The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.
Have you ever sat down to read a book and found yourself reading the same sentence over and over again? Perhaps you even read the above sentence a couple of times! This foggy phenomenon sort of feels like the “light” is on, but nobody is home.
This happens to me every so often, and usually all it takes is a brisk 10-minute walk outside or a few jumping jacks to clear it up.
What is Brain Fog?
Brain fog is a term used to describe symptoms like inability to focus, forgetfulness, mild confusion, fatigue and a tendency to be easily distracted.
6 Potential Causes of Brain Fog
Sometimes what seems like brain fog may really be your body’s way of telling you to get up and move around! If you try this and the fog persists, it could mean something deeper is to blame.
- Chronic Inflammation. A 2019 study showed brain fog, fatigue and depression happen in an inflammatory state. It turns out this chronic inflammation slows down the conduction between neurons, or brain cells. Your food choices, stress levels and exposure to toxins can all contribute to chronic inflammation.
- Compromised Gut Health. Your brain and gut are intimately connected. When the good bacteria in your microbiome outnumber the bad, your body responds favorably. Digestion, sleep, mood and yes, mental clarity are the rewards. And of course, the opposite is true when bad bacteria are in charge.
- Food Sensitivities. Symptoms of food intolerances aren’t limited to hives and digestive upset; joint pain and brain fog can happen too. The two most common food sensitivities are to gluten and dairy. I discovered I was sensitive to gluten when my persistent brain fog disappeared after following a gluten-free diet for two weeks.
- Blood Sugar Imbalance. Dietary fiber, healthy protein and good-for-you fat are key components of a meal because they work in concert to keep blood sugar stable. An example of such a breakfast is this Colorful Egg Breakfast Bowl, loaded with veggies, greens and diced avocado. Waking up to a bowl of sugary cereal and a glass of OJ is sure to make your blood sugar and brain crash.
- Sleep Deprivation. Your brain has a unique method of waste removal, and it’s highly active during sleep. Essentially, your brain takes out the trash when you sleep, so aim for 7-9 hours each night.
- Dehydration. Being even mildly dehydrated can impair your cognitive performance, short-term memory and attentiveness. Drink enough pure water throughout the day to achieve urine that is pale yellow in color.
5 Food Remedies for Brain Fog
The seven Fx Pillars are eating guidelines to help you make better food choices to support brain health. Here are six powerful foods to help you get started.
- MCT oil. Medium Chain Triglycerides are a special type of saturated fatty acid derived from coconut oil that is quickly absorbed by the body and metabolized as fuel. A teaspoon or two in a smoothie can help with gut health, a sharp and focused mind and improved mood.
- Matcha Tea. Matcha tea is green tea in powdered form. Compared to regular green tea, it contains three times the concentration of EGCG – a powerful antioxidant – and five times the concentration of L-Theanine – an amino acid that can help lift brain fog.
- Fermented Foods. To build the good bacteria in your gut, enjoy a serving or two of fermented foods each day. Unsweetened plant-based yogurt, kombucha and raw sauerkraut are all good choices!
- Dark Chocolate. Dark chocolate is a good mood food! It enhances focus and concentration and stimulates production of endorphins—feel-good chemicals that give you a mental lift.
- Omega-3-Rich Fish. Salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, sardines and anchovies are prime sources of brain-boosting omega-3 fats. They are also rich in vitamin B-12, a water-soluble vitamin involved in the function of the central nervous system. In fact, a 2020 study revealed a clear association between low vitamin B12 levels and progressive cognitive impairment.
Indulge in Aromatherapy
Essential oils, like rosemary, lemon and peppermint, can give you a mental pep too! Whenever I sit down at my desk to write a Club Fx article, I always place a few drops of Heinen’s peppermint essential oil in my diffuser and let it work it’s magic on my brain. In fact, it’s working right now!
The next time your brain feels a little foggy, take a short walk for some fresh air and new perspective. If that doesn’t help, I invite you to take inventory of your food and lifestyle habits to see if one or more are to blame. Need some help? A Heinen’s Wellness Consultant or registered dietitian can help you formulate an eating plan to clear your brain fog and enjoy more mental clarity.