The purpose of this blog post is to help you understand how neuroinflammation contributes to your recurrent and chronic symptoms of brain fog. By the end of this article, you will understand the best treatment for brain fog symptoms and the underlying neuroinflammation that drives those symptoms.

Brain fog can have a variety of symptoms that include cognitive fatigue, inability to focus or concentrate, and, problems with short-term memory. People tend to use the term brain fog to describe milder forms and much more severe versions that in many cases meet the criteria for Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).

One of the biggest drivers of cognitive problems and symptoms of brain fog is this insulin surge.

Another sign that your cell energetics is not right, is if you find that after you eat your cognitive function improves from what it was. This means that you may have been a little bit hypoglycemic. Your brain energy should be able to stay stable because if your glucose levels go down, your body should be flexible and shift to burning your own body fat to make fatty acids and ketones to fuel brain function. If your insulin levels are chronically high, it means you are more likely to get inconsistent levels of brain energy from glucose as a fuel supply and that the chronically high insulin levels that occur make it impossible for you to access those fat stores.

After you eat,  you should not be getting changes in your energy. You should be getting a nice alleviation of the sense of being hungry. If anything different than that is happening, it is your symptom that your brain needs your help. It needs you to pay attention and begin to fix the broken metabolism going on that is putting its function at risk.

Brains are NOT OK with inadequate energy. You are going to get brain fog and early neurodegenerative aging processes that will slowly (or not so slowly) steal your brain function away from you.

Problems with energy dynamics and disordered metabolisms driven by insulin resistance are just one way that microglia can become activated. Collections of adipose (fat cells) can activate them through the microglial-adipose axis. They can be activated when you breathe in something toxic, as we see with air pollution, which is called the pulmonary-glial axis. They can be activated from the microbiome-neuroglia access that happens when you have a leaky gut. You get the idea. Anything that activates the immune system in your body, is going to yell up to your brain that there is a danger and activate the microglial immune response. Even a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can turn these glial cells into a state of nonstop inflammatory behavior.

And these glial cells being reactive and active long-term is the problem. In the instances where the assaults are nonstop from high blood sugars and insulin resistance, air pollution, leaky gut after every meal or adipose cells oozing out inflammation, our brain never is able to calm this response down and the neuroinflammation is nonstop. Nonstop glial activation drive neuroinflammation and subsequent damage to neuronal cell bodies that can’t be cleaned up and repaired fast enough!

So what exactly do microglia do?

When you look at the brain that has different types of neurons and one of these is microglia. When I was in my graduate program for Clinical Psychology they did not discuss microglia much, other than to tell us they behaved like “glue” and provided structural support between the neurons. Boy was that an incomplete understanding! Since then we have learned that microglia help clean up neuronal cellular debris that happens as cells age and die. You need them to work! They are actually very metabolically active and there are different types of microglial cells in our brain. But when they are behaving normally, they clean up the debris of cells and they also clean up broken proteins that would later turn into plaques and tangles.

There is just not enough antioxidant capacity in the brain to repair damage if microglial activation is chronic. And the damage to brain cells will far outweigh the brain’s ability to keep up with and maintain cells after this chronic damage.

What will I notice if I have chronic neuroinflammation?

You won’t just wake up one morning necessarily and not have a working brain, although many of you reading this blog will report that it certainly seemed that way! Some of you had an illness or an infection that may have caused a tipping point. But for many people who develop brain fog, observed symptoms early on and just didn’t notice.

Some of the first signs are brain fatigue. Your cognitive endurance goes down you notice that you cannot expend mental energy like you were once able to. That when your brain gets tired, which happens much more easily, you start to have trouble focusing. You may modify activities that are cognitively taxing so that you can still do them, but for a less amount of time, or with more support.  

My clients often will tell me stories of them going from being avid readers to switching to audiobooks or podcasts. And that works for a while. But as neurodegenerative processes remain unaddressed and more damage occurs, they find their ability to focus comes in shorter and shorter spurts.

Dr. Datis Kharrazian gives a great example of this when he talks about how people on car trips planning on doing long stretches of driving (which is cognitively taxing) may find they need a lot more breaks or will need to drive fewer hours per day toward their destination.

This is not a normal aging process.

This is driven by inflammation.

Even if you are significantly older than you once were, steadily losing your ability to read, drive in traffic or for long distances, plan events or processes, and/or focus your attention on the people and things you love is not normal aging. Older people with healthy brains enjoy all of these things. Do not tell yourself you are just getting older and that this is normal. That would cause you to avoid doing something to rescue your cognitive function. Don’t use what you have observed in family members or friends that are experiencing neurodegenerative decline to determine what will be reasonable and possible for you as you age. It is actually possible to have a better functioning brain in your older years than you had when you were younger.

Brain inflammation is completely treatable.

But I have mood issues, too!

When there is neuroinflammation in the brain, how fast you can think goes down. This is because the speed at which your brain cells can communicate with one another becomes impaired. This can happen in the cingulate gyrus and the prefrontal cortex and the way you will experience that is depression or low mood.  

But wait, you may say, I took an SSRI once and my low mood and sadness improved, so it must be that I didn’t have enough serotonin and so this whole neuroinflammation thing must be secondary to that!

Not so fast.

SSRIs have an initial effect in that they reduce neuroinflammation temporarily, but that effect wears off in a couple of weeks or a month. This is why the effects of SSRIs are not the greatest treatment for mood disorders. You were likely feeling a temporary lessening of the neuroinflammatory processes going on in your brain. Luckily, there are better and more sustainable ways to reduce inflammation in your body and brain that will last and consistently help you to not only reduce or eliminate your brain fog symptoms but allow your brain to heal the existing damage that occurred before you were educated about this disease process.

What is the best way to drastically drop neuroinflammation?

If you want to reduce neuroinflammation and reverse your brain fog, you are going to have to rely on nutritional and lifestyle factors. There is not a supplement stack or a medication you can take that is going to stop the neurodegenerative process. And there is no better way to drop neuroinflammation than the ketogenic diet. There is no better metabolic therapy for the brain than a ketogenic diet.  It’s used to treat the most severe metabolic disorders in the brain (e.g., epilepsy, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, early Alzheimer’s).

Once your brain energetics improve and your neuroinflammation goes down, your brain fog will improve or disappear. You might need some personalized supplementation (nutrigenomics) to help clear brain fog further, or some sleuthing with functional medicine to identify another root cause factor (e.g., mold exposure, heavy metal toxicity). But once your brain fog improves significantly using a ketogenic diet you are going to find it exponentially easier to bring in other lifestyle supports for healthy brain functioning.

  • Sleep Quality
  • Exercise
  • Meditation/Mindfulness Practices
  • Psychotherapy (much easier to do when your brain works)
  • Brain stimulations (brain gym games, new skills, hobbies, light exposures)
  • Boundaries and Self-Advocating

Who can do these things with low energy and debilitating brain fog? They can’t. At least not very effectively. And that’s why it’s important to use a ketogenic diet to rescue brain function so you can get your brain and energy to a place where you can begin to do the other things you need to do to optimize your functioning and reduce the likelihood you will suffer from debilitating brain fog again during your life.

As an added bonus, ketogenic diets have mechanisms by which they help balance immune responses that are behaving in an out of control manner and they are fantastic in healing leaky gut.

So when you implement a ketogenic diet you are not just treating your brain fog, you are treating underlying pathological dysfunctions that may be feeding your chronic conditions. Ketogenic diets are excellent root cause interventions because their benefits are systemic and they work on the ultimate root cause issue which is mitochondrial (cell energy) dysfunction.

I hope this blog post has helped you better understand the link between neuroinflammation and your brain fog. I want you to know all the ways you can feel better. If you are suffering from recurrent or chronic brain fog, I want you to know about and have access to the most effective interventions to treat it. I encourage you to consider a ketogenic diet to begin to heal your brain.

If you need help and support in transitioning to a ketogenic diet to treat your brain fog please reach out. There really is an art and a science to implementing it optimally for the specific purpose of rescuing cognitive function or treating neurological and mood issues. Please use the contact form to apply for enrollment in my Brain Fog Recovery Program and the opportunity to work with me directly in an online format.

If you enjoyed this blog post please consider signing up to receive future blog posts.

Because you have the right to know all of the ways that you can feel better.


References

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Dhru Purohit. (2021, July 29). Avoid These RISK FACTORS To Prevent BRIAN INFLAMMATION! | Dr. Datis Kharrazian. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xXPO__AG6E

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