Brain fog is a very common complaint from patients, yet you may be surprised to learn that doctors don’t study it in medical school, and there is no diagnosis called brain fog. Which is exactly why it’s so important that we need to talk about it.
What does IBS, or even digestion, have to do with brain fog? Well, apparently everything, because I’ve seen a ton of patients with brain fog over the last 2 decades, and most of them got better when their digestion got better.
If you have brain fog, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve had it too. Although I didn’t know that I had it until it was gone. I thought it was normal because I had it my entire life until my late 20s. I didn’t know that I was studying twice as hard as I need to, and that I couldn’t keep my thoughts clear until one day I could. And then it all became clear, both literally and figuratively.
Brain fog is when you know that you just can’t recall things like you normally do, or you aren’t as sharp and can’t put your thoughts together like you know you can. It can be difficult to define, but people who experience it know it when they have. Unless they’ve always had it.
In my experience there are two big causes of brain fog – food allergies (some people call them food intolerances), and a Candida overgrowth in the gut. I’ve seen hundreds of cases of both types.
And it’s not that there is one evil food or even a few foods. It’s how your body responds to a food. If you have an immune reaction to a food, meaning an IgG or an IgA reaction, then you are potentially creating an inflammatory reaction that food. And inflammation is at the root of all evil, at least in health.
You know how when you get a cold or a flu you have brain fog? That’s the inflammatory process affecting your cognitive function. And if you have an immune reaction to a food, then you can get the same thing. Only it’s all the time, or comes and goes randomly and frequently.
Once you stop eating that food, the fog can lift and you will be surprisingly alert and clear headed. That’s what happened with me when I stopped eating gluten nearly 30 years ago. A whole new world literally opened up to me. I could think so much more clearly than I had ever before, and consistently clear, not just occasionally clear.
But it could be any food. I’ve seen lots of patients who experience that same thing when they stopped eating dairy, or egg, or almond, or soy, or you name it. It depends on your body and your immune system.
So be sure to fully understand your food allergies or intolerances.
The other cause is a Candida overgrowth in the gut.
Candida is one of the most underestimated and misunderstood organisms that negatively affects our health. But to keep it simple, a Candida overgrowth in the digestive system creates a lot of nasty chemicals that you then absorb. Many of those chemicals have alcohol like effects, which can cause brain fog.
Treating the Candida overgrowth is the key to getting better. That is a lot easier said than done, but it’s certainly doable.
Finding a doctor who understands brain fog, much less how to test for and treat these common causes of brain fog, can be a big challenge. If your doctor quickly moves on after you mention brain fog, or gives you a deer in the headlights look, you are not alone. Most doctors aren’t very familiar with any of this.
Dr. Stephen Wangen is the award winning author of two books on solving digestive disorders, and a nationally recognized speaker on IBS. He has been on ABC, NBC, and Fox as well as public radio. He was recently named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.