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By Lawrence Wilson M.D.
Brain fog includes symptoms of forgetfulness, spaciness, feelings of confusion and inability to focus and think clearly. Many people have been this way for most of their life and think this is normal. Brain fog can be due to hypoglycemia, candida overgrowth, chronic fatigue, food reactions, nutrient deficiencies, mineral toxicity, liver, kidney or bowel toxicity, poor oxygenation, structural misalignments, medications, genetics and other causes. Let us examine the causes.
Hypoglycemia can cause starvation of the brain for fuel. The brain uses about one-third of all our calories. Unlike the muscles, the brain does not store any fuel. Therefore, it must have a continuous supply. If for any reason the supply varies, it is like someone varying the voltage on a delicate computer or other piece of equipment.
Common symptoms are confusion, irritability and forgetfulness and blackouts. One patient called me during a hypoglycemic episode. She couldn?t remember her own name. Symptoms usually occur several hours after a meal, and may come on suddenly. Eating something that contains sugar usually relieves the symptoms in about 10 minutes.
Many people, including school-age children and many adults experience huge blood sugar swings all day long! Their breakfast of sweetened cereal, donuts or juice drives up their blood sugar. This is followed by a drop at mid-morning that is relieved by a sweet snack, more juice, soda pop or a cup of coffee. This rockets the sugar up again, followed by a fall around noon.
Lunch may include soda pop, sweetened ketchup, mustard, sweet salad dressing, sweetened rolls, chocolate milk or other sugared food. The sugar rises again, then falls rapidly at mid-afternoon. It is time for another pick-up, or maybe time for happy hour, since alcohol will lift the blood sugar again for a short time. And we wonder why many students have difficulty learning, and why thousands can?t think clearly?
Brain fog symptoms due to candidiasis are often due to the production of alcohol and acetaldehyde by the candida organism. It causes a person to behave as if slightly inebriated, although one consumes no alcohol. Acetaldehyde is also toxic to the brain. At times, the candida organisms can themselves invade the brain.
Fruit, juices, sugar or other sweets feed the yeast organisms and in susceptible people can bring on symptoms rapidly. Carbohydrates break down to sugar in the intestines. Excessive carbohydrate in the diet can also cause symptoms, usually of a more chronic nature.
Occasionally, brain fog may be caused by yeast die-off. This may occur due to a dietary change or health program, or just a shift in metabolism. As the yeast die, they may release various toxins that induce temporary symptoms of brain fog.
Fatigue from any cause can cause mental confusion and other symptoms of brain fog. Causes include infections, illnesses, nutritional imbalances, toxins and other fatigue syndromes. The brain requires a lot of energy. Impaired energy production for any reason profoundly affects brain function.
Infections not only drain the body?s energy. They produce endo and exotoxins that may cause brain fog. Chronic illnesses such as cancer or diabetes may directly affect brain function and impair normal metabolism causing fatigue.
Nutritional imbalances are a common cause of fatigue. Toxins from insect bites, impaired digestion, exposure to chemicals and many other sources affect energy production and cause fatigue.
Allergic reactions to food or beverages may directly affect energy production, leading to fatigue and brain fog. Still other food reactions cause histamine release within the nervous system. These are sometimes called ?brain allergies?. Nervous system allergies can be severe, inducing irritability, confusion and even psychotic behavior.
Very commonly, food reactions irritate the intestine, causing leaky gut syndrome and the absorption of excessive toxins into the bloodstream. The most common allergic foods are wheat and cow?s milk dairy. Anyone with brain fog ought to eliminate these foods from the diet, as this will often help speed recovery. Gluten-containing foods - rye, oats, and barley - also cause reactions in susceptible individuals that may affect the brain.
Some food or water-borne substances are directly toxic to the brain. These include pesticide residues, heavy metals, bacterial toxins and fungal toxins, fluoride, chlorine and other substances added to drinking water, and other water contaminants. Any of these may contribute to brain fog.
The brain requires many nutrients, including all the vitamins and two dozen or more minerals. A range of amino acids are required for the brain, as are essential fatty acids, antioxidants and other nutrients. Among the most important nutrients are calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, L-glutamine, L-taurine, choline, thiamine, B6, B12 and other B-complex vitamins. B-vitamin deficiency is known to cause confusion, irritability, stupor and death.
The author recalls a 7-year old patient who had recurrent ear infections. The ear infections cleared up on a nutrition program. During a follow-up visit, her mother mentioned the girl?s school grades also went from Cs to As. This is not an unusual story. Though part of the reason may have been better school attendance, improved brain function is often a side effect of nutritional correction.
Electrolyte imbalance, as occurs after excessive physical exertion or sweating, often causes symptoms of brain fog. This may be due to lowered blood pressure with impaired circulation to the brain, metabolic waste products in the blood or impaired cellular energy production.
A common cause of brain fog is copper imbalance. Copper induces the production of the biogenic amines, epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine. Copper also affects thyroid gland activity and female hormone levels. Excessive copper or biounavailable copper often result in spaciness, mood swings, racing thoughts which can cause confusion, and excessive emotions.
Causes of copper imbalance include weak adrenal glands, zinc deficiency, stress, fatigue, birth control pills, copper intra-uterine devices or copper contamination of water supplies or food. The week before the menstrual period the copper level rises, contributing to monthly episodes of brain fog in some menstruating women.
Vegetarian diets are high in copper and low in zinc, a mineral that balances copper. These diets are also often low in other nutrients essential for the brain, like taurine, carnitine, essential fatty acids, alpha lipoic acid, B-complex vitamins and others.
High tissue levels of calcium and magnesium frequently cause diminished awareness, mental fatigue and brain fog. The condition is sometimes called a ?calcium shell?, as the person is literally slightly numb. Elevated tissue calcium raises the voltage at which nerve cells fire, leading to mental heaviness and numbness that is common in the population. Magnesium is required for some 500 vital enzymes. Elevated tissue levels are often biounavailable or unusable by the body.
Excessive levels of other trace elements such as iron, manganese and chromium may also affect brain activity and give rise to symptoms of brain fog.
All the toxic metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, nickel, beryllium and others are neurotoxic. Brain fog may accompany any heavy metal toxicity.
LIVER, KIDNEY OR BOWEL TOXICITY
Toxicity of sluggishness of the important eliminative organs will cause symptoms of brain fog. If these organs do not do their job properly, many toxic chemicals such as ammonia remain circulating in the blood. The brain is one of the first organs affected by toxins, as it requires a lot of blood and its functions are delicate and intricate.
Sluggish eliminative organs are common today, thanks to the enormous amount of chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis. Liver diseases such as hepatitis, alcoholic cirrhosis and others may also impair the function of the liver.
Weak digestion, intestinal infections, stress, poor eating habits or an improper diet often cause food to putrefy or ferment in the intestines. Some of the food-related toxins produced are absorbed into the bloodstream. These can easily overwhelm the normal detoxification ability of the liver and kidneys. Constipation makes the problem one hundred times worse.
Drinking inadequate water or worse, drinking soda pop, excessive coffee and other irritating beverages can damage or overwhelm the kidneys and impair their ability to remove poisons from the blood.
Finally, the liver, bowel and kidneys are affected by emotions. Liver problems may be associated with anger, intestinal problems with perfectionism and holding on, while kidney problems are associated with fear.
Be wary of cleansing programs such as fasts to correct liver and kidney toxicity. These may give temporary relief, but do not address basic causes such as food allergies, toxic chemicals in the diet or environment and nutrient deficiencies. Fasting can easily cause one to become even more nutrient deficient. I highly recommend the low-temperature sauna at least once a week for 30 minutes unless you have very high blood pressure, very low blood pressure, in which case shorter time is better. Daily skin brushing when you shower is another basic detoxification method helpful for everyone. Acupuncture, acupressure, energy balancing and other natural therapies may also be helpful to reduce the body?s toxic burden.
Another common cause of brain fog is reduced oxygen to the brain. This may be due to clogged arteries, but it is often due to shallow breathing or holding one?s breath. This is far more common than imagined. If it is severe enough, one may pass out. If it is mild, it can cause spaciness, confusion and impairment of cognition.
Many people under stress forget to breathe deeply and regularly. Fear or anxiety often causes holding of the breath. Sometimes a physical disease such as asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema impairs respiration.
Misalignment of the spine, or any impingement on the cranial, cervical or other nerves may cause symptoms of brain fog. The cause may be a trauma to the head or to another part of the body. However, sleeping in the wrong position, lifting incorrectly or just normal daily activities can contribute to a nerve impingement that affects the brain. Chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation, physical therapy and craniosacral therapy can be most helpful to address structural misalignments and head trauma.
A long list of prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause mental confusion, irritability and other brain fog symptoms. The list includes drugs for allergies, pain, high blood pressure, heart arrythmias, glaucoma, infections, depression, anxiety, inflammation and other disorders. Many people are taking two to five of these drugs at once. Combinations of drugs may be toxic in ways that no one can anticipate. Combining medication with alcohol or recreational drugs may also produce unusual symptoms. Studies show that an important factor in mental impairment, particularly in the elderly, are the toxic effects of medications, especially combinations of drugs. Often this is misdiagnosed as Alzheimer?s disease or another type of dementia.
If you must take medication, check the side effects and know that there may be side effects that are not listed on the labeling information.
Brain fog is occasionally caused by an illness like a brain tumor, epilepsy, meningitis or encephalitis. Electrical interference from computer screens or televisions can cause brain disturbance in sensitive people. Vision problems may affect mental clarity and cognition.
Conditions like dyslexia and autism syndromes may cause confusion, though they may also be the result of causes listed above. For example, many autistic children improve when the factors above are addressed. Emotional conditions such as neuroses, paranoia or mental fixations may cause brain fog.
Brain fog affects thousands of people and contributes to school failures, crime, delinquency, economic losses, accidents and ruined relationships.
I recommend that anyone with brain fog begin by improving their diet and lifestyle. Eliminate the junk food, excessive sugar and chemicalized foods. Eliminate wheat, dairy and other foods that may be cause reactions. Drink at least 6 glasses of filtered or bottled water every day, rather than soda pop. Be sure to get enough rest and sleep, and breathe deeply. Detoxification methods like enemas, colonic irrigation and dry sauna baths can be very helpful.
Go to a competent chiropractor or osteopath to rule out structural causes. Experiment with a diet low in sugars and starches, and perhaps try an anti-candida regimen if you suspect this cause. If symptoms continue, consider a hair mineral test that will identify nutrient deficiencies, toxic metals, and other imbalances such as an unbalanced oxidation rate or chronic fatigue. Some people need to meditate, do therapy or other techniques to help control unwanted thoughts and emotions. Other natural therapies may also be helpful.
In a few cases, more extensive testing for allergies, illnesses and brain diseases may be necessary. Many people start with a CAT scan or an MRI. However, this is not where I would begin. Brain fog due to diet, lifestyle, toxicity, medication, spinal misalignments and blood sugar imbalance will not show up on these expensive tests. In my experience, most cases of brain fog will clear up quickly when approached this way.
Dr. Lawrence Wilson
P.O. Box 54
Prescott, AZ 86302-0054
Visit http://www.drlwilson.com/ for books, and audio tapes from Dr. Wilson.
3 Day Recharge Ignite Your Mind, Body And Spirit!
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A Bio Feedback Adventure Game For Enhanced Brain Function
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