Brain fog is one of the most common and debilitating symptoms that I see in my practice. Unfortunately, it creeps up so slowly that you might not realise it is happening until your life really starts to suffer. The forgetfulness and lack of clarity negatively affect work, relationships, and sense of self. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and low self esteem. But it doesn’t have to! There are steps you can take to help lift the fog yourself or you can seek the help of a health professional who can help you address the root cause.
To start your brain-reset yourself, consider the following self-healing options.
- Clean out your diet. I have a simple food based detox program on my website that takes out the most brain draining foods and replaces them with nourishing essentials. If you follow it closely, you can often correct minor nutritional imbalances and identify trigger foods that cause your brain to shut down.
- Oxygenate. Your brain is a metabolically active organ and requires oxygen to work optimally. Stopping to take a couple deep breaths in the middle of a hectic work day can refresh your mind. If you have some space to yourself, try a simple yoga pose: the forward bend. Hinge forward from the hips and allow your upper body to hang gently towards the floor. This calming pose opens blood flow to the brain, reduces anxiety and anger, and results in introspection.
- Hydrate. Your brain also needs water to function well. Stay hydrated by drinking water or herbal tea throughout the day. In extreme cases you may need to supplement with a professional electrolyte replacement to get your hydration levels up to optimum. At Vitalia Health Care, we offer Bio Impedance Analysis which can objectively tell you how hydrated your tissues really are.
- Stay fueled. Your brain also needs fuel to run well. Eat regularly and snack wisely. Combining complex carbohydrates with fat, protein, and/or fibre helps your brain get the glucose it needs without the spikes that simple carbohydrates alone can cause. If you are struggling with keeping your blood sugar stable, a Naturopathic Doctor can help.
- Be aware of Electro Magnetic Fields (EMFs). You don’t have to get rid of all your electronics and move to the mountains, just taking a few steps can improve your brain function if you are among the people who are sensitive to EMFs. If you are a person who feels much better when you’re outside, you may be sensitive to EMFs. Turn off computers, screens, and cell phones while you sleep. Get outside into nature every day. If these steps help you, find a professional who can help you identify and deal with EMFs in your home or work.
- Maximize your second brain. Did you know that your gut contains more neurons (nerve cells) than your spinal cord? It also is the factory for many important brain chemicals. New research is showing just how important the environment of the gut is for the brain. To optimize mood, take a high quality probiotic and keep your diet low in sugar and high in fibre. If you have any difficulties with digestion, any of the Naturopathic Doctors at Vitalia Health Care can initiate a gut repair program and recommend specialized probiotic strains if required.
Those simple steps will help you function at your best. If your body still hasn’t reset to optimum, it’s time to book an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor at Vitalia Health Care to get at the root of your problems. The following are conditions that affect your brain and require professional help to rebalance:
- Hormonal Imbalances. The thyroid, adrenal glands, and ovaries (in women) all work together to regulate metabolism (among other things). When your metabolism slows down, your brain processing speed slows right down too.
- Thyroid Conditions. Symptoms of low thyroid include lack of energy, depression, weight gain, dry skin, coarse hair, and constipation. Symptoms of high thyroid activity include nervousness, unexplained weight loss, thinning hair, and diarrhea. Both high and low thyroid conditions result in mental confusion. At Vitalia Health Care we evaluate your thyroid function clinically and via laboratory testing. Naturopathic treatment may include replenishing the nutrients that your thyroid requires, thyroid regulating herbs like Withania somnifera (hypothyroid) or Lycopus americanus (hyperthyroid), or a prescription for the thyroid hormones that you’re missing.
- Adrenal Imbalance & Low Blood Pressure. Prolonged periods of stress take their toll on the adrenal glands which produce the epinephrine and norepinephrine that put your body into flight-or-fight mode. The first stage of Adrenal Imbalance is called the resistance phase during which the adrenal glands put out excess cortisol. This is what causes weight gain around the waist, the sensation of feeling tired but wired, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety. It also interferes with the function of other hormones causing further imbalances including bone loss and blood sugar instability. Eventually, the adrenal glands fail to put out adequate cortisol and the body enters the second phase of adrenal imbalance: adrenal exhaustion. The main symptom during this phase is fatigue and many people end up running on coffee, which only results in more exhaustion. The fatigue is worst in the morning and mid afternoon, and unlike a normal “slump” exercise makes energy levels worse instead of better. This is a serious condition and causes other problems like allergies, depression, low blood pressure and blood sugar, reduced libido, and increased susceptibility to infection. Naturopathic Doctors are experts at optimizing the adrenal glands. We use tools like nutrient replenishing IVs, botanical prescriptions to repair the adrenal glands, and acupuncture to help deal with stress.
- Menopause. Excess progesterone can cause brain fog and drowsiness in susceptible people. If this is one of the problems that you experience during menopause, improving estrogen levels can counteract that symptom. There are a number of ways to optimize hormones, which may or may not include bioidentical hormone replacement, herb/vitamin prescriptions, and acupuncture. Hormone testing may be required.
- Nutrient Deficiencies. A deficiency in almost any nutrient can cause fatigue. Common deficiencies include: B complex vitamins, Vitamin D, Carnitine, Iron, Iodine, Magnesium, and Taurine. Your Naturopathic Doctor can help you identify these deficiencies and help you to correct them using diet, supplementation, or intravenous vitamin and mineral therapy depending on what is most appropriate for your situation. A surprising nutrient deficiency is Cholesterol. Cholesterol is the basis of many hormones in your body and is needed in large quantities in cell membranes. Your brain contains more cell membranes than any other structure in the body- if the membranes aren’t working well, the brain won’t work well. The key to optimizing cholesterol levels is to make sure that your body has enough healthy cholesterol create the structures it needs and to reduce the amount of unhealthy and damaged cholesterol that blocks arteries.
- Toxic Metals. Toxic metals can deposit in any tissue and cause dysfunction. The brain is no exception. Anyone can have toxic metal exposure through exhaust, pesticides, lead pipes, and other environmental pollutants. You should be tested periodically for toxic metals if you are frequently exposed to airline exhaust, or industrial smoke. Smoke from tobacco and marijuana cigarettes contains heavy metals both in the papers and occasionally from pesticides used on these crops. Vaccines can be a serious source of heavy metal toxicity as can personal care products like aluminum containing anti-persperants. Additionally, working in any of the building trades (plumbing, electric, etc) can increase exposure as can working in an office, printers, or auto-mechanic shop. Testing is done via hair mineral analysis and treatment is aimed at removing the metals, replacing lost nutrients, and dealing with symptoms.
- Food Allergies/Sensitivities. Reactions can develop towards certain foods in individuals with a compromised immune system or digestive system. This causes immune particles to build up in the body and deposit in various systems causing dysfunction. Food allergies are a major cause of brain fog in children. In addition, some people have difficulty processing certain foods, the two most common offenders are gluten (in wheat and other grains) and casein (in dairy). In some people, these two foods can be converted into morphine-like molecules which cause major problems with the brain. Food allergy testing can be done using an elimination diet or biochemical testing. Treatment involves removing the offending foods and treating the underlying causes of the allergies, whether it be immune, digestive, or adrenal.
- Infectious Disease. Certain chronic infectious diseases can cause brain fog. The biggest offenders are Lyme Disease, Systemic Candida Infection, and Epstein Barr Virus. Treatment is aimed at removing the underlying infections and co-infections as well as bolstering the vitality of these run-down patients, while addressing symptoms.
- Spinal Misalignment. Spinal misalignment can cause brain fog. There are holes in your neck vertebrae called vertebral foramen. The blood vessels and nerves that connect the brain to the body run through these vertebral foramen- if they are misaligned, the connection can be slowed down. Anybody with a great chiropractor can tell you how much clearer the world looks after a well placed neck adjustment.
- Pharmaceutical Side Effects. Some pharmaceutical drugs have side effects that cause brain fog. These include heart pills, blood pressure (water) pills, anti-inflammatories, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, and anti-histamines and decongestants. Also, hormonal birth control methods (including the pill, the patch, and mirena IUD) can all contribute to brain fog.
- Mood Disorders. In the introduction to this blog, I mentioned that brain fog can lead to anxiety and depression. The opposite is also true. Emotions that are not processed can cloud thinking and result in confusion and lack of clarity in all areas of life. Naturopathic treatment for anxiety and depression involves rebalancing neurotransmitters (by giving the body the amino acids, vitamins, and minerals required to make them), mood balancing herbs if indicated, acupuncture, and referral for counseling if needed. Recent research has shown that acupuncture can be very useful for treating depression.
Brain fog is a common and distressing symptom, but you don’t have to live with it. Try out the tips above or schedule a consultation with your Naturopathic Doctor at Vitalia Health Care to get on the road to good health and clear thinking!
Yours in health!
Dr. Theresa Camozzi