Breaking through Brain Fog Frustration
Brain fog can be frustrating, keeping those who suffer from it from doing what they want to do. It takes so long to do something with a spacey brain. Sometimes increased anxiety, depression and fatigue also accompany brain fog making it difficult for those afflicted by it to feel motivated. If you feel like you’re at your wits end trying to find a solution to get rid of your brain fog and disappointed with what you’ve tried; have hope that most people recover from it. There are many causes of brain fog so it is about getting to the specific imbalances that apply to your case specifically.
The Gut Brain Relationship
Many patients with brain fog may not realize that the culprit is in the gut. If you have any digestive issues such as constipation, IBS, bloating, gas, cravings, sluggish digestion, feeling of food sitting in stomach, abdominal discomfort, food sensitivities, etc., then it is very likely your brain fog can be improved by healing the gut. If your brain fog is caused by lack of sleep, dehydration, anemia, medication side effects, drug use, then the gut may not be as large of a contributor to the brain fog issue. The difficulty most patients face when trying to self treat is the abundance of information and misinformation on the internet that seems to resonate as a solution to their problems but lacks the expertise of a specialized professional. So often the best way to get well quickly is to find the right doctor. The best doctor for you may not be in your city but with advances in technology many doctors now offer virtual appointments.
Food Allergies and Brain Fog
Some people feel more tired after eating. If you feel more brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, or difficulty concentrating after eating, it is likely you may have a hidden food allergy or sensitivity.
If a food does not agree with your body and causes inflammation, such as in a food allergy or sensitivity, the inflammation not only stays in the GI track but spreads to the rest of the body. Inflammation from food sensitivities may present as GI symptoms, upper respiratory symptoms, joint pain, mood changes, fatigue and also brain fog.
When your neurons are inflamed, usually the neurotransmitter glutamate is elevated creating more oxidative damage and aging to your brain. Inflammation in the nervous system can also contribute to headaches, a sensation of tightness around the head as well as brain fog.
Often removing the food allergen can improve symptoms of brain fog. But the problem is most patients keep getting more and more sensitive to a high variety of foods and have to eliminate more and more foods to the point they feel they don’t have much left to eat. That is never fun. Therefore, just taking away foods does not solve the whole problem.
I tell my patients my goal is for them to get to a point where they don’t react poorly for days after consuming an allergen. Perhaps they may be able to tolerate a previous food they were sensitive to in small quantities infrequently in the future.
Healing the Gut and Brain
Removing foods alone does not fix “leaky gut.”
Leaky gut is increased intestinal permeability. Think of the gut wall as a sieve, which only allows small particles such as amino acids, vitamins and nutrients to get through to your body. With “leaky gut” the sieve holes are larger allowing partially digested foods and toxins to get through to your body. These are poisonous to your body and “toxify” your brain. Also, most people who have a leaky gut, have a “leaky brain.” Leaky brain refers to a more permeable blood brain barrier (BBB). The BBB barrier filters toxins from the blood stream from entering the brain, but sometimes toxins such as alcohol and other chemicals get through.
What Causes Leaky Gut:
- consuming food allergens
- consuming inflammatory foods
- putrifaction (undigested food rotting in gut)
- bad bacteria
- inflammatory bowel diseases
- stress, elevated cortisol levels
- eating while stressed or rushed
- low stomach acid
- high levels of toxins
- inadequate liver detoxification
- other chronic diseases
Weak Digestion and Brain Fog
When digestion is weak, food is not properly broken down. For example, a protein molecule often contains over 200 amino acids. In order for your body to use the protein, it must be broken down into individual amino acids. Imagine a train with 200 cars. Each one of the cars must be separated in order to be absorbable as a nutrient. If digestion is weak then the food that is undigested sits and rots. The rotting process, called putrefaction, produces gas and breeds bad bacteria and yeast, which is also associated with brain fog. Add the toxic bi-products from this rotting process poisoning the brain and it does not help the brain fog situation.
Secondly, with weak digestion there is higher chance for food allergens to form because the partially digested foods that exit the GI tract, through a “leaky gut,” sensitizes the immune system to the food that should not have been a problem at all. If the food is completely broken down, the body cannot be allergic to the individual amino acids. If digestion is weak, and there is a 30 sequence of amino acids unbroken down and let into the blood stream that looks like a strawberry, that’s how a strawberry allergy can be formed. If all the amino acids were separated 1 at a time, the body will not be able to recognize the strawberry and no allergy would form. Therefore, complete digestion is very important.
Thirdly, with weak digestion, it would be harder to have food digested and broken down to be absorbable as nutrients. So often those with weak digestion are malnourished, and this can also contribute to brain fog. Those who lack nutrients may be very hungry and over eat, further burdening digestion.
Chronic stress, as well as a stressed childhood, predisposes a patient to weak digestion because the sympathetic nervous system state diverts blood flow away from digestion. In my clinical practice, removing the body memory and triggers to stress works even better than supplements. But both combined correctly to help strengthen digestion, remove allergens, decrease leaky gut, replenish and balance the flora, increase blood flow to the gut, and building back a healthy intestinal mucosa can be very powerful to reverse brain fog. I’ve had experiences of patients removing 1-2 food allergens and not needing 3-hour naps. I’ve had many patients on a regimen for 1-2 months and have a clear mind. You can also be free from brain fog.
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Dr. Emily Chan ND received her doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University. She is a board licensed naturopathic doctor and founder of Modern Integrative Medicine. She currently practices in San Diego, CA and consults around the world.
Dr. Chan specializes in chronic medical conditions that have an impaired body memory component to them. She integrates the immune/nervous system and physiological relationships in treating her patients. She is published in medical journals, and magazines. She is a speaker, and has presented at medical conferences training doctors, and has appeared on television. She also authors and teaches health, and body memory reprogramming courses. You can contact her at: http://www.modernintegrativemedicine.com