What Is Brain Fog?
More and more often, patients are presenting to doctors’ offices complaining of difficulty with concentration, word-finding, and short-term memory. These symptoms are often described as “brain fog.” Brain fog appears to have become a prevailing problem of our modern times. Some experts estimate that as many as 600 million people around the world are struggling with this condition.
What’s behind It?
Brain fog is a symptom that comes from multiple sources that, in one way or another, cause a state of chronic inflammation and depletion of molecules that are essential for mitochondrial function in the brain. Eventually, all these sources of inflammation lead to one key problem: mitochondrial dysfunction.
What Do Mitochondria Do?
All human cells contain between 100 and 1,000 mitochondria, the “powerhouses of the cell.”
Mitochondria perform multiple functions in the cell and are now understood to be master regulators of cellular metabolism. Here’s what mitochondria do:
- They utilize food-derived energy sources, such as glucose and fatty acids, to stimulate the production of energy.
- They regulate the recycling of natural antioxidants, such as vitamin C and glutathione.
- They regulate the extraction of inflammatory waste products from the cell and the repair of its genetic material.
When Do Mitochondria become Dysfunctional?
It is precisely because mitochondria are in such a critical role at the center of all cellular activity that they are vulnerable to impacts from multiple sources. Here is just a sampling of what can impact mitochondrial function:
- Inflamed and leaky gut. This condition causes constantly circulating inflammation that depletes enzymes and nutrients needed for mitochondrial function. The causes of leaky gut can be a diet rich in processed carbohydrates, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and excessive alcohol use.
- Toxin exposure and chronic infections. These toxins can range from mold spores to infections such as Lyme Disease or environmental pollutants such as heavy metals and pesticides. Regardless, they directly block mitochondrial communication with the rest of the cell, restricting its ability to function.
- Chronic stress and poor sleep. Both increase inflammation in the body and the brain and drain essential molecules needed for optimal mitochondrial performance.
- Excessive exposure to blue light from electronic devices. Blue light has been shown to directly damage mitochondria in the retina and cause inflammation in the rest of the body.
- Chronic use of some antidepressants. Certain antidepressants such as Lexapro (escitalopram) and Elavil (amitriptyline) have been shown to directly depress mitochondrial activity.
- Chronic use of statins. Statins are notorious for the depletion of key molecules such as coenzyme Q10 (coQ10) needed for optimal mitochondrial function.
- Use of synthetic birth control pills, patches, and intrauterine devices (IUDs). Synthetic hormones have been shown in multiple studies to directly damage liver and kidney mitochondria and deplete essential nutrients needed for mitochondrial function.
- Presence of autoimmune disease. As with leaky gut, autoimmune disease creates a perpetual state of inflammation, depressing mitochondrial activity.
COVID: The Final Straw that Breaks the Camel’s Back of Mitochondria
The evidence clearly shows that most people who suffer from long-haul COVID-related illness had at least one of the eight above-listed issues before becoming infected with a COVID-19 virus strain. This means that their mitochondria were already in a weakened state and were functioning with limited resources. The COVID-19 virus has a particularly strong ability to trigger an inflammatory response in the body.
If the person contracting COVID-19 is already dealing with any of the eight above-listed issues, he or she is already low on the essential antioxidants, enzymes, and co-factors needed for mitochondrial function. As the COVID-19 infection takes hold, these critical molecules are quickly depleted, leading to mitochondrial damage both in the brain and the body. It is this mitochondrial injury in the brain that is the most likely cause of brain fog.
Steps to Reversing Brain Fog
Based on the information provided, it makes sense that the best way to eliminate brain fog is to support and optimize mitochondrial function. This requires a comprehensive approach that most often can only be done in integrative medicine clinics. This approach includes:
- Repletion of depleted nutrients, amino acids, co-enzymes, and co-factors needed for optimal mitochondrial function through oral and intravenous methods;
- Repletion of key antioxidants such as vitamin C, alpha lipoic acid, and glutathione through oral and intravenous methods;
- Correction of leaky gut and gut inflammation. This involves the implementation of an anti-inflammatory diet, correcting dysbiosis (an “imbalance” in the gut microbiota), and treating any co-existing gut infections;
- Correction of hormonal imbalances;
- Discontinuation of synthetic birth control hormones;
- Detoxification of pollutants found in the body through special testing;
- Restoration of sleep and implementation of stress-reduction techniques;
- Limiting blue light exposure;
- Discontinuing drugs that contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction;
- Reducing the severity of auto-immune disease; and
- Providing natural supplements in the form of nasal sprays and oral and intravenous solutions that directly reduce brain inflammation and promote nerve mitochondrial repair.
The OWM Integrative Wellness medical team offers comprehensive medical evaluation and treatment plans that address and eliminate the root causes of brain fog. If you suffer from chronic fatigue and brain fog, call us for a consultation today.