What is brain fog? A cognitive-behavioral neurologist writing for Harvard Health Publishing says brain fog isn’t a medical term, but it is a term “used by individuals to describe how they feel when their thinking is sluggish, fuzzy, and not sharp.” Have you ever felt this way? Perhaps when you’re sick or trying to multitask or overwhelmed with anxiety? There are many reasons our minds experience brain fog. Think of your brain as a computer, and brain fog is an indication that there are too many tabs open and your computer is overheating.
Sometimes we just need to minimize all that we have going on in order to eliminate brain fog. Other times, nutrition can help. Here are five ways nutrition helps to clear up our foggiest days:
Very Well Health says, “people with both celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity report symptoms that range from headaches and brain fog to peripheral neuropathy (tingling in your extremities).” Another article from the same source reports, “Most newly diagnosed celiacs will experience relief from their brain fog symptoms pretty quickly, and they then find that their fuzzy head stays away unless they accidentally ingest gluten.” A study conducted in 2020 found inconclusive evidence to support the connection between gluten and brain fog but did find enough neurological evidence to suggest brain imaging in further studies. The Celiac Disease Foundation agrees that more studies need to be done to find a conclusive link, but also declares, “In animals, studies have shown that gluten in the diet can reduce the amount of brain tryptophan which is used to make serotonin, an important neurotransmitter.” This is important in understanding the neurochemical connections between our brains and gluten. Self-diagnosis is not the answer, however. If you think you need to cut gluten to reduce your brain fog, refer to a doctor or nutritionist to make sure you are doing what’s best for your body and your mind at all times.
2. Vitamin B-12
Too often we don’t think about the food we need to eat, instead opting for what we’re used to eating or what tastes good. Remember, though, food is fuel for our bodies, and when we lack certain nutrients our bodies may suffer from it. Healthline says, “Vitamin B-12 supports healthy brain function, and a vitamin B-12 deficiency can bring about brain fog.” It is also reported that “Vitamin B12 helps ensure healthy blood and nerve function, so unusually low levels of this particular vitamin can make your thinking feel fuzzy and cause fatigue.” The NHS says, “If you eat meat, fish or dairy foods, you should be able to get enough vitamin B12 from your diet. But as vitamin B12 is not found naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains, vegans may not get enough of it.” If you’re a vegan and think you may be experiencing brain fog due to vitamin B12 deficiency there are supplements you can take, however, make sure to consult a professional before adding any kind of supplement to your diet.
The best news for those suffering from brain fog is that chocolate can help! Specifically, dark chocolate is high in flavonoids. What are they? Clean Eating Magazine says, “Flavonoids are another important brain nutrient. These plant-derived compounds work like antioxidants, reducing damage-causing free radicals and calming inflammation. Flavonoids can also have a protective effect on your brain, potentially blocking plaque buildup and increasing blood flow.” Mind Body Green agrees, stating, “Studies have shown cocoa flavonols improve cognitive function and blood pressure control in older adults, support the heart, improve concentration, and can even help stabilize mood.” If you ever needed another reason to indulge in a bite of rich, dark chocolate just remember you’re supporting your brain health with every sweet morsel.
4. Dark Greens
According to Healthline, “Because most greens (like spinach, kale, and collard greens) contain high levels of vitamin C and even some iron, they can help fight fatigue caused by an iron deficiency — a common cause of tiredness. Also, leafy greens contain nitrates, which improve blood flow throughout the body. This not only benefits the brain, but helps keep you awake. One study even found that those who ate just one serving of leafy greens a day could slow the cognitive decline that comes from aging.” That’s a lot of benefit for a few little green leaves! Clean Eating Magazines can add to that long list of brain benefits: “They can also combat fatigue thanks to their high levels of vitamin D, vitamin C, iron and nitrates.” If you’re looking for a way to get these nutritious benefits without having to eat your greens, try drinking them! There are hundreds of recipes for green smoothies online to suit any kind of dietary and taste preference needs.
Many times when we think of brain-beneficial foods our first thought is of salmon and other oily fish. That is for a good reason! As Healthline declares, “The omega-3 fatty acids in fish keep your brain at the top of its game. This healthy type of polyunsaturated fatty acid is found in abundance in salmon and has been shown to help fight fatigue.” Also, “Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which are found in salmon, actually helped those with chronic fatigue.” Moreover, salmon contains a nutrient that is not often mentioned but is vital to brain health: choline. Clean Eating Magazine says, “choline helps the brain create acetylcholine, a protein that plays a role in memory and overall cognitive ability. Eating a lot of choline visibly affects your brain’s health too; MRI scans show that choline-rich diets are connected to healthier brain tissue. Making sure you get enough choline could help counteract the effects of brain fog overall.”
Take care of your mind by taking care of your nutrition. In 2018 the CDC reported, “During 2013–2016, 36.6% of adults consumed fast food on a given day” and the percentage of those adults consuming fast food increased with increased family income. Busy professionals too often reach for nutrient-deficient fast food. Making a few changes to your nutrition can help eliminate brain fog and it also can take care of your brain in the long term.