read more about leaky gut here 1, 2, 3). As well as being linked to a number of autoimmune diseases including celiac disease, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, of which brain fog is a common reported symptom, many people without these diseases still experience leaky gut and associated brain fog. Too much alcohol and caffeine, sugar, undiagnosed food intolerances, lack of good quality sleep and poor diet can all be contributors to a leaky gut, so it is important to tackle these factors in order to control brain fog.
2. Blood sugar imbalances
We all know how it feels to be ‘hangry’ from time to time - if you’re experiencing this regularly alongside brain fog then there is a good chance that your blood sugars are out of balance. To read more about how our blood sugar balance affects inflammation, click here - but in a nutshell, keeping our blood sugar stable is vital for keeping our energy levels in check, reducing inflammation and clearing the brain fog (2). You start to balance your blood sugar by reducing the amount of processed carbohydrates (such as pasta and bread) in your diet and increasing the amount of nutrient dense carbohydrates you eat from roots, fruits and shoots. Also, be sure to include a source of protein and good-quality fat with each meal - including saturated fats such as butter, ghee and coconut oil - to prevent blood sugar spikes.
3. Too many stimulants
Although many people like to reach for that morning coffee to give them a boost of energy first thing, it can actually be playing havoc with your hormonal balance which will in turn throw out your energy levels and increase your brain fog. Coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks all count as stimulants, and consuming too many of them throughout the day (and especially at night) can impact your sleep quality and increase cortisol levels, which in turn can increase inflammation (3). Instead, try swapping for matcha, herbal teas or good old fashioned water. Alcohol, although technically a depressant, has mildly stimulating effects when first consumed and as such also increases levels of inflammation in the body, so it’s best to avoid or at least reduce your intake if you are experiencing brain fog.
4. Missing nutrients
Nutrient deficiencies can occur when we experience stress (whether that is emotional or physical) over a prolonged period of time, as our body uses our stores of them to activate the stress response. As such, those experiencing brain fog due to stress and subsequent inflammation are often deficient in essential nutrients, specifically B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and vitamins C and E (4). To combat this, eating a diet rich in nutrient-dense roots, shoots and fruits is crucial. In other words - make sure you’re eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables. You might also want to consider supplementation, particularly for nutrients like magnesium, which can be difficult to obtain enough of through food alone. I suggest working with a nutritionist or functional medicine practitioner to find the supplement(s) and dosage that works for you and your lifestyle.
You should now have a much better idea of what may be contributing to your brain fog and more importantly, what steps you can take to help relieve it. As always if you have any questions or comments, feel free to get in contact!
Wu, H-J., Wu, E. 2012. The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity.Gut Microbes,3, 4-14
Roder, P.V., Wu, B., Liu, Y., Han, W. 2016. Pancreatic regulation of glucose homeostasis.Experimental & Molecular Medicine,48, e219
Stachowicz, M., Lebiedzinska, A. 2016. The effects of diet components on the level of cortisol. European Food Research and Technology, 242: 2001-2009
Lopresti, A.L. 2020. The Effects of Psychological and Environmental Stress on Micronutrient Concentrations in the Body: A Review of the Evidence. Advances in Nutrition, 11, 103-112