Do you feel like you are in a constant state of fog? Does it feel like one big cloud inside your brain, and you are waiting for the sunshine to come in? Brain fog is real and it can be crippling. I never knew what brain fog was until I had Lyme disease and it was one of the worst symptoms I had.
The severity of it can range from mild to severe. Everyone has experienced a mild version of brain fog if they have had a bad head cold or the flu. That kind of mental fog is mild. If you are suffering from constant fogginess, then yours is probably moderate to severe. When my brain fog was at its worst I forgot my own address, way home, and my kids’ names. It was like I was in a constant dream-like state.
The good news is that brain fog is treatable and even curable. If you follow my tips the sunshine will make its way back into that cloudy head of yours.
What are the symptoms of brain fog?
- Inability to think
- Difficulty focusing/concentrating
- Impaired spatial awareness
- Memory problems
- Having a hard time remembering simple things
- Constant confusion or disorientation
- Feeling lost
- Feeling unreal
- Mental fatigue
What are the common causes of brain fog?
- Undiagnosed medical issues
- Poor diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Poor sleep
- Nutrient/mineral deficiencies
- Hormonal imbalances
- Leaky gut or gut dysbiosis
All of the causes listed above create inflammation in your body, and brain fog is inflammation in the brain. When your brain is inflamed you are going to have impaired cognitive function (brain function). Brain fog is normally accompanied by anxiety and/or depression. I call them the tres amigas because they just like to hang out together. Who else wants to join the party?
Seriously. Just look at the brain fog symptoms and you will have anxiety and get depressed! There is a reason that these three symptoms are often found together. It’s because the root cause of your brain fog is also disrupting your gut which also causes anxiety and/or depression.
It can be scary to talk about your mental health. But you should.
I find that most people do not want to talk about their mental health because they fear they will get labeled. So what do they do? Hide it. It can be scary to talk about your mental health.
Lyme disease gave me horrific mental health side effects, and I was very open about them with those I was close with because I needed them to understand how I was feeling and how scary it was. I have never been good about hiding things, and it felt really good to be able to talk about it because I didn’t have to pretend I was ok when I wasn’t.
Find at least one person you can tell how you feel that will give you unconditional support because that helps tremendously! Remember that brain fog, anxiety, and depression are temporary symptoms, not permanent.
Your body can only speak to you by exhibiting symptoms. Brain and cognitive dysfunction are your body’s way of telling you, “I am not liking something that you are doing so please figure it out and fix me!”
There are a lot of band-aids (aka medications, alcohol, etc.) that might temporarily make the symptoms go away or dull them, but they will not fix the root cause and could possibly make them worse.
How do you find the root cause of brain fog?
The only way to actually eliminate brain fog for good is to find the root cause and address.
I am assuming you answered a lot of these with a “no.” That’s O.K. if you did! Many of us are stressed out, eating on the go, not exercising enough, not getting enough sleep, and putting our health off for a tomorrow that never comes.
There is a reason that flight attendants tell you to put your oxygen mask on first if you are flying with your child. You have to take care of yourself to be able to take care of others.
How to Get Rid of Brain Fog
Now that you know the why behind brain fog, it’s time to address the how. What lifestyle changes can you start implementing today so your brain can go from cloudy, to partly cloudy, to sunshine?
Get Your Gut Health in Check
The health of your gut is the key to vibrant health and vibrant mental health. Your gut isn’t called your second brain for no reason. Gut microbiota has the ability to influence physiological aspects of the body, including direct communication to the brain.
The gut microbiome refers to the population of microorganisms residing in the gut. The type and the amount of healthy microorganisms you have in your gut is actually a determinant of your behavior and mood, it is a huge factor in your brain health! (1)
On the other hand, if your gut is overpopulated by yeast and harmful microorganisms, then your brain health takes a hit. I go into more detail in another post, 3 Ways to Use Food as Medicine, on how you can begin to use food as medicine with three actionable tips.
Cut Out Sugar
Sugar feeds yeast and harmful microorganisms. You’re here because you want to feel good, so stop eating the crap!
Sugar by itself could be the culprit of your brain fog, anxiety, and depression!
Ever notice how sugar is hard to quit? Those harmful bacteria inside your gut do not want you to stop feeding them. I look at it as there is a war being waged on in my body, and I am going to win! That mentality kept me from feeding those nasty microorganisms what they wanted.
Cut Out Carb-Laden/Starchy Foods
Simple carbs and starches just turn into sugar in your body so cut these out and opt for more veggies that have carbs BUT also have fiber that cancels out carbs.
If your plate at every meal is mostly carbs, it is time to change that. If you work out intensely and need complex carbs I suggest having them at lunch so that your body can use them. Keep dinner light and preferably grain-free.
Make Sure Every Meal is a Well-Balanced Meal
You want your plate to be mostly green veggies, a small amount of high-quality protein, and healthy fats.
Your focus here is fiber, phytonutrients (phyto = plant), protein, and healthy fats. Eating this way provides you energy, keeps you satiated, and keeps inflammation low.
Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting helped me tremendously with brain fog. There are many different variations of brain fog but the one I find works the best and that I use is the 16:8 version. This is where I fast for 16 hours and then have an 8 hour window that I eat. What does that look like you wonder? I like to finish dinner around 6 or 6:30pm and then I do not eat again until 10-10:30am the next day. Basically you space out 16 hours between your last meal and the first meal of the next day.
There are many benefits to intermittent fasting and I will cover more on that in an upcoming article but for now we are going to focus on 2 things. One, intermittent fasting lowers inflammation levels in your body and two, intermittent fasting increases mental clarity and concentration. Sounds like a win right?
Drinking plenty of water helps keep you full, flushes out toxins, and provides your cells with the energy they need to fight off harmful organisms and heal. High-quality H20 anyone?
Get Restful Sleep
Adults need an average of 7–8 hours of sleep every night, but the average adult gets around 5 to 6, and it is normally not restful sleep. Between electronics, late nights, being over-caffeinated, and large amounts of sugar consumption, bad sleep habits are formed.
Lack of sleep can have a lot of negative consequences besides brain fog and depression. These include weight gain, high blood pressure, risk of diabetes and heart disease, and poor balance. What can you do today to sleep better tonight?
- Cut out sugar. Sugar is a stimulant and is extremely addictive. You do not need it. You naturally get sugar from veggies and fruits which is all you need.
- Have only 1 to 2 cups of caffeine a day (no caffeine past 2 pm).
- Make dinner a lighter meal, and try to be done eating at least 3 hours before bedtime. This ensures less digestion and allows your body to have a deeper sleep.
- Stay away from anything stimulating on electronics so that you can wind down, ideally doing some deep breathing.
Exercising is so beneficial to your body. Exercising lowers stress, helps detox, boosts your immune system, helps curb your appetite, lowers inflammation, and is extremely beneficial to your mental health.
If exercising isn’t your thing, then start off walking, and then find something you really enjoy! Some like to work out in a group setting, at home, in nature, by doing a sport they love, or a combo of it all.
I like a little bit of all of it because I like to work out as many muscle groups as possible to really stay toned and to keep it fun!! There is no wrong way besides NOT doing any exercise at all! So break a sweat! Try to work out around four times a week for at least 25 minutes.
Chronic stress can weaken your immune system, raise inflammation levels in your body, cause sleep deprivation, and tempt you to make poor food and drink choices. It’s hard in this fast-paced over-stimulated world we live in to not be stressed out, so you just need to know how to deal with it better.
I grew up and live in the South, and here in Texas there is a saying, “Put your big girl panties on and deal with it.”
I personally did not like that saying growing up, but it has grown on me, and here’s why. You cannot change what others think, say, or do, BUT you can control what YOU think, say, or do.
Tough times and situations are going to come your way so decide which situations need a ton of your energy and which ones are not worth it. It is also super important to take time for yourself.
Here are some ideas to help you de-stress:
- Spend 10–15 minutes a day alone with your thoughts so you can decompress and compartmentalize.
- Take detox baths.
- Self-care – Get a mani/pedi, go to the hair salon, apply a face mask, or spend time with people that make you laugh!
- Journaling – Set aside 5 minutes a day to write down whatever comes to your mind without judging it. Just let it flow, and then throw it away!
- Gratitude – Write down or say to yourself what you are grateful for that day. Some days you can think of lots of things and some days you can only think of three, but that’s O.K.!
- Be kind to yourself – There are plenty of people and things out there that can make you feel bad, so be kind to yourself! Stop criticizing or doubting yourself!
Support Your Body with Supplements
There are some really great supplements for dealing with brain fog. They can help by lowering inflammation levels in your body, boosting your immune system, lessening depression and anxiety levels, and reducing free radicals. They are also great antioxidants.
Processed foods and refined grains are depleted of vitamins and minerals. When you eat balanced whole foods you will obtain more vitamins and minerals.
As always, please speak to your doctor before beginning any new supplements. These are my favorite supplements for brain fog. I know some might seem pricey, but high-quality supplements are worth it.
- Curcum-Evail – Curcumin is one of the best antioxidants you can take and is super anti-inflammatory, hence ridding brain inflammation. I recommend taking two in the evening, but I sometimes take an extra one in the morning too.
- Omega Fish Oil – A high-quality fish oil provides you with nourishing fatty acids, which many are deficient in. This is food for your brain. I love the ProOmega 2000 supplement, which is high in DHA.
- Probiotics – Remember your gut is your 2nd brain so great gut health is key to great brain health. I personally take two different probiotics so that I get many different strains, plus one is a soil-based probiotic. Unless you are eating veggies right out of your own garden, you are not getting any soil-based probiotics. This is why I recommend taking a probiotic supplement. I personally, take BalanceONE and MegaSporeBiotic.
- Lavender Oil – I love this calming essential oil. The smell of it alone calms my mind. You can take lavender oil as a supplement, and I love Lavela. Take one at night or at 1 am and 1 pm if you are having high anxiety/depression.
- Magnesium – Many are deficient in this mineral, and that alone can cause mental issues. Magnesium is an important essential macromineral and is involved in several hundred enzymatic reactions. Magnesium is super calming and can help alleviate PMS, menstrual cramps, migraines, muscle cramps, depression, brain fog, and anxiety. Magnesium is considered the “anti-stress” mineral. I recommend magnesium glycinate. Start off taking 3 to 4 at night. If you get loose stools, then lower your dosage until loose stools subside.
- Zinc – Zinc is another mineral that many are deficient in. Zinc is needed in more than 100 enzymes and is involved in more body functions than any other mineral. Zinc is needed for the maintenance of tissues, detoxification, the immune system, and in the healing process. I recommend taking 15mg to 30 mg of zinc daily.
You can find these supplements and more of my favorites products on my Recommendations page.
Take Back Control of Your Life
Brain fog, anxiety, and depression do not have to control your life anymore. You CAN say goodbye to those symptoms. Remember that though, that they are symptoms. They are your body’s way of speaking to you to let you know you need to address the underlying cause. These tips will help you and put you on a path to renewed mental clarity and saying goodbye to cloudy days!
If your symptoms persist then consult with a functional medicine doctor to make sure there is not an even bigger underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed. Always check with your healthcare provider first before starting any new supplement protocol.
- Mittal, Rahul, Luca H. Debs, Amit P. Patel, Desiree Nguyen, Kunal Patel, Gregory O’Connor, M’hamed Grati, et al. “Neurotransmitters: The critical modulators regulating gut-brain axis.” J Cell Physiol 232, no. 9 (2017): 2359–2372. doi: 10.1002/jcp.25518.