What is it, and treatment ideas
Brain fog isn’t simple to define, there isn’t a clear cut agreement upon a definition. Despite the lack of agreement, most people agree that brain fog requires two aspects- difficulty concentrating combined with daytime sleepiness or fatigue.
I often see brain fog as part of another diagnosis. It can be a common component of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and post-viral syndromes. After COVID many patients notice brain fog showing up for them. Sometimes brain fog is connected to digestive disorders or a peri/menopausal symptom. Occasionally brain fog presents alone.
Try these ideas FIRST to treat your brain fog naturally.
Improve your sleep
A good thing to try first is to improve your sleep. It makes sense that if you do not get enough sleep you could have difficulty concentrating and feel sleepy during the day! Please take a look at our other posts about the topic of sleep, it is paramount for health! I think the most important suggestion towards improving sleep is to have a sleep routine. Successful sleep routines provide our body and mind with what they need to wind down in the evening and allow adequate time to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night. If you’ve ever cared for young children, you have probably seen the importance of a sleep routine in them- it’s the same for us as adults!
Movement helps reduce brain fog. Movement that improves brain fog is more specific than just “getting exercise”. To reduce brain fog, most people find that they need to elevate their heart rate for a period of time, but not so long that they feel exhausted and more tired afterwards. Consider things like running, interval training, weight lifting, swimming. Choose an activity you enjoy or rotate through activities. It’s best to do this activity in the morning to reduce daytime sleepiness and improve concentration. If you are new to movement, aren’t sure of what to do, or have a chronic health condition please ask your doctor for advice before starting a new movement habit.
Food sensitivities (not allergies) can cause brain fog in some people. When you stop eating the food(s) you are sensitive to, your body isn’t busy reacting to them. The result can be improvement in brain fog. It can be tricky to identify what food you are sensitive to, particularly if you eat it often as you may be in a state of constant reactivity to that food. If you need help identifying food sensitivities we are happy to work with you. Our favorite tools at Qwibil are food sensitivity testing and/or elimination/challenge diet. We can guide you through this process.
The best way to attune your body to the cycles of sleep/wake and light/dark is through viewing natural sunlight. The very best method is to go outside in natural light within 60 minutes of sunrise for at least 10-20 minutes without sunglasses. Ideally you could also view the sun around sunset. This process of viewing light when the sun is near the horizon helps establish our circadian (daily) rhythm of sleep and wakefulness. If you don’t have the option of viewing natural light, consider specialized very bright lights marketed for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) while you do morning tasks. This is also an excellent way to aid jet lag.
Exposing your body to cold is also helpful for improving concentration and reducing daytime sleepiness. Although most of the research involves the body in cold water up to the neck, that is not always practical. If you have this option, awesome! If not, consider small things like ending your shower on cold for 30 seconds, taking a cold shower, jumping into a lake/water if available or even walking without your jacket on for a short period of time. Adjust the temperature of the cold and/or the duration you choose to be exposed to it to your personal vitality, a more vital person may be able to tolerate more cold and longer exposure than someone who has been unwell. If you have a heart condition check with your doctor before trying this tip.
Many people take a probiotic supplement for gut health. It’s ideal to cultivate healthy gut balance through eating plenty of high fiber and fermented foods daily. When this isn’t reasonable, or when + after taking antibiotics a probiotic supplement is a good option. How this plays into brain fog is that if you take TOO MANY probiotics daily (ie: too high a dose) that can contribute to brain fog for some people. If you take a high dose probiotic daily, and have for some time, consider if the probiotic could be contributing to your brain fog.
Medications and Supplements
After considering the above and making strides to add these behavioral tools into your life, medications and supplements may be worth considering with the aid of your doctor. There is no medication or supplement that can take the place of adequate sleep, movement, cold exposure, light exposure and a healthy gut. Always start there first. If you need more, meet with your doctor for specific advice that makes sense for your health and body. A couple possibilities are alpha GPC and creatine monohydrate.
If you have questions or concerns about finding the right supplements or weight loss plan for you, the doctors at Qwibil are happy to help you.