Our gastrointestinal tract, affectionately referred to as our “gut,” and our brain are intricately connected. The gut’s main control center is the enteric nervous system, and it has communication with the central nervous system. When the gut is inflamed, the lining of the tract becomes a not-so-gracious host for beneficial microbes, and the microbiota is altered. This can lead to defects in immune homeostasis and make us vulnerable to further inflammation and subsequent “brain fog.”
How we eat and what we are exposed to can have a big influence on brain fog and inflammation. Foods can be either pro-inflammatory or they can be anti-inflammatory, as well as energy-supporting or energy-draining. The effects on our microbiome from the foods we choose to eat cannot be understated or underemphasized, as sometimes our diet alone can be to blame for brain fog.
Once the gut microbiota is imbalanced and favors non-beneficial bacterial species, we experience systems of dysmotility, fatigue, and cognitive slowing. This is what brain fog feels like. There are certain species of bacteria that support mitochondrial function by releasing important co-factors for use by the chain of mitochondrial enzymes. Other species can be downright toxic to the enzyme complexes.
Our microbiome is complex, and correcting it is not always an easy task. Most of the time, it takes more than just a good probiotic to restore gut health and eliminate brain fog. In fact, a recent study—although small and preliminary—actually suggests that, in some cases, probiotics may even contribute to brain fog in those with SIBO, also known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. We all have individual microbiomes that depend on a great variety of factors including the ones that start right from birth—like where and how we were born, how we were fed, what illnesses we had, and what medications we took—and during our lives—like where we spend most of our time, what foods we choose to eat, how much we drink, and which communities we live in.
Addressing an inflamed gut requires time, dedication, and motivation to make changes, sometimes significant changes, to our lifestyle habits. Our gut holds our defense to the outside world and therefore takes the brunt of all we do. If we treat it well, it will keep us healthy in return.