Do you find yourself forgetting words or people’s names you’ve known for years? Or even directions to places you’ve been to a thousand times? Are there too many moments where you walk into a room and wonder to yourself, “What am I doing again?”. You may find that performing specific tasks takes more focus than it used to, and multitasking isn’t nearly as smooth as it once was.
Brain fog is unfortunately very prevalent for many people at some point in their lives – especially as you get older. The good news is that you can improve your memory, focus, and mental endurance. There is a common misconception that brain fog just comes with age. Don’t let that myth fool you! Now is the time to take action and get both your body and brain healthy.
Why Am I Experiencing Brain Fog?
There are many reasons why you might be experiencing a mental haze these days. From the food we eat to the daily toxins we are exposed to could be hurting our brain health little by little every day without thinking about it. Over the years, damage builds up and causes issues with our thinking, behavior, concentration, and more. Here are some possible reasons why your brain isn’t as sharp as is used to be.
Inflammation of the Brain
Inflammation of the brain may be the reason why a high percentage of the population experiences both declining memory and brain function. The effects might show slowly over time, making you think that it’s just typical brain fog that happens with aging. Too much inflammation in the body over long periods of time can cause serious health issues. Chronic inflammation can cause anything from cancers to decreased brain function to rheumatoid arthritis to atherosclerosis.
We are exposed to numerous pro-inflammatory foods and chemicals – especially in today’s environment. The convenient but unhealthy food choices we are bombarded with aren’t exactly the best for reducing inflammation – it just causes more of it! Processed foods are full of chemical preservatives that are bad for your brain. Even if we do try to eat healthily -including foods like kale, strawberries, tomatoes into your diet- we are exposed to dangerous chemicals from pesticide residue. Even if we try our best to reduce these exposures, our mental health could be making the inflammation worse. Chronic stress can affect your entire body from your gut health to your brain health by increasing your inflammation.
There is a range of symptoms that could arise from gluten sensitivity. There is a significant gut-brain interaction called the “gut-brain axis.” Your brain and gut have a bidirectional relationship, both telling each other vital messages. Since the food you eat influences the microbiota in your gut, your food choices can affect the kinds of messages that your microbiota sends to your brain (signals to make different brain hormones, neurotransmitters, etc.). If your microbiota is off, then it could cause imbalances in your hormones, which can affect your mood and brain functioning.
Just like how gluten can cause symptoms of leaky gut by affecting the epithelial lining of our gut, our brain has a blood barrier as well that is supposed to keep large toxic chemicals out of sensitive areas. Gluten can affect your brain by creating a breach in your blood-brain barrier, allowing harmful chemicals to penetrate your sensitive brain. This can cause damage that leads to brain fog. A frightening fact is that most Americans eat three times more gluten than other western societies. Meaning you, just like most of the nation’s population, could be hurting your brain over the long term even more.
Diseases That Increase Risk of Brain Fatigue
Certain medical disorders can increase your risk of “brain fog.” Autoimmune disorders, celiac disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, systemic mastocytosis (SM), fibromyalgia, postural tachycardia syndrome, and other neuropsychiatric disorders can all affect your concentration, memory, and cognitive function.
Physical Damage (Concussions)
As stated above, damage to your blood-brain barrier can cause neurological problems by allowing unwanted molecules through sensitive areas. When your head experiences physical damage (think getting hit in the head from sports– over and over again or bad car accidents), it can cause “holes” in your blood-brain barrier. With time, other factors like toxins can worsen the already damaged barrier, making brain fatigue, memory, and focus even more impaired.
Is Brain Fog Permanent?
It used to be thought that we only had so many brain cells and that over time, our brain cells die off, which causes memory loss and other “age-related” symptoms. However, we are coming to find that this isn’t entirely true. There are ways that we can rewire our brain to improve our memory, focus, mood, and clarity. The first way to do this is by avoiding the factors that cause brain fog in the first place.
10 Ways You Can Improve Memory, Focus and Mental Endurance
- Eat More Antioxidants- Clean out your kitchen of all the unhealthy processed foods. Start stocking your fridge and pantry with an abundance of colorful fruits and vegetables. These have high amounts of antioxidants that can help protect your brain from harmful chemicals that cause oxidative stress, which damages your brain cells.
- Choose Organic – avoid pesticides as best you can. If you are on a budget, buy organic foods from the Dirty Dozen list and buy the non-organic foods from the Clean Fifteen list. Your brain will be able to function better if it is not being exposed to nasty pesticides at every meal.
- Take Care of Your Body– it’s essential to exercise, but be sure to protect your brain. Avoid playing contact sports if your head gets repeatedly hit. Also, always be sure to wear a helmet while riding your bike
- Reduce Gluten Intake– Try to reduce your gluten intake as much as you can to avoid causing damage to your blood-brain barrier and brain-gut interaction.
- Clean Up Your Toxic Environment– Replace your household cleaners with non-toxic options. Avoid using fragrance aerosols or candles as these cause chemicals to be put into the air. Open your windows as much as possible to let in natural air (even if it’s for a couple of minutes each day).
- Meditate- Sometimes, the stress of our daily lives can affect the functioning of our brain. Taking 15 minutes out of your day to meditate can have substantial positive effects on your stress levels – which can help reduce inflammation due to stress.
- Turn Cell Phones on Airplane Mode at Night– The effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure could have negative consequences on your brain’s biological make-up. By turning your phone on airplane mode, you can easily decrease that emittance by 8+ hours each day.
- Include Routine Intermittent Fasting- Fasting can improve your gut microbiome by letting your old unhealthy cells “starve” and die, and allow your healthy cells to multiply. Since your gut is vital to overall health, it’s critical to keep it healthy.
- Get Enough Sleep– Allowing your body to reset and replenish can help your mind and cells. Try to get to bed at a decent time instead of staying up watching tv or using screens (computer/cell phone)
- Increase Detoxifying Nutrients– include more folate, vitamin D, Vitamin B12 into your diet to help detox your body of unwanted chemicals.
Are you worried that your mind and memory aren’t working as they should? Get set up with a functional medicine doctor so you can rid your brain fog naturally and successfully. Dr. Lisa Ballehr helps patients find the root cause of health issues by offering personalized care. Dr. Ballehr provides a mobile and virtual practice so she can help you regardless of location! Put your health first so you can thrive for years to come.