Banishing Brain Fog
Earlier this week, I examined the research behind using Omega-3 to help support brain health in children (Read here)
As we continue to explore Brain Awareness Week, I’ve chosen to dedicate this blog to the all-too-common feeling of brain fog. I'm going to look at natural ways to boost brain function and mental performance – and therefore lift that foggy feeling many of us will recognise!
WHAT IS BRAIN FOG?
Many people describe a sensation of ‘brain fog’, but what does this actually mean?
Brain fog encompasses a poor memory, lack of mental clarity, issues with concentration, the mind wandering, and therefore also a lack of focus. Sound familiar? Unsurprising really – most of us will have days where we feel like this!
Brain fog is not a medical complaint, but it can be a symptom of another issue.
SO, WHAT CAUSES BRAIN FOG?
There are many different causes of brain fog, including:
• STRESS: Long term stress leads to fatigue, which in turn can severely affect mental performance. When you feel exhausted, it is hard to think and focus as well as you would like.
• POOR SLEEP: Sleep is the time when your brain ‘resets’ - filing away memories and refreshing for the next day. Poor sleep will lead to low concentration and brain fog.
• DIET: A diet low in either omega 3 fatty acids or B vitamins – particularly B12 - can impact brain function. The omega 3 fatty acid DHA has been identified as important to normal brain function and could be low in any diet which excludes oily fish. Low levels of B12 have also been linked to brain fog and, as B12 only really occurs in animal products, vegan diets particularly may be low in this vitamin.
• MEDICATIONS: Certain medications could lead to low levels of B12: This is especially true of antacid medications, as lack of stomach acid can prevent B12 absorption.
• BACTERIA: The bacteria in our gut have been shown to have a huge impact on our wellbeing in many ways, and low levels of the right type of good bacteria have been linked to poor mental performance - as well as anxiety and depression.
The good news is, there are natural remedies which can help to address these issues - including specific probiotic formulations which support mental performance whilst also providing the vital nutrients for brain health.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR:
• PROBIOTIC STRAINS – Look for a product which contains the following probiotic strains: L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. rhamnosus and B. bifidum. These bacteria have specifically been shown to help support mental performance and even potentially reduce stress and anxiety. It has also been reported that supplementing with good bacteria could help to improve sleep quality – so these good bacteria could have many benefits.
• B VITAMINS – B Vitamins support the nervous system. Supplementing with B12 will help make up for shortfalls in the diet, and vitamin B5 is known to support energy production and brain function.
Try to find a product which combines at least 10 billion of these probiotics (research has shown that the best effects for the brain come from doses of around 10 billion ‘good guys’), with B vitamins, especially B12 and B5. This should help to lift energy, reduce stress and ultimately, lift that mental fog.
Written by Jenny Logan DNMed (Jenny is a nutritional therapist who has worked with clients in health food stores and private clinics for over 20 years).