Brain fog is accepted as “normal.” It’s so common now that we just deal with it, live with it and function as best we can.
– Do we need to live with it?
– Is there an alternative?
– What’s happening long term when we ignore it?
Ayurveda considers brain fog as stage 4 disease.
First there was likely just a little feeling of being off, perhaps a little indigestion… then we feel a little tired, stage 3 the disease finds a “seat” in the brain and stage 4 is impacting our life but still treatable and reversible. What’s stage 5? Permanent damage, loss of memory function, or …. stage six dementia.
So what we laugh off today as “brain fog” will erode the wisdom from our retirement wisdom years.
Do we shrug and say “that’s aging” “that’s normal”?
OR do we change, adapting our vision of normal to allow us to think clearly again?
• Can you imagine sitting down and actually getting something done the next time you use the computer?
• Can you imagine not spending 15 minutes looking for your keys, your coat, your purse… your car…
We all get it at times, that fuzzy feeling of not thinking very quickly or clearly. Or the forgetfulness of not remembering where you put something.
Here are the top symptoms of brain fog – as you read through think about how often this happens to you;
• Low energy
• Trouble concentrating and focusing
• Losing your train of thought
• Can’t remember information
• Hopelessness or mildly depressed
• Waking during the night
What we experience today as fairly mild symptoms can progress into something far more serious if we don’t look into the underlying cause, especially in areas where are daily habits are not supporting our health.
Often there are small changes we can do and shift that will alleviate our symptoms and the potential long term issues.
Brain Fog can be the precursor or a symptom of of many more serious dis-eases depending on your body’s stress points.
It’s important that if your brain fog symptoms are occurring regularly you need to get it checked out by your doctor. Chronic, irreversible conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, Parkinson’s, Thyroid Disorders and even Celiac Disease can start with Brain Fog.
We are a in general a society of sleep zombies. More than one third of the population is getting less than 7 hours of sleep which is the minimum requirement for adults to function properly.
Of those that get enough sleep many are not sleeping in the key hours of 10pm to 2am or often wake during the night. Remember those years being a young mom and how precious sleep was. I still remember that feeling when my kids slept through the night – it was so blissful how the brain worked the next day.
When we sleep during the key processing hours of 10pm to 2am this allows our mind and body to process the inputs from the day, both food and nutrients and thoughts and sensory stimulants.
A lack of sleep during these critical hours leaves us with undigested material in the body which in Ayurveda is called Ama. This Ama can then coat the nerve endings and disrupt our thought processes.
Stress is a leading cause of inflammation (or Ama) in the body. The stress hormones, in particular cortisol “lead first to an overstimulated sympathetic nervous system and then to an imbalance of cellular messengers called eicosanoids, which are associated with tissue inflammation.” (Claudia Welch – Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life). Long-term inflammation has been linked to increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
One quick way to alleviate stress in the mind and body – meditate.
Even with just a one minute meditation you will lower the stress level in the body. For a one minute meditation I like to put a drop of Wild Orange essential oil in the palm of my hands and simply breathe in and out for seven deep breaths. For more essential oils that help make our brain work clearer check out this article on the Top 10 Essential Oils for Brain Fog and How to Use Them.
Another easy way to reduce stress is to move.
Just a few minutes of movement will help lower the stress hormones in your body and help you clear your mind from the drama so you can focus on what’s really important. Try this Quick 5 Minute Yoga Routine to reset your mind and lower your anxiety.
When dealing with the brain – first look to the gut. Often its what we are processing (or not processing) in the belly that leads to a lack of clarity, energy and focus.
Ayurvedic Medicine views the belly as the seat of all disease and attributes memory loss and brain fog to a vata and/or kapha disorder in the intestines. Which means either too much variability or stagnation within the digestive system.
These may be caused by a lack of digestive fire or too many dense, carb rich foods, refined sugars and grains. The variability and stagnation both lead to unprocessed nutrients which end up coating the nerves and arteries of the body impeding the proper flow within body. Both heart conditions and brain inflammation are caused by this unprocessed material.
When you eat under stress and don’t have a consistent routine this weakens your digestive ability. Think of the meal you ate while angry or on the run and tended to sit in your belly for too long. Also overeating or eating really heavy or processed foods can cause a food hangover even into the next morning – perhaps it wasn’t the wine that made you feel that way!
A few quick tips on what to eat to keep the mind fresh;
• Lots of Veggies
• Beware of Gluten
• Beware of non-fat. The whole non fat craze is causing us to lose brain cells!
• Dense meats, dairy and grain will slow the body and mind down.
Refined sugars and grains also increase this Ama or plaque substance within the body. Food can make a huge impact so when your brain feels cloudy try one of these top brain foods for mental clarity and focus.
We were not meant to sit. Sitting is now seen as the new Smoking.
We are designed to move, our brains (and bodies) simply don’t work well when we sit too much. If you have a desk job – do you have to stay sitting or can you get creative with that? Here’s an article by a fellow yoga health coach on how she has transformed her office so stay moving. Sounds crazy – just planting seeds here. At the very least meet a friend for a walk instead of a pastry.
Starting the day with movement and taking frequent movement breaks help to restore the brain’s ability to function. Productivity expert Chris Bailey recommends taking a movement break every hour to increase your brains ability to process. Set your time and get up and move, get a glass of water and stretch and you’ll come back refreshed.
Levels of stimulation have increased dramatically this past century. Since the advent of the radio in homes, to television and then the internet, these is no longer any “down-time” or space without noise or visual stimulation. While positive in how the world has become connected, the downside is we have fewer times to disconnect and process all these stimuli.
Constant stimulation leads to increased levels of the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol which as we’ve talked about before lead to a buildup of inflammation and Ama within the body disconnecting our own neural transmitters.
As much as you can shut down the distractions around you. Don’t have the TV on in the background, take time to gaze out the window at nothing to give your eyes a break.
Resist the urge to multi-task – be content to focus on one thing at a time.
A form of over-stimulation but worthy of its own category. We are constantly being interrupted and this is a big one for both moms and teachers and if you are both – oh boy… Our brains are plastic and mold themselves in the pattern of usage.
The constant interruptions compound over time so that now our brains have been trained to only work in short spurts so even when you do have a block of time to yourself your brain is constantly jumping all over the place. Sound familiar?
The cure? Disconnect.
Ignore the beeps and notifications, don’t check your email as often. Turn off the notifications on your computer for a period of time to start training your brain to focus again. If you are at home with the kids, find a time that’s safe that you are simply not going to answer, not jump and respond. Not only will the kids and spouse learn more independence you’ll be re-training your brain to stay with your own thoughts.
The infamous Mom Brain. Because of extra hormones in body during pregnancy, giving birth and breastfeeding the brain is flooded with the stress hormones, useful for taking care of a new infant but have the same result as the stress hormone cortisol on our short term memory.
We see this pattern also in the teen years when Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain, describes the brain as being “marinated in hormones”. Then again in menopause the fluctuations of hormones again wreak havoc on the brain’s ability to focus.
The best ways to counteract the effect of these hormonal swings is to;
• Eat anti-inflammatory foods, such as leafy greens, complex grains and vegetables.
• Exercise regularly in a manner that does not increase the stress levels in the body.
• Reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol stimulants that stress the adrenals.
• Soothe the nervous system with a regular oil massage or meditation practice.
There are so many little things we can do, the one minute massage, change our diet slightly, the 5 minute oil massage and the movement breaks throughout the day that make a massive change in how our brain will function. It’s amazing really how one tiny change will fuel another and another until our vision of a “normal day” allows us to see the world much clearer.
What steps can you take today to help lift your brain fog?
1. Pick one of the strategies above to start today.
2. Share that strategy in the comments below to help keep you on track.
3. Sign up for a Personal Wellness Consultation and we’ll create a plan you can stick to lift you out of the fog.
This was a quick overview and there is so much more to go into on this topic that is affecting so many of us. Check out the other posts in this series to go a little deeper;
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