While dementia is the most serious, life-altering form of memory loss, it’s not the only condition that can cause gaps in your cognition. “Brain fog” occurs when you cannot think clearly, when you cannot concentrate or multitask, or when you lose short-term and long-term memory. Sometimes brain fog is associated with more serious dementia; for example, people with early Alzheimer’s disease often have brain fog.
It also commonly occurs in autism-spectrum disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. However, in my experience, brain fog can happen to anyone, even without an underlying condition. While we do not know for certain what causes brain fog, researchers believe that it is due to excessive brain inflammation.
Much like other conditions we’ve seen, brain fog is most efficiently alleviated by the kind of basic, whole-foods-oriented diet. I recommend following a diet similar to the Mediterranean eating pattern or the MIND diet. Beyond those basics of diet, here are some tips on how to eat in order to fight that inflammation and restore sharp thinking and decision-making.
Luteolin: In 2015, Theoharis Theoharides and his colleagues showed that luteolin, a type of flavonoid, has numerous neuroprotective properties that decrease brain fog. As an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, this substance prevents toxic destruction of nerve cells in the brain. Foods that contain luteolin include juniper berries, fresh peppermint, sage, thyme, hot and sweet peppers, radicchio, celery seeds, parsley, and artichokes.
Oregano is also one of the best sources of luteolin, but you should buy dried Mexican oregano. While fresh oregano contains roughly 1 mg/100 g of luteolin, dried Mexican oregano contains 1,028 mg/100 g. Probiotics are not always helpful: Since probiotics are all the rage, you might understandably think they are always good for you, with no exceptions.
However, in 2018, Satish Rao and his colleagues found that regular use of probiotics was associated with slower digestion, which led to brain fog. If you’re taking a probiotic and finding your thoughts sluggish, consider switching supplements (since every gut is unique and the effects of different supplements vary from person to person) or, better yet, getting your probiotics from dietary sources like yogurt with active cultures.
Gluten: In 2018, Lucy Harper and her colleague Justine Bold showed that gluten can cause brain fog. After consuming gluten, some people find themselves thinking less clearly and wanting to sleep all day. If you are suffering from brain fog, cut out gluten to see if you improve. It may turn out that you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Phosphatidylserine (PS): PS is required for healthy nerve cell membranes and coverings, and its protective effects can prevent brain fog. In 2010, Akito Kato-Kataoka explained that six months of soybean-derived PS improved memory function in elderly Japanese adults. PS is available in supplement form, but it’s also present in soybeans. PS isn’t very common otherwise, but you can try including white beans, eggs, and dairy products in your diet.
Citicoline: While it may be tough to figure out on your own what the cause of your brain fog may be, studies show that if your brain fog is due to acetylcholine and dopamine depletion, you can consider eating citicoline in foods such as beef liver and egg yolks.