Brain fog is a term used to describe times when someone’s brain does not function correctly. Like a fog rolling in from the sea, something changes the way their brain functions.
They notice an inability to focus on what they need to be doing, become forgetful, or cannot concentrate.
Brain fog can be momentary, last all day, or persist for years. If it continues long enough, people worry they are developing dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. But unlike dementia, brain fog will lift and they can think clearly again. This is a diagnostic clue because dementias do not lift.
Brain fog may be caused by prescription medications, anemia, low thyroid function, sleep apnea, or depression. But many of the brain fog patients I see do not have those problems. Their damaged nervous system is preventing normal amounts of oxygen and blood pressure from reaching their brains upwards against gravity.
Pay attention to your brain fog to see if it improves during exercise when lying flat, or after drinking or eating food (salt, carbs, or sugar in particular). These activities temporarily boost pressure upwards or eliminate the challenges of gravity.
The most common cause of brain fog is an inadequate delivery of oxygen to the brain from damage to the Autonomic Nervous System. The Autonomic Nervous System is the main communications network between the brain and the heart, the organs, the digestive tract, and both the immune system and hormone systems.
The Autonomics may be damaged as a result of a variety of physical, emotional, or inflammatory injuries to the brain. These injuries do not have to be severe, they just need to cause a small amount of damage that does not get fully repaired.
We are 20 years or more into an epidemic of unrepaired brain injuries from physical traumas known as concussions. In addition, a growing number of studies tell us that brain injury can also occur from emotional trauma, abdominal surgeries, severe infections, and excessive vaccine reactions.
If we function correctly, minor brain damage should repair within three months. But without full repair other symptoms of Autonomic dysfunction like headaches, migraines, heartburn, constipation, bloating, lightheaded or dizzy sensations, or anxiety may occur.
Start repairing brain fog by consuming the nutrients your brain needs to fight inflammation and by avoiding pro-inflammatory chemicals that hinder recovery. We need to consume both DHA (in fish oil) and ALA (nuts, flax) omega-3 fatty acids to suppress inflammation, and oleic acid (U.S. sourced extra virgin olive oil) omega-9 fatty acids to improve cellular function.
Next, eliminate linoleic acid (an omega-6) vegetable oils in food. Common ones are soybean oil, soy oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, grape seed oil, margarine, and shortening.
Studies show that if omega-3 and 9 are increased, and omega-6 is decreased, we have less inflammation and we produce more stem cells which repair the damage.
If these dietary changes do not eliminate your brain fog, Autonomic Nervous System testing may give you additional information, validation of your injury, and treatment options. Autonomic Dysfunction (also called “Dysautonomia”) is too subtle to appear on an MRI or CT Scan, it does not show up on lab work, but it can be detected a variety of ways including Autonomic spectral analysis testing and/or heart rate variability.
The common symptoms of Autonomic dysfunction include being lightheaded or dizzy, headaches, chronic fatigue, heartburn, intestinal distress (cramping/constipation/frequent urination), chronic pain, chronic hunger, insomnia/sleep disturbances/non-restorative sleep cycles, depression/anxiety/panic attacks, temperature regulation problems, tingling and numbness (feet, legs, hands, arms, face, neck), passing out, cognitive difficulties, memory problems, erratic heart rates or blood pressure, nausea, brain fog, varicose veins (men and women), and erectile dysfunction.
Because the symptoms of Autonomic Dysfunction are presented in so many different ways, many providers never put together all of the pieces, they overmedicate to mask the symptoms, or even worse they dismiss the patient’s complaints.
Patients from all over the country find me after they have been passed around from doctor to doctor. Many feel like their providers do not fully believe them. Some feel abandoned, blamed for their health issues, or isolated from others who do not understand how bad they feel. Most have never been given hope and a plan for recovery.
If your Autonomics are damaged you will feel sick, tired, hungry, foggy, and old – and I believe you.
The first step is to find the underlying problem. In my office that begins with Autonomic testing which measures heart rate variability (HRV) and traces the intervals between heart beats to within hundreds of a second.
HRV is a function of continuous Sympathetic and Parasympathetic activity, and both of these signals are embedded within the EKG communication between the brain and the heart. HRV and Autonomic functioning are biomarkers for how well your brain is controlling your body.
In basic primary care terms, Autonomic Nervous System monitoring helps me identify the early changes in brain function often present in non-symptomatic patients. This is an amazing way to identify pre-clinical changes in my patients whose brains are silently signaling an upcoming disease state but who do not yet feel a change in their health.
There are five stages in Autonomic Dysfunction and the first two stages do not have noticeable symptoms. It is only in the third stage of Autonomic Dysfunction that people start to experience symptoms that affect their daily life like GI trouble, sleep trouble, headaches, temperature regulation problems, brain fog, or dizziness.
Early Autonomic Dysfunction detection gives my patients the opportunity to reverse the brain damage and to prevent future complications such as headaches, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, diabetes, or depression.
In patients already experiencing symptoms of Autonomic Dysfunction or who have already been diagnosed with a chronic disease, Autonomic monitoring guides the development of individualized treatment plans that will ultimately reverse the brain injuries, halt their symptoms, lower their risk of premature death, improve their response to therapies, and help them get off of their medications that mask their symptoms but do nothing to improve their problems.
There are two main branches of the Autonomic Nervous System, one is the Sympathetic and the other is the Parasympathetic. The brain communicates and coordinates the metabolic state of all of the cells in the human body through those two branches via the complex Vagus Nerve.
In simple terms, the Sympathetic branch is responsible for energy expenditure (“fight or flight”) and the Parasympathetic branch is responsible for energy conservation and restoration (“rest and digest”).
These two opposite Autonomic branches should work together simultaneously and in balance, which is called sympathovagal balance. When the two Autonomic branches are in balance the body works automatically and a person feels no symptoms. When the branches are no longer working automatically, a person may feel symptoms that range from mild (feeling dizzy or a head rush when standing up from a chair) to completely debilitating (falling/passing out).
The balance between the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic branches is not just important for feeling better in the short term, balance is necessary for a long and healthy life. My goal as a doctor is to improve and restore Autonomic functioning because it is critical to life expectancy.
Improved Autonomic function improves heart rate variability (HRV), which is a reflection of Vagal function. People with elevated HRV have an increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation or heart flutter. People with low HRV have an increased risk of widespread organ and metabolic dysfunction.
When the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic branches are not in balance, and if left untreated, the imbalance will result in a loss of heart rate variability (HRV) which is associated with increased mortality from all causes. Autonomic dysfunction also fuels the systemic metabolic inflammation that triggers cellular changes and ignites someone’s disposition for disease (cancer, diabetes, hypertension, etc.).
Groundbreaking bioelectrical work is now being done on inflammation and disease through the stimulation of the Vagus Nerve that I believe will completely transform modern medicine and make many prescriptions obsolete in our lifetime.
I use Vagal Nerve stimulation in my medical practice and I have discovered a multifaceted formula for Autonomic restoration that is so unique and effective that I filed a patent application for the Nemechek Protocol for Autonomic Recovery (Patent Pending).
I am a classically trained internal medicine physician (D.O.) from UCLA and my private office is located in the Phoenix, Arizona area.
My research background has been focused on the Autonomic Nervous System, brain metabolism, and metabolic inflammation.
I am a scientist physician who uses all available scientific and medical tools to induce the nervous system and organs to actually repair themselves by normalizing inflammation control mechanisms, inducing natural stem cell production, and re-activating innate restorative mechanisms.
Changing the brain, in order to change the body, takes persistent effort by the patient but I have seen Autonomic injuries recover years or decades after the person’s trauma or event. This is where hope can be found because it is never too late to improve your health.
For more information, you may call my office at 623-208-4226.
READ MORE: Your Brain’s Favorite Food
© 2016. Dr. Patrick M. Nemechek and Jean R. Nemechek. All Rights Reserved. Patent Pending.