The average person does not realize how pivotal gut health is in regards to overall health. Healthy gut flora (the microorganisms that exist within our intestines) is microscopic in size but monumental in importance. Improper gut flora composition has been linked to everything from autism to inflammatory bowel disease (IBS). With this in mind, it is no surprise that there is a connection between gut health and brain fog.
Brain fog, or mental fatigue, is a type of cognitive dysfunction that causes problems with memory, concentration, energy, and overall mental clarity. It can be caused by a variety of factors including, most recently, the COVID-19 virus.
There is extensive data connecting brain fog to diet and overall gut health. In fact, in order to diagnose brain fog a doctor must first ask you about your diet, mental health, and level of physical activity. Everything in the body is connected. Brain fog is linked to brain health, brain health is linked to gut health, and gut health is linked to diet!
A poor diet has a negative domino effect on the body. Large consumption of saturated fats, especially from animal foods, and processed foods coupled with low intake of fruits and vegetables leads to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, oxidative stress, and intestinal hyper-permeability. This, in turn, leads to problems with digestion, depression, nausea, low energy, and brain fog. By the same token, a proper diet has a positive domino effect on the body. Proper diet equates to proper gut flora—the only recipe for sufficient amounts of dopamine, serotonin and other brain boosting vitamins.
There are several vitamins and nutrients known to improve brain health and cognition, therefore relieving brain fog. These nutrients include iron, B-vitamins, zinc, fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamin E. Iron can be found in many plant foods, such as leafy green vegetables, without the negative effects caused by iron obtained from animal foods. If your nutrient intake stems entirely from animal-based food and processed food, you get more negative then you do positive health benefits. The various B-vitamins can all be found in whole plant-based foods, such as nuts and seeds.
Antioxidants from flavanoid compounds in plant foods (such as celery or peppers) have been shown to directly relieve symptoms of brain fog. Vitamin E is essential for entire body function, as it prevents infection and oxidative stress (a direct symptom of poor diet). Raw foods are the best way to receive the necessary 15mg of vitamin E per day. For example, 1 serving of almonds is 48% of your daily value (DV), sunflower seeds are 66% DV per serving, and one mango contains 20% (and these are just a few examples!). It is important to note that while most raw nuts are beneficial for brain fog as well as a plethora of other health issues, peanuts may trigger brain fog symptoms in some people.
Improper hormone levels can also cause brain fog in certain individuals, especially in women. People who suffer from certain hormonal conditions, specifically hypothyroidism, are known to be susceptible to brain fog. One easy way to ensure your body regulates hormones properly is to cut out all processed foods from your diet. Pre-packaged, processed food and animal products all contain injected chemicals which disturb hormone levels. Living a clean and healthy lifestyle can have great benefit. Exercise regularly, eat natural raw foods, and avoid drugs and alcohol, and the brain fog will clear.
Your body is connected, and one weak link breaks the whole chain.
Arnarson, A. (2017, May 24). 20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin E. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-vitamin-e#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1
de la Espriella, C., & Minich, D. (2018). Challenging Case in Clinical Practice: Qualitative and Quantitative Improvements in Overall Health and Mood Following a Three-Week Elimination Diet and a Four-Week Detox Food Plan. Alternative & Complementary Therapies, 24(5), 196–201. https://doi- org.library2.ramapo.edu:2443/10.1089/act.2018.29181.ces
Gut health: The key to a healthy brain and overall health. (2016, Nov 29). PR Newswire Retrieved from http://library.ramapo.edu:2048/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.library2.ramapo.edu:2443/wire- feeds/gut-health-key-healthy-brain-overall/docview/1844305407/se-2?accountid=13420
Higuera, Valencia. (2018, May 23). Brain Fog: 6 Potential Causes. Healthline Media. www.healthline.com/health/brain-fog.
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Written by Marcella Franklin, Ramapo College Intern, with Karen Ranzi, M.A.