You Should Know

October 2016 Issue

Brain Fog and Diet

While there is little science connecting diet and brain fog, some strategies may help symptoms.

There is no technical definition for brain fog, but the symptoms are often described as difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, fatigue, reduced mental acuity, and a feeling of ‘haziness’ around cognition. Though there is limited research on the relationship between brain fog and diet, we do know there are many nutrients involved with brain health and cognition, including B-vitamins, fatty acids, vitamin E, iron, and zinc, among others. These nutrition tips may help address symptoms.

1. Check for Food Intolerance

Sensitivity to a food could cause symptoms described as brain fog (see “Getting to the Bottom of Food Sensitivities” in this issue).

2. Get Enough Iron

The most common nutrient deficiency in the world is iron-deficiency anemia and one of the symptoms is fatigue. Iron is found in a variety of animal foods, such as meat, poultry, and seafood; and in plant foods, such as dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, and beans.

3. Get All of Your B-Vitamins

Most are found in whole and fortified grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Vitamin B12 sources are meat, dairy, eggs, and fortified meat alternatives and plant-milks. Older adults should consider a supplement, as absorption can decrease with age.

4. Consume Antioxidants

Limited evidence suggests that flavonoid compounds found in plant foods, especially luteolin, found in celery, broccoli, and green bell peppers, may improve symptoms.

5. Eat Enough, But Not Too Much

The brain needs fuel to function, and going too long without food can negatively impact mental acuity. On the other hand, overeating can lead to fatigue as the body shifts focus to digestion. That “afternoon lull” is often a result of overeating at lunch.

6. Even Out Caffeine Intake

Caffeine-containing beverages are very popular with adults and too much—or too little if regular intake is high—can affect mental acuity. Taking a “caffeine break” is a potential tactic for addressing brain fog. Reducing caffeine slowly can reduce caffeine-withdrawal symptoms.

7. Get Enough Sleep

We are notoriously tired, and lack of sleep can contribute to feelings of fogginess and poor cognition. If consuming caffeine, consider limiting how late in the day it is consumed to improve sleep.

8. Limit Stress

Even small amounts of continual stress can impact cognition and energy levels. Yoga, exercise, planned fun activities, and regular application of stress-reduction techniques can help improve mental clarity.