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We’ve all been there.
We decide to start eating healthy and it all goes well for a while. Then, one stressful day we realize that we have nothing to eat for dinner. We’re hungry, we’re tired, and we just can’t seem to think of anything healthy to eat. The fridge appears empty and it’s actually hard to remember why we wanted to eat healthy in the first place.
This is what I like to call diet-induced “mental fog“ or “brain fog.”
This is the feeling we get when we’re hungry, can’t think of anything healthy to eat, and can barely remember why we want to avoid unhealthy food.
When this happens, our chances of a full-blown junk food binge increase substantially.
It’s Not A Matter Of “If,” But “When”
This mental state will occur sooner rather than later. You scared? You should be!
But there is no need to panic because I have a few tips that can circumvent this sort of situation.
This involves writing down solutions to your problems while you are clearheaded and having them on hand when your brain suddenly decides to turn into an organic vegetable.
There are five different lists that can help here.
Planning Meals Ahead Of Time
Planning your meals ahead of time can work wonders. You will never have to worry about what you’ll have for breakfast, lunch, or dinner because you’ve already planned it.
You can do this once per week, once every two weeks, or perhaps just a few days in advance.
This way, you will know what you need to buy at the supermarket and you won’t find yourself standing ravenously hungry in front of an empty fridge (or a colorful and tempting vending machine).
Write Down What You Lose By Avoiding Bad Food
I recommend writing a list of the sacrifices you make by avoiding unhealthy foods.
This can include things like, “can’t eat cakes at birthday parties,” “can’t eat my way out of feeling blue,” or “will have to cut back on my favorite food, pizza.”
Write Down What You Gain By Choosing Healthy Foods
This list should include all the benefits you believe you will gain by eating healthy foods to boost your metabolism.
This list might include things like, “I’ll look good in clothes,” “I’ll look good naked,” “I’ll feel comfortable in my own skin,” “I won’t feel like people are judging me,” and “I will live a longer, healthier life.”
Compare These Two Lists And Make An Informed Decision
These two lists are the facts. You wrote them when you were fully conscious and clearheaded. Now look at both lists and compare them.
Which is more important to you? The things you lose by avoiding junk foods or the things you gain by eating healthy foods?
Make a logical decision. Most likely you will think that the benefits of eating healthy far outweigh the negatives. Write it down on your list.
It could say something like: “I have made a logical decision that the benefits of eating a healthy diet far outweigh the negatives.”
Say it out loud and repeat it a few times!
A List Of Healthy Fast Food Places
There are actually many “fast food” places out there that do serve healthy food.
One place that I like to go to serves foods that are mostly unprocessed, organic, and made with ingredients that are natural.
Many places that generally serve unhealthy food do have healthier options. Many burger joints may also serve a steak with a baked potato. Some places have bacon and eggs or a chicken salad.
Look around, call, ask your friends, look on the internet. You will find these places if you look.
Write them down. Have a list of 5-10 “fast-food” places that you can eat at that are reasonable alternatives to a healthy, home-cooked meal.
A List Of “Dirty” Meals
Sometimes, we get these cravings for something energy dense and “dirty” like a hamburger or a pizza.
When this happens, we might even feel disgusted by the thought of eating healthy stuff like fish or vegetables.
During these moments, having a list of “dirty” but still relatively healthy meals can help.
My go-to dirty meals are:
- 5-6 eggs, fried in butter, mixed with fatty cheese and garlic. Fry until cheese gets a grilled texture.
- Ground beef, fried in butter with fatty cheese, salt, pepper and some garlic. Fry until cheese gets a grilled texture.
These meals taste somewhat like they might be related to junk foods, but they are actually much better choices than actual junk food.
Your Emergency Manual
I recommend you write these lists on your computer and print them out. Possibly print several copies.
Keep them with you where they might be needed — in your glove compartment, on your fridge (or hidden near it), in your desk at work.
Look at it like your emergency manual. This is your go-to manual for what to do to survive a junk food craving “emergency.”
When the mental fog sets in, having lists like these to remind yourself why you are eating healthy and what you can do to get a healthy meal can literally make or break your weight loss efforts.
17 Aug 6 ways to chase away premenstrual brain fog
I received this question from Jenny, a Hormonology reader:
“Is there a food or supplement that will reduce Week 4 brain fog and forgetfulness?”
My answer: Yes! There are actually a quite a few foods, beverages, supplements and activities that can clear away the cobwebs and reduce Week 4 premenstrual brain fog and forgetfulness caused by sedating progesterone and dipping estrogen.
Here are 6 of my favorite brain- and memory-boosters:
1. Green tea: It has a far smaller amount of caffeine in it than black tea and coffee–and this is actually a good thing since too much caffeine in your premenstrual week can worsen irritability and moodiness. However, it has just enough caffeine to give you a mild boost, plus it has l-theanine, which is calming (but in a way that’s not tiring) and helps you focus. Green tea is also rich in certain compounds called catechins–the most recognized one is EGCG–that sharpen memory and boost concentration.
2. Dark chocolate (the darker the better): Though a lot of people are aware that chocolate seems to have an energizing effect, most mistakenly attribute it to caffeine. Chocolate actually only has a small amount of caffeine. The energizing buzz you get is from compounds in chocolate that trigger the production of mood-boosting chemicals in the brain, including endorphins and serotonin, and from theobromine in chocolate, which is a mild stimulant. Chocolate also improves blood flow to the brain, helping with focus and memory.
3. Exercise: Admittedly, probably not as fun as eating chocolate for many folks, but running, jumping, dancing and anything else that gets your blood pumping revs energy and chases away mental fogginess by improving blood flow to the brain and triggering the release of mood-lifting brain chemicals.
4.Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): Not a lot of people know about this vitamin-like supplement, but I’ve taken it for years to help prevent migraines. It’s also been shown to boost energy levels by helping to rev the “power plants” (mitochondria) in your body’s cells. The generally recommended dosage (and the one I take) is 100 mg. three times daily throughout your cycle.
5. Chew gum: Sounds too simple–and maybe too silly–to work, but numerous studies show the rhythmic motion of chewing gum sends energizing oxygen to the brain, improving mental energy and focus. Some research suggests that peppermint or spearmint flavors have the biggest brain-sharpening effect, but other research suggests that any other flavor will work, too.
6. Get better sleep: During your premenstrual week, you’re getting worse sleep as plunging estrogen drags down the level of sleep-regulating serotonin in the brain and makes you more sensitive to smells, sounds, light and anything else that can keep you awake–and this is impacting your mental and physical energy. So, try to zap all the most common premenstrual sleep-stealers: Nix noxious odors by opening a window to air out the room, giving your bedding a fresh wash and moving stinky stuff (like dirty laundry) out of the bedroom. Mask sleep-disrupting sounds (like dog barking or traffic) with a white-noise machine or fan. Get more relaxed so you can reach deeper stages of sleep by meditating, doing yoga, dabbing on lavender essential oil or sipping chamomile tea two hours prior to turning in (so you have time to empty your bladder). Make sure the room is totally dark or wear a sleep mask. And do anything else that can help you get deeper, more restful sleep.
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Do you find yourself unable to concentrate? Is this combined with problems with your memory and overall cognitive function? If so, you might be suffering from what is known as “brain fog.”
Although tough to describe, the generally accepted symptoms of brain fog include forgetfulness, trouble thinking, hard time focusing, difficulty communicating, and clouded thoughts. Several conditions are associated with brain fog, including celiac disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, autism spectrum disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, postural tachycardia syndrome, mastocytosis, and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Many patients who have undergone chemotherapy also report experiencing brain fog, something often referred to as chemo brain or chemo fog.
What do these conditions have in common? And why do they lead to mild to moderate cognitive impairment? There are many potential underlying reasons behind brain fog, although inflammation in the brain might be a main contributing factor. This dysfunction might also arise due to deficits in how the brain processes information or reduced blood flow in the brain.
So, what can you do to improve brain fog? Well, removing certain foods that lead to systemic and neuroinflammation, such as gluten, foods to which you are allergic, highly processed carbohydrates, and certain additives is an important step to take.
You also want to be sure to nourish your brain by providing it with the main nutrients it needs to efficiently function: antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin D, and the B-vitamins. Incorporate some or all of the following foods to fight your brain fog and improve your cognitive health.
Salmon is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. There are two omega-3 fatty acids: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is the one that is found in the brain, and it participates in several key functions in the brain: neuroplasticity, neuron differentiation, neurogenesis, and membrane integrity. When any of these functions breaks down, it can lead to impairment in brain processes and function. Therefore, you don’t just want omega-3 fatty acids; you want DHA. To further help improve brain fog, omega-3 fatty acids also reduce inflammation in the brain.
Salmon is famous for its rich supply of the beneficial fatty acids, especially DHA (2.208 grams for half a fillet). As an added bonus, salmon is also a rich source of the B-vitamins and vitamin D. Just be sure to choose wild salmon.
Avocados are rich in many brain-healthy nutrients, including healthy fats and vitamin E. Avocados are a source of oleic acid, the good fat associated with the healthy benefits of olive oil. In one study, intake of avocado oil reduced oxidative stress, including lipid peroxidation, and prevented mitochondrial dysfunction in the brains of diabetic rats. Oxidative stress is associated with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, so it is possible that it also plays a role in the development of brain fog associated with other disorders. By consuming foods that mitigate oxidative stress like avocados, you prevent some of the damage that could lead to brain fog and other cognitive dysfunction.
As mentioned above, antioxidants are necessary for brain health. The high level of activity in the neurons means increased requirements for mitochondria, the cell’s energy source. As such, there is a constant supply of both energy in the form of ATP and reactive oxygen species (ROS). Although ROS do have a physiological purpose, they also contribute to oxidative stress. Once the oxidative stress becomes more than what the body’s antioxidant capacity can handle, issues arise. Antioxidants counter oxidative stress and reduce inflammation, which contributes to several neuropsychiatric disorders, and potentially brain fog.
Blueberries are one of the fruits with the highest levels of antioxidants, but there are plenty of other foods from which to choose for copious amounts of brain-healthy antioxidants, including pomegranates, plums, grapes, cherries, kale, beets, blackberries, strawberries, green tea, and cocoa.
Nuts and seeds also play a role in fighting brain fog. In epidemiology studies, those who consume more fruits, vegetables and nuts had better cognitive health than those who did not. This is most likely due to the many phytochemicals found in plant-based foods.
Walnuts in particular deserve to be in your arsenal for fighting brain fog, as long as you are not allergic, thanks to the high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Studies have found that eating walnuts led to reduced neuroinflammation and oxidative stress, as well as improved interneuronal signaling and neurogenesis.
Although not technically a food, water is an essential nutrient for your brain. In one study, one of the main triggers of brain fog in patients with postural tachycardia syndrome was dehydration. This makes sense, since dehydration leads to brain shrinkage and increases in the ventricular volume.
In a study that looked at the effects of dehydration on cognitive performance in healthy adolescents, the researchers found that although cognitive function was not immediately affected, the brain required more effort to perform the same task. Although the brain might adapt in the short-term, chronic dehydration might lead to deficit in brain function and contribute to the feelings associated with brain fog.
Therefore, before you even start to decide what foods to add or remove from your diet, make sure you are adequately hydrated. Ideally, you want to drink filtered water. You can infuse it with lemon, other fresh fruit, and herbs if you do not like the taste of water. Avoid drinking too much juice, coffee, and tea, and do not turn to soda when you need a drink.
When deciding what foods to eat to fight your brain fog, turn to those rich in antioxidants, the B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin D. Focus on consuming lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, while minimizing the foods that contribute to inflammation, such as sugar and gluten.
Mental fog is often described as a “cloudy-headed” feeling.
Common conditions of brain fog include poor memory, difficulty focusing or concentrating, and struggling with articulation.
Imagine if you could concentrate your brain power into one bright beam and focus it like a laser on whatever you wish to accomplish.
Many people struggle to concentrate. And when you can’t concentrate, everything you do is harder and takes longer than you’d like.
Mess creates stress.
There’s a strong link between your physical space and your mental space.
Clutter is bad for your mind and health. It can create long-term, low-level anxiety.
When the book, The Japanese Art of Reorganizing and Decluttering , by Marie Condo became a best-seller, it wasn’t too surprising.
We are all looking for ways to create more meaningful lives with less to distract us.
Get rid of clutter at your office, on your desk, in your room, and you will send a clear message of calm directly to your brain.
Start decluttering today in small, focused bursts. You’re not going to clean up your entire space in a day, so start small to make it a daily habit that sticks.
Set yourself up for success by making a plan and targeting specific areas you’re going to declutter, clean up, and organize over a prolonged period of time.
The ability to multi-task is a false badge of honor.
Task switching has a severe cost.
Your concentration suffers when you multitask.
It compromises how much actual time you spend doing productive work, because you’re continually unloading and reloading the hippocampus/short term memory.
Research shows that tasks switching actually burns more calories and fatigues your brain – reducing your overall capacity for productive thought and work.
Commit to completing one task at a time.
Remove potential distractions (like silencing your mobile, turning off email alerts) before you start deep work to avoid the temptation to switch between tasks.
Use the 3-to-1 method!
Narrow down your most important tasks to 3, and then give one task your undivided attention for a period of time.
Allow yourself to rotate between the three, giving yourself a good balance of singular focus and variety.
Disconnect. Your productivity, creativity and next big idea depends on it.
Urgency wrecks productivity. Urgent but unimportant tasks are major distractions.
Last-minute distractions are not necessarily priorities.
Sometimes important tasks stare you right in the face, but you neglect them and respond to urgent but unimportant things.
You need to reverse that. It’s one the only ways to master your time.
Your ability to distinguish urgent and important tasks has a lot to do with your success.
Important tasks are things that contribute to your long-term mission, values, and goals. Separating these differences is simple enough to do once, but doing so continually can be tough.
Comfort provides a state of mental security.
When you’re comfortable and life is good, your brain can release chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which lead to happy feelings.
But in the long-term, comfort is bad for your brain.
Without mental stimulation dendrites, connections between brain neurons that keep information flowing, shrink or disappear altogether.
An active life increases dendrite networks and also increase the brain’s regenerating capacity, known as plasticity.
“Neglect of intense learning leads plasticity systems to waste away,” says Norman Doidge in his book, The Brain That Changes Itself.
Michael Merzenich, a pioneer of plasticity research, and author of Soft-wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life says that going beyond the familiar is essential to brain health.
“It’s the willingness to leave the comfort zone that is the key to keeping the brain new,” he says.
Seeking new experiences, learning new skills, and opening the door to new ideas inspire us and educate us in a way improves mental clarity.
Sitting still all day, every day, is dangerous.
Love it or hate it, physical activity can have potent effects on your brain and mood.
The brain is often described as being “like a muscle”. Its needs to be exercised for better performance.
Research shows that moving your body can improve your cognitive function.
30–45 minutes of brisk walking, three times a week, can help fend off the mental wear and tear.
What you do with your body impinges on your mental faculties.
Find something you enjoy, then get up and do it. And most importantly, make it a habit.
It’s extremely easy to consume content.
You are passive. Even relaxed.
But for each piece of unlimited content you consume, it stops a piece of content you could have created.
Limit your mass media consumption.
Embrace the creation habit.
Start paying attention to the noise that you let seep into your eyes and ears.
Ask, Is this benefitting my life in any way?
Does all this information make me more prone to act?
Does it really make me more efficient? Does it move me forward in any significant way?
Let creation determine consumption.
Allow curiosity to lead you to discover and pursue something you deepy care about. Make time to create something unique.
The point is to get lost in awe and wonder like you did when you were a child. When you achieve that feeling from a certain activity, keep doing it!
Share your authentic self with the rest of us.
My new course, Thinking in Models is open for enrollment . It’s designed to help you to think clearly, solve problems at multiple levels of depth, and make complex decisions with confidence. Join a community of people on a mission to think clearly, work better, solve problems at multiple levels of depths, and make complex decisions with confidence! Click here for details.
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By Valerie Tunks
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
While on my own personal journey to learn more about the pros and cons of consuming gluten, I ran across a common theme: clouding of the mind, also known conventionally as mental fog or “brain fog,” due to the consumption of foods containing gluten. Conversely, I found that many who were omitting gluten from their diets, either voluntarily or on a physician’s recommendation, noted improvements in memory and mental clarity. If you’ve ever put your car keys in the freezer by mistake, looked for your car in the wrong section of the parking lot, or simply couldn’t think clearly for seemingly no reason at all, you may be able to relate.
Often chalked up to a “normal part of getting older,” symptoms of brain fog include mild confusion, forgetfulness and/or the inability to think clearly. But this doesn’t have to be your fate.
Certain foods such as artificial sweeteners and dairy have been linked to mental fog, but more and more physicians are discovering that mental fog is quite strongly linked to gluten intolerance. Within weeks of eliminating gluten from my own diet, I noticed an ability to think more clearly.
Luckily, there are several foods that have been associated with improved cognitive performance that are naturally gluten free. Tired of losing your keys? Here are six foods you can reach for to clear up mental fog and boost your brain health:
Avocado is high in oleic acid, a fatty acid that plays a role in protecting neurons. Along with other omega fatty acids, oleic acid helps make up the myelin sheath, a lining on neurons that helps information in your brain travel at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. Avocados also increase healthy blood flow which promotes increased brain function and improved heart health. Throw some avocado on your salad or spread some on your sandwich and supercharge your brain for those holiday events.
Also called “brainberries” by Dr. Steven Platt, MD author of Superfoods Rx: Fourteen Foods Proven to Change Your Life, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities of all fruits and vegetables and are known to improve memory and cognitive function. They have memory-protecting properties and have even been associated with the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Add some blueberries to your breakfast and you may not need to check that to-do list several times throughout the day.
Not only are beans wallet-friendly, they also help stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing how your body processes carbohydrates. Our brains need a steady stream of energy and beans do the job. By adding more beans to your diet, you add some carb-like texture to your meals without consuming any gluten.
4. Nuts and seeds
One ounce a day can reduce inflammation, provide you with a great source of protein and satisfy your appetite. In addition to having a high fiber content, nuts and seeds are packed with vitamins, minerals, and brain-boosting omega fats, having a positive impact on your brain and heart health. For an easy snack on-the-go, reach for almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds (pumpkin seeds are specifically beneficial for men).
5. Wild Salmon
High levels of omega-3 fatty acids in addition to astaxanthin, B vitamins, and amino acids make wild salmon a winner for improving cognitive function. There is a wealth of research supporting omega 3’s role in brain health preservation while B vitamins and amino acids boost everyday brain function.
6. Dark Chocolate
The powerful antioxidant properties of dark chocolate and natural stimulants help enhance focus, improve concentration and stimulate the production of endorphins, helping to not only support brain health, but improve mood, too. One to two Hershey Kiss-size pieces of dark chocolate a day will provide all the benefits you need. So, don’t feel guilty reaching for that piece of dark chocolate – it will help you think more clearly and cheer you up.
Fibromyalgia symptoms aren’t limited to physical pain. These tips can help you cope with the feelings of disorientation and forgetfulness that can be part of the condition.
Confused. Forgetful. Can’t concentrate. Mixing up your words. Experiencing short-term memory loss. Many of the 10 million people in the United States with fibromyalgia complain of these cognitive difficulties, commonly referred to as “fibro fog” or “brain fog.”
“I don’t have a percentage to give you,” says Elizabeth Lyster, MD, of the Holtorf Medical Group in Foster City, Calif., “but fibro fog is a very common complaint among patients with fibromyalgia.”
The cause of fibro fog isn’t fully understood. Many believe that it may have to do with fibromyalgia patients’ inability to sleep well. “Therefore they’re chronically fatigued,” says Corey Walker, MD, a rheumatologist at the Intermountain Health Care System in Logan, Utah. “Their minds aren’t rested.” Also, he says, fibromyalgia pain can be debilitating — it’s hard to concentrate when you’re in a lot of pain.
Another theory is that when people have fibromyalgia pain, parts of their brain do not receive enough oxygen, causing confusion or disorientation.
What You Can Do for Fibromyalgia Fog
There are some steps you can take to help alleviate your fibromyalgia symptoms, including feeling as though you’re in a fog:
- Avoid caffeine. “Most people think they’ll feel more alert or more awake with caffeine,” Dr. Lyster says. “However, caffeine can make things worse for people with fibromyalgia.” Even a small amount of caffeine can contribute to sleep disturbances. Also, caffeine is a stimulant, but you can crash when it wears off.
- Use a planner. Keep track of appointments and events in a calendar, either on paper or on your computer. Some computer programs allow you to set alarms to remind you when you need to make a phone call or attend a meeting. Set a kitchen timer to remind you to take the meatloaf out of the oven or pick your daughter up from hockey practice.
- Get in a rut. Establishing routines for simple tasks can help you deal with brain fog. For example, if every time you return home, you put your car keys on a hook by the door before you do anything else, you’re less likely to lose them and you won’t be frustrated trying to remember where they are the next time you have to go somewhere.
- Organize your space. It’s hard to concentrate when you’re surrounded by too much junk — that makes it too easy to get distracted. Throw out things that you no longer need, and store those you do use in their proper place. Removing clutter is a good way to control brain fog.
- Don’t multi-task. It’s very tempting to talk on the phone while making dinner or answer e-mails in between paying bills online. But it is harder to concentrate when you’re trying to do too much at once. Be upfront with your friends and family who may be asking for help when you’re busy doing something else: Tell them you need to do only one thing at a time and will help them as soon as you’re done.
- De-stress. Stress may cause fibro fog to worsen in some people, Lyster says. Susan Ingebretson of Los Angeles finds stress relievers such as yoga or meditation help her overcome fibro fog. “I’m constantly applying stress-relieving modalities to my life, which helps me balance the fibro fog as well as many other fibromyalgia symptoms,” she says.
- Breathe deeply. Ingebretson, 51, finds that if she takes deep breaths and relaxes it helps her considerably. “‘Fibrofolk’ are known to be shallow breathers,” she says. “We also hold our breath when under stress.” She has found that breathing deeply and consistently “does wonders for the brain.”
- Get better sleep. “One of the most important fibromyalgia treatments is getting quality sleep,” Lyster says. To improve sleep, go to bed and wake up the same time every day, even on weekends. Use your bed for sleeping, not reading, watching TV, or working on your laptop. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool so you’re comfortable when you sleep. Some herbal supplements also have shown to be effective in inducing quality sleep, Lyster says.
- Get regular exercise. “Low-impact exercise is helpful,” Dr. Walker says. Exercise not only improves blood flow, but also helps improve sleep, which can help alleviate some of the cognitive difficulties associated with fibromyalgia pain.
- Eat healthy. “I found that nutritional support (meaning actually eating real food) made a huge difference for me,” Ingebretson says. “So did drinking more water.” A healthy diet is one that is rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains and includes lean meats and low-fat dairy. “Stay away from processed foods and sugars and fast foods,” Walker adds.
- Check on your meds. Your treatment for fibromyalgia pain may include medications. Talk to your doctor if you believe your meds are making you confused — a possible side effect. Also, you may want to discuss medications that can help with attention and concentration.
Cognitive difficulties are a common fibromyalgia symptom. But if you take care of yourself — eat healthy, exercise, relax, and try not to overdo — you can better cope with the mental issues associated with this chronic condition.
NBC’s Morgan Chesky reports on his own recovery from coronavirus
Dallas-based NBC News correspondent Morgan Chesky has revealed has had the coronavirus and is opening up about how he’s dealing with his recovery.
Chesky, 34, first shared his status on July 2 in a lengthy message on Twitter in which he explained how he is feeling.
“Early last week I noticed I had lost my sense of taste and smell and within a few hours started to feel surprisingly tired and a bit lightheaded. When a cough soon followed, I was fortunately able to get tested and receive my results within 24 hours. Sure enough, after covering a pandemic for the past 6 months I became a part of it when the results Covid-19 came back positive.”
Chesky then went on to chronicle how he was not feeling up to speed.
Coronavirus ‘is going to be here until we get a vaccine,’ doctor says
“I spent the next several days in bed treating a dull, but constant headache, heavily fatigued, with occasional pain through my back. After hearing past patients complain of a mental fog, I found out what they meant when basic tasks seemed to become significantly harder to focus on and process,” he wrote. “Important to note, my ability to breathe was never compromised and I never felt a fever set in. All told, it appears I’m a mild case and for that I feel incredibly blessed.”
Two weeks later, Chesky returned to work to deliver a report on TODAY and to make mention he’s on the mend after his diagnosis.
“It’s certainly been a bit of a journey,” he said. “This was an unsettling feeling. Since this virus impacts everyone in such a different way, (I’d) wake up and wonder what’s going to happen next.”
Chesky wrote about this anxiety in his earlier post on Twitter, noting it is not at all pleasant.
“I know what you’re thinking, and no, I don’t know where I crossed paths with Covid-19. During its estimated incubation time, I was in multiple cities so at this point it’s anyone’s guess. What I do know is that it’s a truly unsettling feeling to wake up every day and wonder how your body will respond to a virus that we’re still learning about.
Find out how menopause affects your thinking, and get tips on how to cope with brain fog and related menopause issues.
When most women think about menopause, the classic menopause symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and sleep problems come to mind. But many women aren’t aware that another common complaint during menopause is “brain fog,” or problems with memory, confusion, and a wandering mind, which often relate to menopausal fatigue.
Why do fatigue and brain fog affect women around the time of menopause? Some researchers suggest that the fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels, which are the primary cause of most menopause symptoms, can be linked to poorer memory and cognitive decline (problems with thinking). What’s more, the hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, and mood swings can leave you feeling fatigued and mentally out of whack.
Symptoms of ‘Brain Fog’ and Fatigue in Menopause
If you are beginning to experience menopause symptoms, you may find that you suddenly have trouble sleeping through the night. This lack of sleep can cause you to feel tired and overwhelmed. It can also increase the chance that you experience the cognitive problems familiarly known as “brain fog.”
While brain fog often occurs as people get older, some researchers now believe that hormonal changes associated with menopause can also contribute to this problem. Symptoms of brain fog may include:
- Memory issues
- Difficulty focusing
- Decreased alertness
Help for Brain Fog in Menopause
While fatigue, brain fog, and other menopause symptoms are troublesome, the good news is that they will usually improve over time. Research shows that the intellectual edge lost during the period leading up to a woman’s last menstrual cycle does rebound in the later phases of menopause. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), or estrogen and progesterone in the form of medications, can also help women better manage brain fog and fatigue. HRT, however, has been linked to many health problems. In addition, studies have not definitively determined that HRT helps improve cognitive function or sleep in postmenopausal women. Therefore, it is very important that you talk with your doctor about your particular symptoms as well as HRT’s individual risks and benefits before using this treatment.
“Hormone therapy isn’t for everyone, [but if you have symptoms], don’t suffer, talk to your doc,” advises Dr. Roger Lobo, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University in New York City.
Here are other practical ways you can help control the cognitive symptoms of menopause symptoms, including brain fog and fatigue:
- Eat right. A well-balanced diet can help you feel more energetic and mentally focused.
- Avoid known triggers. Stay away from hot or spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine, which may bring on hot flashes that can contribute to fatigue.
- Exercise regularly. Being active can help preserve your brain function and aid memory.
- Cut the stress. Manage stress levels to help prevent hot flashes and insomnia, both of which can leave you tired and mentally drained.
- Focus on adequate sleep. Make sure you get plenty of sleep; it will help keep your memory sharp.
- Prepare to wind down. Avoid eating too much, smoking, working, or exercising too close to bedtime.
- Set the sleep stage. Pay attention to your environment by creating a dark, quiet, cool room with a fan on.
- Be consistent. Keep your sleep schedule regular by waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day.
If you find that fatigue, brain fog, and other menopause symptoms are still interfering with your everyday life after making these adjustments, talk with your doctor about other ways you can better manage them. There are medications and over-the-counter remedies available, other than HRT, that can be useful in managing certain menopause symptoms such as hot flashes. There’s no reason to brave the “fog” alone.
The use of probiotics could lead to a cluster of symptoms — that include brain fog and abdominal bloating — by increasing bacteria in the small intestine.
Share on Pinterest Might probiotics be behind severe abdominal bloating and brain fog?
This was the conclusion that researchers at Augusta University in Georgia came to after studying 30 people with abdominal symptoms such as gas, bloating, and distension.
Of these people, 22 also reported symptoms of brain fog, which is a temporary mental condition that brings on confusion and difficulties with concentration and memory. All 22 were taking probiotics, some more than one brand.
Some reported that their episodes of brain fog — which can last for several hours after a meal — were so bad that they had to give up work.
Although they all had similarly severe abdominal symptoms, those with brain fog were more likely to have two other conditions: an accumulation of bacteria in their small intestine, and higher blood levels of D-lactic acid. In some cases, the acid levels were two to three times the normal.
Lactobacillus bacteria species, one of “the most commonly used probiotics,” produces D-lactic acid. The bacteria make the acid when they ferment sugar in the food that is passing through the gut.
The brain fog cleared and, for most patients, the abdominal symptoms “improved significantly” after treatment with antibiotics and stopping use of probiotics.
A paper on the study is now published in the journal Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology.
“What we now know,” explains first study author Dr. Satish S. C. Rao, the director of the Digestive Health Clinical Research Center at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, “is that probiotic bacteria have the unique capacity to break down sugar and produce D-lactic acid.”
He suggests that taking probiotics might “inadvertently” establish the conditions for brain fog and other symptoms by populating the small intestine with too many bacteria that produce D-lactic acid.
As research tools have improved, scientists have uncovered increasing evidence of the role that bacteria and other microorganisms in the human gut have in health and disease.
The human gut is home to a complex ecosystem of some 300–500 species of bacteria with a total of just under 2 million genes.
These microbe colonies live in partnership with us. They interact with our immune system, help us digest food, and take part in our metabolic processes. In return, we protect them against enemy microbes and provide shelter and nutrients.
The human gut is sterile at birth and soon begins to accumulate microbes from various sources. The variety and composition of the microbe colonies depends on many factors, such as the type of birth, sanitation, method of feeding, physical contacts, and use of antibiotics.
Because of the muscular movement of food along the gut, and because gastric acid, bile, and other digestive juices have an antibiotic effect, the parts of the gut that lie in the stomach and the nearby small intestine are relatively devoid of bacteria in healthy people.
In contrast, the colon — which is found at the other end of the gut near the rectum — contains much denser colonies of bacteria, and their composition is very different.
Here, the dominant strains — including Lactobacilli — are anaerobic, likely because of adaptation to the low-oxygen environment. The bacteria in the parts of the gut nearer the stomach, on the other hand, are predominantly aerobic.
For many years, we have heard that taking particular amounts of certain microorganisms — known as probiotics — can benefit human health due to their effect on the gut.
It is now common practice to take probiotics to alleviate gastrointestinal conditions and diseases, and clinicians treating them are also increasingly recommending them.
The most commonly used probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species.
In the United States, probiotics are classed as dietary supplements and their production is not subject to the same Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations as those required of drugs.
There are many commercial probiotics available over the counter. They come in different forms, such as “freeze-dried” pills, sachets that can be mixed with drinks, and yogurts.
While some probiotic manufacturers have tested some of their products in clinical trials, there has been little or no research on whether taking different probiotics together causes the bacteria to work with or against each other.
There are certain scenarios in which probiotic use causes problems, including conditions that affect the movement of food along the gastrointestinal tract. People who take opioids and drugs to reduce stomach acid also experience problems.
Dr. Rao and his colleagues recognize that probiotics can benefit some people in certain situations, such as helping replenish gut bacteria after taking antibiotics. However, they warn against “excessive and indiscriminate use.”
All the people who took part in the study underwent extensive gastrointestinal exams to rule out other possible reasons for their symptoms. Also, they completed questionnaires about their symptoms, use of probiotics, consumption of yogurt, and particular food habits.
The team administered metabolic tests that followed what happened when participants consumed carbohydrates. These showed the effect on levels of glucose, insulin, D-lactic acid, and L-lactate acid, which is produced when muscles burn glucose for energy.
The “most severe symptoms” experienced in the 30 patients were “bloating, pain, distension, and gas” in the abdomen. These were similarly intense in the 22 patients with brain fog (who all consumed probiotics) and the 8 without.
The researchers found that the brain fog group was more likely to have a condition called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), in which there are far more bacteria in the small intestine compared with those of healthy individuals.
They also found that three quarters of the brain fog group had higher levels of D-lactic acid in their blood compared with a quarter of those in the group without brain fog.
Other studies have suggested that probiotics may lead to overproduction of D-lactic acid and result in brain fog in people with short bowel syndrome. This is a condition in which the small intestine does not function correctly and results in undigested carbohydrate.
The excess of undigested carbohydrate is what causes SIBO and the resulting higher levels of D-lactic acid.
Dr. Rao says that their study appears to be the first to link probiotic use to brain fog, SIBO, and high levels of D-lactic acid in people with an “intact gut.”
“ Probiotics should be treated as a drug, not as a food supplement.”