What we recognize as “brain fog” may not actually sound like a defined “condition” to some people so much as simply being inherently a bit oblivious. Everyone muddles through an occasional absent-minded day or two, right? Let’s try something. Ask yourself how often you experience symptoms such as these, whether separately or in any combination:
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
If you experience these states frequently enough that they no longer feel unusual, then you are experiencing brain fog, a persistent reduction in cognitive function and overall awareness. As bothersome as this ongoing loopy state can feel, it is often problematic on a deeper level as an underestimated sign of deeper-seeded issues. Treating brain fog alone without examining what gave rise to it in the first place is a bit like merely trimming a diseased tree’s branches without checking out the roots. You might temporarily solve a superficial problem, but if whatever condition caused it in the first place is allowed to linger, you can bet on eventually dealing with the same issue all over again.
The brain and gut compose an endless, cooperative loop between two nervous systems known as the brain-gut axis. Almost anything affecting one end of the loop will trickle down and influence the other. From food and drink to medications and toxins, everything that passes through the digestive tract will have an impact on the chemicals produced and processed within the brain’s central nervous system. This is how, for example, a specific compound in chocolate convinces the brain to release the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. At the same time, head trauma such as repeated concussions and chemical imbalances in the brain can throw off the normal gut functions ordinarily regulated by the central nervous system. Intestinal hyperpermeability, or “leaky gut syndrome,” is a particularly problematic condition in which damage to the small intestines’ lining allows undigested food particles, toxic waste products, bacteria and other unwanted substances to flow into the bloodstream and pollute the body – including the brain, if the blood-brain barrier is compromised. Common symptoms can include insomnia, irritability, headaches and anxiety.
Telltale markers of potential gut issues and a possible hormonal imbalance can be frustratingly, deceptively similar. Symptoms of both may include fatigue, depression, irritability, anxiety and constipation. Making matters even more confusing, hormonal imbalances are common among pregnant and menopausal women, but our world’s generally toxic, stress-filled culture can cause damaging hormonal shifts for any individual of any gender at any age. That is exactly what makes examining the feedback circuit between the adrenal and thyroid glands and various sex hormones so important: lingering brain fog might be caused by an altered gut environment, a hormonal imbalance or the condition could be a sign both issues should be appropriately addressed. The only way to be certain is through thoroughly personalized, functional medicine that looks deeper than superficial symptoms and conditions.
You can address a hormonal imbalance. You can remove negative gut influences, replace them with proper substances the body needs and repair and rebalance the axis connecting your two nervous systems. If you do not fuel your body with appropriate nutrients, the base problem granting brain fog its foothold will persist, and you will rarely achieve more than minimal results toward clearing your head entirely and improving your overall health. When brain fog stems from nutritional disparity, nothing is more important than stabilizing blood sugar. The body needs steady, consistent fuel each day, starting with eating around an hour after waking up and continuing through at least a small meal of balanced protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats roughly every four hours. Possibly the best way to achieve this is by planning snacks and nutrient-dense meals in advance, but ideal measures will vary according to each individual’s body and existing habits. Once more, this comes back to the notion that everything taken into the gut has a causal relationship to neurotransmitter production. If you want to change the way you think, you may want to first re-examine the way you eat.
These are some of the simplest, most foundational changes capable of positively adjusting mental health. Eliminating brain fog comes down to, above all else, balance. Employing productive stress-management tools can keep an excess of the chemicals produced when the brain is under duress from gnawing at the lining of the small intestines. Getting high-quality sleep and plenty of it allows the body and brain to recuperate from daily strain and maintain consistent chemical equilibrium while you rest. Just as importantly, have some fun. Connect with others. Live in the moment and prioritize your personal pleasure. Even in the best of times, your body and mind are always working. Even machines with the most powerful, durable engines ever engineered require occasional downtime to prevent burnout under perpetual pleasure. A little TLC and proportionate rest goes a long way.
We’ve talked extensively about what brain fog feels like. The exact opposite is a remarkable state. If you can clearly imagine or remember how it would feel to be fully present in the moment, motivated, joyful and clear-headed, then you have all the incentive you should need to attack the condition at its source.
The Aligned Modern Health team always emphasized functional medicine as the surest path to lasting, complete wellness. Think of each condition as a tree; this approach would view symptoms of brain fog as limbs, the actual condition itself as the trunk and the circumstances creating the condition as the very deepest roots. Eliminate the troubling symptoms alone, and the tree remains unhealthy. Focusing strictly on the trunk might eliminate the condition itself, but as long as the same underlying factors remain in place, you can count on solving the same problem over and over again. Without ever really changing the environment, your mindset has less and less of a fighting chance to improve. To learn more about how to get to the root cause of your health concerns, book an appointment with our team today!Schedule an Appointment