- Melissa is 40 and has been dealing with brain fog for over 5 years.
- Everything seemed fuzzy, she forgot words or where she’d put things.
- She tried working with her conventional doctor, but got nowhere.
When she came to see me, I noted that she was also experiencing periods of stress, trouble sleeping, feeling down, fatigue, and even weight gain. I suspected that her brain fog was related to these other symptoms.
Dr. Rodger Murphree sees many patients dealing with brain fog and knows that there can be many different underlying causes. Often, his patients come in and explain away the brain fog as ‘just getting older’ or joking about having ‘a senior moment’. This is frustrating because often, that is not the case and this loss of mental clarity is treatable, if you can get to the root cause.
6 Common Causes (and Treatments) of Brain Fog
- Deficient Neurotransmitters
One of the most common denominators in brain fog cases is low serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical often referred to as the ‘happy hormone’ because of the role it plays in healthy moods, calming hormones, reducing plain, and regulating bowel movements. Norepinephrine is another neurotransmitter that can be out of balance and cause challenges with mental clarity.
Issues with serotonin can also cause sleep cycle issues, and this can exacerbate the brain fog problem. Sleep is essential for mental clarity because it impacts those brain chemicals. Deep restorative sleep is required to replenish stress coping chemicals, like serotonin and for the mental clarity to return.
- Stress & Adrenal Fatigue
Low cortisol caused by chronic stress can put the body into adrenal fatigue. One of the common symptoms of this depleted adrenal state is brain fog.
- Proton Pump Inhibitors and other drugs.
Many people take proton pump inhibitors (like Nexium and Prilosec) or histamine antagonists like Zantac to treat GERD, acid reflux or other gastrointestinal issues. These drugs block stomach acid but that interferes with the body’s ability to absorb and make B12 and B1 (thiamine) both of which are key nutrients needed for thought clarity.
Brain fog is a common symptom of hypothyroidism however, it is often overlooked especially if traditional (surface level) lab tests don’t reveal that the thyroid is not performing optimally.
- Food Sensitivities
The gut/brain connection is well documented which is why food is one of the first places to look in solving a brain fog mystery. The issue could be caused by a specific food sensitivity or an issue with the gut microbiome.
Treating Brain Fog
The key to treating brain fog is to determine what the cause of it is. If it is a neurotransmitter issue like low serotonin or norepinephrine, then there are supplements that can help to restore levels but getting enough deep, restorative sleep also has to be a part of the strategy. Sufficient sleep is also required to reset the adrenals and reduce stress-induced brain fog. Dr. Murphree also suggests supplementing with DHEA, Gaba(gamma-aminobutyric acid) L-Theanine, Ashwagandha or valerian root depending on the patient.
If stress or adrenal fatigue is the cause of the brain fog, supporting the adrenal glands so they can improve cortisol production is key (as is reducing stress to avoid it happening again). Dr. Murphree explains in this episode why it’s so important to get the right kind of adrenal support supplement – namely the Adrenal Cortex Only Glandular.
When the brain fog is a result of prescription drug use, the solution is to find a natural treatment (and in many cases to find the root cause instead of masking the symptoms with medication).
If the thyroid is the cause of the brain fog – especially if it is a subclinical case of hypothyroidism, then optimizing the thyroid is the way to regain mental clarity.
Determining food sensitivities requires doing either an elimination diet and/or lab tests. Once a sensitivity is detected, removing that food from the diet should result in improved mental clarity.
Considering all of the possible causes, I did a food sensitivity (through vibrant america) on Melissa. The results showed that she was sensitive to eggs so we removed those from her diet.
We also did an Adrenal test and discovered her cortisol level was very low. She supplemented with Adrenal Cortex Only Glandular by Klare.
Extensive thyroid lab tests revealed that Melissa’s TSH and T4 were both low and a pituitary issue was detected.
Plus, Melissa was struggling with sleep, and was experiencing low moods, so this was also part of the puzzle!
Melissa supported her thyroid with Thyraxis PT. We got her sleeping better with the help of 100 mg of 5HTP at bedtime.
She started sleeping better within 2 weeks and noticed her energy improved in about 4 weeks. At this point she noticed she was in less of a fog and felt sharper. She said it was about 50 percent better.
We kept going with the protocol while she continued to avoid eggs and balance her meals and after 8 more weeks, her brain fog was pretty much gone. She was so excited to be back to her old self and of course I was thrilled too.
Eliminating Health Mysteries
For Melissa we were able to find the combination of issues that were causing her health mystery. And, with some minor adjustments, she was able to regain her health. Could one or more of these causes of brain fog be the missing clue for you or someone in your life?
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