Cutting through the brain fog

By September 9, 2017Functional Medicine, Origins News

Brain Fog: What is it? How do you get it? How can you get rid of it?

Most of us are familiar with that feeling of a fog descending into our minds, making our thinking slow and sluggish. Just like real fog — there is an ebb and flow to its appearance – which makes it difficult to notice and diagnose.

Before we dig into ways to get rid of brain fog for good, let’s look at the underlying processes in our body that allow the fog to appear in the first place.

Our bodies are a complicated symphony of hormones.

When out of tune, they can produce profound changes in our mood and functioning.

One of the main players in this band of hormones is cortisol, better known as the “stress” hormone.

When we are existing in a state of chronic stress, the continued release of cortisol into the bloodstream leads to many negative effects including the symptoms of brain fog.

Cortisol is a very potent message released by our adrenal glands, both as a natural part of our circadian rhythm and also when our body is experiencing stress.

When it is present in small amounts and for a short amount of time, it can provide our bodies with the stimulus to get moving during the day and also to escape any real danger we may encounter.

It is important to understand that all of the hormones in our personal symphony have necessary roles to play in our health and vitality — the key is that they all play the notes written for them and with appropriate timing and volume.

Cortisol isn’t all bad though! As a part of a stress response, it has a necessary role in getting us out of harm’s way and in providing us with motivation.

The natural uptick in cortisol levels that occurs in the early morning hours is one of the more important stimuli that helps us to wake-up in the morning and get us rolling into the day.

It is also what is released into our system in times of acute stress. This mirrors the fight or flight reaction we have been programmed to experience when we are in life-threatening danger.

However, the reality is that most of us are not encountering actual beasts during our daily commutes, or working environments — but that does not prevent tigers and bears from entering our minds.

This can touch off a cascade of reactions that leads to excessive cortisol being dumped from our adrenal glands into our blood streams.

A little bit of cortisol is necessary for life, but a chronic excess leads to body fatigue and neurodegeneration.

We are then left with an inability to concentrate, presented with the difficulty to learn new things and have an even harder time with remembering them later.

Excess cortisol also leads to increased irritability, distraction, lack of motivation, problems with executive functioning, and an overall decrease in our cognitive tempo.

Sounds pretty bad, eh? Let’s continue to explore the causes of brain fog and what can be done to reverse them and prevent future dampness on the brain.

The initial approach to reversing this pattern and to bring ourselves back into balance is to address the triggers that contribute to the development of brain fog.

Examples of some common triggers include chronic perceived stress, lack of sleep (or poor sleep quality), lack of exercise and sunlight, gut inflammation, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, chronic infections, and toxic overload.

The treatment protocols for ridding yourself of brain fog depend on the cohort of triggers that are affecting each unique individual.

We discover the triggers via thorough history taking with each patient, advanced lab testing to look “under the hood” of an individual’s biochemistry, and a psychosocial assessment of their internal environment.

Once this information has been gathered we can begin to institute the changes necessary to feel good again.

Utilizing a broad range of therapeutic modalities including personalized nutrition and lifestyle programs, focused supplementation when warranted, neurofeedback, the use of adaptogenic herbs and essential oils and follow ups, we can help you to maintain personal wellness.

If you are ready to get back to firing on all cylinders to achieve optimal brain function don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here at Origins Medicine and we look forward to assisting you on your journey to wellness.



  • James Harris says:

    I believe that my body produces excess cortisol, and am wondering if it could possibly what is causing hive like skin conditions that I have been dealing with for about 10 years.

    • admin says:

      Both excess and deficient cortisol can profoundly influence the immune system and cause symptoms such as hives, allergies, autoimmunity, etc. Because the symptoms of excess and low cortisol can mimic each other the only way to no for sure is with a free cortisol test, also known as an adrenal stress profile.

      take care
      Duncan Macdonald, L.Ac.

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