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Most people blame the fact that they have difficulty remembering where they left the keys or finding the right words on aging, but is this necessarily true? According to the research brain fog is a sign of brain inflammation, and not a inevitable part of aging. When the brain is inflamed nerve conduction is slowed which contributes to the feeling of “sluggish thinking”.1,4

Brain fog is a red flag for inflammation in the brain, or impaired brain function, symptoms include:

  • Inability to have clear thoughts
  • Inability to find the right words
  • Lack of brain endurance when reading or driving
  • Forgetting things
  • Deterioration of your handwriting
  • Depression

Depending on where in your brain you find the inflammation, you can experience other symptoms for example, if your frontal cortex is inflamed you will have difficulty following through with plans, setting goals and motivating yourself. You may also experience depression or impulsive behaviours such as acting on sexual desire, violent behaviour or saying things you shouldn’t. 1,3

What is inflammation and what causes it?

Inflammation is an immune response to a stimuli, and in the brain we have immune cells called Glial cells, which are highly reactive and continue to be activated until they die off. These cells outnumber our neurons and play a very important roll in protecting them, however when they are continually called on to protect against stimuli in the brain they establish a chronic state of inflammation which causes brain degeneration by damaging neurons.2,4

Causes include:

  • Blood sugar dysregulation, pre-diabetes and diabetes
  • Brain trauma
  • Smoking
  • Food proteins, leaky gut
  • Stress contributes in a multitude of ways, it reduces the intestinal mucosal barrier, affects blood sugar control and long term stress creates brain atrophy
  • Dysbiosis, the microbiome is producing pro-inflammatory lipopolysaccharides (LPS) which activate the immune system
  • Heart disease, as this is linked to buildup of plaque in the arteries which can restrict blood flow to the brain and lack of oxygen causes a inflammatory response.

Turning down inflammation

When it comes to our brain health, the best thing we can do is eat whole foods. Multiple factors from the diet can trigger inflammation in the gastrointestinal system which in turn creates a “leaky gut” whereby food proteins can permeate through the intestinal wall and activate systemic inflammation which in turn affects the brain. Due to our individuality these could be different food proteins for each person. For example wheat and dairy are often pro-inflammatory but not for everyone. If you eat a food and soon after experience extreme tiredness or a “foggy” brain, inability to concentrate then it is a good indication that the food you just ate is causing an inflammatory response. You need to become your own health detective as not everyone reacts the same, become aware of your body and how you feel.1,2

Antioxidants are also of great importance and again we see turmericgreen tea, vitamin C and plant flavonoids such as those found in berries to be the best source of support for reducing the inflammatory response.1

Getting enough sleep is really important, as lack of sleep creates biochemical changes that can damage the brain’s memory centre.

Chemical toxicity creates a problem for the brain especially if the blood brain barrier (BBB), which usually keeps larger particles out, is compromised. Things that weaken the BBB include high stress, alcohol, elevated glucose levels in the blood, chronic environmental toxic exposure, systemic inflammation, poor diet. Making sure your diet is organic, whole foods, limits your exposure to toxins. Choosing to stay away from high mercury containing foods such as tuna, swordfish & shark. Limit your aluminium by choosing organic skin care that is aluminium free (such as Vitalise Skin Care), limit your use of antacids, drink bottled or filtered water, and processed foods as aluminium is often used as an emulsifying agent in foods such as processed cheese, self-rising flour, cake mix, some brands of baking powder, if in doubt read the label. Reduce your excitotoxins such as MSG and Aspartame, which cause brain cells to become over stimulated and often damage their mitochondria (the energy-producing centre of the cell) 

Destress! Find something that brings you joy and restores your sense of wellbeing. Whether this be exercise or meditation or spending time with your family in the outdoors, you do what restores balance to your nervous system.

If you are worried that your brain may be inflamed but are not sure what it is from, start with looking at what you are eating, often what we eat and how, plays the biggest role in causing brain inflammation. I encourage you to get some testing done or do an elimination diet to see which foods are not that agreeable to your body. If you are looking for advice or help please contact Denise 


  1. Kharrazian, D (2013).Why isn’t my brain working?: A revolutionary understanding of brain decline and effective strategies to recover your brain’s health. Elephant Press
  2. Parpura, V., Heneka, M. T., Montana, V., Oliet, S. H. R., Schousboe, A., Haydon, P. G., … Verkhratsky, A. (2012). Glial cells in (patho)physiology.Journal of Neurochemistry,121(1), 4–27.
  3. McEwen, B. S., & Morrison, J. H. (2013). Brain On Stress: Vulnerability and Plasticity of the Prefrontal Cortex Over the Life Course. Neuron79(1), 16–29.
  4. Jeong, H.-K., Ji, K., Min, K., & Joe, E.-H. (2013). Brain Inflammation and Microglia: Facts and Misconceptions. Experimental Neurobiology22(2), 59–67.
  5. Perlmutter, D. (2004).  The better brain book. Riverhead Books.


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