4 Ways to Combat Brain Fog

Brain fog happens to the best of us. Stress, poor sleep, poor diet and lack of exercise can all contribute to feeling like we can’t concentrate, remember basic things, or stay on task. And what’s worse is all of this makes you feel frustrated and irritable. Below is a breakdown of four ways you can combat brain fog that are completely within your control. But before we get into it, here are a few facts you need to know about your brain to help with your overall cognitive performance.

  • Your brain uses 20% of your total energy: Of all the organs in your body, your brain uses the most energy, accounting for 20% of total energy consumption. Your brain gets fuel from the glucose in your diet. If you have an unhealthy diet or problems with your blood sugar levels, this can affect the way your brain functions.
  • Your brain is comprised of around  60% fat. The good kind of fat! If your diet is high in unhealthy fats, it will only be able to create poor-quality nerve cell membranes. This means that the nerve cell functions in your brain will be negatively affected.
  • The blood-brain barrier is critical to brain function: The blood-brain barrier is a semi-permeable membrane which allows certain substances, such as oxygen and glucose, to enter the brain while blocking toxic substances. [1] The barrier is comprised of tightly packed cells which contain neurotransmitters. It is these which enable you to think, speak, and feel emotions. If the blood-brain barrier becomes damaged in any way, unwanted elements, such as proteins or medications, may pass through. This can have a negative impact on your brain’s functioning.
  • While you are sleeping, your brain is still very active. Recent studies suggest that the brain uses this time to eliminate all the toxins that built up while you were awake. [2] It is also busy forming new memories and consolidating old ones, and stores information into long-term memory.

With those facts in mind, let’s dig in to the four actions you can take to promote healthy brain function and keep brain fog at bay.

1. Get Plenty of Sleep

Many people only average around five or six hours of sleep per night in spite of expert recommendations to get between 7-9 hours. While you might hit the hay early enough, if you’re struggling to fall and stay asleep, try some of these practices for unwinding:

  • Learn some breathing techniques to help you relax
  • Avoid napping during the day no matter how tired you are
  • Go to bed at the same time each night to establish a healthy routine
  • Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine – especially in the evening

2. Keep Stress to a Minimum

Sometimes you can get so used to high levels of stress that you barely notice how it’s affecting you. But stress is one of the main drivers of brain fog. Keep stress at bay and improve your mental health by learning some basic relaxation techniques such as creative visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, and mediation. Take time to use them regularly as part of your self-care routine.

3. Maintain a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is paramount for a healthy brain. Foods that are hard to digest, and high in sugar and saturated fat can leave you feeling run down mentally and physically. If you’ve been slacking on your eating habits, it’s important to remember that small incremental changes every day add up over time. You can start by adding several of these superfoods to your diet:

  • Berries:  Berries such as blackberries and blueberries are rich in polyphenols, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. These can help to improve communication between brain cells. [3]
  • Fatty fish:  Fatty fish, such as trout, salmon, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Not only do omega-3s help to build brain cells, but they also improve memory and concentration. [4]
  • Turmeric:  Curcumin, which is a compound found in turmeric, may be able to help new brain cells grow. [5] It may also help with cognitive decline [6].
  • Broccoli:  Broccoli is rich in antioxidants and vitamin K, which may help improve memory. [7]

4. Exercise Your Brain

Just like the rest of your body, your brain needs regular exercise and stimulation to maintain its health. Learning a new language, doing puzzles such as sudoku or crosswords, and learning a new skill such as painting, are all great ways to boost your brain power and keep the fog at bay.

Mental fog can be debilitating and cause a major disruption to your daily life. If you’re experiencing brain fog, look at your lifestyle and see where changes can be made.