Episode 96 – 3 Reasons You Have Brain Fog

by | May 15, 2019 | Podcast | 0 comments

Hey there, and welcome back — it’s WELLthy Wednesday, which means I’ve got another episode for you!

I got some amazing feedback from last week’s video, so if you haven’t had a chance to catch it yet, be sure to set aside 10 minutes of your day to watch it on YouTube or IGTV or listen to it on your favorite podcasting platform.

Last week, we talked about how brain fog affects our productivity and how typical approaches aren’t really helping but actually worsening the core issue of inflammation — the good news, is that today I’m going to be chatting all about the three core issues that are likely contributing to your brain fog, and how you can start to address them.

Links + Resources from this Episode:

Meet Your Host:

Michelle Rogers, ND, MSAOM, FDN-P

Over the past several years, I’ve created the most accessible, streamlined and effective virtual practice working with high-achieving women entrepreneurs, go-getters, and other badass women all over the world.

I intentionally blend my background of Functional, Naturopathic, and East Asian Medicine with my extensive experience in the online business world to help provide my clients with the personalized blueprint and strategy they need to get the mental focus, energy and business strategy required to share their gifts, better serve their clients and show up even more for the people they love.

Hey there, and welcome back — it’s WELLthy Wednesday, which means I’ve got another episode for you!

I got some amazing feedback from last week’s video, so if you haven’t had a chance to catch it yet, be sure to set aside 10 minutes of your day to watch it on YouTube or IGTV or listen to it on your favorite podcasting platform.

Last week, we talked about how brain fog affects our productivity and how typical approaches aren’t really helping but actually worsening the core issue of inflammation — the good news, is that today I’m going to be chatting all about the three core issues that are likely contributing to your brain fog, and how you can start to address them.

So, I mentioned that the main root cause of brain fog is inflammation, but this term is thrown around SO much that it’s become pretty diluted, right?

I mean, what IS inflammation?

Inflammation isn’t all bad, just like all stress isn’t bad, right? We need the inflammatory response for things like acute injuries to help protect us from infection, but chronic low-grade inflammation leads to issues around cell-to-cell communication, blood sugar imbalances, impaired detox pathways, altered enzyme activity and an overactive and confused immune system, which can lead to things like autoimmunity if left unchecked.

So, let’s talk inflammation and brain fog.

The three main sources of inflammation are poor gut health, toxicity and stress, so we’ll be covering the WHY behind all three of these today.

Let’s start with gut health — and first, if you haven’t checked out episode 83 of the podcast, definitely do that, because it goes into WAY more depth around gut health and my approach to healing it.

Now, you’ve probably heard the term leaky gut — or intestinal permeability, but you might not know exactly what that means, so basically our gut lining is only 1 cell thick, and these cells are held and stuck together by tight junctions that help filter what’s allowed through that lining — so, ideally, good things like nutrients — while, at the same time, blocking the things that shouldn’t be passing through — so things like pathogens, undigested food particles and toxins.

BUT, when we have chronic inflammation along the GI tract, that delicate 1-cell-thick lining, starts to have some issues. The tight junctions that are meant to keep those cells REALLY SUPER close together start to malfunction and get loose and those particles that shouldn’t be passing through — the pathogens, undigested food particles and toxins — end up entering our blood stream, which ends up causing MORE inflammation.

This is exactly what’s happening with multiple food sensitivities, and why so many people think they’re reactive to everything they eat — because they are LITERALLY reacting to everything that passes by that leaky gut lining. It can be crazy frustrating, when you’re attempting to avoid all the “bad” foods, but still experiencing gas, bloating, brain fog, acne and SO many other symptoms that are associated with it.

Removing reactive foods TEMPORARILY is definitely ONE step towards healing leaky gut, but you also have to include targeted nutrients to heal the cell lining and use specific herbal antimicrobials and probiotics to create a healthy gut environment, so that you can eventually reintroduce those foods you removed.

Make sense?

So, typically, when I suspect, or better yet TEST for leaky gut — which I do through the comprehensive stool analysis I run — when that test is positive, it’s also pretty safe to say that you have LEAKY BRAIN, because the same protein that’s being measured, called zonulin, is the same protein that contributes to leaky brain.

With leaky brain, instead of talking about the single-cell gut lining, we’re talking about leakiness of the blood-brain barrier.

When we have chronic inflammation, certain molecules increase, which contribute to microscopic gaps in these barriers, which is what allows unwanted particles to pass through.

And these unwelcomed particles, end up causing a protective reaction — which means inflammation in the brain — also known as… brain fog.

Going back to leaky gut, for a moment, another commonly overlooked aspect is that, when we have leaky gut, we’re also not absorbing and processing nutrients as well as we could, so we’re not getting all the building blocks we need for things like hormones and neurotransmitters and certain enzymes, so that’s a huge player in nutrient deficiencies, and when we don’t have adequate nutrients available, our body and brain can’t function optimally.

Alright, so does that help you understand the role of gut health and brain fog? Put a YES in the comments below, if that made sense — if not, let me know what questions you have, and I’ll circle back and answer them.

Okay, moving on to toxicity — so, like I mentioned, leaky gut can mean that our body is allowing certain toxic particles to cross our gut lining and likely our blood brain barrier, BUT there’s also toxins that enter our bloodstream through our lungs, our skin and even toxins that are being released and recirculated just as a result of normal cellular metabolism.

So, if our detox pathways are clogged or sluggish, then we can have a build up of toxicity in our system, which increases our overall inflammatory level, because our body is constantly fighting to package up and move out these toxins from the body.

By the way, I’m not at all saying this stuff to scare you — YES, toxicity is a BIG deal, but we can’t and shouldn’t try to avoid toxins altogether — that would just lead to some crazy neuroticism that I don’t want to perpetuate, SO let’s focus on what we CAN do.

To decrease the toxic load that enters our mouth, I highly recommend choosing organic foods, whenever possible, along with pastured meats and eggs. If you can’t find or purchase all organic foods, check out the environmental working group — they have some great resources, including the dirty dozen and clean fifteen, which are some guides you can use to make informed choices. I’ll link to those resources in the notes.

It’s also important to consider the type of water you’re drinking — personally, I stick to spring water or water from my berkey filter. I never drink tap water, because it’s almost always treated with chlorine and other chemicals along with fluoride in most major cities.

I’m not here to have a debate about fluoride, but I will say that nothing I’ve read in the medical literature has convinced me that it’s beneficial for ANY aspect of health, including our teeth.

To decrease toxins absorbed through our skin, I always first want to think about what is coming in contact with my skin — so clothes — think laundry detergents, fabric softeners, things like that — lotions, perfumes, shampoos, conditioners, cleansers, soaps, makeup — all that kind of stuff. Unfortunately, there are a LOT of products that have really toxic ingredients, so just be informed and aware of what you’re purchasing.

Again, the environmental working group has a great resource called skin deep, where you can enter your products and see how they measure up. I’ll link to that resource in the notes.

To decrease toxins coming in through our lungs, of course, we want to think about simple adjustments like standing up-wind when we’re filling up our gas tank, not jogging or bicycling on busy streets where you’re being exposed to a lot of car exhaust, and of course, getting out into nature, whenever possible.

BUT, I also think about indoor air quality, which has actually been shown to be much more toxic than outdoor air quality in a lot of homes. Off-gassing from furniture, fire-retardants, mold spores, toxic chemicals and compounds that are brought in from our shoes… things like that.

Personally, I love opening windows and turning on gentle fans whenever possible, I also try to take off my shoes at the front door and put on my slippies. If you suspect you have mold, that’s definitely worth checking into — I’m not going to get into details here, but there are resources where you can get a professional inspection and report, so you know what kind of molds you’re dealing with.

And finally, toxins circulating in the body need to be processed through our liver and kidneys, so we just need to make sure that our body is getting adequate nutrients — gut health — that you’re eliminating efficiently — gut health — AND that you’re breathing well, because our lungs are not just a way for toxins to get in, but they’re also a way for our body to release toxins.

Alright, let’s move on and chat about STRESS!

Stress definitely leads to inflammation, but it also contributes to brain fog in a REALLY interesting way, which I’ll touch on in just a minute.

But first, the inflammation piece  — chronic stress comes at us from ALL directions and it can be real, perceived or imagined.

We get it physically from our crappy posture, poor gut health, toxic overload and excessive exercise — mentally from our drive to be independent, our aim for perfectionism, our daily distractions and giving too much credit to other people’s opinions — emotionally from being a chronic people pleaser, our inner critic, negative thought loops and limiting beliefs — and spiritually from not prioritizing self-reflection, our connection to nature and nurturing our communication with source.

These are just a FEW of the sources of stress that we come into contact with, but most of us are SO used to these stressors that we’ve become numb to the fact that it has taken over our life.

Being in a constant state of fight, flight or freeze releases and constant stream of cortisol, our main stress hormone, which suppresses functions that are basically non-essential in an emergency situation.

So, it suppresses our digestion and immune function, while also jacking up our blood sugar for our supposed need for energy. Our body is acting as if it’s under attack — like it’s under constant threat — and what’s the body’s natural response to a threat?

INFLAMMATION!

Right… if we think about a foreign invader, like a bacteria or virus or even cancer — our body should mount a response, deal with it, and be done. BUT, when we’re in a constant state of stress, these inflammatory chemicals — released by the immune system — get upregulated and remain circulating in our body, and over a period of time, they can become overactive and confused… this is what leads to autoimmune conditions.

This is a huge deal, because a lot of times we ignore the initial symptoms — or signals from your body — and keep going until we burnout or we get a crazy diagnosis that scares us enough to reach out for help.

And unfortunately, most of the conventional medical community will only “help” you when you’re sick enough to have a diagnosis that allows them to prescribe something.

And as most of us know, even that prescription isn’t necessarily going to solve the issue — many times, it actually makes the situation worse.

This is where functional and naturopathic medicine shine! When we address the root cause, or causes, we’re able to effectively address these issues BEFORE the conventional medical system even acknowledges that they exist.

I always say this, but don’t ignore the symptoms — they are signals from your body that something is off. Listen, pay attention and ask for help.

Alright, so all this inflammation contributes to brain fog, right?! BUT in addition to the inflammation, constant stress actually shunts blood from our forebrain — where our executive functions come from — so things like working memory, cognitive flexibility, problem-solving, regulating emotions, focus and impulse-control — to our hindbrain which is more reflexive and reactive.

So, we end up not being able to make decisions, we’re easily distracted, our creativity is blocked, we can feel emotionally unstable and we succumb to impulsive behavior, whether that be reaching for that sweet treat, caffeine or alcohol, like I mentioned in last week’s episode OR just making rash choices that haven’t been fully thought out.

That’s a big deal, when you realize that the majority of the population — at least in the U.S. is operating from this level of consciousness.

So, to re-emphasize, your brain isn’t broken, at least not permanently, BUT fixing your brain starts with fixing your body — it just needs the right information and instructions to get there.

So, here’s your homework for this week —

  1. Start paying attention to how you feel after meals — do you get bloated? Do you feel like you need a nap? Does your brain fog get worse? Are you energized? These can tell you whether or not your gut health needs some attention.
  2. Download my Low-Toxicity Living Guide, which will walk you through a bunch of ways you can decrease your overall toxic load. This guide is like 10 pages, so don’t get overwhelmed, but just take it one step at a time — you don’t have to do everything all at once.
  3. Evaluate your level of stress and where it might be affecting you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Once you start identifying those areas, what are some ways you can remove those stressors or at least minimize them — if you need help with this, please reach out.

Alright, so tune in next week for WELLthy Wednesday, where I’m going to be talking about lifestyle hacks, nutrition, supplements and some of my favorite tools and resources that have helped me beat brain fog.  

If you liked this video, please click the like button, share it with someone you love and be sure to subscribe and click that little bell to make sure you don’t miss next week’s episode.  

Also, if you’re feeling drawn to work together, I encourage you to check out my WELLth Activation program at wellthywoman.co/activation.

Otherwise, thanks for tuning in, and I’ll see you next week!

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