Brain fog affects many of your mental functions. As the name suggests, it’s like a cloud that descends inside your head that stops your brain from working as well as it should. You literally feel foggy headed, and no, shaking your head does not help clear brain fog.
The symptoms of brain fog can vary from person to person, and even from day to day or hour to hour. That’s one of the things that make brain fog so frustrating! Commonly reported signs and symptoms of brain fog include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Slow thought process
- Trouble with problem-solving
- Poor special awareness
- Inability to remember facts – even if you usually know them
- Difficulty doing familiar but straightforward tasks
In short, brain fog affects your ability to take in, process, analyze, and organize information. It can also stop you from expressing your thoughts clearly. That’s not much of an issue if you are chilling out watching TV but can be a real problem at work or school.
Some people suffer from mild brain fog or only get it occasionally. However, frequent bouts of brain fog can lead to anxiety, depression, and feelings of inadequacy, especially if it affects your ability to do your job.
Anything that disrupts normal brain function can be linked to foggy mindedness including:
- Lack of sleep
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor diet
- Hormonal changes
- Underlying medical conditions
Foods To Avoid If You Have Brain Fog
Some foods may increase your risk of brain fog. If you are prone to this condition, make sure you avoid these foods and replace them with a better, mind-clearing alternative.
Gluten is a sticky protein found in wheat, rye, barley, bulgur, couscous, and Graham flour. It’s what gives bread it’s springy texture. Gluten is mostly associated with digestive upset, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and leaky gut syndrome but it can also trigger brain fog.
Some people are gluten intolerant. It triggers an inflammatory response which can cause and aggravate digestive issues. This usually results in abdominal bloating and stomach upset. However, some people are only mildly gluten intolerant so they can eat things like bread, pasta, and breakfast cereals without experiencing a noticeable inflammatory response.
Over time, gluten consumption can lead to a gradual increase in inflammation, and while that might go unnoticed, it can still interfere with proper brain function, leading to foggy-mindedness.
Eat this instead: Replace high-gluten foods with gluten-free alternatives such as wild rice, quinoa, and almond flour. Try cassava flour – it’s made from a root plant which means it’s fine for people with nut allergies too.
Sugar is everywhere. Manufacturers add it to processed foods because it tastes good and it’s addictive too. Almost all processed food contains sugar, even those foods that aren’t sweet. From potato chips to canned soup, refined sugars can be hard to avoid.
Sugar is not just bad for your teeth and your weight, it’s also bad from your brain too. When you eat sugar, it is quickly digested and soon enters your blood. Your body produces insulin to lower your blood sugar and stop it turning into sticky syrup. This blood sugar roller coaster plays havoc with your brain, which works best when blood glucose levels are stable.
Also, eating lots of sugar and refined food robs your body of essential vitamins and minerals. Lack of these vital micronutrients can interfere with proper brain function.
If all of that wasn’t enough, high sugar consumption is linked to yeast overgrowth, also known as candida albicans. High levels of yeast are thought to be a contributing factor for brain fog.
Eat this instead: Replace processed foods and sugary treats with natural foods like fruit and vegetables. Eat more complex carbs and fewer refined, simple carbs. Snack on kale chips, nuts, fruit, and raw veggies instead of candy and baked goods.
Starting your day with an energizing cup of coffee could be the very thing that leads to brain fog. While it does wake you up, when that caffeine fix wears off, you can soon find yourself floundering back in the brain fog doldrums. When this happens, you grab another coffee, get some short-term relief, and end up even more foggy-brained than before. It’s a vicious cycle.
Caffeine is also a diuretic which means it increases your urine output. Unless you drink plenty of water, this can soon lead to dehydration, another common cause of brain fog.
In many cases, having to use caffeine as a constant pick-me-up suggests you aren’t getting enough sleep. Drinking lots of coffee or cola might help you get through the day, but it doesn’t fix the problem – sleep deprivation.
Drink this instead: Try cutting down on caffeine and switching to decaffeinated coffee instead. Choose a dark roast so that you still get the intense flavor that you love. Instead of cola, try carbonated water. Fruit and herbal teas are also naturally decaffeinated and make a refreshing alternative to coffee.
Alcohol is a leading cause of brain fog, and it affects brain function in several ways. Initially, alcohol is intoxicating, even in small amounts. Just one drink can impair brain function, albeit often imperceptibly. You might not be drunk, but you may still experience brain fog. For this reason, it’s a good idea to skip those lunchtime drinks!
Alcohol is also a diuretic. Like caffeine, it increases your urine output which can lead to brain fog-inducing dehydration.
Many alcoholic drinks, such as beer, contain gluten. As discussed back in section one, gluten can wreak havoc on your digestive system and brain function, often leading to brain fog.
Finally, drinking too much alcohol can cause hangovers. Hangovers are caused by dehydration, the buildup of toxins, and inflammation. It’s hardly surprising that hangovers are often accompanied by brain fog.
Drink this instead: Avoid alcohol and drink hydrating, healthy beverages instead. Good options include kombucha, a fermented drink high in probiotics. Grape juice looks and tastes a little like red wine, and alcohol-free beers taste very similar to the real thing. Mocktails taste great but are made without alcohol. Finally, don’t drink alcohol to help you sleep. While it may help you nod off, you won’t sleep as deeply and will probably wake up feeling more tired.
Like gluten, a lot of people have trouble digesting lactose. Lactose is a form of sugar found in many dairy products. Lactose can cause digestive upset and inflammation, both of which are linked to brain fog. Lactose can cause brain fog even if you feel like you can tolerate it well. Just because it doesn’t cause stomach bloating or diarrhea doesn’t mean lactose isn’t causing you problems. Even a low-level intolerance can trigger brain fog.
Drink/eat this instead: There are lots of lactose-free alternatives to common dairy foods. Good options include cashew cheese, soy and almond milk, non-dairy creamer, dairy-free yogurt and ice cream, and even lactose-free milk. Giving up lactose does not have to be hard!
Don’t make brain fog worse than it already is. Limit your consumption of these foods and beverages, build your diet around the alternatives, and you should find that brain fog affects you less often and less severally.