by Larry Wilson, M.D. —
Brain fog is a health condition that is often characterized by a lack of mental clarity and mild memory loss. Other symptoms include confusion, mental sluggishness and often an inability to perform basic mental tasks properly, such as mathematical calculations.
Brain fog is not recognized as a clinical diagnosis. I think it should be, however, as it is quite common among adults and children today. Brain fog can cause intense frustration, low self-esteem, discouragement, depression, impaired work or school performance, relationship difficulties, and crime and delinquency.
Those who suffer from brain fog know that they just do not function well, and may not even be able to hold a job. Yet it is not the same as dementia, retardation, anxiety, clinical depression or other common mental symptoms.
I treat many individuals with brain fog. Most everyone gets better (although it may take a year or more) provided they follow an individualized nutritional balancing program.
Brain fog onset
Some people have had brain fog for most of their lives and, therefore, may think that their state of mind is normal. In others, it comes on slowly with age or time. This condition also can develop seemingly overnight — after a mild flu or other illness, a toxic exposure or a course of antibiotics.
Causes of brain fog
The causes of brain fog can be any (or a combination of) the following:
Nutrient deficiencies — The most common are calcium, magnesium, B-complex vitamins, zinc, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. Some people do not eat enough protein, especially animal protein.
- Lack of rest and sleep — Most people need to go to bed by 9 p.m., and require nine to 10 hours of sleep each night.
- Toxic metals — These include copper, mercury, lead, aluminum, nickel and cadmium, among others. Copper imbalance is extremely common, mainly due to adrenal problems, zinc and selenium deficiencies, as well as the use of birth control pills or copper IUDs. Many children are born today with copper imbalances passed on from their mothers.
Excessive or bio-unavailable copper is strongly associated with feelings of confusion, disorientation, racing thoughts and mood swings. Many young women will notice these symptoms becoming worse just before their menstrual cycles — a time of the month when the cellular level and, probably, the copper level of the blood rises. However, a great number of people (more women than men) have elevated copper levels all the time. Copper imbalance also affects the thyroid gland, which in turn can create the symptoms of brain fog.
Mercury toxicity develops from consuming almost any fish, except for the tiny ones like sardines. Dental amalgams leach mercury into the body and should be removed. Aluminum is added to table salt and drinking water, and is found in antiperspirants, antacids and many cosmetics. Cadmium, lead and other toxic metals are also very common in the environment.
Fortunately, sauna therapy and a nutritional balancing program can remove all toxic metals — about two dozen. I do not recommend chelation therapy, as it can deplete some vital minerals and thus can make some individuals worse.
- Toxic chemicals — We all are born with some of these, due to our mothers’ exposure to pesticides, food additives, medical drugs, recreational drugs, occupational chemicals, solvents or others.
- Bowel toxicity — While there may be no obvious symptoms, this type of toxicity is extremely common and is a direct result of the many chemicals in the intestines, such as alcohol, acetaldehyde, indol, skatol, cadaverine and others. The main symptoms are long bowel transit times and sluggish bowels, which are caused by improper diet, low levels of digestive enzymes and poor-quality eating habits, such as eating too quickly, drinking too much liquid with meals, eating while driving, or eating when anxious or in a noisy environment.
- Yin disease — This is a common condition, usually resulting from consuming too much fruit or sugar, drinking alkaline water, following vegetarian and vegan diets, drug use, too much air travel or excessive sex with fluid loss.
- Yeast overgrowth — Too much yeast causes copper imbalance and other nutrient deficiencies. The symptoms are much worse if one eats a lot of sugars (fruits and juices) or too many starches (grains and beans) as these types of foods feed the yeast organisms. In some cases, the yeast invades the brain itself, but this is not necessary for symptoms to be present.
- Adrenal and thyroid depletion — The majority of mineral analyses I review show some degree of adrenal exhaustion. On a hair mineral analysis, the calcium and magnesium levels are elevated, while the sodium and potassium levels are generally quite low. A low thyroid level is usually due to the replacement of iodine in the thyroid with iodine antagonists, such as chlorides, bromides and fluoride compounds found in tap water, breads and in all foods today, to some degree. Copper and mercury also accumulate in the thyroid gland.
- Dehydration — All adults need to drink about three quarts daily of spring water or (second best) carbon-only filtered tap water. All other types of drinking water do not hydrate the body as well, no matter the marketing claims. Reverse osmosis water sold at most health food stores and supermarkets as “drinking water” or “purified water” is an inadequate choice. Most designer waters, alkaline water, clustered water and others are also not as good, and some can be downright harmful. Simply changing the type of drinking water will help many people to some degree, by assisting in the release of toxins that easily build up in the blood and organs. Caffeine, sugar and alcohol always dehydrate the body.
- Reactions or allergies to foods, food supplements or food additives — For example, NutraSweet® — also labeled as Equal®, Canderel®, Spoonful®, aspartame, aspartic acid, neotame (a newer variant) or phenylalanine — is notorious for causing brain fog and other symptoms. It is found in more than 5,000 products and affects some 25 percent of Americans who use it. NutraSweet is often hidden in prescription medications, children’s and adult vitamins that taste good, toothpaste, breath mints and all types of diet products. The most common food allergies are to wheat, spelt, soy and pasteurized cow’s milk dairy products. For example, Mrs. Richards, age 70, began to forget things and could not remember what she had said during a conversation just an hour before. She finally figured out that soy lecithin was causing her problem. When she stopped consuming soy products, her brain fog cleared.
- Effects of medical and over-the-counter drugs — The list includes drugs for allergies, pain, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, depression, anxiety, inflammation and others. Combinations of drugs may be toxic in ways that no one can predict. The good news is that drugs can be removed from the body with a nutritional balancing program.
- Hidden infections — Infections can be hiding anywhere in the body, such as in infected root canal-filled teeth and many other locations.
- Spinal misalignments — Chiropractic or osteopathic care is required when there is any kind of spinal misalignment.
- Mental or emotional conflicts and unresolved traumas — Essentially, in such cases, the individual does not want to see or think clearly about something or someone. Thus, brain fog becomes a defense mechanism. I recommend that one should always ask for and seek truth, and cultivate the belief that “the truth will set you free.” In my experience, seeing and accepting the truth about oneself and others often leads to clearer thinking and greater overall happiness.
- Lack of grounding — Living life overstimulated and distracted can become a mental habit. Many bright, loving people are this way because they are extremely sensitive and respond quickly to the many stimuli in their environment. Their weakened body chemistry and high copper levels, in particular, may make them even more prone to this condition. The ancient Taoists would say, “Their chi is in their heads.”
The solution to this problem — which I recommend for everyone — is to set aside time each day for a specific type of mental exercise. Not just any mental exercise will work. Many types of meditation and even some prayer will only keep one floating in one’s head. I specifically recommend a type of Judeo-Christian exercise, taught by Mr. Roy Masters, because it is extremely grounding. (See www.drlwilson.com.) It is most helpful to anyone who practices it.
- Reduced oxygen to the brain — This condition may be due to clogged arteries, low blood pressure, shallow breathing or holding one’s breath. Fear and worry can cause shallow breathing. Sometimes, a physical disease such as asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema impairs breathing.
- Electromagnetic stress — This type of stress is caused by cell phones, hours of computer use or sitting too close to a large-screen television. Computers, televisions, radios and electrical devices need to be turned off during sleep. Furthermore, all electrical devices should be kept at least eight feet away from one’s head when sleeping and, if possible, at work as well. One should sit as far away from computers as possible, and get up frequently if you must use them throughout the day.
If a person notices that she feels better away from home or when she is outside in the fresh air, this needs to be investigated further. There are companies that specialize in checking and fixing electrical and electromagnetic disturbances in houses, offices, cars and elsewhere.
- Impaired blood circulation in the brain — This is usually caused by low blood pressure or arteriosclerosis.
- Recreational drugs and alcohol, including marijuana — For the brain to be healthy, it is imperative to avoid unnecessary drugs, toxins and especially, recreational drugs of all kinds. Marijuana may be good for cancer pain, but it is horrendous for mental health.
- Metabolic imbalances revealed on a hair mineral biopsy — A biopsy may reveal, for example, that a calcium shell pattern causes a certain numbness, fogginess and reduced awareness. A “four lows” pattern causes a type of agitation and distractedness.
Correction of brain fog
Most cases of brain fog respond well to a nutritional balancing program. If one is fortunate, the brain fog improves in a few weeks with this method. All that may be necessary is to clean up one’s diet. Eliminating sugars and sweets, wheat, fruit and a few other foods from the diet can do a lot in many cases, often in a matter of days. Also, it is important to drink three quarts of spring water or carbon-only filtered tap water daily, get more rest, breathe more deeply and make other simple lifestyle changes.
In most cases, however, one must remove multiple toxins from the brain, liver and kidneys, which can take several months, or up to a year or more. I advise clients to start with a complete program to rebalance and strengthen body chemistry.
If the brain is severely damaged by drug use, such as marijuana, complete recovery can be difficult. This is not to discourage anyone; it is merely a statement of fact.
Detoxification procedures — One to two daily coffee enemas and two near-infrared sauna sessions each day for about a half hour are helpful and safe when done properly. I do not recommend most other methods of detoxification, such as the use of clay, drinking salt water, most cleansing diets and others.
Other natural therapies in conjunction with a nutritional-balancing program — Daily or twice-daily foot reflexology may prove helpful, as well as quality chiropractic, osteopathic manipulation and sometimes Rolfing® or other structural therapies. At times, these can even be an essential part of a complete healing program.
If emotional problems are the foremost issue, meditation and proper counseling may be the most beneficial steps, at least at first. However, nutritional correction is key for the majority of people, and this type of program will increase the success of any other therapy.
The use of remedies for brain fog
Many doctors use various remedies for brain fog, such as herbs, homeopathics, vitamins, minerals, hormones or medical drugs. Interestingly, in most cases, these are not beneficial. In fact, they can make the symptoms worse. I believe this happens because the cause of brain fog is complex, and a single remedy just does not go deep enough.
In rare cases, more extensive testing for brain diseases may be necessary. Physicians often begin with a CAT or MRI scan. If possible, CAT scans should be avoided, due to the high radiation exposure. In my experience, however, almost all cases of brain fog will clear up without any need for medical diagnostic tests.
I have not found much medical research on brain fog. There needs to be more. This article represents my experience treating the condition and that of other physicians and nutrition consultants with whom I have worked, or whose work I have studied. Some articles at www.drlwilson.com contain lists of references, but I have found little in the way of clinical studies.
Dr. Lawrence Wilson has a medical degree and has been in the health field for more than 25 years. His books include Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis, Legal Guidelines for Unlicensed Practitioners, Healing Ourselves and Manual of Sauna Therapy and The Real Self. He also co-authored Toxic Metals in Human Health and Disease and contributed to The Dangers of Socialized Medicine. www.drlwilson.com or 928-445-7690.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 6, Dec 2009/Jan 2012.