Brain fog is one of the biggest things my friends complain about. The amount of times they stop in the middle of a sentence and look around for help – you know, thingummy jig – oh what's his name……aarrgggh, it's gone!
Now my friends are in their 50's, like me, so it's not surprising as it's one of the most common symptoms of menopause.
But it can be really scary when you're constantly forgetting things or you completely lose your train of thought. We might know or be caring for elderly relatives with Alzheimers or dementia.
But the good news is that more often than not, it’s common and garden BRAIN FOG that’s driving us crazy. And there are lots of things we can do about it.
You can watch the video below or listen to the podcast (episode 83).
Causes of brain fog
Stress – Cortisol’s job is to put the body on alert to deal with a threat (anything from demanding job, a difficult relationship, families, emotions, money worries, 24/7 technology, a global pandemic, you name it!). This can mess with your other hormones, including damaging your brain neurotransmitters, causing mood swings and a lot of foggy thinking. Ever tried to solve a difficult problem when you’re stressed out? The trouble is your brain hardly ever gets a chance to switch off (more on that later!).
Menopause – there’s a reason that brain fog particularly hits women over the age of 40. This is when your oestrogen and progesterone levels start to fall. Both hormones seem to have a protective effect on the brain.
Nutrient deficiencies – you need a lot of nutrients for your brain to work well. It needs lots of energy to be produced, which needs B vitamins, iron and a host of other co-factors. It needs good levels of protein and essential fats, and anti-oxidants to protect it against damage. If your diet is low in these essential nutrients, your brain cells can slow right down and make you sluggish.
Food sensitivities – common culprits like wheat, gluten, dairy, soy – can cause inflammation in the body (including the brain), and this can disrupt nerve signalling. Dr William Davis talks about modern day wheat in his book ‘your gut is like your ‘2nd brain’ it has such an impact on your mental health. When your microbiome (those trillions of microbes in your gut) is out of balance (too many bad guys) you can get brain fog, mood swings, cravings and depression.
Lack of sleep – there is so much research now to show how detrimental lack of sleep is on your ability to function. You know that if you’re an insomniac! But even gradual buildup of less than 6 hours a night can have a big impact on your thinking, memory, focus, reaction time and co-ordination.
Blood sugar imbalance – too much insulin production (from eating too many carbs/sugar) can contribute to inflammation in the brain, which can disrupt the neurotransmitters.
Low thyroid – For women over 40, thyroid hormones tend to be low and so the effect is that cells don’t quite get the energy they need. That means brain cells too – and typical low thyroid symptoms include memory loss, low mood, fatigue, brain fog, anxiety and low motivation.
Toxin exposure – long term exposure to chemicals in our food, water, household and personal products can cause brain fog, headaches and cognitive decline.
Lack of exercise – physical activity helps to get your blood flowing, delivering oxygen and nutrients to your cells. Your brain needs a lot of both to function well, and if your body is too sedentary your circulation stagnates and so does your brain!
- Nourish your brain cells;
- Healthy fats – avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil
- Protein – organic grass fed meat, wild caught fish, organic dairy, soy, quinoa, pulses, beans
- Oily fish – eg wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies.
- Antioxidants – colourful fruit & veg (especially berries), dark chocolate, good quality coffee
- Herbs and spices – including turmeric, sage, rosemary, clove, cinnamon, oregano, cumin
- Keep hydrated – dehydrated brain cells are not going to help clear the fog! It's so important to keep your cells hydrated. that means at least 2L of water (including non caffeinated drinks) per day for most people, and more if you're exercising.
- Go gluten free – try a gluten free diet (or at least wheat free) for 3-4 weeks, and see if your symptoms improve. Try our online 30 Days to Happy Hormones programme if you would like to follow a plan.
- Balance your blood sugar – eat low GL foods, good protein and healthy fats. Avoid highly processed foods and refined carbohydrates/sugars, and limit your snacking.
- Support your adrenals!
- Limit your stressors
- Schedule daily relaxation time to balance your cortisol
- Reduce exposure to harmful chemicals;
- Filter your tap water
- Switch to plastic free products
- Eat organic food where possible
- Avoid synthetic fragrances (candles, air fresheners, perfumed products)
- Give up smoking
- Move more – try a mix of walking, weights, yoga or stretching and cardio for a balanced exercise routine (don’t over-exercise though, this can increase cortisol!). Look at increasing your NEAT.
- Get enough sleep – go to bed earlier and follow my sleep tips to make sure you’re getting enough good quality zz's.
- Brain supplements – these are my suggestions to keep your brain healthy. Do visit my collection at Approved Vitamins for my recommended brands.
- Vitamin D3 (with K2)
- Omega 3 fats; EPA/DHA
- Magnesium (the Threonate form crosses the blood brain barrier)
- Multivitamin with good levels of B vitamins and essential minerals
- Choline (especially if you don't eat egg yolks)
- Turmeric (or Curcumin)
- Herbs including; sage, rosemary, Panax Ginseng, rhodiola, Gingko Biloba
- Get yourself tested
- Iron (Ferritin), especially if you have heavy periods or you’ve had a recent operation.
- Thyroid – get a full thyroid panel done (TSH, FT4, FT3, TPO antibodies), even if your Dr has told you your thyroid is ‘normal'.
- Adrenals – the best way to test your cortisol is in the urine.
- Sex hormones – Oestrogen/Progesterone/Testosterone are critical for brain function. Again this is best done in the urine over 24 hours.
- Gut health – we can test for inflammation, absorption and microbial balance
So if your brain is foggy and your memory terrible, don't despair, a few tweaks here and there could make a really big difference.
And if not, contact us for more information about how to get some testing done.
“>Why is my Brain not Working? – Dr Datis Kharrazian