Dr. Kirk Gair, DC, IDE, Contributor
WHY DO I HAVE BRAIN FOG AND HOW DO I FIX IT?
7 Common Brain Fog Problems and What You Can Do About Them
Do you have brain fog or other brain symptoms to go along with your other Thyroid symptoms?
Unfortunately, brain issues are fairly common in people with thyroid dysfunction, and it was a topic we covered quite in-depth at Dr Kharrazian’s recent training for those of use taking his Functional Neurology courses.
Here are a few reasons WHY brain fog happens, which if you know the WHY then you can formulate a plan for the HOW to improve it. This is not an exhaustive list, just 7 of the more common ones we see in the office.
- Brain Antibodies
- Blood Sugar Issues– Hypoglycemia, Diabetes, Pre-Diabetes, Insulin Resistance
- Chronic Infections
- Poor Circulation
- Low Thyroid hormones levels
- Have Poor gut function
Obviously, I left many things out, but these are some good starting points to consider, and here are some things you can do to start to address each one.
1) Brain Antibodies-
Around 50% of patients who have Hashimoto’s or Graves also have antibodies against brain tissue, especially their cerebellum. When the cerebellum is getting attacked by your immune system, you can get all kinds of symptoms, such as balance issues, coordination issues, vertigo, difficulty swallowing, ANXIETY, and much more.
Whatever flares up your thyroid antibodies can also flare up the brain antibodies if you have them. Blood tests can tell you if you have antibodies, and also tell you what foods you are reacting to. I use the tests from Cyrex Labs on my patients to tell exactly what foods need to be eliminated. Strict, 100% elimination of these trigger foods is a must to attempt to calm down this autoimmune attack. Many times an autoimmune Paleo protocol can be a starting place if you don’t have the funds for the labs or if your doctor does not order them for you. But remember, when you eat a food you react to JUST ONCE, it can start to break down the gut barrier within 5 minutes, and a recent study found that it takes most people at LEAST 4 weeks to repair the damage, while 20% of people still won’t be repaired after 6 months.
2) Blood Sugar Imbalances like Hypoglycemia or Diabetes/Insulin Resistance
When blood sugar drops, the brain does not have enough energy to perform tasks, which can result in a wide array of symptoms, especially brain fog and irritability. If you feel BETTER after eating, or TIRED and SLEEPY after eating, there is a good chance this is affecting your brain! Diabetes and Insulin Resistance can trigger massive inflammation and nerve damage and death because sugar molecules get bound to the nerve cells.
For these issues, making sure that you are eating healthy, unprocessed foods, no meal skipping, avoiding sugars and processed carbs, and working with your doctor on your diabetes are essential. Be sure you get not only your fasting glucose tested (functional range is 85-100), but also your AIC (functional range 5.0-5.5). AIC measures your average glucose level over the last several weeks. An LDH test can suggest hypoglycemia when it is under 140.
Anemias, such as B12 and iron anemias, or even just early iron need or early B12 need, can have a profound effect on brain function and brain fog. For a clue to your B12 status, take a look at your MCV on your blood test. If you see it getting over 92, it is an indication of a need for B12. If your ferritin drops under 12, serum iron under 85, and iron saturation percentage under 15%, you may want to talk to your doctor about your iron needs, as these are indications that it is functionally low.
4) Chronic infections
Take a look at your WBCs if you are experiencing brain fog. If they are under 5, and if your lymphocytes are higher than your lymphocytes, or if they are more than 30 points apart, this could indicate that you have a chronic infection. Also, there are patterns of your monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils that can indicate a possible parasite. Talk to your functional doctor about these possibilities.
5) Poor circulation
When circulation is poor in the body, it is also poor in the brain, and the brain needs the oxygen and glucose that is carried in the blood for proper function.
Some common symptoms of poor circulation include cold hands and feet, white nail beds or nail fungus, LOW blood pressure, and skin and hair changes. EXERCISE is one of the keys to this. Your functional medicine practitioner can also recommend some supplements to support your nitric oxide production, which helps blood vessels dilate to improve circulation.
6) Low Thyroid Hormones
These can be in the medical normal range, but outside of the functional range and still create problems. Take a look at your TSH, free and total T3 and T4, T4 uptake, reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies. There are many thyroid hormone receptors in the brain, and functionally low levels can have a profound impact on brain function and ultimately, brain fog.
The gut-brain axis is a hot topic right now, as there is a bi-directional pathway between the two as they both impact each other. A good test for leaky gut is the Cyrex Labs Array 2, which can actually test your levels of occludin and zonulin, which are indicators of “leaky gut.” In my office, we also run other tests from Cyrex Labs for gluten reactions, gluten cross reactors, and many other foods that can affect gut function. Deficiencies of enzymes, conditions like hypochlorhydria, imbalances of the gut flora due to antibiotic use, high sugar or processed carbs diets, SIBO, etc, all have an impact, as well as chronic infections. This can be really tricky to correct, and I highly recommend that you seek the help of a well trained functional medicine practitioner.
In addition to correcting these imbalances, brain exercises for weak areas are essential. There are also some very promising studies using Cold Lasers to help with brain rehab and to improve brain fog and brain function. This is one of the methods we use in my office and we have seen some promising results.
Again, there are more issues than this at play in dealing with brain fog, but these are some fairly common ones that are a good place to start.
About the Author
Dr Kirk Gair, DC, IDE, graduated with Honors from Southern California University of Health Sciences in 1999. He began utilizing Cold Laser Treatments in 2004 and combining them with traditional chiropractic treatments to get some amazing results. Since that time, he trained with world-renowned experts, like Dr Jeff Spencer, who worked with Olympic Champions, Professional football and baseball teams and World Series MVPs, golfers, and tennis legends. Check out his website, LaserChiropractic.net, see wonderful information at DrKirkGair.com and follow him on Facebook.