Is your brain feeling sludgy?
Do you ever have an “off” day when you feel like your brain isn’t firing on all cylinders? Or feel as if your head is disconnected from your body?
There are many reasons why this might happen, but some people have underlying conditions that make this experience far too frequent.
Patients will often tell me they sometimes struggle to find the right words during a conversation. They complain about difficulty concentrating, forming thoughts, or performing intellectual tasks. Sometimes these things feel downright impossible to them. This is an interesting—and common—phenomenon often referred to as “brain fog.”
Brain fog isn’t in itself considered a medical condition but rather a symptom of other potential underlying problems. In our clinic, patients often report significant improvements in their experience with brain fog. Neck injuries, if left unmanaged, can create fertile ground for the development of brain fog.
What causes brain fog, and how can you get rid of it? Understanding some of the common and not-so common sources of brain fog can help educate you on how to find effective relief.
Dr. Michelle Speranza
The Vital Posture™ Clinic
Do you suffer from brain fog? Here are 7 things that may be contributing to your mental cloudiness:
- Chronic inflammation
- Digestive problems
- Sleep disturbance
- Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI)
- Traumatic Injury to the Craniocervical Junction (CCJ)
A few years ago, we audited over 2 years worth of our patients’ experiences with brain fog. After 7 weeks of care in our office, only 17% of patients reported no change in their brain fog while 31% reported a 70-100% improvement.
Now let’s dive a little deeper into these potential causes of brain fog.
1. Chronic inflammation
Inflammation is a notorious player in many chronic illnesses. Short term inflammation can actually be beneficial and assist in healing the body, but when it becomes chronic it can affect every part of your body, including your brain and cerebrospinal fluid (Cc)—the fluid that bathes your brain and spinal cord.
The purpose of the CSF is to provide nutrients and immune support for your nervous system in addition to removing toxic waste products. Toxic waste comes in the form of cellular waste products, excess hormones or neurotransmitters, and other inflammatory cells and substances.
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Studies examining myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome indicate a potential immune reaction taking place in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). This may be an underlying factor of the brain fog and muscle fatigue experienced by these patients. Read the full article at: http://simmaronresearch.com/2015/04/spinal-fluid-study-finds-dramatic-differences-chronic-fatigue-syndrome/ * #shinealightondysautonomia #dysautonomiaawareness #chronicfatiguesyndrome #myalgicencephalomyelitis
Chronic inflammation can contaminate the CSF, which in turn can affect the functioning of your brain. When this happens, memory challenges, fatigue, dizziness, balance problems, and brain fog may ensue.
Inflammation can be triggered by infections and toxic overload. Infections from bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi (such as candida/yeast infections) trigger an immune response, which when left unchecked can cause acute inflammation to become chronic. In addition, toxic overload coming from substance abuse, heavy metal poisoning, or environmental pollutants can also cause high levels of inflammation in the body which can then affect the brain, resulting in mental clouding or fogginess.
2. Digestive challenges
A commonly cited source of brain fog is problems with the gut; the gut is often referred to as the “second brain” because of the extensive nerve network and similar hormones and chemicals that are found in both the gut and the brain.
When you have issues with your gut, such as leaky gut syndrome or reactions caused by food allergies, you are more likely to experience increased levels of inflammation. When this happens it won’t be long before your brain is affected and the fog sets in. Healing your gut is a critical first step in reducing brain fog. Working with a nutritional specialist or naturopath can help guide you in this process.
Increased stress can be a major contributor when it comes to brain fog. A chronic inappropriate stress response can alter your hormonal balance and ultimately change the way your brain functions. When you are running on high alert (a high stressed state), blood flow in your brain shifts to centers responsible for your survival (hypothalamus and limbic system) and decreases in centres that are responsible for your judgment, decision making, and information processing (prefrontal cortex). This can result in feelings of fogginess and trouble concentrating.
It doesn’t matter what type of stress you’re dealing with—physical, mental, or emotional. If you don’t find ways to eliminate the stress or change how you react to it, you can end up experiencing chronic brain fog.
4. Sleep disturbance
Some people experience sleep disturbances on a nightly basis —reasons can include stress and anxiety, pain, or a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.
While you are sleeping, your brain undergoes a major detoxification process by flushing out toxic cellular waste, promoting healing and repair of tissues, resetting hormonal balances, and allowing for memory consolidation. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to cognitive impairment and accentuation of stress and pain levels.
It’s important to find out what is causing your sleep issues so that proper treatment can reduce the risk of developing more serious conditions.
One of the most underestimated causes of brain fog is dysautonomia, namely dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system.
A condition that features symptoms of dysautonomia that we commonly see at the Vital Posture™Clinic is POTS, or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. POTS is a disorder in which your blood pressure rapidly drops when you stand up. When this happens, the body tries to rapidly pump your blood through your body by increasing your heart rate. This rapid drop in blood pressure can lead to several symptoms including:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Blurry vision
- Extreme fatigue
- Brain fog
6. Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI)
Compromised drainage of blood from the head, cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, is suggested as a possible mechanism contributing to inflammation, and thus, brain fog. Poor drainage can result from a direct clogging of blood vessels or due to mechanical stress caused by chronic poor posture.
Diseases of the central nervous system are often very complex and present with a wide array of seemingly unconnected symptoms, one of which is often brain fog. Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency has been suggested as a possible risk factor and mechanism underlying some of the neurodegenerative diseases. The resulting inflammation in the brain and spinal cord are thought to contribute to the onset and progression of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.
7. Traumatic Injury to the Craniocervical Junction (CCJ)
A traumatic head or neck injury— no matter how minor it may seem at the time—can certainly lead to brain fog. Accidents and injuries to the head and neck can cause acute inflammation that can develop into chronic inflammation when not treated properly. This inflammation can lead to the development of chronic stress and strain on the body resulting in changes in body posture and movement.
Common head and neck injuries that we see at the Vital Posture™ Clinic include concussions and whiplash injuries. Often, people who have suffered from a concussion or severe whiplash injury list mental fogginess as one of their primary complaints.
After any head or neck injury, it is important to look out for certain signs and symptoms and seek medical treatment immediately. These include:
- loss of consciousness
- severe constant headache
- nausea or vomiting
How NUCCA and the Vital Posture™ Clinic can help you conquer brain fog
When your neck is out of alignment, it can directly impact the proper functioning of your nervous system. At the Vital Posture™ Clinic, we treat imbalances in the neck that, if left untreated, can result in brain fog.
In cases such as these, the NUCCA chiropractic technique may be the right treatment for you. This technique is a gentle and precise way to correct joint misalignments of the upper neck, helping to ease your discomfort and lift your mental cloud.
Our caring group of upper cervical experts are committed to getting down to the root of your problem.
A healthy neck promotes a healthy brain.
Have you been living in a fog? We’ve helped countless patients that were riddled with brain fog. Contact us - we are happy to discuss your symptoms and possible solutions.