Brain Fog Is Much More Common Than You Might Think
Hearing the term "brain fog", one would probably assume that it stems from one's forgetfulness or playful explanation of why you can't remember things or serve as the reason why many of us have stood in a room, having a blank stare, not remembering why we came into the room in the first place.
If you have ever had those bouts of feeling like you lacked mental clarity, couldn't focus your attention on a task at hand, lacking concentration, or simply a general sense of just feeling not completely dialed into your own life, you could probably be classified as having a case of “Brain fog”.
Now with brain fog, most symptoms are "normal" when done with medical tests per se, but it is one of those conditions where people have many of the uncomfortable symptoms mentioned earlier yet the medical field can't label it. Just imagine if you are having trouble thinking of words on the tip of your tongue, feeling as if you're performing tasks in a haze, or even taking longer to do certain tasks are not, and then hearing the doctor tell you that nothing is wrong with you. What's up with that?
We should note that using the term brain fog doesn't mean the same thing as brain impairment or dementia, and there are no studies that says feeling of brain fog lead to cognitive diseases. But there are other reasons you may be feeling that way, and it has to do more with foods than it does aging.
If I was to ask you for your definition of brain fog, I bet you might say something along the lines of aging, or some sort of result of hormonal changes in the body. But in actuality, our environment plays a significantly much bigger role than what you might think. Each and every day, we are exposed to a significant amount of toxins, things that contaminate our bodies, bad bacteria, chemicals, and pesticides to name a few. Unfortunately, most only look at one particular toxin and have our government tell us that a very tiny bit of these (like pesticides on an apple) is not bad for human health. What about 2 of them or 10 of them over the course of the day multiplied over 40 years? Would that have a negative effect on our bodies and possibly influence the way our brain behaves? Of course, it would, but how often do we look holistically rather than singularly? When you take one toxin, most bodies can handle the responsibility of removing it. This is called inflammation. But let's be honest, when you are bombarded with them daily, our immune systems can only handle so much and being constantly inflamed is never good for our brain and body.
So let's address inflammation. Think of it as a response to an assault on your body. Things like proteins, cytokines, and other “toxins” bombard our body from the inside or from the outside. So initially, the body responds accordingly and sends, what I call “firefighters” to put out the fire caused by the invaders. This is actually a good thing and beneficial for our long term health. But what happens when the fire gets too large for those initial round of firefighters to handle? Or what happens if what started as a wood-fire, has now become a gas or chemical fire? Can't you see how the body could get overwhelmed? This constant, or much bigger inflammation, puts a significant burden on the cells, more specifically the mitochondria, to have to address the inflammation.
Why do I mention mitochondria? Because all of the cells in our body become energized by them, and because our brain requires a lot of energy from cells. So by having chronic inflammation, our brain (and also our gut) become inflamed and worn out causing those toxins to move unfettered into our central nervous system causing eventual neuroinflammation.
"Inflammation is like a fire raging in your body. In order to get it under control, you need the right types of firefighters to put out the flames. Foods and better nutrition can be those firefighters."
Our GI tract and our brain are intertwined. In fact, they are made of the same type of tissue. There is a constant flow of communication going up and down our bodies from the enteric nervous system (or our gut) and the central nervous system (our brain). When your gut becomes inflamed by the foods you are eating, the lining of the GI tract is not looking to be a friendly home for the good bacteria we need. In fact, the focus is solely on reducing the inflammation. So by that logic, our microbiota has changed, and there is not homeostasis in our immune system. This imbalance further enhances our ability to have additional inflammation and brain fog. So you can see how and what we eat can affect inflammation and brain fog.
When it comes to foods, it's generally black and white. It's either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory, energy-supporting or energy-draining. Nutrition can't be underestimated when it comes to brain health and many times our diet alone can be the cause of brain fog.
Let's say that you are already having inflammation in your gut. Once the biome of your belly is out-of-whack and more prone to being overtaken by the bad bacteria, it's not uncommon to experience motility issues, lethargy, and a slowing down of brain activity. That's basically what brain fog is. Your body requires all this activity and energy and needs enzymes to make it happen. There are certain bacteria that support this energy by helping the enzymes perform their function and then you have other bacterial species that are hostile to the enzymes and prevent them from doing their jobs. Our gut microbiome is very complex, and unfortunately, if you have issues already, it's not very simple to correct the issues.
I'll be the first one to admit that it takes more than a probiotic pill or bottle of Jared's Kombucha to get our gut health back to par and reduce that brain fog. There even might be instances where probiotics contribute to brain fog in people with SIBO (or small intestine bacterial overgrowth). The health of our gut depends on so many factors: how were we born, what we eat, illnesses, medications, where we spend our time, how much we drink, and the places in which we live. Reducing inflammation and ultimately reducing brain fog via our gut health requires time, dedication, and an absolute motivation to make those changes to our lifestyle. Our gut is like a shield in battle and takes the most force inflicted upon by the enemy. If you make it solid and strong, it will always protect you.
If you feel you have brain fog based on what we've discussed here, what steps could you take to reduce it effects?
Brain fog can affect many people unknowingly. What's often thought of as an effect of aging or hormonal changes many times is the result of improper brain activity caused by nutrition and inflammation. Once you have a handle on the causes, reducing forgetfulness and increasing mental clarity will ultimately occur naturally.
Bonus: Do me a huge favor and click the like button below. Once you do, I've made available a checklist of the 5 most important things to look in a probiotic supplement when you reach that point to include probiotic supplements to address brain fog. (click here for my printable probiotic checklist).
Jared Toay is a master fermenter who has a passion for making fermented foods, probiotic drinks, probiotic-filled foods, and gut-healthy snacks. If you want a list of his 73 fermented foods recipe to include in your own family's diet, you can download it free by clicking here: http://bit.ly/73Ferments
“Because probiotics sound so much better than bacteria infested"
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I am just someone who likes to talk about probiotics, kombucha, and is obsessively passionate about gut health and digestion, My personal mission is to try to ferment just about anything food related. This blog is a continuous flow of those thoughts on that journey.