Hey, if you have brain fog you probably have one of these health issues: cognitive impairment, neck pain, brain fatigue, poor digestion, rashes, headaches, excess weight, trouble sleeping, depression, anxiety, or one of many others.
Reality: Nobody feels 100% all of the time.
I’m writing this article because you CAN feel awesome if you follow a really strict health regime that I’m including here.
Disclaimer #1: It’s really hard to cure brain fog and feel awesome, and pretty much nobody does everything it takes to get better. How long does brain fog last? Taking action, and depending on how terrible you are feeling you may need 2+ weeks completely dedicated to taking care of yourself to clear the brain fog. Untreated, brain fog can last for years.
Disclaimer #2: I’m not a doctor, and if I was then other doctors would consider me a quack. This article is a personal account of what worked for me to clear over a decade of brain fog, neck pain, digestive issues and other symptoms.
Here’s my story for context and so you can see how this plan worked for me…
Table of Contents
What is Brain Fog?
For basically all of my 20s I told doctors I had brain fog, and they said “no, you are just a student. You’ll get over it.” I believe you need to approach your doctor visits with critical thinking and assertive communication.
If you search the internet for “brain fog” about half the people say it doesn’t exist, and the other half give clear, personal accounts about how it does.
For me, brain fog felt like living life through a filter. I’d look out at the world and it was like there was a haze over all of it. I had a dull pressure in my skull and trouble connecting ideas, example: I’m articulate but I couldn’t mentally string together multiple complex sentences, I just had to start speaking. My memory was weird and unreliable, sometimes I couldn’t recall my close friends’ names. It was hard to stay focussed on tasks like reading and I had many years of total emotional void.
I was still highly functional, for example I learned Chinese, started and sold a side project, and became a lawyer. However, because of the cognitive impairment I felt like garbage for all of it.
In my mid-20s I went to China for the first time and got a parasite, over ~9 months it grew into an 8 inch worm in my intestine. I went from a healthy and strong body, to losing 50 pounds and not being able to keep my head up for exams. I remember after my first year Constitutional Law exam my friends rushed to the bar and I rushed to the emergency room.
Then in 2013 I hit absolute zero. I lived in Beijing for six months and it was the worst year for air pollution in recorded history, anywhere; it was like breathing battery acid all day. In addition, I have celiac (the gluten thing) and people kept lying to me about what was in food so my body was wrecked and totally devoid of nutrition. My sleep was terrible because I lived next to a rail yard that had train traffic all night. When I got back to Canada I felt and looked like a total ghoul; massive dark circles under my eyes, a pasty complexion and mind numbing fatigue. I could barely stand. This condition was the worst I’ve felt in my entire life, including the time I broke my leg playing football, which was unfortunate but easily overcome with high spirits.
Hey, I got better.
I knew my body was broken, and I started doing obsessive research: library books, online whatever, more doctor visits. I wanted to know EVERYTHING and come up with a comprehensive plan to fix my body and cure my brain fog. I wrote up a health plan with what I learned, and made “feeling awesome” my full time job. Two weeks later I felt the best I have in my entire adult life.
Here’s an excerpt from an email I sent to my friends Julia, Natalie and Marc:
When I first got back from China I wasn’t doing much, and felt guilty about it. And then I committed to doing nothing, which took pressure off and actually felt really good — but I filled the time with Netflix and a little bit of exercise. Also, I was relying on doctors, who admitted to not being sure what to do.
Now I’m two weeks into a self-made treatment plan, and I’m making really positive progress: I’m stronger, more energy, clearer vision, breathing better (and can smell better), improved digestion, neck and shoulder tension decreasing, more flexible, leaner, happier, more social, taller, better posture, better skin, easier to speak Chinese, and my mind — the most important part — is a little bit more clear.
Brain Fog Causes
The following is a list of the possible causes I found for brain fog, and I believe that for most people your brain fog is caused by a combination of at least several of these factors. For me, my brain fog symptoms were correlated with high levels of fatigue, inflammation, malnourishment, some weak blood composition and chronic pain via neck tension.
A helpful framework for thinking about the causes of brain fog is to ask “what causes brain fog?”, or in other words, “what is brain fog a symptom of?” I think many people see brain fog as the diagnosis itself, like having a cold, when actually it is more like a runny nose or a cough (which are symptoms of the cold). Because of this characteristic, you’ll likely find your brain fog is a symptom of or correlated with other health issues.
Brain Fog Causes List
In no particular order:
- Presence of copper, iron, manganese, chromium, + other metals
- Chemical toxicity
- Calcium shell
- Bowel toxicity (slow or incomplete digestion)
- Not enough water or wrong type
- Yin disease
- Thyroid imbalance
- Yeast infections
- Food allergies
- Chemical allergies
- Nutrition deficiencies
- Lack of grounding
- Mental/emotional conflicts
- Reduced energy/oxygen to brain (e.g., from neck tension)
- Too much sex
- Watching porn
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Acid reflux (GERD)
- Brain damage
Brain Fog Symptoms
There are many symptoms associated with brain fog, which range from relatively mild memory loss up to severe cognitive impairment.
Here is a list of brain fog symptoms that I experienced personally or found during my research:
- Feeling like you are living life through a cloud or filter
- Poor memory for specific facts, like names of your friends or even your own age or address
- Low retention of new information
- Difficulty with higher level brain function like studying or debating
- It feels harder than it should to put a sentence together
- Brain fatigue
- Anxiety (vicious cycle: anxiety contributes to your brain fog, and then you feel more anxious)
- Feeling of mental confusion
- Emotional numbness and apathy
- Lack of motivation and feeling like you don’t want to do anything
- Cognitive impairment
- Cognitive dysfunction
Note: because brain fog shares symptoms with other ailments like depression, doctors may misdiagnose you. It’s useful to be skeptical of your doctor and ask lots of questions, though it is of course possible that you are depressed. You should be even more cautious of any diagnosis from friends and family that do not have medical training and just take their advice as motivation to see a doctor.
Curing Brain Fog, AKA The Principles For Feeling Awesome
I believe this health plan will work for anyone and everyone to become healthier. It’s not meant to directly cure any specific ailment, but it will make your body and mind stronger so you may have a better chance of fighting off what you’ve got and clearing your brain fog quickly. If I were you, I would follow this health plan before starting medication or getting surgery; unless you have an emergency, then go for it.
Here are the principles of how this plan works:
- The diet is about getting your body what it needs by maximizing nutrition and digestibility, and also “detoxing” and anti-inflammation. It is boring and you need to be strict about it.
- The lifestyle habits like sleeping and exercise are meant to be relaxing and restorative; give your body the opportunity to rebuild and heal.
- Chronic health issues aren’t about fixing one thing, you have to fix everything. Good sleep helps keep you on track with a great diet. Healthy food supports a good exercise plan. Etc.
I believe if you follow this health plan exactly you will feel much better in a very short period of time. However you will likely feel WORSE before you feel better. It is based on science, logic, speculation and experimentation. If you change anything it may not work for you.
Example: running isn’t included in the plan. A marathon definitely gets your blood flowing but it also depletes your body, so IMO better to do light exercise like yoga or taichi instead.
A lady I worked with was famous for making awesome cakes. She would give the recipe to people and then they’d come back and say it didn’t work for them; they always made substitutions like whole wheat flour or weird sugar. You can be a great recipe borrower or a terrible one.
Brain Friendly Food Plan
Eating can be for pleasure, but for the purposes of your health plan it’s about fuel and nutrition, plus decreasing inflammation.
This is what you should and shouldn’t put in your body:
- Start day with 1 litre spring water, then drink 2 more litres throughout the day, which helps flush stuff out and keep you hydrated
- Proteins: lamb, chicken, turkey, eggs, sardines, cow, cheese – buy high quality proteins and aim for variety
- Carbs: brown rice, 100% brown rice pasta, quinoa, blue corn chips
- Each day two root veggies (carrots, turnips, rutabaga, daikon, sweet potato, yams, onions, celery root)
- Each day two cruciferous veggies (cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli)
- Each day one or two greens (spinach, kale, cilantro, chinese cabbage, bok choy, swiss chard)
- Occasional: peas, green beans, beans, toasted almond butter, butter
- Bone broth is good
- 1-3 tbsp olive oil per day
- Spices: tarragon, mustard, horseradish, turmeric, garlic, dill, rosemary, thyme, oregano, curry powder
- Get good sea salt, it will probably cost like $7 and it is full of minerals
- 1 cup carrot juice (away from meals)
- Things to avoid: potatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, asparagus, artichokes, celery, okra, mushrooms, cucumber, summer squashes (zucchini etc, but butternut not bad), table pepper, hot peppers, pork, coconut oil, fruit, juice, alcohol, crappy sugar, spice mixes with weird fillers, basically any processed food, anything not on the above approved lists, avocado (sorry)
Here are best practices for eating and getting maximum nutrition from your food:
- Each meal should be 2-3 cups of cooked veggies (boiled or steamed until soft), plus either one protein or one starch. Don’t mix protein and starch in one meal
- Alternative: eat exactly one food type for a meal
- Rough breakdown of diet by quantity = 70% veggies, 20% protein,clear 10% carbs
- No liquids with meals because it dilutes enzymes
- Rest for 10 minutes before and after you eat, be somewhere quiet so you can be present and focussed on your meal, AKA not on the couch watching Netflix
- Chew everything a lot. Seriously, if the only thing you do from this article is chew more it will help.
In practice I just alternate meals between protein + veg and carbs + veg. The cooking is super simple and fast, I literally just steam meat and veggies together for a few minutes and then put olive oil and sea salt on it. I don’t add spices. Bone broth, almond butter, etc. not necessary. Sardines are great! Organic veggies are better than non-organic veggies. If you are budget conscious then prioritize organic green veggies and everything else after that because the greens typically get sprayed with more pesticides. You will probably get bored of this diet really fast and also not eat enough calories; you can tough it out for two weeks. If in doubt, eat more veggies.
Brain Friendly Supplement Plan
If my health is great and my body is working exactly as it’s supposed to then I prefer not to take supplements. However I believe in the short term supplements can give your systems what they need to get to that higher level functionality.
- Take a digestive enzyme that includes ox-bile and pancreatin with each meal, this will help you digest everything better
- Kelp 4000mg daily, this is basically for the iodine
- TMG or trimethylglycine (1500mg per day, removes toxic metals – I couldn’t find this at the time so I did the two weeks without it)
- Multivitamin (prefer no copper or iron, but I recommend these anyways or the women’s version which is similar but with more iron and calcium)
- Fish oil 1000mg (very big differences in quality, don’t get the drug store brand)
- Vitamin D3 5000iu daily
- Calcium (750mg), Magnesium (450mg), Zinc (20-30mg)
- Dried veggie capsules/green powder (I didn’t actually take these, but they were part of the research)
For the above try to buy higher quality supplements and don’t stress over the exact amounts. You could replace kelp tablets with kelp flakes, which is like fish food you put on your food. I sometimes put kelp flakes on sardines because it’s mildly entertaining. It’s better to take the multivitamin earlier in the day and with a starch meal so you absorb more if it. Take the calcium at night, and everything else evenly throughout the day.
Brain Friendly Activity Plan
This health plan prioritizes non-strenuous activity over pretty much everything else. The goal is to keep your body moving and blood flowing while gently working out your aches and pains, leaving your body with plenty of energy to rebuild, restore and quickly clear brain fog. It’s difficult to get all of these activities done every day, and I recommend taking time off work to focus on this; I didn’t touch a computer or my phone for two weeks, which is hard because my utility in the workforce is directly correlated with computer skills.
Here are the recommended activities:
- Walking outside for 30+ mins per day, even when it’s cold
- Bonus points for getting some sunshine
- Sauna or steam room 2 or 3x per week. Don’t overdo it.
- When you shower, alternate between hot and cold. It gets your blood flowing.
- Weekly massage (I used to only get massages when I felt stiff, then I started doing them proactively and it feels great. IMO 100% worth the investment)
- Daily 20 minutes near-infrared therapy, with shower after. Basically get a red heat lamp and sit near it until you sweat
- Daily yoga, you can do it at home, I like this one
- Daily taichi, I recommend doing this simplified practice in the morning
- Daily neck stretch, at least once but more is better. Yoga Norman = awesome
- Gardening, meditation, journaling, reading, puzzles, etc. basically, just stay away from computer/phone/TV
- Snuggling with your honey bunches
- Deep breathing for 15 – 30 mins per day, watch a Youtube video on how to breathe properly
- Foot reflexology? I didn’t do this one but it’s on the list
- Spinal twists. Lay on your back with arms straight out. Lift left leg and gently move it over the right until you feel it in your spine, then repeat with right leg over left.
- Chiropractor. You may be able to skip this if you do Taichi or something else that aligns you. I have seen a lot of chiropractors and there is a very wide range in quality of treatment
- Work on fixing your posture, wall stands help
- Lymph cleaning, I use this method
Other Ways to Clear Brain Fog
The following are recommendations that didn’t easily fit into diet, supplementation or activities.
- Use natural soaps and shampoos or just water. Anything you see on TV is probably terrible for you.
- Do a total scrub down with a loofa sponge 1x per week.
- Get good air in the places you spend the most time: bedroom, living room, car, office, etc. This is a good air filter and I also recommend getting lots of plants including some that are waist height for a tall person and some that are knee height.
- Sleep at 8pm or 9pm, for 9 hours, plus an afternoon nap for ~30 mins. Follow good sleep practices, which are basically sleep and rise on a consistent schedule, sleep in a quiet + dark place at a good temperature (eye mask and earplugs are super helpful), quality mattress, no screens or food within 2 hours of bed, only use bed for sleep and sex. It may take you 4 or 5 days to fix your sleep schedule, and forcing yourself to wake up early can help.
- Remove fillings, root canal filled teeth, braces, metal retainers, etc. I didn’t do this.
- Keep your phone away from your head, and out of the bedroom and turn it off sometimes.
- Try to keep electricity away from your body.
- Get a healthy mental diet, which means wholesome, simple, uplifting and inspiring. Pay attention to everything you are putting into your mind, including books, movies, shows, websites and people. The three rules of the internet will help. Stop watching porn.
- Pay attention to hygiene, cleanliness, posture, sexual restraint, emotional control, having a positive outlook, while avoiding grudges, resentments and stress
- Deal with reality as it is.
- Fly less.
- Avoid alcohol, drugs, medications, vaccines, medical procedures and dental procedures. Excludes emergencies, if it’s going down you should get to the hospital fast.
- Hot epsom salt baths 3x per week for 30 mins (with deep breathing)
- Colon cleansing 2x per year, IMO optional
- Wear natural products on your body (e.g., 100% merino wool) and use natural products in your home
- Use good quality cooking equipment that is in good condition. So no scratched non-stick pans.
- Eat everything with chopsticks. It may slow you down a little, and it’s more fun than forks.
Final Thoughts on the Causes, Symptoms and Cure for Brain Fog
The above plan is what I followed for two weeks to go from feeling the worst in my life to feeling awesome. Getting better takes a lot of time and effort, and it is 100% worth it. Most people don’t know what it’s like to consistently feel strong, energetic and focused. If you follow this plan, I’d love to hear from. If you know someone that has brain fog, fatigue, cognitive impairment or otherwise isn’t feeling well, send them this post.
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