Brain fog is exactly what it sounds like: feeling like you can’t think quite clearly, being unable to focus your attention or concentrate, struggling with memory, and other cognitive problems. Brain fog can make it difficult to work or meet your daily obligations — and it’s very difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t ever experienced it.
When patients come to Family Acupuncture and Wellness and describe brain fog to our experts, they aren’t surprised, particularly if the patient has an autoimmune disorder such as Hashimoto’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, or any of the other many known autoimmune disorders. People who have long covid may also deal with brain fog, along with other common autoimmune symptoms. We approach your health from a functional medicine perspective, seeking out the underlying issues causing symptoms like brain fog.
A new interest
People with autoimmune disorders historically haven’t gotten many answers from medical professionals when it comes to brain fog, although it can be a big problem. That may be changing due to the prevalence of long covid — the lingering symptoms that some people experience long after a covid infection is cleared.
A recent study found that people who have long covid are more likely to have markers associated with autoimmune disorders in their blood than people who get over infection in a short time or who never had covid. Researchers are continuing to study the issue, but it seems likely that inflammation plays a role in long covid.
The inflammation connection
Many autoimmune conditions are inflammatory. For example, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a condition that causes inflammation of the joints. People who have RA are advised to follow an anti-inflammatory diet, and may be prescribed anti-inflammatory medications or use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers.
Some of the more recent studies into long covid have looked at inflammation as the root cause of the brain fog so many experience. Some trials are even under way to examine whether or not anti-inflammatory drugs currently used to treat gout and lupus might help long covid patients.
The functional medicine approach
When we encounter a person with elevated inflammation, we work to understand why the inflammation exists and then work with you to treat that issue. Our team works closely with you to tailor a lifestyle that can help you feel better.
Some general guidelines for lowering inflammation include avoiding sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, along with highly processed packaged foods, limiting your consumption of red meat and alcohol, while eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Stress can be a contributor to inflammation as well, so taking steps to lower chronic stress can be important. Consider massage, acupuncture, and meditation. Schedule time for relaxation, and reduce the number of obligations you have.
Exercise can help lower stress, and is a good way to combat brain fog, too. Whether you choose to participate in a group activity or simply add a walk to your daily routine, moving your body intentionally improves both mental and physical health.
Finally, adequate, quality sleep is crucial in clearing brain fog — and contributes to lower stress. Working on sleep hygiene is challenging for many people, but can have a surprising positive effect on your health.
While general tips are fine, getting advice based on your medical history, current symptoms, lifestyle, and overall situation is far more useful. Functional medicine practitioners approach you as an individual and consider you as a whole person rather than a set of symptoms.
If you’re experiencing brain fog, schedule an appointment with Adam Learner, LAc, and his team at Family Acupuncture and Wellness to begin finding out why you’re struggling to think and what you might be able to do about it.