Brain fog? Eat this, not that

You can eat strategically to rev up daily sharpness

It can be frustrating to not have the mental sharpness you need to get through your day. While not a clinical diagnosis, so-called brain fog includes occasional forgetfulness or the inability to concentrate. The solution to energetic and clear thinking can be linked to our nutrition and digestive health, according to naturopathic doctors at Medcan.

“Once you identify and remove what is causing the brain fog, it’s like a smokescreen has lifted. Just like when you get new glasses, eliminating certain foods and other strategies can lead to mental clarity and a sharper perspective,” says Biljana Fantozzi, a naturopathic doctor at Medcan.

Dr. Fantozzi emphasizes that the best results come from a personalized approach that takes into consideration health history, eating habits and underlying conditions such as hormonal, adrenal and thyroid issues.

In addition to regular sleep and moderate intensity exercise, here are general eating strategies that can alleviate some contributing factors of brain fog:

Identify whether your food is working with you or against you

“Listen to your body and figure out how you feel after eating specific foods.  If you feel bloated, tired or congested up to 72 hours after eating, you may have negatively reacted to the food and further investigation is required to determine the main cause,” says Dr. Fantozzi.

Keeping a food and symptom log for at least one week prior to seeing your naturopathic doctor will help with the investigation. Write down everything you eat and track how you feel. You may be asked to eliminate foods from your regular diet and to follow an anti-inflammatory diet for at least two to eight weeks to help isolate foods that are affecting you.  Over time you can start reintroducing foods and observe your reactions – this will help you develop a regime that works with your body.

Get enough (of the right) vitamins and minerals

Your naturopath may also identify whether you have any nutrient deficiencies contributing to brain fog including low iron levels, deficient levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium and zinc.

Fuel your brain with high protein, high fibre, healthy fat-based foods

  • Replace refined carbohydrates with whole and unrefined grains that are high in fiber and low in sugar, to reduce inflammation, stabilize blood sugar levels and promote healthy brain activity
  • Consume foods that are slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized to allow for a consistent supply of energy.  Look for food that is high in micro- and macro-nutrients and low glycemic index such as:
    • Broccoli and brussels sprouts
    • Bright foods and spices like beets, turmeric, matcha, spirulina and black tahini
    • Berries
    • Oily fish like mackerel, anchovies, sardines, salmon and herring
    • Leafy greens including spinach, bok choy, kale, arugala, swiss chard
    • Avocado
    • Coconut oil
    • Green tea and cocoa
    • Lean, hormone-free, grass-fed meats
    • Nuts and seeds

Avoid common culprits

While every person’s food sensitivities and intolerance are different, there are general high-risk foods to avoid:

  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners and additives
  • Processed and refined carbohydrates
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Oils: hydrogenated and partly hydrogenated fats (corn oil, cotton seed oil, palm kernel, soybean oil, vegetable oil, margarine)
  • Dairy products
  • Gluten containing grains –wheat, spelt, rye, kamut, barley
  • Soy products
  • Corn
  • Peanuts and peanut-containing foods

Get professional guidance to manage hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia

Unstable blood glucose levels can manifest as insulin resistance, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can lead to both brain fog and physical symptoms. Hyperglycemia can be indicated by frequent urination, increased thirst and headache. Hypoglycemia symptoms include being pale, feeling weak or shaky, having poor concentration and confusion, which usually resolve after eating. If you have one of these conditions, Dr. Fantozzi advises working with a practitioner to manage the symptoms. You may be advised to eat frequent, smaller meals to slow down the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Nutritional supplements may also be recommended.

You may also be interested in: