How gluten might cause brain fog and 5 tips to support cognition.
Brain fog can affect concentration, short-term memory and the ability to focus on tasks. People with undiagnosed or untreated Coeliac disease, or those with a gluten sensitivity sometimes report having brain fog, in addition to digestive issues.
Scientists don’t yet fully understand how gluten might cause brain fog, however there are some potential mechanisms. Untreated Coeliac disease can be accompanied by deficiencies of nutrients including vitamin B12, iron and folate. Deficiency of one or all of these nutrients can include fuzzy thinking, fatigue and poor concentration.
It has also been proposed that the inflammatory molecules triggered by gluten in untreated Coeliac disease, or due to a gluten sensitivity, can reach the brain and affect cognition. If you have brain fog and think it is related to gluten, read on for some top tips on how to ease symptoms.
5 simple tips to reduce brain fog and improve cognition
1. Avoid all gluten if you have Coeliac disease
Even small amounts of gluten can trigger inflammation if you have Coeliac disease. If you have gluten sensitivity you will also need to avoid gluten although some people can tolerate small amounts, particularly if the health of the gut microbiome and gut lining is improved over time.
2. Eat berries daily
Dark or brightly coloured fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and redcurrants, haskap berries and fruits such as cherries and strawberries are high in flavonoids. These are plant compounds with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Emerging research suggests regular consumption of berries may improve cognitive function such as memory, word recall, multitasking and attention.
3. Regular physical activity
Research indicates that physical activity may improve cognitive function such as learning, memory, focus and concentration. It may also help to prevent age-related cognitive decline. Aim to do 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week such as brisk walking, cycling, hiking, dancing, water aerobics or roller skating. Exercise helps to increase blood flow to the brain and lower inflammation which may help to reduce brain fog.
4. Balance your blood sugar
Being on a blood sugar roller coaster with constantly fluctuating blood sugar levels can contribute to poor concentration, low energy and brain fog. Chronic stress, diets high in sugar, and excessive caffeine consumption can contribute to blood sugar imbalance, and also to poor gut health, which can affect cognitive function due to the gut-brain-axis. Therefore it is important to reduce sugar and caffeine intake and manage stress.
5. Include fermented foods
Untreated Coeliac disease damages the gut lining. Once gluten has been removed from the diet the gut can start to repair itself. Fermented foods such as unpasteurised sauerkraut, kimchi, live yoghurt, tempeh, miso, kefir and kombucha contain beneficial bacteria which can help to support this process. Studies suggest these foods may also improve cognitive function.
Brain fog can be a frustrating symptom of Coeliac disease of gluten sensitivity. However, there are some simple steps you can take to support your brain function and cognition. These include permanently avoiding gluten if you have Coeliac disease, regularly eating berries, engaging in physical activity, reducing sugar and caffeine consumption and including fermented foods in your diet.