One of the scariest brain fog episodes I found myself in, happened about ten years ago. I was in a mall and casually going from store to store, when I realized I couldn’t remember why I had gone there. Now that’s not uncommon. I could have easily rationalized it by saying: “Well I’m just browsing around the mall”. However, it continued to happen. For example, I would be standing in the kitchen trying to remember a recipe that I’d used hundreds of time. I started asking around, to see if others were experiencing anything like this.
I found that “Brain fog” is happening to more and more of us. If it happens once, you can laugh it off. But when it starts to happen with some regularity, you start to wonder: “What’s happening to me?”
Do you find yourself making notes because you don’t trust your memory?
In order to deal with my memory issues, I began making notes, because I didn’t trust my memory to remember simple things like my grocery list? That wasn’t a big deal, because people make grocery lists all the time. But I began making notes about everything. And then I would forget to look at my notes. It was crazy.
Then I noticed I would be in the middle of a sentence and forget what I was trying to say. I’ve heard other people joking about that.
Another symptom of “brain fog” is difficulty thinking clearly. Brain fog shows itself when you are struggling to remember things that you have normally had no problem recalling, common words and phrases, names of people, movies, songs, that you know you know, but you can’t recall. These memory lapses can leave you wondering “why am I having so many misses, when I’m trying to say something?” It can really undermine your self-confidence.
What is causing these memory lapses in so many people?
These incidents are happening more and more often, to younger and younger people. Fortunately, in most cases we need look no further than our diet. And that should be where you begin, because if you can correct it with diet, you won’t have to go to a doctor.
What does diet have to do with “Brain Fog”?
The brain is made up of 63% fat. You can see how that might pose a dilemma for those who are trying to limit fat intake in order to lose weight. How do you keep your brain healthy and alert, if you avoid foods with fat in them? You’re starving your brain. If you try to eliminate all fat from your diet in an effort to lose weight, your brain will not function properly.
Good Fats vs. Bad Fats
The problem with fats is that people don’t understand the difference between “good” and “bad” fats. Yes there are fats which don’t make you fat. So, it looks like the body needs certain “good” fats to maintain normal functioning.
The bad fats are called trans-fats – which is another name for “unsaturated” fats, that are man-made through a process called “hydrogenation”. You might recall seeing “hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated margarines” advertised as the answer to lowering cholesterol. Now we know they do the very opposite, they increase cholesterol. The “hydrogenation” process is used to make oils solid so they are spreadable, and have longer shelf life. It’s good business practice, but it doesn’t work for our health.
For years the term “unsaturated” has been associated with these “trans-fats”, because they take “unsaturated” fats and transform them into solids at room temperature, so they can delay rancidity. These man-made unsaturated fats are bad for the human body. True “unsaturated fats” are good for you, and you need to know the difference.
Which Foods Contain Good “unsaturated fats”?
The body needs “unsaturated fats” from fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, olives.
Other good choices are:
Flax seeds and Flax seed oil
Peanuts and Peanut butter (without added hydrogenated oils or sugar)
Olives and Olive oil
What happens to food when it is “hydrogenated”?
The process involves changing the nature of “saturated fats” and fatty acids which are digestible, and turning them into “unsaturated fats” which are not digestible. The body sees them as foreign substances which it doesn’t know what to do with. So it stores them wherever it can. And that is the beginning of health problems.
Take margarine for example, “hydrogenation” transforms liquid oil (which is the natural state of margarine), into a plastic fat – so it becomes a semi-solid, or solid texture at room temperature. Besides increasing the shelf-life of lard, shortening, and margarine, it also gives them a pleasing texture or ‘mouth feel’, as marketers call it. Nickel – a known carcinogen and aluminum – with a strong association to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, are used in the hydrogenation process to speed up the process. You can see how these products might also contain residues of these chemicals.
The Worse Culprits are Trans Fats
Trans-fats, which we now know, are actually worse than the saturated fats found in butter, are found in partially hydrogenated oils. In fact, they actually have no nutritional value at all. So now the question to ask is: Why are we buying these products?
Nutritionist and researcher on trans fatty acids, Dr. Mary Enig states that in comparison with margarine, butter is nutritious, “rich in short and medium chain fatty acids” and contrary to what doctors had originally thought, has a positive effect on health in preventing disease. Saturated fats are naturally present in oils, butter and cheeses. This is what our digestive system is ready for. And it’s looking for that. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butter
How Did We End Up With This Problem?
When the advertising campaigns for margarine came out on television and in the magazines, high cholesterol was the big health issue doctors were talking about. Patients were being told they had to lower their cholesterol. Margarine was sold as a healthy alternative to butter, with the assurance that it would lower cholesterol. People, seeking alternatives to protect their health, switched to these shortenings, margarines and lards, and they became a staple in baking. That’s when margarine landed on the kitchen table.
The Rise of Coronary Artery Disease
Now we know that partially hydrogenated margarines not only raise the bad cholesterol (LDL) but they lower the good cholesterol (HDL), and trans-fats contribute to coronary artery disease, because they trigger the build up of sticky plaque along artery walls in the human body. When the arteries get clogged, strokes and heart attacks can result. Today, coronary artery disease – the most common type of heart disease, is the leading cause of death in the US in both men and women. Source: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/coronaryarterydisease.html
In What Foods Are Trans Fats Found?
They are used in most fast foods, both in the cooking oils and in the coatings and flavorings, as well as in snack foods like chips, fried foods like french fries, and most baked goods. Few people are aware that they are eating trans fats, because most people don’t read the information on packaging, or even think about how the foods they are eating are being cooked at restaurants and take-outs.
After a number of years of eating trans fats in margarines, and the many commercial goodies we love, we can end up with clogged arteries. Plaque deposits along the walls of the arteries, are like little time bombs that can break off, travel to the brain and cause havoc. At that point, the infamous brain-fog becomes the least of your worries.
So How Does Brain-Fog Figure in All of This?
Brain fog is the canary in the coal mine. If you have it, then you are being sent a strong warning signal, and you still have time to take action to stop it. The effects of eating foods containing trans-fats are cumulative. You either gradually, or in some cases quickly, notice the decline in your ability to think clearly and to process information. Depending on your genetic makeup, different diseases can develop in the body. What’s more, none of these illnesses are directly traceable back to any particular product you might be eating.
Cancer, heart disease, diabetes are the “Big Three“, but issues with digestion also crop up to alert us. Irritable bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome and a host of nasty intestinal disorders have developed over the past few decades. As a society, we have been compromising our health for years, because this information is not easily available. Even in Medical School, the doctors get only one course in Nutrition. Therefore, we have to make the effort to look for it, to become aware of how processed food is affecting us.
Get Me Out of Here
Ok, so if I stop eating all the bad stuff, what can I eat that will get my brain working right again?
One of the biggest breakthroughs I have seen is Dr. Mary Newport’s research on Alzheimer’s. What she has found that works for dementia, is I believe applicable to those suffering from brain fog. She recommends taking 3-7 tablespoons of pure-virgin coconut oil each day. For more on this see: Coconut Oil – A Real Breakthrough for Treating Alzheimer’s.
10 Foods That Feed the Brain
Here are some alternatives to get you started.
1) Dark chocolate 70% or more. Bitter chocolate is the best. Avoid milk chocolate.
2) You can also use the superfood “Cacao Powder” in smoothies, and your own home-made desserts.
3) Ground flax and flax seed oil that is cold pressed will nourish your brain.
4) Fish oil is great, especially krill oil – 1 tablespoon each day.
5) Eat small fish which have the least toxins in them: anchovies, sardines, herring.
6) Choose “Wild” salmon over “farmed” salmon to feed your brain.
7) Pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and wheat germ are brain foods.
8) Acai berries and blueberries are superfoods for the brain.
9) Matcha Green tea – a finely ground lime green brew, made from the very top part of the green tea plant, stone-ground, and prepared according to an ancient Japanese tradition, is one of the best brain foods.
10) Good news for coffee drinkers. Espresso-grade coffee is the best. Not the cappuccinos, or lattes, or the cheap, poor quality regular coffees. It makes sense too, espresso is closer to the natural coffee bean than the flavored coffees that are marketed for our pleasure.
After you have done all of the above, at this point, it’s good to consider getting a good supplement. Phosphatidyl Serine is the one needed for brain function. Two of the best supplements that I have found are:
Natural Factors PS IQ Memory
This formula contains essential fatty acids that work synergistically with Phosphatidyl Serine (PS) to optimize your brain function. You also get the benefits of fish oil with DHA, EPA and Gamma-Linoleic Acid and Cis-Linoleic Acid in Evening Primrose Oil. Plus Vitamin E is added to naturally preserve the precious oils.
It comes in liquid 25mg softgels which are easy to digest and have no aftertaste. The label shows the actual amount of pure PS delivered in each capsule.
Natural Factors Phosphatidylserine
This formula comes in 100 mg softgels, also contains naturally occurring co-factors: phosphatidylcholine – the nutrient precursor to acetylcholine, the brain chemical involved in both memory and thinking, phosphatidylinositol, and phosphatidylethanolamine, which support memory, learning and mental focus important factors in cognitive decline, due to diet and stress. These nutrients enhance the connection between synapses in the brain, so we don’t have those memory lapses or gaps anymore.
I take both of these supplements, along with watching my diet, exercising and staying hydrated. This has really worked for me. I rarely have mental lapses and my memory is strong and reliable. These are the only supplements I would recommend, because I know from experience that they work.
If you want to take care of your brain, read the ingredients on the labels of the processed foods you buy.
Avoid anything with “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on it. My solution is to make most of my meals from scratch: home-made juices, desserts, smoothies, breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
Avoid processed snacks, take-out and fried foods. If you eat a lot of take-out, and buy prepared, ready-to-eat, convenience foods like cookies, ice cream, cakes, spreads, dips, burgers, chicken, and many other “yummies”, it’s likely you are coming into contact with “hydrogenated” ingredients, or are eating foods cooked in hydrogenated oils.
Remember: With processed foods, we can’t be sure anymore, just from reading the labels, that they have no hydrogenated or trans fats in them. That’s why it’s best to avoid processed foods, whenever you can.
A few years ago the government tried to crack down on trans fats, by ordering manufacturers to remove it from their foods. But it was too entrenched in the manufacturing process. Manufacturers balked and the government caved.
Now the situation exists where manufacturers are actually allowed by government to have 2% of trans fats in their products without having to declare it on the packaging! The USDA policy says that food manufacturers can use it in food processing without even putting it on the label – if it’s not considered “a significant amount“.
So in the end, who determines what a “significant amount” is? You. That means you need your brain to stay healthy, because you have watch what you eat to feed your brain. Your brain is only as good as the fuel you give it. Stay alert and stay well. Avoid brain fog.