Diet and Brain Fog: What to Eat and What to Avoid

So you've been feeling a little "foggy" lately? Maybe you've forgotten where you put your keys again or can't remember when exactly that work project is due? Maybe your brain fog is so bad that you don't even know what day of the week it is!

If so, then it's time to take a look at what your eating because while diet is extremely important for overall health, its also a contributing factor to your brain fog.

So how does diet either improve or exacerbate brain fog?

You've heard the saying you are what you eat right? Well nothing could be more true when it comes to brain fog.

The foods that you eat don't just nourish you or give you pleasure, they have a powerful physiological effect on your body and mind. In fact, the hormones produced by your body in response to food or lack thereof have a powerful effect on your brain.

For example, gherlin is a hormone secreted by your empty stomach that tells your brain it's time to eat. It not only causes you to feel hungry,  it also promotes nerve cell changes in the brain that are positively associated with an increase in learning and memory formation.

Am I saying that you should stop eating completely to beat brain fog? Of course not, although the benefits of caloric restriction and fasting have been well documented ranging from a reduction in free radicals in the body, lowered cholesterol and triglycerides, and loss of body fat to an improvement in the function of the cells that create energy in your body [1].

But since this lesson is about food and brain fog, I'll leave fasting for another time.

Are there really foods that help improve brain fog?


But it would be amiss if I didn't mention the foods that contribute to brain fog.

Just as food can heal, it can also harm.

There are a number of foods that are negatively associated with brain fog. In this post, I'll cover the big 3:wheat and gluten products, dairy, and artificial sweeteners. But keep in mind that there are many other foods and chemicals that contribute to brain fog. Your naturopathic doctor will be a great resource in finding out your specific food triggers through a diet diary and food sensitivity testing.

Foods to avoid that contribute to brain fog:

1. Wheat and gluten products. 

           While many people who don't suffer from celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity believe that going gluten free is a popular fad, those of us with gluten sensitivity can attest to the benefit we get from cutting gluten out of our diet.

While your primary care health provider might not recognize the harmful effects of gluten on your cognition, scientific research certainly has. 

People who react negatively to gluten but have not been diagnosed with celiac disease are said to have non celiac gluten sensitivity. Symptoms of non celiac gluten sensitivity include headache, abdominal pain, an imbalance in gut flora, constipation and/or diarrhea, and of course brain fog. 

In fact, gluten sensitivity has even been linked to recurrent miscarriages and skin disorders like psoriasis [2, 3].

There is a debate among two schools of thought when it comes to the reason so many people are reacting to gluten (seemingly) so suddenly. Some say that the wheat that we eat now is not the same that our ancestors ate, and that it had been bred to have more gluten which causes problems in the gastrointestinal tract.

This school of though focuses on the wheat and gluten protein itself.

Gluten is a mixture of two proteins (gliadin and glutenin) found in wheat. Gliadin helps bread rise during baking while glutenin is responsible for the chewy texture of many wheat products that you love.

Gluten has been found to increase a protein in the intestines called zonulin. High levels of zonulin can cause the cells of the intestinal barrier to open and let large food molecules and undigested proteins into the bloodstream.

While the body does allow for smaller digested food particles to get into the blood stream, high levels of zonulin amplify this process. When larger proteins get into the blood stream, this can cause havoc for the body leading to the anything from symptoms of non celiac gluten sensitivity to autoimmune disease and