What’s Behind Your Brain Fog and How to Banish It
January 5th, 2018
“I feel like I’m in a fog, and that my brain isn’t as sharp as it used to be.”
“It’s a struggle to concentrate and stay focused, and I’m not able to think through problems.”
“Managing things like my children’s schedule or planning a family trip suddenly seem overwhelming and impossible.”
“I can’t seem to remember things anymore. I meet someone and I instantly forget their name, I can’t remember where I put my car keys, or I make dinner plans with a friend and then I can’t remember what time we agreed upon.”
I hear these complaints from my patients all the time and I instantly feel for them. It can be incredibly frustrating and even frightening to feel as if you’re losing your edge, and to struggle to do things that used to be simple. My older patients even wonder if they’re becoming senile or are in the early stages of dementia. Brain fog is one of the most common complaints I hear in my clinic.
Fortunately, there is often a very simple and treatable underlying cause of brain fog. And it is lurking somewhere you might not think to look – your gut!
In the vast majority of patients I see who are dealing with brain fog, their symptoms are all caused by a gut infection called yeast overgrowth, commonly referred to as Candida overgrowth. And once their Candida overgrowth is eliminated their brain fog clears, their memory improves, and they feel as sharp as ever.
So let’s talk about what Candida is, why it leaves you in a fog, and how you can eliminate it and get back to feeling like yourself again!
What is Candida Overgrowth?
Candida is a type of yeast, which is a form of fungus. There are actually many different types of yeast that can take up residence in your body, however, Candida albicans (Candida for short) is the most common and studied form of yeast. Most people refer to all types of yeast overgrowth simply as Candida overgrowth, which is what I’ll be doing in this article.
A very small amount of Candida naturally lives in your mouth and intestines to help with digestion and nutrient absorption. Typically the good bacteria in your gut, as well as your immune system, keep it in check.
However, the Candida population can get out of hand if a round of antibiotics kill off too many of those good bacteria, you have a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar (which feed the yeast), high alcohol intake, are taking oral contraceptives, are pregnant or have estrogen dominance or any number of other factors including a high-stress lifestyle.
The Candida is then able to multiply unchecked, wreaking havoc on your digestion, breaking down the lining of your intestine and potentially leading to leaky gut, and releasing toxic byproducts into your bloodstream.
This can cause a whole host of symptoms, including gas, bloating, skin issues such as eczema and dandruff, nail fungus, mood swings, anxiety, and depression, itching in your ears, genitals, and anus, and more.
However, the most common symptom I see in my Candida patients is brain fog. So let’s dig into how an overgrowth in your gut could lead to such a frustrating symptom in your brain.
How Does Candida Lead to Brain Fog?
The Candida that has now colonized your gut lives off of sugar, fermenting it to produce energy. This is why another common sign of Candida overgrowth is intense sugar cravings.
This fermentation process produces a number of chemical byproducts, many of which are toxic to you. Two of these chemicals in particular, alcohol and acetaldehyde, are directly toxic to your nervous system and to your brain.
When Candida is kept in check by your good bacteria and immune system, your liver is able to properly process these chemicals and clear them from your body. However, if Candida grows out of control, your liver isn’t able to process and clear all of the toxins from your liver and they build up in your bloodstream and can travel to your brain.
Here are a few of the ways acetaldehyde impairs cognitive function and causes brain fog:
- Reduces the amount of oxygen carried by red blood cells to your brain1
- Causes a deficiency in vitamin B1, which plays a critical role in brain function2
- Damages nerve cells in a similar way to chronic alcoholism or Alzheimer’s3