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Do you have a hard time concentrating? Do you forget words or lose your train of thought during conversations? Do you feel spacey and out of it often? If you do, you may be dealing with brain fog.
Brain fog isn’t an official medical condition, it’s a symptom of a wide variety of medical conditions including anxiety, depression, autoimmune disorders, chronic Lyme disease and hypothyroidism, just to name a few.
Of course, you don’t need to have another health condition to experience brain fog. It can happen if you sleep poorly or are under a lot of stress… or it may not have any obvious cause at all. And if that’s the case, you should take a closer look at what you’re eating. Because here’s the thing…
Research shows that the bacteria in your digestive tract produce compounds that circulate in the body and help your nerves transmit signals, boost the function of neurons in the brain and improve your ability to keep memories intact. So, if you disrupt this bacteria by eating the wrong foods, you could end up with a one-two punch to the gut and your brain…
Sugar and unhealthy fats muck up your brain function
A study from researchers at Oregon State University shows that when you eat a diet high in sugar, the bacteria respond in ways that gum up your nerve networks, distort their communications and hamper the ability of brain cells to retain information. Foods filled with the unhealthy fats found in fast food (heavily refined vegetable oils) also slow things down, but not quite as seriously as sugar.
These researchers found that sugar strongly interferes with something called “cognitive flexibility,” the ability to improvise and adjust your behavior to a shifting situation.
“The impairment of cognitive flexibility in this study was pretty strong,” says researcher Kathy Magnusson. “Think about driving home on a route that’s very familiar to you, something you’re used to doing. Then one day that road is closed, and you suddenly have to find a new way home.”
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This isn’t the first time sweets and other junk foods have been shown to mess with cognitive performance. A 2016 study published in Behavioral Brain Research found that a high-sugar diet triggers inflammation in the hippocampus, a part of the brain essential for learning and memory.
And a 2002 study found that a high-fat, high-sugar diet decreased the production of a brain chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is essential for learning and memory. So, without enough of it, your brain would definitely feel a little foggy.
Eat your brain fog away
If you want to keep your brain sharp, keep your gut bacteria happy and healthy…
You can start by avoiding processed foods that contain a lot of sugar and refined vegetable oils. Instead, eat plenty of fibrous fruits and vegetables. Eat real potatoes, not potato chips. Eat an apple instead of drinking apple juice. Eat fresh strawberries instead of a sugary cereal made with, supposedly, “real strawberries.”
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi and tempeh contain probiotic bacteria that can improve your gut health, too. Or you can turn to a probiotic supplement. I recommend a spore-based probiotic because they’re proven to heal leaky gut syndrome, a condition that can definitely trigger brain fog.
- 6 Possible Causes of Brain Fog — Healthline.
- Relationships between diet-related changes in the gut microbiome and cognitive flexibility — Neuroscience.
- Negative Impact of Sugar on the Brain — Verywell Mind.
- A high-fat, refined sugar diet reduces hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor, neuronal plasticity, and learning — Neuroscience.