What Causes Brain Fog | A Functional Medicine Approach

by Dr. Kilcup | Jun 1, 2018 | Articles, Digestive Health, Mental Health | 1 comment

What Causes Brain Fog | A Functional Medicine Approach

What Causes Brain Fog?

If you’ve ever suffered with brain fog you’ve probably thought, “What causes brain fog?” That is, if you were able to think! I see a lot of patients who suffer from what they described as brain fog. Generally people describe brain fog as one or a combination of these:

  • mental confusion
  • lack of mental clarity
  • feeling spacey
  • forgetful
  • trouble thinking
  • trouble concentrating
  • trouble focusing

Brain fog can make getting through the day almost impossible. I’ve had patients in tears telling me that they just want to get their mind back. The good news is that brain fog isn’t something that you just need to learn to live with. Here is where I look for the causes of brain fog.

What Causes Brain Fog | Intestinal Problems

The connection between your gut and brain is amazing.  In fact the gut is referred to as the second brain. This connection goes both ways, so the brain can affect the gut and vice versa. The things that can go wrong in the intestines that can affect the brain are:

  • Dysbiosis.  Dysbiosis is when the bacteria in the gut are not in the right proportions. Having the right bacteria in the proper balance is key to a healthy gut and brain. That’s right. The bacteria in the intestines affects the brain. 1
  • Leaky Gut Syndrome. When the intestinal tract becomes damaged it can “leak” toxins into the bloodstream. Many of these toxins can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause inflammation in the brain leading to brain fog. 2

Testing will uncover anything wrong in the intestinal tract. Once we know what is wrong, fixing the problems is straight forward.

What Causes Brain Fog | Blood Sugar

The brain needs lots of energy in order to work well. If the body is running low on fuel the brain will start to slow down and result in brain fog. Sometimes the blood sugar is low because the patient simply doesn’t eat enough, but sometimes it’s because the patient eats too much sugar! When a person eats a lot of sugar on a regular basis the body’s ability to get sugar into the cell breaks down, resulting brain cells that do not have fuel. This problem is called insulin resistance, and if allowed to continue will lead to type 2 diabetes.

Routine blood testing will discover this problem. Sometimes more advanced functional medicine testing is needed if there is insulin resistance. Diet, lifestyle and often specific nutrients are needed to fix this.

What Causes Brain Fog | Heavy Metals

The most common type of toxin I see causing brain fog in my patients is heavy metals. Mercury, lead, cadmium and/or aluminum toxicity can easily cause brain fog. These toxins are extremely harmful to nerve cells. If a person has toxic levels of heavy metals, nothing will help their brain fog until the toxins are removed.

What Causes Brain Fog | Hormones

Imbalances in thyroid, male, female, and/or adrenal hormones and/or melatonin  can cause brain fog. Imbalanced hormones cause  inflammation in the brain, which will always lead to brain fog. Furthermore when there are hormone imbalances, it means something else is not working which is causing the imbalance. The most common cause of hormone imbalances is dysfunctional detoxification. If the body cannot get rid of toxins (and old used hormones) toxicity of all kinds build up in the body, and that will cause brain fog as well as other issues.

What Causes Brain Fog | Sleep

Just ask any new mom if they have brain fog! Good sleep is critical for proper brain function. When you sleep your body focuses on healing, detoxification and fighting infections. Without sleep the brain can become more inflamed. We need to get enough good sleep. Problems related to poor sleep are low melatonin and sleep apnea.

What Causes Brain Fog | Mold

For some people mold will make their brain fog out completely. People susceptible to mold cannot detoxify the mold toxins, and as a result the toxins build up in their system. Mold toxins are extremely inflammatory, and as you know by now, that means brain fog!

What Causes Brain Fog | Lyme Disease

Similarly to mold, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease produces very inflammatory toxins and some people can’t get rid of these toxins. Additionally the bacteria can infect the brain. This kind of brain fog is extreme and can also be associated with psychotic symptoms. Sometimes Lyme patients really feel like they are going crazy.

What Causes Brain Fog | Infections

Fungal pathogens like candida, viral pathogens like Epstein Barr, and bacterial pathogens like the kind we find in the gut can all cause brain fog. These tend to be more of the chronic type of infections. So a person with one of more of these infections may have had them for months or even years. They just trudge through life. These infections cause inflammation, and as you know this will cause brain fog.

What Causes Brain Fog | A Functional Medicine Approach

I hope you can see by now just how important it is to find the root of brain fog. Functional medicine first looks for the cause (or in many cases, causes) of brain fog. This problem can be caused be so many things, a comprehensive history and testing are crucial to resolving this problem. We have helped many patients get rid of not only their brain fog but also the underlying issues causing it.

If you have any questions or comments please use this comment portion below.

If you would like to get to the root of your brain fog and live in the US we can help you!

Show 2 Footnotes

  1. https://stm.sciencemag.org/content/6/263/263ra158.short
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604320/

Darrell Kilcup, DC, CFMP

Hi there! I’m Dr. Kilcup. You know that health problem you’ve been dealing with – the one that doctors can’t seem to solve, that’s stealing way too much of your time, energy and joy? I can help you get to the bottom that. I am passionate about using the best of science and nutrition to find and fix root causes of health issues. Start your journey towards healing and relief today.

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