Does your brain feel "foggy"?

Lighter, Brighter You Blog: Does your brain feel 'foggy'?

It’s not that uncommon …..

If you understand what I mean by the word "foggy" in this title, then this article may be for you. Although it is not a medically accepted term, most people nevertheless understand what it means. The term brain "fog" refers to the feelings of sluggish, fuzzy, slow, confused and grayish thinking that your brain can experience. A lack of focus and mental clarity, as well as general forgetfulness and even feelings of confusion can accompany this general brain apathy. Basically, you feel as if your thoughts and ideas are moving through treacle and can't get any traction.

Although most people experience some of these symptoms from time to time, it is not normal or acceptable for your brain to feel this way regularly. And don't accept aging is being the primary reason. If you expect brain "fog" to increase with each birthday, you are selling your brain short.

Reasons for brain fog

There are a number of reasons that your brain may be operating poorly, leaving you in a twilight zone. Some of these reasons may surprise you, while others will be quite logical:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Low blood sugar
  • Substance abuse
  • Sleep and/or anxiety medication
  • Cholesterol-lowering medication
  • An interaction between a number of different medications
  • Menopause or hormonal imbalances
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte imbalance after excessive exercise
  • Chemical sweeteners
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Food allergies
  • Digestive disturbances
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Mercury poisoning
  • Depression
  • Lyme's disease

Ways to stop brain fog

Obviously the first issue to deal with is whether any medication you are taking could be causing the problem. Discuss this with your primary physician, explaining the symptoms clearly. You may also request a blood test to see if you have Lyme's disease, if there is a possibility that a tick may have bitten you.

Investigate Fibromyalgia if you also suffer from sore and tender joints in general and sleep problems. Have your mercury levels checked by your doctor too.ubstance abuse challenges can be tricky to address, as most people do not want to admit to addictions. If you want to improve your brain's ability to function optimally, you may have to put your pride aside and deal with the issue head-on.

If you are experiencing hormonal challenges, or are going through menopause, then you can visit a physician who can prescribe bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

If you are sleep-deprived your brain cannot function well. Sleep challenges may be the easiest of these problems to change, as a simple meditation course or a safe herbal sleep tonic can offer help virtually immediately.

If you have always suffered from seasonal allergies, you may need to investigate ways to bolster your immune system. Improving your diet, as discussed below, is a good foundation for improved immunity.

If you are suffering from depression then you can get help from your qualified health care provider. However, depression has been linked to nutritional deficiencies, a lack of physical exercise, sleep deprivation and food allergies. Check these out while you are investigating solutions to your feelings of depression, as you may be able to lift your sad feelings by making some simple lifestyle changes.

The simplest – though not the easiest – solution to ending brain "fog"

Changing the type of food that you eat is the best way to improve your brain's ability to think clearly and therefore avoid brain "fog".

  • Avoiding food additives like artificial sweeteners and MSG can immediately help you improve your brain's ability to focus and think clearly. This means that processed foods have to move to the "hardly ever/if ever eat" list.
  • Keeping a diary of the foods that of eat, and whether you suffer from brain "fog" late in the day, or the next day, will help you to figure out what foods may be causing your brain distress. Gluten and dairy have both been found to cause a lack of mental clarity, memory challenge and even mood swings. However, some people notice that foods from the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, white potatoes, capsicums and eggplants cause them distress. You may have to become a food detective to find out which foods cause your brain "fog".
  • Adding whole foods, which contain natural sweetness and natural fiber will satisfy your brain's need for glucose, its supply of energy, and improve your digestive health. So your brain gets fuel for thinking, learning and memory tasks, and your digestive system gets the chance to rid itself of toxins which otherwise would seep back into your bloodstream, causing brain "fog".
  • Introducing whole foods into your diet will help keep your blood glucose levels stable. Processed foods do the exact opposite, leading to blood glucose ups and downs, which lead to poor brain function, hazy decision-making and poor memory formation. Stable blood glucose promotes clear thinking and learning ability, as well as a good memory.
  • Clean protein, whether plant or animal-based, helps to produce the messengers which travel between neurons, enabling clear and concise thinking.
  • And of course you have to include the right fats in your daily diet. They are the foundation for optimal brain functioning, and without them nothing else that you do will improve your brain functioning much.
  • It is important to make sure that your digestive system is working well. If you are eating the best food that you can find, and avoiding the foods that you know don’t suit you, and you are still suffering from brain "fog" then you may have digestive challenges that need to be evaluated by a qualified health practitioner. There may be critically important nutrients that you are not absorbing, the lack of which is causing your brain to operate inefficiently. You are not what you eat - you are what you absorb.

Move your body to help your brain

It may seem to be a little too simple to believe that something as basic and easy to do, as exercise, has such enormous potential to influence something as sophisticated as your brain.

Researchers have found that even walking for an hour-and-a-half per week, helped active women to outperform less active women on cognitive assessments. The study’s author was surprised at this result, as walking seemed to be a pretty nonstrenuous activity, yet it held real cognitive benefits. They also found that those women in the study who walked for two or more miles (3.2 km and up) per day were half as likely to develop dementia as those that walked less than a quarter of a mile (0.4 km) a day. The conclusion to this study seemed to indicate that people who are more active are also healthier in other areas of their life, such as their diet. These factors combine to create an optimal environment for them to maintain healthy cognitive function.

Focusing on men, other researchers found that walking was also associated with a reduced risk of getting dementia. So, for men and women, walking is a good first step to keeping cognitive decline at bay. More strenuous exercise, with greater intensity, seems to offer greater benefits; so working on improving your level of fitness is a very good idea.

When you exercise regularly, your brain builds up reserves of Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and your neurons start to branch out, joining together and forming new connections. This is what underlies learning new knowledge – every new connection made between your neurons is a sign of a new skill or fact or name that you have learned, and that you are putting into storage for future use. So, brains with more BDNF have a greater capacity for learning new things. Now, the opposite holds true too – a brain that has no or very low supplies of this miracle BDNF, is a brain that switches off to new knowledge, and has trouble recalling already stored information. As we age our levels of BDNF fall, and researchers have found that exercise induces their production and enables them to be maintained.

Rest and relaxation

Stress is ever-present in the world we have created. However, our brains are only equipped to handle stress for periods of between 30–60 seconds. After all, we evolved to either run very quickly to get away from the threat that was trying to eat us, or we became the threat's next meal. That experience didn’t last very long, so the stress that we experience today, is not what our brains are equipped to handle.

Here are a few ways to help your brain manage stress:

  • Learn to say NO! You will be amazed how this one item can transform your life.
  • Aim to be as organized as possible, and do some dejunking if that will get the ball rolling. When you are organized you are better able to handle those things that come out of nowhere and demand your attention.
  • Choose times to just be still. Rest and relaxation are as essential to a healthy life as good nutrition is. Your body and brain need to have some time off, so plan this time with as much care and consideration as you would a major event or meeting in your life.
  • Sleep is essential – without it you handle stress very poorly, and lack of sleep acts as a stressor in and of itself. Sort your sleep difficulties out.
  • Move on from the past – whatever it takes – forgiveness, counseling, and acceptance. Unresolved issues from the past can be a real threat to the attainment of a calm and stress-free life.
  • Regardless of your religious or spiritual affiliation, learn the prayer of serenity – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
  • Look at the ordinary things in your life with wonder.
  • Words such as "never", "always", "no one", "can’t" and "should" always create a feeling that leaves you feeling either inadequate or bitter. These words can be eliminated from your vocabulary, leaving you feeling lighter and more in control. Replace them with "prefer", "sometimes", "can", "could" and "occasionally".

 Conclusion

You have an enormous amount of control over how your brain works, and the feelings that you experience every day. Make a decision to improve your thinking processes and get rid of brain "fog" for good, by following the pointers above. If you feel that your problem may be serious, and you have been putting off thinking about it, now is the time. It may be hard to make an appointment to see your doctor, and be open and frank with them, but it is an important conversation to start. If you feel that you now have the knowledge to improve your brain's ability to think clearly, then make the changes required – in small steps to start with – and look forward to clear, focused and happy thoughts.

References

Abbott RD, et al. Walking and dementia in physically capable elderly men. JAMA 2004 Sep22/29:292(12).

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Dai Q, et al. Fruit and vegetable juices and Alzheimer’s disease: the Kame Project. Am J Med 2006 Sep;119(9):751-9.

Eby GA, Eby KL. Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment. Med Hypotheses 2006;67(2):362-70.

Jakobson RC. Carved in sand - when attention fails and memory fades in midlife. New York, NY: Harper Luxe - Harper Collins Publishers:2007.

Luskin F, Pelletier KR. Stress free for good - 10 scientifically proven life skills for health and happiness. New York, NY: HarperOne, HarperCollins Pub:2006.

Ohayon MM, Roth TJ. Place of chronic insomnia in the course of depressive and anxiety disorders. Psychiatr Res 2003 Jan-Feb;37(1):9-15.

Yaffe K, et al. A prospective study of physical activity and cognitive decline in elderly women: women who walk. Arch Intern Med 2001 Jul 23;161(14):1703-8.

Yamada K, et al. Role for brain-derived neurotrophic factor in learning and memory. Life Sci 2002 Jan 4;70(7):735-44.