Are you are recovering from the Thanksgiving stupor that comes from too much sugar and carb load? In addition to the fatigue you might be feeling, I want you to notice if you feel like you are thinking a bit slower, too. Can’t find your words? Fuzzy details? Yes? Then you have what I call brain fog.
There are many reasons for brain fog: changes in hormones (estrogen for women, testosterone for men), Lymes disease has a very significant brain fog that often travels with joint pain and low grade fever, & severe thyroid issues (hyper and hypo) are just a few causes . Attention deficient issues don’t really cause a fog just an inability to focus for a long period of time. I can think of many more conditions that cause brain fog but there is ONE condition that I think is present to some degree in everyone and you can do something about it today! Read on to find out how to improve our brain fog in three steps….
The ONE condition that affects our brain is our diet! It’s a combination usually of several things; too much of some things and not enough of others. A recent study looking at cognition and mobility in Multiple Sclerosis patients showed a significant improvement in their symptoms when they changed their diet. What you eat is a huge part of how we function and feel so let’s look at three steps that help improve brain fog that you can start today…
- Eliminate toxic foods
- Gluten is the number one culprit in my book for causing brain fog. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, malt and rye. It is hidden in foods like soy sauce, most soups and many marinades. There is an entire book about how gluten affects the brain called “The Grain Brain by David Perlmutter” so check it out if you would like to learn more. I often have my patients eliminate gluten for a variety of reasons and when I follow up with them only three weeks later they are often amazed how much clearer they are thinking.
- Sugar is another culprit. I suspect it’s because most sugar items also contain gluten but there are some people who are very sensitive to any sugar. If sugar is a major culprit for you then you may have a yeast overgrowth because yeast loves sugar.
ACTION PLAN: eliminate all gluten (or foods you suspect that may be a culprit) 100% from your diet for three weeks then purposely add it back in and see how you feel and think over the next three days. If you notice a difference then you need to consider at least being gluten-lite, sugar-lite or remove whatever your offending food trigger. You get extra bonus points if you eliminate sugar at the same time and then reintroduce it at a separate time from the gluten. People can be sensitive to any food (even if it is a good food) so just be aware that a food may be contributing to your brain fog.
- Vitamin B deficiency. B12 is so very important for our energy and thinking and I often see these numbers in a very low range. Normal ranges on a lab are from around 200-800 but I aim for levels above 500. Below 400 you are already having significant impairment in function. They have linked dementia to low B12 levels so this is a known issue. I think the old family practice doctors that had their elderly patients come in for a monthly B12 shots were on to something! If your B12 is low then your other B vitamins are probably low so make sure you take a good B complex. The forms and amounts of B12 is the topic of a whole blog in itself so stay tuned and I will dive into that soon.
ACTION PLAN: take a high quality B complex with at least 500mcg of B12 and folate daily
- Vitamin D deficiency. Our only real source of vitamin D comes from the sun. Fatty fish, caviar and eggs all have some vitamin D but only a fraction of what we need on a daily basis. Even fortified milk with added D only gives you about 40IU when we often need more than 2000 IU. Because we wear sunscreen when we are outdoors and are hidden from the sun during the winters it is easy to see why the majority of people are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is helpful for the brain, bones and gut so I think getting these levels in an optimal range is very important. You are aiming for about 60 as an optimum level and dosing to get your levels up depends on your starting baseline level. Most people can take 2000 IU daily safely. Higher doses need to be monitored because long term high dose vitamin D can be toxic. I don’t like the prescription 50,000 IU vitamin D2 because we only are able to utilize vitamin D3 in our bodies and this is why it takes so long to get D levels up with the RX.
ACTION PLAN: take 2000 IU vitamin D3 daily (Ideally it’s best to measure your level before starting any vitamin D supplement)
If your diet is the reason for your brain fog then follow these three steps and you should notice an improvement in about 4-6 weeks. If this doesn’t even clear it up a little then keep looking for other causes.
To your health,