Feeling unfocused? Tired? Unproductive? Can’t concentrate on the task at hand? These are all classic symptoms of brain fog. Most of us eat the foods that cause brain fog every single day without even realizing it. In fact, many people even experience short term memory loss and a general feeling of being unwell that may be caused by their diet. It can be a temporary issue or one that seems to constantly be around.
Brain fog isn’t one specific medical condition, but rather a symptom of underlying conditions like lack of sleep, poor nutrition, sickness, or undiagnosed food sensitivities and allergies. In some cases, unbalanced blood sugar, being low on iron, and, of course, stress can be contributing factors.
More often than not, these symptoms can be improved or even eliminated by making some smart changes in your diet. Let’s take a look at eight foods that cause brain fog and what you can do to fix it.
8 Foods That Cause Brain Fog and What to Eat Instead
Gluten is one of the top foods that cause brain fog, and you don’t have to have celiac disease to experience issues with gluten. People who are even mildly sensitive to gluten can experience an inflammatory response throughout their bodies when they eat gluten. Over time, repeated gluten consumption in those with sensitivities can lead to moderate or high levels of chronic inflammation, depending on their level of sensitivity.
Chronic inflammation, especially in the gut, can impact the way your brain functions over time. If you’re sensitive to gluten, every time you eat it, you’re aggravating your intestines and affecting your digestion, which leads to nutrient deficiencies, on top of the inflammation.
The best way to find out if gluten is contributing to your brain fog is to eliminate it from your diet for several months and then slowly reintroduce gluten foods to see how you feel. Only eat foods that are naturally gluten-free, such as fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins. If you have a hectic lifestyle or aren’t sure where to start, utilizing a gluten-free meal delivery service can make the process easier and keep you from feeling deprived.
Many people don’t realize it, but the histamines we associate with seasonal allergies are also found in many foods. People who are sensitive to histamines may experience a hazy reaction when they eat foods that contain them, similar to what they may have during the pollen season.
Foods that contain histamines include chocolate, nuts, legumes, shellfish, dairy, fermented foods, and alcohol. Although many of these foods are thought of as healthy, those who are sensitive to histamines may experience allergy symptoms after they eat them, including brain fog and fatigue.
Making the switch to a low-histamine diet may improve or even eliminate your brain fog symptoms. Focus on a diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, salmon, meats, and poultry. The exceptions are eggplant, avocado, spinach, and tomatoes which much higher in histamines than most fruits and vegetables.
3. Refined Sugar and Carbohydrates
Turning to sugar and empty carbs might seem like a good idea when you’re dealing with brain fog because they can give you a quick boost of energy. Unfortunately, regular intake of refined sugar, corn syrup, and white flour can also lead to dramatic swings in your glucose levels, causing brain fog symptoms.
In addition, these foods can encourage the growth of candida yeast in the body. This yeast overgrowth can cause brain fog and fatigue. In general, the brain responds best to diets that have a balance of healthy fats and lean proteins, with minimal refined carbs and sugar.
Try to limit your intake of grains and get your carbs from fruits and vegetables instead. Avoid refined sugar as much as possible and eat a high protein, high fiber diet to combat sugar cravings and improve brain function.
4. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners like aspartame can have all sorts of negative impacts on the body, including headaches, gut imbalances, and brain fog. Aspartame is especially dangerous because it suppresses neurotransmitter production in a way that’s similar to dopamine, which leads to brain inflammation and can actually wear down the brain’s blood barrier over time.
If this happens, it could allow aspartame and other toxins can enter the brain, destroying brain cells and increasing free radicals. While this is an extreme situation, it’s something you should take seriously if you regularly consume aspartame.
Everyone should eliminate artificial sweeteners from their diet because they can have a serious impact on health and may even cause cancer. If you’re trying to cut calories, choose a natural, calorie-free sweetener like stevia. It has none of the toxic effects of artificial sweeteners.
Many of us turn to caffeine to feel more awake and focused, but it can actually have the complete opposite effect. While you may feel more alert at first, as the caffeine wears off, you’ll experience a low that includes fatigue and brain fog. The more caffeine you consume, the more likely you are to experience major highs and lows. It’s a vicious cycle that can have a huge impact on your health.
If you generally consume more than 100 mg of caffeine every day, cutting back may reduce your brain fog symptoms. Try limiting yourself to one or two cups of regular coffee in the morning and then switch to decaf for the rest of the day. If soda is your vice, switch to sparkling water that has the fizz and flavor you crave without the caffeine or sugar.
If you’re still not convinced, look at it this way. Lack of sleep is a major contributor to brain fog, and caffeine can be a major contributor to insomnia. At the same time, getting more sleep will reduce your need for caffeine and improve your alertness.
We all know that overindulging in alcohol will leave you feeling unwell the next day, but it goes further than that. Many types of alcohol, including most beer, contain gluten. As we’ve already discussed, gluten sensitivity is a major contributor to brain fog. Not only that, but alcohol is extremely high in histamines, compounding its brain fog inducing effects for many people.
If you are sensitive to histamines or gluten, you’re better off eliminating alcohol from your diet altogether. Stick to fruit and vegetable juices, sparkling water, and good old-fashioned H2O to keep your brain functioning at its best.
Many people with lactose intolerance deal with digestive issues after consuming dairy, but it’s also one of the top foods that cause brain fog. People who are sensitive to dairy may experience hormonal imbalances, allergy symptoms, mood swings, autoimmune problems, as well as brain fog after consuming dairy products.
Even if you’re not lactose intolerant, it’s worth eliminating dairy from your diet to see if it improves your brain fog symptoms. Thankfully, it is very easy to find dairy-free alternatives for your favorite foods, so try eliminating it for a few months to see how much better you feel.
Many of us eat the foods that cause brain fog every day. Since brain fog can affect every aspect of your life, making some changes in your diet to relieve or even eliminate your symptoms is certainly worth a try. Making these changes can also improve your overall mental and physical health, and they have to leave you feeling bored or deprived.