Our brains are very sensitive and require certain important conditions to function efficiently. When these conditions aren’t met we can suffer from an inability to concentrate, poor memory, low motivation, and a lack of mental energy and clarity resulting in a condition loosely termed “brain fog”.
These symptoms can result from lack of sleep, stress, inflammation, fluctuating blood sugar levels, alcohol, and lack of availability of certain vitamins and proteins.
According to a 2015 report published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, people most likely to experience brain fog include those suffering with chronic fatigue syndrome; autism spectrum disorders; celiac disease, gluten intolerance symptoms or other food allergies and fibromyalgia symptoms. These diseases all have high levels of inflammation in common and as I’ve discussed before most inflammation originates in the gut. Reducing the intake of foods that we are intolerant too and adding probiotics can help reduce gut based inflammation. Fermented food probiotics provide hardy healthy bacteria to colonise the gut and also the added benefits of the healing foods themselves. Fermented turmeric provides the added anti-inflammatory benefits of the turmeric and fermented papaya helps to enhance digestion and the high nutritional content of certain fermented superfoods can help improve energy levels.
Our brain is one of the most metabolically active tissues in the body and need lots of energy. There are many things we can do to help provide the ideal conditions for our brain so that it can perform more efficiently. As with all high performing engines they need the best and cleanest fuel. Our brains need protein and a stable blood sugar level. Sugar and refined carbohydrates cause energy fluctuations and although initially make us feel energised can cause a drop our blood sugar levels and hence our energy 2 hours later leaving us feeling mentally in a slump so a good quality breakfast combining complex carbohydrates and protein will provide a constant source of morning energy to get us through until lunch. An easily digested and absorbed protein powder is a good clean option. Even better if it is fermented and provides the benefits of extra healthy bacteria.
A deficiency in omega 3 fatty acids can cause inflammation and reduces the function of the receptors that respond to our happy and brain focussing neurotransmitters; serotonin and dopamine.
Sleep is also crucial and hence its deprivation is a very powerful torture technique. (Just ask any parent of a new baby). Adults need at least 7 hours a night to function optimally.
Other factors that can cause brain fog are hormonal imbalances. Thyroid and adrenal hormones control physical and mental energy levels, disruptions of these can cause fluctuations in mood and reduce the ability to concentrate. It is worth having these levels checked with a blood test to ensure they aren’t contributing to the problem.
Life is stressful for most of us now and having a brain that is not functioning well just makes things harder. By adopting a few simple lifestyle strategies; good nutrition, getting enough sleep, addressing stress, balancing any hormonal problems, taking probiotics and keeping food intolerances well managed we can enjoy better mental wellbeing.