Brain Fog? Here's What Health Experts Do When They Have It
I think we can all agree that brain fog is the worst. It makes you feel disoriented, hazy, and can interfere with your productivity and efficiency—not to mention affect your ability to feel happy, present, and at ease. Luckily, there are a ton of different ways to combat the uncomfortable symptoms of brain fog—most of them having everything to do with fighting inflammation. Sometimes, however, it's nice to get straight to the most effective solutions. In that light, we asked some of our favorite integrative and functional medicine experts what they do when they're feeling foggy-brained. Here's what the pros had to say:
Fats, fats, fats.
"Brain fog is caused by so many things, but a few common culprits are too much sugar and not enough healthy fats and proteins. Your neurotransmitters are literally made up of amino acids (breakdown products of proteins), and sugar messes with your insulin—throwing you into crazy dips in blood sugar, which affect brain function. It also feeds yeast, which can cause brain fog. Our brain loves to use ketones as fuel that occur with the breakdown of fats, so MCT oil is a great start because it's readily absorbed in the brain. That is why it is included in Bulletproof coffee. For neurotransmitter health and to combat brain fog, I also use amino acid powder and a good methylated B12, folate, and B6 supplement." —Heather Moday, M.D.
Golden milk and ghee.
"If I find myself experiencing brain fog, my first go to's are turmeric and anti-inflammatory fats, like fish oil. Taking 2,000 mg of omega-3s can help lower inflammation, which is often the cause of brain fog and provides your brain with the healthy fats it needs to function optimally. Golden milk lattes made with turmeric, ginger, ghee, and MCT oil are my favorite food as medicine remedy for brain fog. I'll typically sip on one to two of these during the day to help my focus and clarity." —Jolene Brighten, N.D.
More rest and writing everything down.
"The problem with brain fog is that it's easier to identify in others than yourself. So, when I had it 'bad' (before my diagnosis of celiac disease), I didn't know I had it. It was only when it resolved that in hindsight I could see how impaired I was, and it was scary. Now, when I have brain fog, I know immediately that something is wrong. The most likely culprit is that I've been exposed to gluten, but that's also usually easy to determine since I get noticeable GI issues first, and now I know to expect the brain fog. If I've been exposed to gluten, it takes about four to six weeks for the brain fog to resolve completely. During that time I eat lightly, minimizing processed carbs and avoiding sugar entirely. I also increase my probiotics to support my gut in healing to about 225 billion live cells (including S. Boulardi). I rest more, minimize my external commitments, and write everything down." —Wendie Trubow, M.D.
A dose of sun—and a little bit of coffee.
"What I love to do when I have brain fog in the morning is go outside barefoot and just look toward the sun and take a few deep breaths. Those sun rays hit the retina and directly affect your attention and mood. Bare feet on the earth also help with grounding, and being in nature helps with my energy levels. I also turn to caffeinated beverages when I have brain fog, for example, I love the taste of coffee, but I don’t have it every day—I save it for days where I need an extra little brain boost! Other days I have tea." —Amy Shah, M.D.
Diet and walking away from the computer.
"First, I look at my diet. Have I consumed too much sugar lately? Too many processed carbs? It may help to skip a meal as part of an intermittent fast strategy or do a partial fast with coconut or MCT oil in my tea. Others drink coffee with grass-fed butter and MCT oil, but I prefer tea. The diet is always the first place to look when I am experiencing any mental fog or that post-meal nap time.
The second question is: Have I been working for too many hours nonstop in front of the computer? That tends to wear anyone down from the blue light and EMF exposure. Taking a break to breathe, stretch, and go for a short walk is often just what I need to reset my brain. Sometimes a longer stroll is necessary, and it's always best if I can get out into nature to clear my mind and take in the cortisol-lowering effect of Mother Earth." —Vincent Pedre, M.D.
Adaptogens and antioxidants.
"My two favorite tools I use when I feel a little brain foggy (that's the technical term) are pterostilbene and lion's mane. Pterostilbene is an antioxidant that is chemically similar to resveratrol but more potent. Pterostilbene has also been shown to increase the NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) molecule, which has an anti-aging effect. Lion’s mane is an adaptogenic mushroom with neuroprotective benefits. Nerve growth factors (NGFs) found in this mushroom have the ability to regenerate and protect brain tissue. About a dozen studies have been published on the neuroregenerative properties of lion’s mane so far. One double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trial gave lion’s mane to patients (four 250-mg tablets containing 96 percent mushroom powder three times a day for 16 weeks, to be exact). Those who took the lion’s mane powder showed significantly increased scores on the cognitive function scale compared with the placebo group. I also use both of these natural medicines at my functional medicine center for people with other brain issues like depression and anxiety." —William Cole, D.C.
A special morning elixir and some journaling.
"Very simply, the lifestyle habits I've chosen to reset myself and get mental clarity are: First thing in the morning when I wake up is to journal on what I'm grateful for. I will also drink a shot of what I call my 'Morning Elixir,' and that is a scoop or two of MightyMaca Plus, 4 ounces of water, 1 tablespoons of Bragg apple cider vinegar. (Just mix and drink!) This is alkalinizing, detoxing, and refreshing. I also make an effort to get outside barefoot even if it's for a minute and see the sunrise. This makes for a good, brain-fog-free day!" —Anna Cabeca, D.O.
Gretchen Lidicker has a B.S. in biology and earned her master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University. She's the author of CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness and Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, and Nature's Relaxation Mineral. A Kripalu Center for Yoga and Ayurveda-trained yoga instructor, expert bread baker, and farmers market fanatic, she believes that no day is complete without a good dance party.