Do you feel spaced out all the time? Like you’re moving in slow motion through a fog and can’t snap out of it?
Though it’s not considered a disorder worth a doctor’s visit, brain fog is nevertheless distressing, disorienting, and difficult to cope with.
It’s also a red flag your brain is aging too quickly and that you should take action right away.
When your neurons, or brain cells, don’t communicate well with another, this causes brain fog. This poor communication causes overall brain function to slow down and diminish, giving you symptoms of brain fog. The trick is to find out why those neurons aren’t communicating well with one another.
A number of reasons, both metabolic (having to do with diet and lifestyle) and neurological contribute to brain fog. In a nutshell, neurons need sufficient fuel, oxygen, and stimulation to function and prevent brain fog.
1. Blood sugar that is always too low or too high
Chronically unstable blood sugar is a common cause of brain fog because it means neurons are not receiving enough energy to function. As a result, they communicate poorly, causing brain fog.
The most common reasons for unstable blood sugar include a diet high in processed carbohydrates and sugars, skipping meals, and chronic overeating.
Low blood sugar symptoms: Nausea or no appetite in the morning, wake up at 3 or 4 a.m., lightheaded, irritable, spacey and/or low energy between meals, feel energized after meals (there should be no change in energy).
High blood sugar symptoms: Fatigue after meals, constant hunger, intense craving for sweets after meals, constant thirst, frequent urination, insomnia, and excess abdominal fat.
For some people, banishing brain fog is as easy as stabilizing blood sugar through a whole foods diet of ample vegetables along with healthy proteins and fats. Moderate your carbohydrate intake to avoid low or high blood sugar.
2. An unhealthy gut environment
Because of the strong communication between the gut and the brain, poor gut health has a profound influence on brain health. Symptoms can include not only brain fog, but also depression, anxiety, irritability, and worsened memory and learning.
Some people notice their brain fog kicks in after they eat foods that trigger an immune reaction, such as gluten or dairy. Bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea can also play a role in brain fog.
Additionally, when the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed and damaged, it allows undigested foods and pathogens to escape into the bloodstream where they trigger inflammation and brain fog. This is known as leaky gut, or intestinal permeability.
3. Poor circulation
If your fingers and toes are always freezing and your nose is cold to the touch, poor circulation may play a role in your brain fog. These are signs of poor circulation in the brain as well. Other symptoms of poor circulation include weak nails, chronic fungal nail infections, low brain endurance, and cramping in the hands and feet.
Poor circulation deprives the brain of oxygen and nutrients, thus causing brain fog. Factors that contribute to low circulation include anemia, chronic stress, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, low blood pressure, smoking, and blood sugar imbalances.
5. Functional neurology mechanisms of brain fog
A head injury can inhibit function anywhere in the brain. Because all the parts of the brain work together, this can affect overall function causing myriad symptoms, including brain fog.
Unrelated to an injury, degeneration or dysfunction in one or more areas of the brain cause poor firing of neurons.
Or, perhaps one side of the brain is more dominant than the other. This imbalance can skew brain function and performance, causing a wide range of symptoms that may include brain fog.
In functional neurology we look at not only the metabolic factors of the brain but also at how different areas of your brain function. Strategies that dampen or activate different areas as needed can be a useful tool in alleviating brain fog.
Got brain fog? Ask my office for more advice about how to manage it so you can feel and function your best.
If a child suddenly develops behavioral and neurological symptoms after a strep infection, PANDAS should be suspected. PANDAS is a neuro-immune disorder in which a strep infection triggers brain inflammation and the immune system starts to attack and destroy brain tissue, causing a sudden onset of neurological symptoms.
PANDAS stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections.
PANS, or Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome, is similar, except environmental factors or other infections trigger symptoms.
PANDAS diagnosis criteria
PANS diagnosis criteria:
Abrupt, dramatic onset of OCD or severely limited food intake and the addition of at least two of the following:
Functional neurology help for PANDAS/PANS
Because PANDAS and PANS involve the immune system, management involves testing markers for inflammation, infections, immune function, and brain autoimmunity (when the immune system attacks and destroys brain tissue).
It’s also helpful to conduct a functional neurology exam to identify compromised areas of the brain, as well as to establish a baseline of brain function.
Repeat testing can show you how well PANDAS/PANS protocols are working. Functional neurology rehabilitation may also help with recovery. For instance, therapies targeting different areas of the brain can calm an over active immune system and over activation of pathways.
Functional medicine help for PANDAS/PANS
Additionally, functional medicine strategies may include removing inflammatory triggers from the diet and the environment; nutritional therapies to lower inflammation and support brain health; addressing blood sugar, gut health, and toxicity; supporting neurotransmitters; and repairing mitochondrial function and the blood-brain barrier.
Conventional medical help for PANDAS/PANS
Therapies from the conventional model that have been shown to help include steroids and NSAIDs for inflammation; plasmapharesis (plasma exchange) to reduce antibodies; intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIG) to support immune modulation; and immune modulating medications when necessary.
Understanding the PANDAS/PANS brain
When PANDAS/PANS strikes a child — an estimated 1 in 200 children are affected — parents become both frightened and devastated. Understanding what is happening in the brain can help alleviate anxiety.
The functional neurology exam can help identify which pathways in the brain are affected. PANDAS/PANS typically affects communication loops between the basal ganglia, cerebellum, and frontal lobe.
Act quickly to address PANDAS/PANS
PANDAS/PANS is a significant and scary disorder, but taking action quickly improves the chances of an optimal outcome. For more information, contact my office.