Brain Fog - What causes it and how to avoid it
By Doralise Halepis - Nutrition and Dietetics Student
At some point in our lives we have all felt like our thought processes have been a little ‘cloudy’ and our ability to think straight, a little off. Typically, a good night’s sleep is enough to rectify this short haze, but what about when these episodes are occurring on a regular basis?
Brain fog, also known as clouding of consciousness, is typically defined as the inability to think clearly. When this haze sets in, mood swings, forgetfulness and lack of mental stability are some of the symptoms that can become apparent and are used to assist in diagnosing this condition. Although mental trauma and high levels of stress can cause this issue, nutrition plays a vital role in the prevention and treatment of this condition.
Skimping on breakfast should never be an option for anyone. Breakfast provides a kick-start to the body by firing up the metabolism to ensure all organs are working to their best capacity. People that skip breakfast will often find themselves craving foods that have been largely processed (containing high amounts of refined carbohydrates), as the body needs a ‘fast’ energy boost. Skipping breakfast can cause trouble with your blood sugar levels, leaving you feeling less energetic and impacting your thinking ability, which in turn, can cause brain fog.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Many studies have been conducted into the benefits of Omega 3. A regularly occurring theme in all of them is the positive effects it has on brain function. Omega 3 fatty acids can assist in the prevention of brain fog as it improves learning and memory functions of the brain, helping us stay more alert and attentive.
The benefits of living an active lifestyle are endless. Not only is exercising important for weight maintenance and strength, but it also releases many ‘feel-good’ endorphins, making us feel more relaxed and stress free. Exercising creates an opportunity to be social, whether it’s going for a walk with a friend or playing a team sport, socialising is a great way of lifting ‘the fog’ as it wards off any not-so-positive feelings. Outdoor exercising is of particular benefit to our health as the sun provides the essential nutrient of vitamin D to our bodies. Vitamin D assists in maintaining good concentration levels and reduces the risk of diseases that affect the brain.
When not enough zinc is consumed in the diet it is difficult for the body to balance out copper levels. An excess of copper in the body may leave you feeling a little disorientated, confused and irritable. This problem is most often seen in vegetarians/vegans as zinc is most prominent in animal products. The best source of zinc in the diet is red meat but can also be found in shellfish, beans and nuts.
Avoiding artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are essentially chemicals that provide the mouth with a sweet taste. They are found in sugar substitutes such as Splenda and ‘diet’ soft drinks. Although there is still not much evidence to prove any effects on the body, scientists have found a strong correlation between these sweeteners and brain fog. A large amount of the population feel dizzy, fatigued and a very thick brain fog after consuming these products. Natural foods are best for our bodies, so next time you are craving a sweet fix, reach for the honey or maple syrup instead!
Keeping hydrated is a sure way to prevent brain fog. Water keeps all our cells hydrated and is essential for all bodily functions. Long-term dehydration is one of the leading causes of brain fog. Headaches, fatigue and other symptoms of dehydration are all contributors to brain fog. Water is the best source of hydration for our bodies. Other liquids such as juices and soft drinks, simply are not enough to fully hydrate our cells. Depending on how active your lifestyle is, it is recommended that 8-12 glasses of water are consumed every day to maintain proper body function.
Following the above tips, eating a wide variety of wholefoods, drinking plenty of water and regularly exercising, will ensure the body receives plenty of nutrients and energy needed for optimal brain and body function. Certain medications, medical conditions and high stress levels are also known to cause brain fog. Consult your doctor for further advice if you believe these are causing adverse affects.