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How to Beat Brain Fog! A Nutritionist's Top Tips

Have you felt that hazy heaviness in your brain where you can't recall a word or a name? Do you walk into the other room and completely forget what you were doing? Have you been mid sentence and completely forgot your train of thought? Do you find it difficult to focus and concentrate?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions then you are in the right place!

But before we start trying to conquer brain fog, we must first understand what it is and what is potentially driving it.

Brain fog is something that is generally related to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). CFS is defined as persistent fatigue (physically and mentally) for greater than 6 months. The cognitive symptoms experienced, including brain fog, are suggested to be linked to a form of mild cognitive impairment. (1)

Personally I witness brain fog very regularly in clinic and I would estimate that around 90% of the individuals that I work with resonate with some form of brain fog, memory or concentration issue. These are not people associating with or diagnosed with any type of CFS. These are working professionals, busy parents and people who have been to the doctor and been given the all clear.

The symptoms experienced are very real. They are affecting home life, work life, social life and squashing any motivation that may exist on a day to day basis. These are not symptoms that we can accept as normal.

Brain fog is often 'described as slow thinking, difficulty focusing, confusion, lack of concentration, forgetfulness, or a haziness in thought processes.' (1) It is a symptom experienced as a result of other underlying imbalances in the body.

Some of the main mechanisms that can potentially drive symptoms of brain fog include-

Chronic Inflammation- Inflammation is a biological response in the body that can be identified by symptoms of heat, redness, swelling, pain and pallor. Inflammation is an immune system response that is extremely beneficial for health in times of sickness and in acute response. The issue lies with chronic inflammation, this is inflammation experienced over a prolonged period of time and can lead to neuroinflammation.

Neuroinflammation results in altered brain structure, disrupted neurotransmitter use, impaired neuroplasticity, memory and learning. (2,3)

Nutritional Status- This is dependent on the numerous factors that support health including the relationship between nutrient intake and our bodies requirements. This includes nutritional deficiencies and overload. It can also include gut issues such as the bodies ability to digest, absorb and excrete.

Blood Sugar Regulation- issues arise with reactive hypoglycemia. This is the condition of blood sugars dipping between 2-5 hours after eating. This can result in attention issues, headaches, anxiety and cravings. (4)

Mitochondrial Dysfunction- Mitochondria function as batteries that produce more than 90% of the energy in our body's cells. Alterations to normal mitochondrial function through oxidative stress or infection have been proposed to cause Brain fog. (5)

Hormonal Changes- Hormones are the chemical regulators of the human body and function critically to maintain various processes, such as growth, emotions and even cognition. Hormonal states of change include pregnancy, post-natal, menopause, stress and emotional change. (8)

Top Tips to combat brain fog-

Anti-inflammatory diet- A very well known heavily researched anti-inflammatory diet is the Mediterranean diet. It promotes Omega 3 PUFAs through oily fish and seeds, mono-unsaturated fats such as olive oil, a range of colourful fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices. It avoids excessive sugars, processed foods and excessive alcohol.

Hydration- short term dehydration has been shown to impair cognitive function. A 2014 meta-analysis observed multiple symptoms that affected cognitive function as a result of dehydration.

Participants found completing cognitive tasks more difficult when dehydrated. Mood states were sensitive to changes in dehydration and overall they suggest that cognitive function is supported by adequate hydration.

It can be confusing to understand how much water we need to drink on a daily basis. The NHS advise to drink between 6-8 glasses of water every day. The issue with measuring water intake by the glass is that intake is subjective to each individual and the size of the glass they are using.

However recent research has shown the ideal recommended daily intake of water for Males is 3000ml/day which is equivalent to 3 litres. For females recommended intake is 2,220ml/day which is nearly 2 ¼ litres. (10)

Drink alcohol sensibly- excessive alcohol intake has been shown to impair cognitive function. Research has suggested that is because of inflammation, oxidative stress and mitochondrial damage caused by excessive alcohol intake. It is suggested to drink sensibly and within government guidelines. (11)

Prioritise sleep routines- Sleep is a restorative process that is particularly important to support brain function. Research has shown quality sleep can reduce inflammation, reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and support a beneficial circadian rhythm. Sleep is needed for brain functions such as consolidating and storing memories. (12)

Choose your carbohydrates wisely- simple carbohydrates contribute to blood glucose spikes and dips throughout the day. Simple carbohydrates include white bread, white rice, white pasta, cakes, buns, biscuits, pizza etc. Consuming these regularly and in large amounts can affect blood sugar regulation. Don't worry I am not saying you can never enjoy any of the above. I am simply suggesting you enjoy them 20% of the time rather than 100% of the time. Opting for complex carbohydrates the majority of the time will contribute to more balanced blood sugars and energy levels. These include sweet potatoes, brown bread, brown rice, brown pasta, quinoa, buckwheat, Bulgar wheat etc. (4)

Try these top tips today to start combating any symptoms of brain fog or memory and concentration issues. Please share this with anyone you feel will benefit from this information.


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