Overcome Brain Fog Naturally
What Is Brain Fog?
Can’t remember what you had for dinner last night? Constantly misplacing your keys, phone, or wallet? Calling friends or family by the wrong name or misusing words? You might have brain fog. While not a medical term, brain fog is a commonly cited condition referring to a set of symptoms that affect our ability to think clearly. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and functional medicine, we look to uncover the root cause of brain fog to correct and sharpen cognitive function.
Common Symptoms of Brain Fog
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty multitasking
- Short term and long term memory loss
- Cognitive impairment
- Feeling spacy or confused
- Word-finding difficulties
- Mental exhaustion or fatigue
Causes of Brain Fog According to TCM
In TCM, brain fog is primarily caused by a deficiency of qi and blood and relates to the spleen and kidney organ systems.
The Spleen’s Role
The spleen is connected to the stomach and plays an important role in food and fluid assimilation and the transformation of these substances into usable nutrients to produce qi and blood. The clear qi is said to ascend to the brain whilst the turbid descends and is eliminated as waste. When the spleen is working properly, a person is energetic, calm, and has a strong digestive system. When the spleen’s function is impaired the movement of fluids slow and dampness clouds the mind leading to brain fog, muddled thinking, and a fuzzy mind.
Nourish Your Spleen!
A happy and healthy spleen is vital for energy, digestion, immunity, sleep, and brain function to name a few. Here’s how to keep your spleen healthy and happy:
- Avoid cold foods: The spleen loves warm foods and dislikes cold foods and/or drinks. Be sure to include plenty of cooked vegetables, soups, congee, and fermented foods.
- Worry less: The emotion associated with the spleen is worry. Include meditation, long walks, and mental breaks to support your emotional energy and prevent it from weakening your spleen qi.
- Focus on rest: Take breaks throughout the day and go for a walk or better yet, squeeze in that 15-minute power nap.
- Avoid foods that create dampness such as dairy, fatty or fried foods, sugar, alcohol, processed foods, and wheat.
- Chinese herbs such as Huang Qi, Fu Ling, and Ren Shen can clear the mind and calm the spirit.
- Get Acupuncture: Acupuncture can help restore balance, promote the free flow of Qi, and enhance mental clarity!
The Kidney’s Role
The kidneys have a direct connection to the brain in Chinese medicine and therefore play an integral role in brain health. They are referred to as the powerhouse of the body and act as a reserve of Qi or energy, for the body. This Qi is referred to as essence or Jing and is relied upon by all organ systems, especially in times of stress and illness. When our essence is strong, our memory, concentration, thinking, and clarity are strong as well.
Keeping your kidney energy strong is thus vital for brain health and cognitive function. Here are a few tips to keep your kidneys strong and balanced:
- Sleep: Getting adequate sleep that is sound can also help replenish your kidney qi.
- Salt: The taste associated with the kidney is salt, so be sure to include foods such as miso, seaweed, and seafood to tonify your kidney
- Black and blue: The color associated with the kidney is black, therefore including blackberries, black beans, blueberries, and mulberries are all beneficial and support your kidney energy
- Nuts and seeds: Walnuts and pine nuts are especially tonifying for the kidney. The very shape of a walnut resembles a tiny brain and the ‘screen” between the walnut is often to make tea in Chinese medicine. Include a variety of flax, pumpkin, sunflower, black sesame, and walnuts
- Tai Chi and Qi Gong: These meditative practices and breathing techniques can also boost kidney energy.
A Functional Medicine Perspective
From a functional medicine perspective, your practitioner will seek to uncover the root cause of your symptoms. Some common causes of brain fog include:
- Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies
- Histamine intolerances and mast cell disorders
- Menopause and hormonal imbalances
- Heavy metals
- Underactive thyroid
- Autoimmune diseases
- Prescription medications and cancer treatments
- Post-viral illness
- Leaky gut, SIBO, candida overgrowth, and other gastrointestinal disorders
- Other common brain fog causes include eating too much and too often, inactivity, not getting enough sleep, chronic stress, and a poor diet.
Let’s Dive into the Gut-Brain Connection:
As you may have heard by now, there is a direct connection to the brain from the gut via the vagus nerve. 90-95% of serotonin is made in the gut! This means – psychological stress is intricately tied to our digestion!
Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter in the regulation of mood. It travels up and down the vagus nerve from the gut to the brain and vice versa. It is when our gut is compromised that we see a slow down in production and transmission of serotonin and inevitable, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and brain fog.
Two Common GI disorders associated with brain fog are SIBO and Candida Overgrowth!
- SIBO: Occurs when the trillions of bacteria in our gut overgrow and get out of balance. This overgrowth stimulates histamine production which triggers an inflammatory response. This inflammation is a high contributor to stress, anxiety, and brain fog and as long as your gut bacteria is off balance your body will stay in this state of inflammation.
- Candida Overgrowth: Candida is a form of yeast that lives in your mouth and aids in digestion and nutrient absorption. Sometimes this yeast can get thrown off balance after a round of antibiotics or overconsumption of alcohol leading to an overabundance that coasts the GI tract and slows the production of serotonin.
So, how can we keep our gut in balance?
In the instances of SIBO, candida overgrowth, and most any GI disorder, a diet rich in essential nutrients, and anti-inflammatory foods will help significantly. For more resources on an autoimmune or AIP diet reach out to us directly to schedule an appointment.
In addition to dietary support, we believe in the power of herbs, supplements, and lifestyle modifications.
Herbs And Supplements For Clearing Brain Fog!
- Lions Mane
- Reishi Mushrooms
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Vitamin D
- Pre and probiotics
What Are Some At-Home Remedies For Clearing Brain Fog and Boosting Cognition?
- Mindfulness Meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety and promote mental clarity.
- Get Moving: Incorporating daily exercise is great for alleviating mental fatigue
- Reduce screen time and be sure to take breaks when working for long periods.
- Stay hydrated – Water is also crucial for memory and mental clarity.
- Reduce Inflammation – Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet and include herbs like turmeric and other spices to reduce inflammation naturally
- Identify unknown food allergies or sensitivities – Food allergies or sensitivities can contribute to inflammation and affect cognition
Closing – Call To Action!
At the very least, brain fog is frustrating and can significantly impact your everyday life. But, more importantly, it’s a sign of neuroinflammation and a sign of an imbalance. Though there are many potential causes of brain fog, uncovering what may be happening with your body is the key to reversing the symptoms. Utilizing a functional medicine approach, reducing exposure to toxins, managing stress, prioritizing sleep, eating a healthy diet of a variety of whole colorful foods, limiting pharmaceutical medications, and incorporating movement into your daily routine can help improve brain fog symptoms.