Jackie Bowker, Functional Nutritionist
Brain fog is becoming a catch phrase to describe a variety of cognitive symptoms. We asked Functional Nutritionist and CEO of the Global Feel Better Institute Jackie Bowker, to explain the condition and how it can be supported naturally.
Rather than a medical condition, with no formal definition, brain fog describes a cluster of cognitive symptoms that affect your ability to think. Your brain feels foggy, you have ‘fuzzy thinking’ in that you can’t think or focus and it’s very difficult to get through the day. You may feel forgetful or spacey. Just like a cough or a headache can have many causes, it’s the same with brain fog, so it’s important to work out what’s driving it. There are many underlying causes – including gut and brain inflammation, dysbiosis (imbalance in the microbiome), blood sugar dysregulation, toxins, food sensitivities, side effects from prescription medications, medical conditions, stress, hormonal imbalances, poor quality sleep and nutrient deficiencies.
Tackling brain fog comes down to understanding why you have it in the first place. Think of the brain and body as having artificial boundaries which are all interconnected. There are many functional medicine lab tests that are useful to work out the root cause.
Reducing Inflammation Naturally
A great starting place is adopting an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. Transition to a variety of colourful whole foods, which are naturally anti-inflammatory, support the gut and stop dangerous blood sugar highs and lows. Brain fog can be triggered by gluten and dairy, so removing them can be really beneficial. Eating real, unprocessed food reduces inflammation in the whole body including the brain, and improves your mental clarity. As brain fog can be intimately connected to an inflamed gut and brain, my go to anti-inflammatory nutrients include curcumin and omega-3 fatty acids. Also supporting your liver, and using quality supplements like glutamine, slippery elm, probiotics and botanicals anti microbials heal the gut and reduce fermentation.
MCT and Super Fats
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides – these unique ‘super fats’ are derived from coconut or palm kernel oil. Your body turns the MCT into molecules called ketones in the liver which can be used immediately for energy. They help you burn fat, curb cravings and power your brain. MCTs aren’t digested and stored as fat in the body like other fats.
I love adding Melrose Brain Power MCT into my daily breakfast and afternoon cup of tea, for a quick boost of energy and focus. It’s a super easy, affordable and flexible superfood! This product has a unique formula as it contains caproic acid (C6), which is the fastest absorbing MCT, in addition to high amounts of caprylic acid (C8) which converts efficiently into ketone energy and is used by the brain and body faster than other fats.
Stress, Hormones & Lifestyle Changes To Consider
Chronic stress weakens the immune system which creates an inflammatory response in the body. When this inflammation occurs in the brain – neuroinflammation – your brain function is impacted, possibly due to a temporary block of information. When your brain is exhausted it’s harder to think and focus! Chronic stress also has a secondary impact, negatively affecting your sleep quality, blood sugar, hormones, nutrition, and your level of physical activity which are all vital to brain healing and mental clarity.
Stress comes in a variety of forms – at home, at work, lifestyle and diet – especially inflammatory foods. The two most common inflammatory foods are gluten and dairy. The way that gluten and dairy get broken down is interesting. The proteins in these get broken down into casomorphins (from dairy) and gluteomorphins (from gluten). These have morphine-like effects, leading to you getting a little foggy in the brain.
Hormones like progesterone and oestrogen fluctuate in menopause, making brain fog a common complaint. The hormones, especially the drop in oestrogen, creates symptoms like brain fog, forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating. Thyroid hormones can also be affected – the thyroid gland produces less thyroid hormones as we age, making our body, including our brain, sluggish with fuzzy thinking.
I recommend including lifestyle ‘upgrades’ like improving sleep quantity and quality, getting out in nature and sunlight, cold showers, movement, proper breathing and stress management.