We’ve all experienced it – that moment when you can’t think of a word and you just sort of babble as you try and get your thoughts straight. This mental “clouding” has been labeled brain fog. It slows you down and can be frustrating.
Often, there are two key issues to blame. The first is the lack of the brain’s primary fuel source glucose as well as other critical micronutrients. The second is your “gut” health.
Carbohydrates and the brainIf the best fuel for the brain is glucose, then eating a high-carbohydrate diet must be best for the brain, right?
Not exactly. Unless you have a brain or neurological disorder, a moderate range of carbohydrates best supports brain function and reduces brain fog.
However, if you have a brain or neurological disorder, then studies have shown a very-low carbohydrate diet is best. Did you know that the ketogenic diet was first discovered in the 1920’s as a promising treatment for epileptic seizure disorders? The results were tremendous and today it still provides support for such disorders.
Micronutrients and the brainMicronutrients are the teeny, tiny nutrients that are essential for improving brain function. The micronutrients that serve the brain best are vitamins D, B6, and B12 as well as folate, choline – and yes, of course, DHA (omega 3’s). Some foods that contain these brain-boosting nutrients include dark leafy greens, lentils, egg yolks, wild-caught salmon, fish oil, cod liver oil, organ meats, grass-fed beef, fatty fish, chicken, turkey, avocados and sunflower seeds.
Digestion and gut healthMany people now refer to the gut as your “second brain,” because it contains more mood-controlling serotonin than your brain. So, when you take care of your digestive system, your brain experiences a boost at the same time.
However, if you have an unhealthy gut, then absorption of nutrients you eat is minimal ... and your mental clarity suffers.
I have clients tell me all the time, after just a week of eating clean foods, that their mental fog is gone and they are thinking at a greater capacity.
To further highlight the importance of the gut-brain link, researchers have now found a functional link between the bacteria in the gut and the onset of Parkinson’s disease, one of the world’s most common debilitating brain disorders.
A team of scientists from several institutions in the United States and Europe showed that changing the bacteria in the guts of mice affected the manifestation of Parkinson’s symptoms. The findings suggest a potential new way of treating the disease.
I challenge you to be more intentional in cleaning up your food, taking care of your gut, and giving your brain a boost. Eat cleaner this week for your brain and get through your days a little easier with better mental clarity!
Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition, which has offices in Durango and Bayfield. She can be reached at 444-2122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.