FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE SOLUTIONS FOR BRAIN FOG

 

Everyone is familiar with the sensation of brain fog - whether from a late night out,  extreme stress, or even when we are recuperating from the flu - but what happens when that sensation doesn't go away?  

You may notice over the course of days, weeks, or months that your mental acuity is not as sharp - that names and locations are hard to recall.  It may be that speaking and writing are more difficult, or it just takes longer. 

 

Don't be put off by those who dismiss your symptoms as just a part of 'getting older.' 

Many times, solutions are as simple as a diet or lifestyle change. For toxicity, small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), or a viral infection, testing and treatment are necessary to solve your underlying problem. 

3 CAUSES OF BRAIN FOG

IMPAIRED GUT HEALTH

  • Food Sensitivities and Food Allergies

  • Low Stomach Acid, GERD, Acid Reflux, Stomach Pain

  • SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)

  • Infection

BLOOD SUGAR REGULATION ISSUES AND ADRENAL FUNCTION

  • Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

  • Shakiness, Nausea and Fatigue between meals

  • Adrenal Fatigue

  • High levels of sustained stress

  • A feeling of a short-fused temper

UNDERLYING TOXICITY

  • Heavy Metal Toxicity 

  • Chemical Toxicity

  • Mold Exposure

  • Environmental Allergens (while not toxins - the body's defense mechanism can overreact and produce symptoms as a result)

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GUT HEALTH: FOOD SENSITIVITIES

Food sensitivities play a major role in creating inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain.  This inflammation can then trigger imbalances in the brain, leading to cognitive impairment and emotional symptoms.

 

SYMPTOMS OF FOOD SENSITIVITIES

 

  • migraines 

  • headaches 

  • fatigue 

  • weakness

  • sudden feelings of sickness throughout the day

  • rapid heart rate, especially after eating

  • panic attacks 

  • anxiety that seems to come from nowhere

  • trouble losing weight

Identifying and removing your food sensitivities can improve or eliminate brain fog symptoms.  The most common food sensitivities in patients suffering from brain fog are gluten, eggs, dairy, corn, and soy. 

 

Personally, eliminating soy has made a huge difference in my own life.  I grew up eating soy almost daily. When I eliminated it from my diet, my mental clarity, energy levels, and sleep quality drastically improved.  

READ MORE ABOUT FOOD SENSITIVITIES

LOW STOMACH ACID

 

The parietal cells in the stomach produce hydrochloric acid (stomach acid), which helps break down food - especially dietary protein.  

 

Hydrochloric acid is vital for optimal digestion; if your levels are too low, then food can start putrefying and fermenting in your stomach.  

 

The byproduct of leftover improperly digested food being eaten by certain bacteria is ammonia gas. 

 

Ammonia gas can leach through the intestines and travel to the brain disrupting neurotransmitter balance and creating brain fog symptoms.  This is often an overlooked cause of cognitive symptoms.  

 

Besides preventing brain fog, optimal levels of stomach acid prevent many other gut-related problems. 

 

If the gastric digestive process breaks down at this stage, the 'downstream' negative effects on the gut will be numerous, from small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), gastroparesis, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) to the development of inflammatory bowel disease.

CAUSES OF LOW STOMACH ACID

  • Stress or excess adrenaline

  • Medications (particularly antacid medications)

  • Nutrient deficiencies

  • Poor diet

SYMPTOMS OF LOW STOMACH ACID

  • Difficulty digesting meat

  • Undigested food in stool 

  • Acid Reflux or heartburn 

  • Bloating 

  • Nausea 

  • Nausea when taking any type of pills

  • Hair, skin, and nails - not as healthy and vibrant may mean that you are not effectively absorbing minerals through your food

SMALL INTESTINAL BACTERIAL OVERGROWTH (SIBO) & MICROBIAL IMBALANCE

 

Gastrointestinal microbial imbalances or infections are important causes of brain fog. In most cases of brain fog, there is an infectious component. 

 

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, is the most common gut infection seen today.  

 

This is a condition where there is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the small intestine that contributes to digestive problems, bloating, joint pain, fatigue, IBS symptoms, and can trigger inflammation throughout the body. 

 

CAUSES OF SIBO

  • Food Poisoning 

  • Poor Diet

  • Low Stomach Acid

  • Bacterial infections and imbalances in gut flora

  • Viral infections

  • Fungal Infection

  • Mold Toxicity

  • Underlying liver toxicity 

If you experience bloating or discomfort after eating carbohydrates, then the chances of you having small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is high.  

Other types of gut dysbiosis - like fungal overgrowth, chronic viral infections, and mold toxicity overloads - can all contribute to brain fog. 

 

In SIBO, the bacteria can interact with certain foods to release hydrogen sulfide gas which can directly cause brain fog and fatigue.  

SYMPTOMS OF SIBO 

  • Bloating after eating especially high carbohydrate meals 

  • Low energy

  • Weight gain, especially around your middle 

  • Lower abdominal discomfort

  • Constipation and/or loose stools 

MEDICAL CONDITIONS ASSOCIATED WITH SIBO

BLOOD SUGAR REGULATION AND ADRENAL FUNCTION
BLOOD SUGAR REGULATION

Your brain must have glucose (blood sugar) to function.  In order for you to be able to think clearly, your brain depends on this vital fuel.  

 

Glucose is optimized when your adrenal hormones are balanced and your blood sugar is stable. 

 

The brain does not use fat as a primary energy source.  It needs adequate levels of glucose.  Deprive the brain of adequate levels of glucose and your brain function and health will suffer tremendously.  

Researchers have postulated that Alzheimer’s could be called type 3 diabetes because of the striking similarities between diabetics and Alzheimer patients regarding blood sugar imbalances. 

Your blood sugar regulation must be functioning well if you want adequate levels of fuel to reach where it counts most.  One of the first symptoms of low blood sugar is brain fog, followed by irritability and shakiness.  

 

In just about every case of blood sugar problems - pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, type II diabetes, and even some cases of type I diabetes - there is an adrenal imbalance involved. 

 

ADRENAL FUNCTION

You have two small adrenal glands that sit on top of either kidney.  Your adrenal glands play a major role in how you handle the stresses of everyday life.  

 

They make the hormones - cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Your adrenals also regulate your blood pressure and balance your electrolyte levels.

 

When these organs are in homeostasis (balance) we can adapt well to stress, our energy levels are high, and we are able to enjoy overall good health.  

Factors that Contribute to Adrenal Fatigue

Any factor that spikes adrenaline can hurt your pancreas and impair its function. Over time this can cause adrenal fatigue.

  • Skipping meals 

  • Poor diet (specifically high carb / high sugar / high-fat meals)

  • Negative emotions (like fear, anger, frustration, and worry) all trigger the release of adrenaline which harms the pancreas and eventually can create a blood sugar problem. 

  • Too much dietary fat​​ - stimulates the release of adrenaline and over time chronic surges will disrupt balanced adrenal function 

UNDERLYING TOXICITY

Many patients who come to me with brain fog symptoms very often have a high toxic burden. 

 

Our bodies are equipped to detoxify harmful materials that enter our body, but if our organs (like our liver) are overburdened with toxins from our environment, then they do not perform their other duties well and our health can suffer. 

Heavy metal contamination in water is very common as are toxins leached from cooking pans. Mold contamination can cause a myriad of symptoms ranging from joint pain to respiratory problems to debilitating brain fog. 

The symptoms of toxicity can be so varied that it is absolutely necessary to have it confirmed via testing.  Suspicion alone is not enough to begin a detoxification program. Done incorrectly, attempted removal of toxins (especially heavy metals) can be dangerous. 

 

Once the source is identified we can carefully chelate (remove) the toxins. 

 

During this process, nutritional medicines will be given to ensure that your body safely eliminates these substances.

READ MORE ABOUT UNDERLYING TOXICITY

HOW FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE CAN RESOLVE BRAIN FOG​

If you have 'tried everything' and nothing seems to be helping you then it may be that you have an underlying condition. 

 

Sometimes an autoimmune condition can manifest symptoms like sudden headaches, numbness, digestive upset, and brain fog that are frequently dismissed as unimportant.  

In order for serious medical conditions to be ruled out and in order to really find out what is going on, seeing a doctor and getting appropriate testing is necessary. 

 

Functional medicine offers detailed testing that goes beyond standard diagnostics and can tell you how your organs are functioning if you have deficiencies, can assess neurotransmitter function, and can determine if you have SIBO or some other type of infection affecting your cognition.  

 

My new patient appointments are at least one hour long. This is so the patient can have time to thoroughly go into their own health history, family history, lab results, health goals, and questions.  

Functional medicine utilizes genetic data, testing, nutritional medicines, and lifestyle interventions to target symptoms and optimize your health.

 

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