5 Ways to Sharpen Your Focus and Diminish Brain Fog
Dr. Megan Bernard ND
If you find that you’re often irritable, tired, distracted, and not quite feeling like yourself, then you may be battling something called “brain fog”. It’s a common symptom of a fast-paced and usually high stress environment where certain stress hormones overwhelm your brain, and a lack of sleep and the proper nutrition are regular occurrences. If you feel like you just aren’t reaching your peak intellectual potential because of the brain fog that you feel, read on for ways to optimize your brainpower.
1. Eat more fats
Your brain is made mostly of fat and fat is its preferred fuel source. We know that fats have positive impacts on the brain because a ketogenic diet (high fat, low carb, moderate protein) has proven benefits for people with epilepsy. Eating more “healthy fats”, such as fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, chia seeds, and ground flax seeds are going to give your brain the energy it needs to focus. Aim for a serving of fat with every meal, and overall about 30-40% of your diet should consist of healthy fats. To learn more about healthy fats, check out this post (insert: https://www.drmeganbernard.com/single-post/2018/01/22/The-Skinny-on-Fats)
2. Get more sleep
It’s a no-brainer. If you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, then it becomes hard to summon the energy needed to focus. Studies have shown that medical interns that got 7-9 hours of sleep a night made over 30% fewer serious medical errors than interns who did not get enough sleep. A lack of sleep causes cortisol to become raised in your body, leading to irritability, stress, and brain fog. An average of 8-9 hours of quality sleep a night is recommended for adults.
3. Stress reduction
Cortisol is a hormone that is raised in times of stress, whether that is running from a bear or finding your lost keys. The purpose of cortisol is to protect you from danger by priming your body for fighting or fleeing. Unlike adrenaline, which puts your brain into focus and alertness, cortisol can have negative effects on your brain.
Cortisol is released during chronic stress, and chronic stress has been linked to premature brain aging. Also, cortisol has been shown to kill cells in a part of the brain that is responsible for memory. Some of the most common symptoms of burnout that I see people experience is brain fog, walking into a room and forgetting why they are there, words on the tip of the tongue, and making lists of just three or four items to go to the store because their memory is terrible. This all has to do with the excessive release of cortisol from the adrenal glands due to chronic stress.
4. Limit distractions
Turn off social media, get some earplugs or earphones, bring up some music on YouTube without lyrics or try searching binaural beats. Download an app to, well, block your other apps! Temporarily disable your access to social media with the following apps: BreakFree, AppDetox, Stay on Task, Self Control, Freedom, and Anti-Social. Try taking all social media off your phone. Clean your workspace. Designate specific times to check email so that you’re not always checking it and responding to “crises”. Take note of what is consistently stealing your attention and get creative with ways to limit the distraction.
5. Appropriate supplementation
Once you’ve dealt with the other points, supplementation may be worth approaching. Bacopa is an Ayruvedic herb for improving concentration and memory and is great when studying for tests, exams, or taking courses. It has to be taken for several weeks before achieving its full effect, so start way before your exam date. Alpha-GPC delivers a nutrient called choline to the brain where it has been shown to boost memory and focus and has potential for enhancing cognition in Alzheimers and dementia. L-theanine is found in green tea and can improve focus and promotes relaxation without sedation. Lastly, B vitamins and adaptogenic herbs can help to balance cortisol levels and lessen the negative effects that cortisol has on the brain.
Other avenues I’d explore are food allergies, limiting processed foods, and looking at the motivation or desire to do the tasks at hand. Food allergies and processed foods can direct energy towards processing these foods instead of allowing your cells to function optimally. A lack of desire or motivation to do tasks at hand just means that your brain is scrambling to think of anything but what you’re supposed to do, so we’d investigate ways to make tasks more enjoyable.
If you’re interested in optimizing your brainpower so that you can reach peak wellness and accomplish your goals, then you’re the type of person that I want to work with! I offer 90-minute initial consultations to really dig deep into your health. I approach your treatment plan from a holistic view to optimize all aspects of health, such as sleep, nutrition, digestion, mental wellness, brain health, and energy. From this information, you and I will formulate a treatment plan that works with your lifestyle and goals, and it will involve tackling the underlying cause of the issue and short-term symptom management.
Give us a call, book online, or send us an email to find out more. I’m really looking forward to working with you!
 C.P. Landrigan, J.M. Rothschild, J.W. Cronin, R. Kaushal, E. Burdick, J.T. Katz, C.M. Lilly, P.H. Stone, S.W. Lockley, D.W. Bates, C.A. Czeisler, Effect of reducing interns’ work hours on serious medical errors in intensive care units, N. Engl. J. Med. 351 (2004) 1838–1848. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa041406.