We’ve all been there. It’s a crisp Saturday night and some of your closest friends and family members are gathered around the table for the dinner party you’ve meticulously planned over the past several days. The table is set, delicious smells fill the air, and everyone is in good spirits. To spur conversation, you begin to share that story you always reserve for dinner parties—it’s a surefire crowd-pleaser. Although this time, it seems that the words just aren’t coming to mind, and the story doesn’t land with the usual impact and punch lines. You shrug off the lack of mental recall as a “senior moment,” have a chuckle, and move on. However, your concern remains.
Brain Fog? Wait, Why am I Reading this Again?
How about the other day after frantically running errands all day, when you couldn’t for the life of you remember where the car was parked in the grocery store parking lot. “I swear it was right down this aisle!”
The scenarios might by different, but the symptoms can often be similar. Brain fog is a term that encompasses everything from forgetfulness to a lack of mental clarity – it’s that feeling you can’t quite put your finger on but you know there’s something not quite working optimally. Are you more frequently asking yourself:
- Where did I park that car again?
- Where are my keys?
- What was his/her name, again?
- What did I come into this room to get?
- Which ingredients was I missing?
- Where did I park that car again?
- That meeting was today?
What are some of the causes? Burn off the fog with a better diet.
The truth is, the mental fogginess you experience can come from a variety of places—some or more serious than others. If you think your lack of mental acuity is stemming from a more serious health problem— schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. But, for those of us who just aren’t feeling on top of their game—consider your diet as one of the first places to look for some answers. The food you eat not only tastes great, it fuels your body and mind with the nutrients it contains.
What happens a couple hours after the turkey lunch or dinner every Thanksgiving? Are you and your loved ones bouncing off the walls with energy and enthusiasm, or is everyone groggy, drowsy, and ready to take a long nap to sleep off the feast? That feeling of fatigue and sleepy is a direct result of an amino acid in the turkey called l-tryptophan, which has side effects that bring on the drowsiness. L-tryptophan may not be the reason you forgot where the car was parked, but it’s a great example of how the food we eat affects the way we feel, and it’s one that many of us can relate to.
The first place to look in your diet is your sugar intake. Many of us ride that rollercoaster of high sugar consumption for years on end. We hear we should cut back, and a part of us understands that intuitively, but that soda and chocolate just tastes so delicious! When we excessively consume sugar and simple carbs (which are processed by the body just like sugar) it causes massive fluctuations in our blood sugar. One minute it’s high, and the next minute it comes crashing down, just like a roller coaster, and sometimes it takes your mood and mental acuity along with it. When you reduce the amount of sugar and simple carbs that consume on a regular basis, it helps your blood sugar remain at a more stable level throughout the day. It’s great for your mood, your memory, and your waistline!
Do You Have Grain Brain? What does that even mean!?
If your sugar intake is in check, and you’re not riding the roller coaster of blood sugar spikes that come with excessive intake, then your problem may be with the amount of grains you consume. Many of us have slight intolerances to grains, especially grains that contain gluten. We hear all around us gluten free this, gluten free that, but what does that even mean?
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye. It’s one of hundreds of variations of proteins that are found in grains. It creates the stretchy, elastic texture of raw dough. Individuals with Celiac disease are severely intolerant to gluten, because it irritates the lining of the small intestines.
It’s not only individuals with Celiac disease that are intolerant to gluten. In the best seller Wheat Belly by Doctor William Davis, he explains that our massive consumption of wheat and gluten is the single biggest contributor to our massive waistlines. By cutting it out of our diets, it can significantly reduce the foggy-headed symptoms and give you back a clarity you may not have even realized you were missing.
Are processed foods making your thoughts harder to process?
If sugar and grains don’t do the trick in reducing your brain fog, you need to take a closer look at the amount of processed foods you consume. Yes, processed food is convenient, and often times taste downright amazing—but it’s difficult to understand exactly what’s in food in the box or bag and the affects those foods have on our body and mind.
Aspartame is a sweet sugar substitute, which is often times found in low calorie or low sugar products. It can taste great and mean lower calories, but the problem lies in that it can lead us to experience a variety of negative symptoms. Brain fog is one, but it can also make you feel dizzy, irritable, anxious, depressed, fatigued, can make it difficult to sleep, can impact your vision, make you nauseous, and pack on the pounds. That diet coke doesn’t sound so sweet any more, does it?
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is another very common additive in many of the foods we eat. It’s in lots of Chinese food, processed food, fast food, and canned food. It tricks our brain into thinking the meal we are eating contains more protein than it actually does, and makes our meal taste “savory.” Sounds great, right? The problem is it causes brain fog, headaches, chest pain, facial pain, and back pain. Definitely something you want to leave out of your diet to experience more health and vitality.
Is Lack of Sleep Causing My Brain Fog?
Many of us are chronically sleep deprived. We’re up early getting the kids ready for school, running errands all day, and preparing meals at night. Perhaps you’re even juggling a full time job while also being the home maker. When is there ever enough time for sleep!? If you can’t seem to remember where you left your keys, or where the car is parked, lack of sleep is a big contributor to brain fog. It’s not only the duration of your sleep that’s important, it’s also the quality.
There are a few simple tricks that can have a direct affect on the quality of your sleep, and in turn your brain fog.
Especially within an hour or two of going to bed, it’s important to minimize your exposure to electronics screens. They emit a blue spectrum light which messes with your circadian ryhthym, and makes your brain think it’s still daytime.
Play some white noise.
Try running a fan or air purifier. Your brain is able to tune out the noise of the fan so you hardly notice it. The benefit is that having the white noise in the background “conditions” the air so to speak – it helps eliminate creaks, coughs, and dog barks which can always seem to wake you from the deepest slumber.
It’s great first thing in the morning to get an energetic start to the day, but consuming coffee, tea, or caffeine-containing products tends to decrease our ability to fall asleep, and experience high quality sleep.
The Benefits of Walking or Running – For Body and Mind!
Physical exercise is an all-around fantastic way to make your mind run clearer. Whether it’s running, walking, playing tennis, or a round of golf, getting out and moving increases circulation, reduces inflammation, and will help you cut through the mental fog in your brain. Even if you’ve been sedentary for months or years, it’s never too late to make exercise an important part of your day. Your body and mind will both thank you!
Could my body be telling me something else?
If you live a healthy diet and exercise regularly, and still experience excessive brain fog, it can be a symptom of another underlying condition. It’s never normal to feel fuzzy headed day-in day-out, so talk to your doctor or health practitioner if it seems to be persistent.
How Can I Reduce my Brain Fog Today?
There are many things within your control that you can do to minimize the fogginess and forgetfulness that is brain fog. It’s important to hold yourself accountable to your health because really nobody is invested in it as you are. The small decisions that you make each day when it comes to your diet and fitness are the things that affect your health over the long term. Start reducing your brain fog today by paying close attention to the things you eat, and how they make you feel. If an hour or two after a meal you feel slow, forgetful, and sluggish, take note of the ingredients that could make you feel that way!