Beating Brain Fog
By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Chances are you have experienced brain fog at least once in your life. It’s hard not to suffer from the brain sluggishness brought on by our modern world full of processed foods, sugar overload, and high-stress lifestyles. But fear not: if you are tired of the mental slowdown that is brain fog, we are going to discover some of the common causes and ways to banish brain fog for good.
SYMPTOMS OF BRAIN FOG
Brain fog can manifest itself in many ways. Most commonly, signs of brain fog include:
- Low energy
- Headaches, trouble concentrating
- Low motivation
- ADHD symptoms
CAUSES OF BRAIN FOG
Lack of sleep: Brain fog often leads a person to feel tired, and when addressing the cause of brain fog, it’s important to first ensure that you are sleeping enough.
Nutritional deficiencies: Paired with overconsumption of sugar, alcohol, and refined carbs, a poor diet lacking in vital nutrients is going to have a negative impact on your brain function.
Hormone imbalance: Our cortisol, serotonin, and dopamine all keep each other in check. When even one of these hormones rises or falls by too much, the whole system is thrown out of balance. Working with a functional medicine doctor can help you determine where your levels are at, and how to get them in a harmonious balance.
Inflammation: Inflammation, at the root of most modern diseases, is once again a leading culprit behind brain fog. Inflammatory molecules stimulate microglia activation, which is commonly found in brains of those with psychiatric diseases, such as those of children with autism.
Lipopolysaccharides (LPS), or endotoxins: Bad gut bacteria produce toxins, LPS, which trigger inflammation. These bacteria can make their way to the gut lining and cross the blood-brain barrier, causing brain fog as well as a host of other issues.
TREATMENT FOR BRAIN FOG
Diet: Avoiding processed sugar and artificial sweeteners, eating healthy fats, ensuring you are well-hydrated, and eating anti-inflammatory foods will all help keep you and your brain in top shape!
Supplements: Magnesium helps your body keep its internal clock in check, which in turn helps regulate proper hormone production throughout the day.
Adaptogens such as ashwagandha and holy basil lower cortisol, reducing fatigue and stress.
Curcumin Supreme is a powerful antioxidant containing three different bioactive forms of curcuminoids from the spice turmeric, which is very anti-inflammatory.
Lifestyle: We know that getting good sleep is vital, as is keeping stress low. Getting exercise and getting vitamin D straight from the source (the sun!) are also important in maintaining a healthy brain and body. Avoiding EMFs will help reduce brain fog, as will grounding, by walking in the earth barefoot, or with a pair of grounding shoes such as Earth Runners.
Get tested: Hormone imbalances, food allergies, and infections are all hard to detect. With the help of a functional medicine doctor, you can test for food sensitivities, hormone levels, and address any parasites or bacterial/fungal infections that might be dragging you down without your awareness.
Brain Fog and Inflammation
By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Today’s talk is going to be on brain fog and inflammation. So brain fog is one of the number one signs of inflammation in your brain. Again, there are many different contributing causes to the inflammation which we’ll go over in a second. But if you’re feeling like you’re having a hard time reaching for numbers or names, or speaking smoothly or fluently, or trying to find your keys or just trying to remember facts–brain fog. That’s telling us that there’s inflammation in the brain. And it’s really important to know that about half of all cells in the brain are actually immune cells.
50 percent of these brains cells are known as microglial cells, and you can see 50 percent. So that’s quite the large amount of cells in the brain that are actually immune-based and when these cells get turned on. they have a real hard time dampening that immune response. So when that cell get turned on, it gets faster and faster and faster and faster creating more neural damage. And we’re going to talk some of the ways these cells actually get activated, because we want to do our best to dampen how these cells gets turned on.
Causes of Brain Fog
So first thing is there’s a branch of certain food compounds known as excitotoxins and this is kind of controversial. Again, a lot of the research out about excitotoxins are industry sponsors. So there’s obviously a bias regarding we don’t want to produce negative studies that are going to take something off the market.
But aspartame, we also have MSG and other compounds. Little known fact: When MSG is below 100 percent, they don’t have to call it MSG. They call it something else like autolyzed yeast extract or something else, flavoring or spices. So you can get exposed to a lot MSG and not even know it. But aspartame is still in that same family and it’s known as an excitotoxin. And literally what excitotoxins are doing, they are activating these microglial cells. They are exciting and stimulating these microglial cells, and these microglial cells create reactive oxygen–reactive oxygen species, i.e. free radicals that continue to create damage to the brain. And they actually happen to affect the area in the brain known as the hippocampus. And the hippocampus is an area that affects learning and memory. So this is really, really important. We want to do our best to eliminate excitotoxins in our food.
There are couple of articles in the scientific literature by Dr. John Olney. Russell Blaylock also references more on his books regarding the excitotoxic activity of it. Also aspartame if you look at the compound, it’s an amino acid called phenylalanine, also aspartic acid and then we have about 10 percent methyl alcohol. So ethyl alcohol is the one we drink to get a buzz and the methyl alcohol actually is very toxic. So there is 10 percent of that forming in that can add to that excitotoxic activation.
Gluten is one of the biggest stimulators of a leaky gut and we unzip the tight junctions in our gut. We unzip it and food can start going through the bloodstream or through the gastric epithelium into the bloodstream. That can heighten our immune cells and this heightened immune cells basically can affect the astrocytes. The astrocytes you can think of as they line the brain. They’re like the blood brain barrier and they line brain. And when we basically activate those astrocytes, we start allowing gluten and the inflammatory molecules to make its way past the blood brain barrier. This can create more inflammation of the brain. So we have this whole gluten, leaky gut mechanism This mechanism breaks down our blood brain barrier and allows more inflammation in the brain. So we really want to cut out various glutens and also there are infections, too.
Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar is a big one. So when our blood sugar goes low, a lot of people just associate that with maybe potentially starvation or in the scientific literature. They talk about it with people giving themselves exogenous insulin and that dropping the blood sugar low. The problem is most patients that I see, it’s reactive hypoglycemia.
So imagine they’re blood sugar is low. Let’s say, they eat a bolus of food that takes their blood sugar up high and then our body reacts by pumping out a whole bunch of insulin that drops that blood sugar. So then that blood sugar drops down low, even lower than before. And then what’s the first thing that people always say when you have low blood sugar? “Oh, grab a candy bar, grab a thing or orange juice.”
We are on this vicious rollercoaster of blood sugar up and down. So we go from high to low and then the pancreas just comes and spits out a whole bunch of insulin and that insulin lowers that blood sugar. And again, what’s happening at low blood sugar, we’re activating more micro glial cells in the brain. We’re creating more reactive oxygen species and that’s affecting the hippocampus of the brain.
Also, when we go low blood sugar, that puts us in the sympathetic nervous system state, so we are also activating our amygdala as well, which is like the Fight or Flight center in our brain stem. So then it actually kills our appetite, too, so then we’re like, “Oh, I really don’t feel the need to go have some protein or some fat because my appetite isn’t that good. I’ll reach for the candy car instead.” I think everyone knows that maybe if they got scared or if they’ve gotten a fight and they saw a really violent scene on television, you may say, “Oh, I lost my appetite.” It’s because you’re getting a brain stem response from your amygdala that’s putting you in that Fight or Flight pattern–so low blood sugar.
There’s some research in the scientific literature, things like H. pylori and Lyme disease can actually affect and every time we have inflammation, we’re looking at the leaky gut pathway and that can create the leaky brain and then in some patients, for instance, we’re even able to find H. pylori and Lyme in the brain or in the nervous tissue.
So we always want to make sure you’re infection-free. Everyone has the right to be infection-free. When have prolonged leaky gut–prolonged leaky gut can definitely increase our chance of infections.
This is important because seventy to eighty percent of the solid portion of our brain is fat, so we are what we eat. So we have to eat the raw material so we can build our brain back up. If we’re not eating our essential fat-soluble nutrients, vitamin A, D, E and K, EPA and DHA fats from high-quality fish or cod liver oil, we’re not going to have the raw material to build back our brain. Plus fat is incredibly satiating and it’s going to have an effect on stabilizing our blood sugar. The less our blood sugar goes up and down, the less chance we have at activating our microglial cells. And creating this reactive oxygen species or free radicals and creating more damage in the brain. So diet is really important.
Not to mention, things like magnesium. Magnesium’s an amazing brain antioxidant. And there are over three hundred enzymatic roles in the body and it’s also very important for blood sugar metabolism. So you can see the mechanism with low blood sugar and magnesium in the microglial cells, magnesium is very, very potent at squelching inflammation in the brain.
Other herbs like curcumin is also very potent at bringing inflammation down in the brain. Antioxidants like resveratrol or pycnogenol, these are excellent bioflavonoids that can help dampen the inflammation in the brain. So there’s ginkgo biloba, is another good one.
Again, when it comes to these various herbs, absorption’s important if we have a leaky gut and we have digestive problems. Absorption may not be there, so a liposomal form can be better and making sure the dose and the potency is perfected because if you have low absorption, you may have to go higher just to get a therapeutic response. So I hope this kinda gave you some good information.
Also one more thing I forgot to add in here, we have to talk about hormones. Hormones are really important. When we have high levels of cortisol, prolonged levels of cortisol can actually cause damage to the hippocampus according to Dr. Robert Sapolsky out of Stanford. So hormones are important. High levels of stress. Lots of cortisol being pumped out or cortisol dysregulation, high to low cortisol can create damage to that hippocampal area.
Also in menopause, I see this quite frequently. Menopausal women, they’re primarily making more of their hormones from their adrenals, they tend to have lower estrogen. So decreased levels of estrogen and it’s not just estrogen. It’s actually certain kinds of estrogen especially estriol and again, estriol is abbreviated E3 because of the tri in there–estriol. So this is a really potent hormone. Again you want to make sure you’re lab tested for it. I can’t tell you how many menopausal women I’ve seen where we just take a look at their hormones, we get their adrenals and their estrogen levels modulated back to just a normal level, not taking it at a very high level, just bringing it back to normal. It’s amazing how brain fog clears right up and when we do everything else in conjunction with it, we get results so much faster.
So if any of these topics or issues resonate with you and you have a question about this, feel free and reach out to me below the video. And look forward to more videos coming your way very soon.
Brain Fog Symptoms and How You Can Fix Them
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.