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Brain Fog Part 1

 

 

Have you been able to keep up with all the latest news? Do you find yourself forgeting what you've just saw, heard or read ? How often have you tried to recall something that was "just on the tip of your tongue" but that just suddenly  vanished? There's a term called brain fog that people have been using recently. Its used to describe the inability to concentrate or focus, having poor memory or difficulty with recall, and getting a loss of mental clarity. Brain fog can be a problem with not just keeping your facts straight about the latest news but can affect your relationships, work or other learning activities like school. There can be many causes.   I've helped people with brain fog due to side effects of medications for blood presssure or cholesterol (statins), chronic infections such as viruses and mold, energy production problems from mitochondia, food allergies and intolerances, hormonal changes such as estrogen loss or lack of thyroid hormone, and heavy metal toxcity or other toxic exposures.  While these seem like a lot of causes to sort out and there are a few ohers that I didn't mention, I've noticed that almost everyone benefits from addressing 3 of the areas I mentioned. Many people have Food allergies or intolerances that they're not aware of. Everybody is exposed to environmental toxins and can benefit from optimizing liver function to detoxify these toxins. Finally a lot of people have energy or mitchondrial problems.

 

Over the next few weeks I'm going to show you how you can start to address these 3 specific areas using a functional medicine approach. Today, I'm going to be talking about food allergies and food intolerances. We all have heard about children with peanut allergies. When they ingest any peanut product, or even having peanuts in the near vicinity can cause a severe reaction the worse being anaphylactic shock with the inability to get enough air and breathe. This is an acute immunoglobuin E or IgE reaction and represents a true allergy. People allergic to pennicillin can have a the same reaction or a milder reaction like hives but again it is IgE mediated. Food intolerances are from a different type of immunoglobulin. They can be from immunoglobuin G or A. Immunoglobulins are part of your immune system which is like your body's military. Like our countries military we have a fast acting branch like the air force, a slower patrolling branch like the Navy, and a boots on the ground force like the army. IgG  or IgA may be slower to react than IgE, sometimes taking up to 3 days to kick in. The reaction can range from feeling poorly or tired, getting a rash, having  "brain fog", or getting a migraine headach. Of course after 3 days the average person would have eaten 9 main meals plus countless snacks at home or from restaurants so the particular food would be hard to figure out. There are three major ways of figuring out if you have a food intolerance.  Incidenty, Most people figure out severe food alleriges like peanut or drug alleriges fairly quickly.

 

The first method is you can try to do an elimination diet where you eliminate all food except rice and lamb or bison whichever you've had less exposure to or have easier access. This assumes of course that you have not had any reactions to rice, bison, or lamb before.  Antibodies circulate in the blood stream but if there is no triggering food that is causing the body to produce antibodies or the immunoglobuins (IgG and IgA) in this case, the production of these antibodies go down over time. It can be difficult to tell if you withdraw a food and then reintroduce it when antibody levels are high and most people need the antibodies to drop to less than 1/2 the circulating amount. It takes 3 1/2 weeks for the body to drop antibodies levels to 1/2 if there is no exposure to the offending food. This is called a half life of the antibody. We therefore wait for 2 half lives or at least 6 weeks before trying to reintroduce foods to see if there is something that triggers a reaction. Each suspected food is reintroduced 1 at a time every 3 days as long as there is no reaction. This method is considered the gold standard in food intolerance testing. 

 

The second method is to do a blood test or skin prick test. Most allergists do either but most only test for the IgE or the faster acting immunoglobulin. They do not test for IgA or IgG for various reasons but primarily because of the lack ofa standard consistent baseline reagent leading to uniform results across all labs. There are reputable labs and results are consistent if repeat tests are run with the same lab but when tests are compared across labs from the same person results may vary. The labs that I use have good accuracy and obviously less work in a much shorter period of time can yield useful results.

 

The third method is to do a modified elimination diet based on eliminating the 6 most common food intolerances and then determining which of those 6 might be problematic. You would avoid  corn, soy, dairy, milk, tree nuts (also peanuts), and shellfish for 6 weeks.  Going off gluten is also recommended.  Each food may then be reintroduced after the 6 week period one at a time every 3 days if no reaction occurs. This is less tedious than method one in that you can still eat other foods, but if your food intolerance is not one of the 6 then you will have to try method one or method two.

 

People have been surprised about what they find out and how they feel even if they just do the third method. We've had many more people surprised from the laboratory blood test that we order in the office.

 

So other than getting a full functional medicine assessment (click here for a link for more information)  if you've got issues with brain fog (or losing the ability to concentrate or focus, having poor memory or difficulty with recall, and getting a loss of mental clarity) you can try the first step of an elimination diet or contact us for a lab test.  I'll be talking about detoxification and mitochondria over the next few weeks.

Author
Jeffrey Mark, M.D. Helping clients with compassionate and comprehensive medical care for over 25 years with 4 board certifications in functional medicine, gastroenterology, internal medicine, and anti-aging/ regenerative medicine . IFMCP, ABIM Gastroenterology, NPAS Internal Medicine, ABAARM.

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