How to Wrestle Your Brain Back from the Depths of Brain Fog

By Christina Sarich

“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” Ozzy Osbourne

Brain fog is often caused by chronic inflammation.

You don’t have to have Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease to suffer from brain fog. We’ve all experienced it, too. Perhaps following a night of poor sleep (or several) or after binge-eating donuts and potato chips for several weeks.


We may notice that we can’t recall someone’s name as easily, even though we’ve talked to them just days ago. Even more maddening is when we can’t find our keys, or concentrating on an important project for work seems nearly impossible.

Brain-fog can cause us to feel like we are searching for our “smarts” under a watery sea, grasping for words, images, or other data as it floats away like broken pieces of seaweed.

How can we rescue our minds from brain fog with a few steps. They are so “mindlessly” simple that they may surprise you.

Inflammation and Your Brain

One of the causes of brain “fog” is likely the presence of inflammatory molecules, including adipocytokines and histamine released from mast cells (MCs) further stimulating microglia activation, and causing focal brain inflammation. [1]

These inflammatory molecules are aggravated by a few lifestyle habits, including:


  • Lack of sleep
  • Elevated cortisol levels caused by stress
  • Poor eating habits and lack of sufficient nutrition
  • Lack of exercise

Sleep Deprivation: Leptin, Ghrelin and Cortisol

Ironically people who suffer from chronic inflammation are more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances, thereby creating a feedback loop in the body that causes even more inflammation. [2]

A lack of quality sleep absolutely fries your hormonal system, damaging your immune system and wreaking havoc in your brain. When you get plenty of sleep, your body creates a hormone called leptin in your fat cells, which helps to curb your appetite. With good sleep, you crate plenty of this hormone. Without it, it starts to become deficient.

Your body also produces more of a hormone called ghrelin, which is released into your stomach to stimulate hunger, when you don’t get enough sleep at night. You wake up feeling irritated and unrested, and you’re starving. This isn’t exactly an ideal way to start your day. [3]

If a lack of sleep continues for too long, your body also starts to increase your levels of the stress hormone cortisol which causes your immune system to be negatively affected.

Now you’re irritable, hungry, and more likely to get sick. And we haven’t even touched on how all of this affects your thinking just yet.

Your sleep-deprived hunger also messes with your blood sugar levels, causing dramatic spikes and subsequent dives which can make it practically impossible to think straight.  You are also likely to crave simple carbohydrates, refined sugar, and salty snacks (which will make you crave more sugar) when you don’t get enough sleep.

The endocrine system is deeply intertwined with your sleep-wake cycle, so sleep deprivation can have a serious effect on glycemic control. [4]

The Solution

The first solution to clearing your brain fog is to make sure you get ample sleep every night.

If you have trouble falling asleep, check your nightly routine. Give your body and mind a chance to slow down. Turn off the television, your mobile phone, tablet, or laptop at least three hours before retiring. The blue light that is emitted from these devices can interrupt the circadian cycle.

Also, make your room as dark as possible with black-out curtains or by wearing a sleep mask that blocks light from entering your eyes.

If you still have difficulty falling asleep. Try one of the following natural sleep aids:

  • Luna Sleep
  • Valerian
  • Chamomile tea
  • Kava Kava

Stress Causes Brain Fog

As we’ve mentioned, stress can cause elevated cortisol levels, which can induce increased inflammation, which thereby affects your brain’s performance.

Stress is even a common pathway to inflammation-related diseases like arthritis, heart disease, obesity, depression and anxiety, and even cancer. [5]

Additional stress hormones like epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine also get dumped into your blood stream more often, and though these can help you think clearly when imminent danger is near, they can cloud your thinking for every day decisions.

Cortisol also creates too much of the neurotransmitter glutamate. This creates free radicals that attack brain cells. [6]

When you are chronically stressed, it can even change your brain’s structure right down to the level of your DNA. [7]

The Solution

Though it may seem impossible to reduce stress in your life, there are some relatively simple ways to do it.

Reducing stress will have a profound effect on your overall health – including helping you to think more calmly and clearly.

Try these stress-busting habits:

  • Meditate
  • Spend time in nature
  • Take deep breathes to counter-act the fight-or-flight response
  • Lighten your load (delegate, simplify)
  • Laugh with friends
  • Practice yoga or Tai Chi
  • Try acupuncture
  • Herbal remedies for stress include lavender, lemon balm, Ashwagandha, and chamomile

Lack of Exercise and Poor Eating Habits Cause Inflammation and Brain Fog

Two more lifestyle habits that could be contributing to your brain fog are a lack of exercise and poor eating habits. Both exercise and diet are directly connected to the inflammatory response in the body.

For instance, when you exercise, you may increase inflammation temporarily through cardiovascular disease, but if you practice moderate exercise or do yoga, you will dramatically lower inflammation in your body.[8]

It is also understood that specific flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables lower chronic inflammation. One that does the job extremely well is luteolin. It is anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, but it also is neuroprotective and increases memory. [9]

The Solution

Be sure to get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. You can add in an extra “rest” day of easy movement by doing yoga or Qi Gong. If you are going to train extra hard, make sure to add stress-busting and hormone balancing foods to your diet. This will help to reduce inflammation caused by more intense workouts. 

Also add luteolin-rich foods to your diet such as dried oregano, fresh peppermint, sage, or thyme, peppers, radicchio, and celery seeds. You can also take a supplement that contains luteolin.

Summing it Up

Brain fog doesn’t have to get the best of you. Make sure you get quality sleep every night, exercise, eat right, and lower your stress and you’ll notice you can think much clearer. The world is now yours to tackle head-on.

About the Author

Christina Sarich is a writer, musician, yogi, and humanitarian with an expansive repertoire. Her thousands of articles can be found all over the Internet, and her insights also appear in magazines as diverse as Weston A. PriceAtlantis Rising, and the Cuyamungue Institute, among others. She was recently a featured author in the Journal, “Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and Healing Arts,” and her commentary on healing, ascension, and human potential inform a large body of the alternative news lexicon. She has been invited to appear on numerous radio shows, including Health Conspiracy Radio, Dr. Gregory Smith’s Show, and dozens more. The second edition of her book, Pharma Sutra, will be released soon.

References

[1] Theoharides, T. C. (2015). Brain “fog,” inflammation and obesity: key aspects of neuropsychiatric disorders improved by luteolin. Frontiers in Neuroscience9. doi:10.3389/fnins.2015.00225

[2] Tang, Y., Preuss, F., Turek, F. W., Jakate, S., & Keshavarzian, A. (2009). Sleep deprivation worsens inflammation and delays recovery in a mouse model of colitis. Sleep Medicine10(6), 597-603. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2008.12.009

[3] How Sleep Deprivation Fries Your Hormones, Your Immune System, and Your Brain. (2017, September 8). Retrieved from https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/how-sleep-deprivation-fries-your-hormones-your-immune-system-and-your-brain

[4] Kin, Tae-Won, et al.  The Impact of Sleep and Circadian Disturbance on Hormones and Metabolism. Hindawai Publishing Corporation. http://downloads.hindawi.com/journals/ije/2015/591729.pdf

[5] Liu, Y., Wang, Y., & Jiang, C. (2017). Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience11. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2017.00316

[6] Glutamate induces formation of free radicals in rat brain synaptosomes. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1134%2FS000635090905011X

[7] Stress Increases Risk of Mental, Physical Illness by Altering Genes. (2015, October 6). Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/news/2012/08/21/stress-increases-risk-of-mental-physical-illness-by-altering-genes/43424.html

[8] Weingus, L. (2017, November 29). Here’s everything you need to know about exercising to heal your body. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-to-exercise-to-reduce-inflammation-and-avoid-creating-more

[9] Nabavi, S. F., Braidy, N., Gortzi, O., Sobarzo-Sanchez, E., Daglia, M., Skalicka-Woźniak, K., & Nabavi, S. M. (2015). Luteolin as an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective agent: A brief review. Brain Research Bulletin119, 1-11. doi:10.1016/j.brainresbull.2015.09.002

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