The Five Root Causes of Brain Fog

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Are you suffering from brain fog? You’re not alone. Not only is this a growing problem, conventional medicine is ineffective in treating it or even diagnosing it.

In this report you’ll discover the main causes of brain fog. But first it’s important to get a better understanding of just what brain fog is and what’s happening inside your brain. Though everyone is unique, there are common denominators that run through the condition and this is where we’re going to start.

If look around the internet, you’ll find lots of list that talk about the causes of brain fog. All of them related to five basic root causes. For example a nutritional deficiency or lack of sleep is actually due to a deeper “root cause” such as poor gut absorption or serotonin, cortisol and melatonin disruption.

The key to reversing your brain fog is in identifying the root cause and fixing that.

Brain fog tells us your brain is inflamed. Brain fog means your brain is on fire and aging or degenerating too fast. Your brain is slowing down. Brain fog is NOT normal. It is NOT a part of the “aging process”. Brain fog also tells us that the neurons in your brain are not communicating with each other.

Your brain is telling you something is wrong and we need to find out what it is. It’s important to find the cause and do something about it because if left untreated, it’s guaranteed to get worse. Brain fog doesn’t just get better and go away spontaneously. So let’s figure out what is wrong and fix it.

The symptoms of brain fog are different from person to person but all fall within a few categories.

Common to all brain fog is decreased communication between your brain’s cells called neurons. In other woods your neurons aren’t talking to each other. It’s like when you have bad coverage with your cell phone. Symptoms related to decreased communication can include:

  • Fatigue
  • loss of focus
  • sluggishness
  • confusion
  • feeling like you’re in slow motion
  • difficulty thinking
  • difficulty getting you job done or taking care of your family
  • decreased memory
  • Anything where you feel you just not up to speed.

Brain fog can also be due to changes in your brain chemistry. That is, in your neurotransmitter and hormone function. Symptoms typical of this category include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • loss of motivation
  • changes in mood or personality
  • trouble sleeping
  • headaches
  • inability to problem solve.

A third category of brain fog symptoms, which many people miss, are gut and digestion problems. There is a powerful connection between gut function and brain function called the Gut-Brain Axis. We know that the GI system has a tremendous impact on brain function and vice versa. As a matter of fact, within just a few minutes of head trauma, gut function begins to change. 

The Five Main Causes of Brain Fog

  1. Unstable Blood Sugar

The most common cause of brain fog is unstable blood sugar. It is very important for your blood sugar to remain stable throughout the day. However, most people have wide swings in their blood sugar from too low at times to much too high. Just eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) almost guarantees you’ll have trouble regulating blood sugar. Eating the wrong foods, skipping meals, excessive coffee and stress wreaks havoc with the adrenal glands and the cortisol mechanism. This has a profound impact on blood sugar regulation.

Low blood sugar is called hypoglycemia. If goes up and down like a yo-yo it’s called reactive hypoglycemia and is accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • You feel an energy surge after eating which lasts for 1-2 hrs.
  • Dependence on coffee, caffeine, sugary drinks, or energy drinks to get through the day
  • Craving sweets and carbohydrates between meals
  • You feel shaky, jittery, lightheaded or irritable when meals are missed
  • You feel agitated or nervous or become upset easily
  • You’re forgetful or have memory loss
  • You wake up at about 3:00 in the morning and can’t go back to sleep

High blood sugar can also cause brain fog. Frequent high blood sugar leads to insulin resistance which can also make it impossible to lose weight. Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:

  • Being constantly hungry and/or thirsty
  • You feel sleepy after eating
  • You feel tired all the time
  • You crave sweets after meals
  • Your waist girth is equal to or larger than your hip girth
  • Frequent urination
  • You can’t lose weight no matter what you do
  • You have trouble falling asleep at a reasonable time

It’s not uncommon to have symptoms of both low and high blood sugar. Blood sugar that is either too high or too low causes a constant fluctuation in the brain’s fuel supply. If you can’t regulate the fuel supply, the brain wont “run” properly. The brain is very sensitive to changes in blood sugar. Blood sugar fluctuations produce changes in insulin and the brain is also extremely vulnerable to insulin surges.

When blood sugar drops too low, your brain is energy starved. It’s just like what happens if your car runs out of gas. Your brain is out of gas. This leads to the destruction of brain cells and degeneration causing brain fog.

Elevated blood sugar damages the brain. Sugars and carbohydrates promote inflammation. If there’s one primary evil that is at the root of so many chronic health issues, it’s inflammation. Inflammation destroys brain cells. Think of it this way: sugar is like pouring gas on a fire and that fire is inflammation and it’s burning up your brain.

The primary causes of swings in blood sugar are diets that are too high in sweets, sugars and processed carbohydrates. Skipping meals is a big cause of wide fluctuations in blood sugar. Excessive dieting can be just as damaging as over eating.

Swings in blood sugar has a profound effect on neurotransmitter and hormone function and leads to brain fog. Neurotransmitter dysregulation can also bring about depression and anxiety. If this is the cause, then antidepressants and SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are a misguided and ineffectual treatment. Antidepressants are currently being taken by 30% of American women in their 40’s-50’s.

  1. Poor Gut Health and Its Impact on Brain Fog

The importance of the GI system is huge and can not be over stated.

There is a large nerve that connects the brain with the gut and it’s a two-way street with the gut having as much impact on the brain as the brain has on the gut. The nerve is called the Vagus nerve. If your gut isn’t healthy, your brain isn’t healthy.

If you have digestive issues like constipation, chronic diarrhea, bloating, gas (no gas isn’t normal), belching, indigestion, reflux, GERD, IBS, Chrons etc., there’s no way your brain is functioning at it’s full potential.

There are many different things that can wrong in the gut but the common denominator between almost all of them is inflammation. The topic of inflammation will come up often. And, there are many different things that can result in inflammation. The most common causes of gut inflammation are the foods you eat, toxins, alcohol, medications, yeast, stress and nutritional deficiencies.

While this report isn’t about GI inflammation, it’s important to go into just a little detail. Your small intestinal lining is very thin. As a matter of fact, it’s only one cell thick. When the lining of the intestine becomes inflamed or damaged it becomes overly porous. Overly porous GI lining is called intestinal hyper-permeability or “leaky gut”. The result of this leaky gut is that undigested food is allowed to leak from the intestine into the blood stream. The blood stream is supposed to be a sterile environment. But when substances get into it which aren’t supposed to be there, the reaction is often extreme.

Leaky gut can set into motion all kinds of health problems from food intolerances to pain and inflammation. It can trigger autoimmune diseases, skins disorders, loss of motivation, depression and even brain fog. The inflammation of leaky gut has been shown to lead to brain inflammation. The chemicals which cause leaky gut travel from the intestine into the blood. Once in the blood they travel everywhere blood travels and this includes the brain.

There is supposed to be an intact protective barrier between the blood and the brain keeping foreign substances from entering where they don’t belong. Recent research has shown that the chemical zonulin, which breaks down the gut lining also breaks down the blood brain barrier. This allows dangerous substances into the brain which aren’t supposed to be there.

When foreign particles and chemicals enter the brain they cause an inflammatory response. This damages the brain and accelerates brain degeneration. You experience this as brain fog. As the brain slows down, the firing of the vagus nerve slows down. As the vagus slows down the brain communication with gut slows down and a vicious cycle begins. So, the worse it gets the worse it gets.

Depending on which proteins, food particles and substances get from your gut into your blood stream, you could develop an autoimmune disease. Hashimotos thyroid disease is probably the most common example of this. We know that many autoimmune diseases have have a leaky gut origin.

There’s another big factor regarding leaky gut and its impact on not only brain fog but your overall health and that’s nutritional deficiencies. When you gut lining is unhealthy, you can’t absorb nutrients, vitamins, minerals etc. like you should. You can take all the supplements you want but if you don’t have the ability to absorb what you’re taking, you’re still in trouble. You can’t repair brain fog or leaky gut just by throwing supplements at them.

  1. Poor Circulation and Brain Fog

It’s very often I see patients with brain fog that also have cold hands and feet. These are indicators of poor circulation. If you have poor circulation to your hands and or feet, there’s a good chance you have poor circulation in your brain. This decrease in oxygen not only can lead to brain fog but also is the second most common form of dementia (vascular dementia) after Alzheimer’s.

Causes of low circulation in the brain include:

  • Anemia
  • Blood sugar regulating disorders such as diabetes
  • Hypothyroid disease
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Low blood pressure
  • Adrenal fatigue

Symptoms of low circulation which should get your attention include:

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Weak nails or white nail beds (your nail beds should be pink)
  • Chronic fungus in your nails both hands and feet
  • Low brain endurance
  • Easy cramping of muscles
  • The need for stimulants like coffee to improve brain function

If you have circulation problems, you must take action to improve the situation.

One if the most prevalent causes of poor circulation is hypothyroidism. Hypothyroid mismanagement is a common cause of poor circulation.

Anemia is another cause of poor circulation. It starves the brain of oxygen. As mentioned earlier, leaky gut means it’s impossible to absorb the nutrients you need which leads to anemia. Anemia is a deal breaker and must be addressed.

Blood pressure that is either too low or too high can lead to brain fog. When blood pressure is too low the heart is not able to push enough blood into the brain and when it’s too high, the increased pressure can damage the walls of the arteries.

  1. Autoimmune Disease, Inflammation and Brain Fog

Autoimmune diseases are examples of long term chronic inflammation and increased immune system activity. Inflammation in one area eventually leads to the spread of inflammation into all areas including the brain.

We tend to think of autoimmune disease in terms of the specific system effected but autoimmune disease at its core is an inflammatory condition. Chronic inflammation eventually leads to brain inflammation and brain fog.

Brain inflammation leads to a cascade of symptoms including:

  • Depression
  • Brain Fog
  • Slow thinking
  • Brain fatigue
  • Loss of memory

When it comes to the brain, once inflammation begins, there’s no off switch like there is in the rest of the body. The immune protective cell in the brain is called a glial cell and once activated they can’t be turned off

Glial cells, also called microglial cells, are often turned on by inflammation in the gut and the immune system. This makes food sensitivities like gluten and dairy big players in brain fog. Research recently published shows that 70% of gluten’s destructive impact is on brain tissue while only 20% is in the gut. And we now know that gluten effects everyone even if you have no gut symptoms.

  1. Brain Trauma and Head Injuries

At first this might seem self evident but how often does someone have a head injury or suffer a concussion and they’re told after a brief observation that everything is fine. Or, how often do you see a football player injured and just “shake it off” and get back out there. Within just minutes of a brain injury not only is there the problem of inflammation in the brain but also the brain control over gut function begins to change.

Remember that with brain inflammation there is no “off” switch like there is in the rest of the body. This is why brain injuries can cause brain fog, depression and other symptoms that may not show up for years.

There can be many different causes of brain fog and the five categories listed above are the most frequent causes I see on a daily basis.  Whatever the cause may be for you, the effect can be summarized into two main issues. They are inflammation and a lack of fuel and oxygen.

If you know someone who could benefit please share!

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At The Carroll Institute we focus on uncovering the Root Causes of Cognitive Decline (including Alzheimer’s Disease) and then create personalized treatment plans for each individual. Recognized as a leader in the field of the effects of neurodegeneration on brain function, Dr. Glenn is driven by the concept that chronic diseases as we know them, specifically Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer’s Disease are not only preventable but reversible. 

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