Listen: Dr Zac Turner explains how to reduce brain fog, with Katrina Roe.
You know those moments when you lose your car keys, forget your friend’s name, or lose track of what you’re saying mid-sentence? Brain fog.
It’s a common ailment that happens to the best of us – or at least the more weary and scatterbrained among us – but the good news is, we can prevent it. Dr Zac Turner, a medical professional with a focus on preventative medicine, chatted to Katrina Roe on how to keep brain fog at bay.
Get Enough Sleep
One of the big causes of brain fog is simply of sleep deprivation. Dr Zac explains the role of sleep in restoring our brain.
“When we’re asleep, this is our body’s chance to detoxify the brain, which is always active—our brains never stop,” he said. “We need an adequate amount of sleep.
“There’s no hard and fast rule but you need enough sleep that when you’re waking up in the morning you’re feeling refreshed and revived, because that’s what allows us to lay down the memories from the day before.
Around eight hours sleep will restore your brain, although some people do well on a little more or less.
Reduce Your Blood Sugar Spikes
Diet is a key to mental performance. If your diet is mostly processed food, white bread, white grains and pastas, and other sugary foods with a high glycemic index, you will end up on the rollercoaster of sugar highs and lows.
Dr Zac recommends a low GI diet, and if you have high GI items such as fruit, sweets or coffee, combine them with low GI foods to “slow the blood sugar spike down”.
“People that have these big ups and downs through the day from sugar or coffee, will often suffer from brain fog when you’re starting to come down,” he said. “If you eat a couple of nuts before you eat your fruit, it’ll slow the absorption of the sugar into your bloodstream. So you’ll actually have a slower sugar release and less of a peak and trough.
“A punnet of blueberries or a couple of apples a day might have a lot of nutrition but also has a lot of sugar. So mix blueberries and nuts through the day.”
Break Up Your Snacks
Grazing on smaller snacks can help to keep your sugar levels more consistent and prevent brain fog too, says Dr Zac.
“If you break your snack up into four or five snacks, 30 or 40 minutes apart, you’ll keep your sugar absorption level going for a much longer period of time, rather than going for a whole snack and peaking and coming back down again,” he said.
He also suggests focussing on plant-based snacks, which are packed with nutrition.
“Blueberries and raspberries and green leafy vegetables with lots of dark green or purple and blue colour, have a whole lot of nutritional value that helps to increase neuronal firing and the health of your brain,” he said.
Ideas for vegetable snacks include crackers with avocado, green beans, zucchini fries, kale chips, and snow peas dipped in hummus.
Train Your Brain
If you’re heading into a meeting, an exam, or a strenuous period of work, some brain-training exercises can help your mind to get ‘warmed up’ and prevent you from brain-fades.
Studies have proven the benefits of this tactic.
Dr Zac says exercises as simple as doing a crossword or a Sudoku puzzle can be helpful and improve your concentration. Other ideas include doing a maths quiz, drawing with both hands to activate both sides of the brain, or listing a word for every letter of the alphabet, based on a chosen theme, such as movies, food, animals or celebrities.
New Mums, Cut Yourself Slack
If you’re a mum who has recently given birth or is about to, remember that baby-brain is a real thing, and don’t expect too much of yourself. Particularly if your baby is leaving you sleep deprived.
“When you are carrying a child, and shortly after, you experience loss of short-term memory, but you also gain a whole lot of empathy and love and affection for your child and all those sorts of changes neurologically,” Dr Zac said.
Take all the steps you can to reduce your brain-fog, but if it persists, be encouraged: one day your child will sleep all the night through, and you won’t have baby-brain forever.