Have you noticed you no longer think as clearly as you used to? You can’t remember people’s names all of a sudden, even though you have known them for years? And sometimes, even a simple word like ‘what’ confuses you and you aren’t quite sure that you are spelling it correctly. It’s not necessarily all of the time, but it happens more and more frequently. Unsettling, and worrying. The aptly named ‘brain fog’ is exactly that: a slight fugging of the clarity of your mind that seems to get worse as you age.
What causes brain fog?
There are usually two causes: inflammation and oxidative stress.
Look in the mirror. If your face is slightly puffy and swollen, the odds are that inflammation, somewhere, often hidden, often deep down, has taken hold. Inflammation means exactly what it says: that your body is ‘on fire’. Inflammation is frequently caused by poor eating habits - processed foods, too much sugar, white flour - and is linked to high cholesterol levels, triggering the build-up of fatty plaques in your arteries. In your brain, inflammation is linked to depression, and also to dementia, fogging your mind, clouding your memory.
Oxidative stress is when you have an overload of free radicals damaging your cells, proteins and DNA and not enough antioxidants to keep them in check. Free radicals in balance are needed to stimulate repair but when they get out of control, problems can start. Oxidation happens when you are physically or emotionally stressed - perhaps with an infection, an overload of toxins, or maybe just the mental trauma from a difficult relationship. Whatever the cause, you need to destress as high stress levels cause damage to your cells, your DNA and your proteins. Your memory clouds, your brain cells shrink and your immune system weakens.
How to clear brain fog
As the lovely meerkat in the insurance company ads (though I can never remember which company is his, and which belongs to the large, mad opera singer) would say, the answer is ‘simples’.
1 Cut out the ‘bad’ carbs: no more pasta, white bread, cakes and biscuits. Avoid processed foods full stop, but particularly those with white flour and sugar that cause inflammation and blood sugar swings.
2 Sort your sleep: Read the my sleep blogs and do whatever you can to sleep longer and more deeply, and avoid poor sleep and sleep disturbances. Get your circadian rhythms and body clock back in sync as studies show that when you do, you reduce both oxidative stress and inflammation levels in your brain.
3 Up your water intake: Most of us are dehydrated on a daily basis. Your brain is 70% water, and even 1% depletion can affect your brain’s processing power. Keep a jug of water on your desk and drink steadily throughout the day.
4 Walk more often: Exercise reduces both inflammation and oxidative stress. Spend even 30 minutes a day walking briskly and you improve blood flow in your brain, upping your oxygen levels.
5 Essential oils: Don’t disregard rosemary oil if you are worried about your brain fog. Put a few drops in a diffuser and breathe it in. The terpenes (the strong smell) in pure, high grade rosemary essential oil enter your blood stream and directly affect your brain, being small enough to pass through the blood-brain barrier. Research shows simply inhaling it can improve your memory by up to 76%.
6 Add brain boosting supplements into your daily quota of vitamins and mineral nutrients and you will rapidly notice a difference.
Brain fog reducing supplements to try
- Vitamin D: Low levels of Vitamin D have been shown to affect memory, and are linked to depression and the development of Alzheimer’s. According to recent statistics over 50% of us are deficient, so check your levels with a blood test annually and make sure you supplement daily to boost your levels to 40-70. G/mL. The closer you are to the northern hemisphere, the more vitamin D you are likely to need.
- Vitamin B12: This is another essential brain boosting vitamin that many of us forget about. It prevents brain shrinkage as you age, as well as boosting energy levels, memory function and mental clarity. A quick squirt daily under your tongue with a liposomal B12 will raise your levels in a matter of days. B1, B3 and B5 also help brain health.
- Taking Rhodiola is a sure fire way to clear the fog and get your brain firing again. It reduces low mood by increasing your serotonin levels, and boosts the mitochondria in your brain cells that keep your mind sharp. Research shows that rhodiola strengthens the connections and communication between brain cells and has also been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain.
- Curcurmin: It’s official... eat more curry and keep your brain sharp and clear. The American Journal of epidemiology reports that in a study into curry eating and cognitive function in elderly Asian participants, those who ate curry ‘often or very often’ had much higher scores in tests than those who ‘never or rarely ate it’. It’s all down to curcurmin, the remarkable anti inflammatory compound found in turmeric, the bright yellow Indian spice. Curcurmin, in a variety of recent tests, has been scientifically proven 'to be one of natures best anti-inflammatory remedies it increases blood flow to the brain and has been scientifically proven to boost memory, as well as cells of the brain stem. Plus, curcumin can heal your aching joints. A 2014 study published in PLOS ONE, a peer reviewed scientific journal, showed that curcurmin completely shut down the body's inflammatory reaction process. Block inflammation and you immediately improve your symptoms.
- Bacopa is an Ayurvedic herb known for its memory boasting properties. It decreases the rate of forgetting new information along with stopping that annoying word recall problem many of us suffer from from time to time. It also boosts your dopamine and serotonin levels, improving and balancing mood swings.
- Krill Oil: Much of your brain is made up of fat. And it’s vital to continually top it up with omega 3 fatty acids to ensure the signalling between your neurons and synapses is working properly and building new connections, keeping your memory and your mind sharp. Krill oil, made from the tiny crustaceans that feed on the phytoplankton in the depths of the oceans is the purest source of omega 3s on the planet. It has been extensively studied and found to reduce inflammation better than fish oils. And best of all, it tastes better too!
Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, founder of one of the UK's largest breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Haven. With over twenty years' experience in holistic health, Sara's digital dose of wellness teaches you to listen to your body, tweak your lifestyle and improve your health.
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