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By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Do you have brain fog symptoms? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a hard time remembering things?
- You feel like you’re living your life in the fog?
- Do you forget where your car keys are more than you should?
- Are you having a hard time remembering events in the past?
- Do you have difficulty recalling the names of people you should know?
- Are you just not quite performing cognitively the way you used to?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, addressing some of the areas I mention in this article could help improve your brain fog! Brain fog is typically a sign that something deeper is at play.
What is Brain Fog?
When you have brain fog, this essentially means there is inflammation in the brain. Did you know that over half of the cells in the brain are immune cells? These immune cells in the brain are called microglial cells, and when they get turned on, they are very difficult to turn off. Kind of like those old Pringles commercials from the ’90s, once they pop, they don’t stop! I think you get the idea.
Our brain can deal with a little inflammation, but it’s the inflammation day in and day out that really causes a problem. Chronic activation of our microglial cells may cause neuronal damage by excessive production of pro-inflammatory compounds, like cytokines, free radicals, and cytotoxic compounds
Conventional medicine is too busy looking for the next miracle drug for this devastating brain damage. The problem with this philosophy is it ignores the underlying devastation that our brains and bodies are under on a daily basis.
Just think back to Vioxx, just a little over ten years ago, that caused almost 60,000 deaths. You can also look at ibuprofen and the family of NSAID medications, which cause at least 16,500 deaths per year, taken properly. Our focus really needs to be on the underlying cause of the inflammation as well as natural herbs and nutrients that can be taken without the risk of death as a side effect.
Keeping our microglial cells in check, so they aren’t continually activated, is the best strategy in my opinion to keep our brains healthy.
When There’s Fire in the Brain, There’s Fire in the Gut
The gastrointestinal epithelial tissue, a protective barrier known as our tight junctions, becomes unzipped when our gastrointestinal tract is exposed to undo stress from food allergens, parasites, bacteria, fungi, and toxins. This phenomenon is known as leaky gut syndrome.
The gut allows food particles in gut bacteria to flow into our bloodstream where food particles typically aren’t seen. This is known as leaky gut. This gets our immune system fired up and in susceptible individuals can stimulate autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease is when our body loses the ability to see self from self, and instead of attacking invaders, our body attacks its own tissue. It’s possible for our body to make immune cells against our neurological or brain tissue. You may see this in people who were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, ALS, and Parkinson’s, to name a few. Some people may be on their way to a neurological disease, but it’s just not advanced enough for it to be picked up on an MRI or lab test.
Functional-medicine doctors are starting to offer tests that can pick up some of these potential conditions before it’s too late. Cyrex Laboratories runs a panel called array 5. Array 5 looks at various neurological tissues and whether or not we are making antibodies to them. As you can see below, the results show when tissues cross into the so called danger area and when they are borderline as well.
According to the research regarding other autoimmune conditions, like lupus, antibodies are produced nearly eight years before autoimmune conditions are even diagnosed. This is important because if you’re a susceptible individual and you test positive for some of these neurological antibodies, this gives you the time you desperately need to start taking precautions.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is part of our body’s natural healing response; when inflammation gets out of control is when the problems start. Every chronic degenerative disease is connected to an excess of inflammation in some way or another.
Our body is always breaking down and building up. When our body breaks down faster than it builds up, that’s when we’re in trouble. Inflammation is nothing more than your body producing various cytokines, interleukins, and prostaglandins. The key take-home message here is, if your body produces too many of these inflammatory compounds without the anti-inflammatory ones to back it up, you’re going to be in trouble.
Nutrition and Inflammation
The food you put in your body has a major impact on whether your body moves to an inflammatory or anti-inflammatory state.
Consider the food you eat as building blocks for your body. Certain foods, like gluten, contain very little nutrition but can also stimulate your immune system to attack neurological or brain tissue. Like we talked about in the leaky gut section, gluten is a strong stimulator of a leaky gut syndrome.
When we see leaky gut, we also tend to see leaky brain as we have barrier systems in our gastrointestinal tract, as well as our brain. Our brain has a series of cells known as astrocytes, otherwise known as our blood-brain barrier. This barrier system acts as a protective barrier to prevent inflammatory stressors from getting into the brain. Our body knows our brain is very susceptible to stress, and that is why we have an extra layer of defense in our brain.
Some anti-inflammatory nutrients that can help quench the inflammatory fire in your brain include vitamins A, D, E, K, and omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid pro-inflammatory oil from sources like safflower, canola, soy, and conventional animal products as these can be akin to throwing gasoline on the fire.
Reactive Hypoglycemia and Brain Fog
When you eat carbohydrates, your pancreas responds by squirting out some insulin so your body can pull the newly broken down glucose into your cells to be utilized for energy. If you consume an excessive amount of carbohydrates, or consume carbohydrates that have a high-glycemic load, your pancreas will squirt out an exaggerated amount of insulin to ensure it will be taken up by the cells efficiently. In your body’s desire to utilize the glucose, it has actually dropped your blood glucose into a hypoglycemic state.
Most people live their life on these blood sugar swings from high to low. As our blood sugar drops, we can activate the microglial cells in the brain to turn on. The more our microglial cells are turned on, the more collateral damage of healthy brain cells can occur.
Most people have the experience of eating some sugar, whether refined or grains, and feeling great for about an hour and then suddenly feeling terrible. This is known as a postprandial blood sugar dip, or reactive hypoglycemia. The more you avoid refined sugar, even grains, and combine low-glycemic carbohydrates (veggies and low-sugar fruit) with healthy proteins and fat, your focus and mental clarity will be impeccable.
Mycotoxins and Inflammation
Animals that are fed a natural diet and raised organically tend to have less mycotoxin residue. Mycotoxins are toxins produced from mold and fungal sources, and they are a strong stimulator of brain fog. Eating foods that have the low residue of mycotoxins is a great strategy to lower potential brain fog. These foods consist of organic meats, vegetables, and fruits that are on the low-sugar side.
Many people have the experience of getting exposed to mold in a flooded area or old apartment. Most notice instant brain fog due to the effect the toxins have on the brain. Dave Asprey, a notable biohacker, has lectured on mycotoxins and the detriment they can have on your health. Dave has suffered from mycotoxin exposure for years and has noted that it could be your home or your office that’s making you sick!
Hormones and Inflammation
Hormones that break our body down are known as catabolic hormones.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that is produced from our adrenal glands. It is designed to help mobilize glucose from stored glycogen in our liver and muscles for energy as well as mobilize glucose from amino acids and/or lean muscle tissue if need be.
Cortisol is a corticosteroid in the same family of hormones as cortisone (an injectable pain medication), which helps put out the fire of inflammation. Most people with chronic pain have fatigued adrenals that aren’t equipped to deal with the copious amount of inflammation in their body. If you are walking around with pain, fatigue, and weight gain, there is a good chance you are one of those people.
Most people think if cortisol is good and can help with energy and inflammation, then bioidentical cortisol is the way to go. Hormone support in small amounts can be helpful only when specifically tested for each patient. When cortisol goes out of balance on the high end, it can cause blood sugar issues and weight gain and can break down lean tissues, like muscle, tendons, and cartilage. As you can see, cortisol is like a double-edged sword. Click here to get your adrenals checked!
There’s balance to everything in the world including hormones. When our body is to busy with making stress hormones, it’s pulling from our regenerating hormones like progesterone, growth hormone, DHEA and testosterone. If we continue to pull from regeneration hormones it eventually becomes harder to heal from injuries, keep optimum energy, put on lean muscle and have a health libido.
Your adrenal gland produces a mineral corticoid hormone called aldosterone. Aldosterone’s main jobs are to help your body hold on to minerals and help keep your blood pressure balanced. As you advance into adrenal fatigue, it’s common to suffer from orthostatic hypotension (becoming dizzy from standing up from a lying or bent position). When your adrenals are not functioning at an optimal level, they lose their ability to modulate your blood pressure from something as benign has postural changes. Without adequate blood pressure, it’s harder to drive blood to the cortical tissue of the brain. Also, without adequate blood flow, these tissues won’t have the oxygen and nutrition to perform optimally. What this means is brain fog, poor memory, bad focus, and inadequate performance.