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Slight brain fog - what could be the problem?

by (108)
Updated about 21 hours ago
Created March 25, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Hello!

Eating paleo for 2,5 weeks now. The only exceptions I had were a couple of beers from time to time. I feel good and have enough energy to do pushups and a bit of weight lifting. But for a while now I experience brain fog and it scares me a little. I measured my blood pressure and it was good.

The first to weeks I ate low carb. Now (for about 2,5 days) I raised the carbs with sweet potatoes, fruits and stuff. But I still have a clouded head and sometimes walking feels a bit floaty (mostly after eating something).

I have to admit that one day I felt cloudy, that it scared me a little, so I bought a small bun. Not paleo at all, i know, but sometimes I'm scared I could faint.

I think about seeing a doctor. Any ideas?

cheers Marc

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84
17422 · March 31, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Not sure who downvoted this, but it's a valid point. +1

1d1a1aa53ec46345db814f2e5bc03838
108 · March 26, 2013 at 3:29 PM

Thanks! Best thing might be to see a doctor. I hope it's nothing to worry about.

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 26, 2013 at 1:57 PM

Also the veggies could be doing bad for you, try to see if you are eating new ones from the nightshade family instead of your usual source of carbs. If needed use plenty of potatoes, sweet potatoes, yums, chestnuts, squash... these are pretty well tolerated carb sources than may get you to feel better for now while still allowing for displacing sugars and grains without having to get VLC. Check with fruit maybe, restore your old eating habits and try to introduce 1 ingredient at once to try to isolate which one could be the problematic since you may have an unknown intolerance... hope it helps

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 26, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Also, when I felt like that, I was on an ovo-lacto-vegetarian lifestyle for some time back then and now on Paleo I feel pretty well, I mean that it could just be a coincidence (or not, but it could) and I guess the best thing would be going to see a doc and get some lab tests done. Check for thyroid, anaemia, pre-diabetes, inflammation (HS-RCP) and adrenal fatigue (salivary cortisol) to see that everything is ok... good luck!

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 26, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Sorry to hear that Marc. I once developed the same symptoms as you: feeling very dizzy and near to faint (yet I did never) and very spaced out. Cannot say what I did to get out of this because I don't remember, docs could not help a lot. I thought It could be a comeback from mononucleosis because I felt the same as when I got it when I was 25... I see you're a little bit old to get it (typical from adolescence) to it but may be it could be worth checking.

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 26, 2013 at 1:47 PM

Sorry to hear that Marc. I once developed the same symptoms as you: feeling very dizzy and near to faint (yet I did never) and very spaced out. Cannot say what I did to get out of this because I don't remember, meds could not help. I thought It could be a comeback rom mononucleosis becase I felt the same as when I got it when I was 25... I see you're a little late to it but may be it could be worth checking.

1d1a1aa53ec46345db814f2e5bc03838
108 · March 26, 2013 at 12:36 PM

I had a dish with parsnip, celery and onions and I feel very dizzy now. I don't know why :(

1d1a1aa53ec46345db814f2e5bc03838
108 · March 25, 2013 at 3:55 PM

I had a half grilled chicken with a couple of vedgetables (cauliflower, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumber, very few cuts of carrots) for lunch and for now my brain fog almost disappeared completly.

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 25, 2013 at 12:41 PM

Don't really know @Marc. Maybe you didn't empty your glycogen stores too soon, maybe you hit a bad combination of foods, maybe neither, it could be a host ton of things. I guess trial-error with different foods you were used and new ones and macro ratios, trying to isolate reactions, would be your option to try to fine tune Paleo to your benefit.

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 25, 2013 at 12:40 PM

Don't really know @Marc. Maybe you didn't empty your glycogen stores too soon, maybe you hit a bad combination of foods, maybe neither, it could be a host ton of things. I guess trial-error with different foods you were used and new ones, trying to isolate reactions, would be your option to try to fine tune Paleo to your benefit.

1d1a1aa53ec46345db814f2e5bc03838
108 · March 25, 2013 at 12:12 PM

Isn't it strange that the foggy head didn't occur in the first 1,5 weeks, but now?

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 25, 2013 at 10:41 AM

But in general if you're already avoiding grains and refined sugars you're in a good position right now, watch your carb sources and stick with those that make you feel better. Sweet potatoes and squash should be pretty safe options that you could keep playing with and try lowering as you get fitter and fitter.

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 25, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Overweight should bring some nasty effects on the begining due to poor insulin sensitivity that may be washing out your blood sugar now that you have less available. I think you will start feeling better over time, it happened with me at least, but needs some adaptation and it may last long. As said, it's not that you have to forget about going very low carb but maybe just over time and things evolve in a good way, carbs are not that bad, if doing strength training you could try timing them just after workout and go lower when not.

1d1a1aa53ec46345db814f2e5bc03838
108 · March 25, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Thanks for your answer! I think I sleep enough (like min. 8h), have a deep and good sleep and I feel good in the morning. I can't imagine to walk around with this brain fog much longer, because it feels like being high or a bit drunk. I also need to think a lot at work. So, I guess I have to change something.

1d1a1aa53ec46345db814f2e5bc03838
108 · March 25, 2013 at 10:22 AM

I am still a bit overweight, the only sports I do is ligting weights, pushups and chin ups. I would like to run more, but with the brain foggyness I do not dare to. About the low-Carb: I think that lowcarb isn't really good for me so I think I'll do something like "reduced carb" from paleo-sources.

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7 Answers

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
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3150 · March 25, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Low-carb may bring this, if you're not fully adapted to using fat as fuel you could go a little bit hypoglycaemic which will bring on the feelings you describe. Be sure you are adding enough protein and fat (not overdoing it BTW be careful with this...) plenty of water and check your salt intake, low carb means lower water retention so it could have something to do with it.

Also, if you had some thyroid issues it's most likely that will manifest while dieting as you are most susceptible to energy imbalances.

Wouldn't hurt to do some blood test in order to check that everything is ok.

You don't tell if you have been overweight in the past or if you do some sports/exercise, that would give some insight.

I'd advise to be very carefull about lowering the carbs too fast and start with getting rid of the crap and then go easier with tubers/veggies/fruit (you already did this when feeling bad) and maybe even white rice until you feel OK and can get to less amounts in small stemps until you don't notice any brain fog or other issues.

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 25, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Overweight should bring some nasty effects on the begining due to poor insulin sensitivity that may be washing out your blood sugar now that you have less available. I think you will start feeling better over time, it happened with me at least, but needs some adaptation and it may last long. As said, it's not that you have to forget about going very low carb but maybe just over time and things evolve in a good way, carbs are not that bad, if doing strength training you could try timing them just after workout and go lower when not.

1d1a1aa53ec46345db814f2e5bc03838
108 · March 25, 2013 at 10:22 AM

I am still a bit overweight, the only sports I do is ligting weights, pushups and chin ups. I would like to run more, but with the brain foggyness I do not dare to. About the low-Carb: I think that lowcarb isn't really good for me so I think I'll do something like "reduced carb" from paleo-sources.

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 25, 2013 at 12:40 PM

Don't really know @Marc. Maybe you didn't empty your glycogen stores too soon, maybe you hit a bad combination of foods, maybe neither, it could be a host ton of things. I guess trial-error with different foods you were used and new ones, trying to isolate reactions, would be your option to try to fine tune Paleo to your benefit.

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 25, 2013 at 12:41 PM

Don't really know @Marc. Maybe you didn't empty your glycogen stores too soon, maybe you hit a bad combination of foods, maybe neither, it could be a host ton of things. I guess trial-error with different foods you were used and new ones and macro ratios, trying to isolate reactions, would be your option to try to fine tune Paleo to your benefit.

1d1a1aa53ec46345db814f2e5bc03838
108 · March 25, 2013 at 12:12 PM

Isn't it strange that the foggy head didn't occur in the first 1,5 weeks, but now?

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 25, 2013 at 10:41 AM

But in general if you're already avoiding grains and refined sugars you're in a good position right now, watch your carb sources and stick with those that make you feel better. Sweet potatoes and squash should be pretty safe options that you could keep playing with and try lowering as you get fitter and fitter.

9cb4cf45c3c675671fd6ab551590bb88
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35 · March 25, 2013 at 10:21 AM

Hi Marc -

I went from a "natural food" diet (limited processed foods but plenty of carbs, wheat, etc) to a VLC paleo diet in one step. I was suffering from severe heart burn and I read on Chris Kresser's website that VLC would help. I lost some weight and the heart burn went away, but the strange brain fog as you describe appeared. I've been low carb for 3 years now, and the fog has slowly gone away. I remembering being 6 months into my Paleo change and still wondering if the brain fog was a serious health problem.

As Albert mentioned, I suspect that it has to do with the body not being fully able to process fat for energy, but that is pure conjecture on my part. I found that sleeping more each night helped, as well as fasting in the morning. However, nothing truly made it go away. I hate to say it but it was nearly 24 months before I noticed that I wasn't mentally running at "half speed" anymore.

If I could do it all again, I would measure some data to try and pinpoint the causes. Such as measuring the amount (and quality) of sleep each night, and also testing myself with some simple multiplication problems or something similar to try and quantify my mental slowness.

In short, hang in there, it passes over time; but in my case time moved very slowly.

--Mitch

1d1a1aa53ec46345db814f2e5bc03838
108 · March 25, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Thanks for your answer! I think I sleep enough (like min. 8h), have a deep and good sleep and I feel good in the morning. I can't imagine to walk around with this brain fog much longer, because it feels like being high or a bit drunk. I also need to think a lot at work. So, I guess I have to change something.

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37187 · March 31, 2013 at 6:52 PM

I agree with raydawg that one possibility is the beer. And if you use any store-bought flavoring agents you can't rule out adulteration there either.

I can confirm that it only takes a trace of wheat to put me in a fog and then I have to go over everything I've eaten or drank lately to try to figure out the culprit.

Another possibility is if you're lactose intolerant, just like wheat an amazing number of store offerings have milk-based ingredients and that does the same thing to me.

Are your foggy times happening during the same time of day? Or while you're digesting food? Keep mental notes or a diary for a week or so to see if that gives you any clues.

One final thought--I was feeling so good recently that I was tearing my place apart and cleaning and re-arranging. I suffered a sudden energy crash that liquid didn't help but a banana solved instantly. So, you could have an imbalance in electrolytes or vitamins or something.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247
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37187 · March 31, 2013 at 6:51 PM

I agree with raydawg that one possibility is the beer. And if you use any store-bought flavoring agents you can't rule out adulteration there either.

I can confirm that it only takes a trace of wheat to put me in a fog and then I have to go over everything I've eaten or drank lately to try to figure out the culprit.

Another possibility is if you're lactose intolerant, just like wheat an amazing number of store offerings have milk-based ingredients and that does the same thing to me.

Are your foggy times happening during the same time of day? Or while you're digesting food? Keep mental notes or a diary for a week or so to see if that gives you any clues.

One final thought--I was feeling so good recently that I was tearing my place apart and cleaning and re-arranging. I suffered a sudden energy crash that liquid didn't help but a banana solved instantly. So, you could have an imbalance in electrolytes or vitamins or something.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84
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17422 · March 31, 2013 at 1:25 PM

One thing that sticks out is the beer. Sorry to say, but most beers will have some gluten. It might be enough to give you some of the side effects such as brain fog. This isn't 100%, just a suspicion.

Gluten seems to be one of those proteins that is very short and its amino sequence looks like a lot of our tissue to our immune system. Brain fog is one of the symptoms of this.

When I switched to more pure alcohols such as tequila, vodka, and whiskey, I found I could drink a lot more and get far less of a hangover.

You could, of course, not yet be adapted to burning fat, and are experiencing the symptoms of both not having enough ketones and glucose, so your brain is suffering. If this is the case, try a week or two of very low carbs and start the mornings with something like bulletproof coffee, or some other thing with coconut oil in it. Careful with it, start with a few teaspoons at a time of coconut oil - if you try to get a tablespoon at once when you're not yet ready, you'll find yourself visiting the bathroom for explosive elimination sessions. So sip, don't chug.

The coconut oil is about 50% MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) which your liver will quickly convert to ketones which can fuel your muscles and your brain. Avoid all carbs when you do this until about dinner time, or at least lunch.

If you're having a hard time digesting the fats and are impatient you can get a bit of digestive enzymes that contain ox bile - this is optional. On the other hand, if you've had your gall bladder removed, you must consume digestive enzymes before any meal containing fats and protein as you no longer produce enough bile to process fats (that's a problem I have.)

The point about choline is a valid one, even without racetams. It's a good idea to have some if you're consuming saturated fats (the other half of coconut oil.) You can get some from egg yolks, or a good quality pastured liver. Or in the absolute worse case soy lecithin (though you're better off with a sunflower lecithin first.)

Ee904af930446f5a4913bd7f052dadbc
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8 · March 31, 2013 at 12:19 AM

Could be a low level of choline? When I was experiencing brain fog I did a few things to help with it and have continued taking it since it seemed to help. I've been taking Piracetam, Neuro Wave, and CDP choline to help with my brain fog.

Piracetam is a chemical of the Racetam family class that stimulates the GABA and ACh receptors in the brain which play crucial roles in how memories and thoughts form. Neuro Wave, is Aniracetam and primarily focuses on stimulating the AMPA receptors which are also used and implicated in thought and memory processes. CDP choline is supposed to help replenish the choline that the two racetams will be using, but has a side benefit of stimulating the dopamine receptors which adds a mild mood elevation to the stack.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84
17422 · March 31, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Not sure who downvoted this, but it's a valid point. +1

1d1a1aa53ec46345db814f2e5bc03838
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108 · March 26, 2013 at 1:16 PM

Little update: I am really thinking about quitting the whole paleo thing, because the dizziness/brain fog I get from foods is not acceptable and it's kinda unsettling. I am already scared to walk somewhere because I could faint or just suddently feel that way again.

Today I had a dish with parsnip, celery and onions. This contains carbs, right? It made me dizzy too (after about 20 minutes later). I feel like a drunk person now. It seems the paleo-experiment totally disordered something inside of me. I feel like I should see a doctor soon.

Marc

1d1a1aa53ec46345db814f2e5bc03838
108 · March 26, 2013 at 3:29 PM

Thanks! Best thing might be to see a doctor. I hope it's nothing to worry about.

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 26, 2013 at 1:57 PM

Also the veggies could be doing bad for you, try to see if you are eating new ones from the nightshade family instead of your usual source of carbs. If needed use plenty of potatoes, sweet potatoes, yums, chestnuts, squash... these are pretty well tolerated carb sources than may get you to feel better for now while still allowing for displacing sugars and grains without having to get VLC. Check with fruit maybe, restore your old eating habits and try to introduce 1 ingredient at once to try to isolate which one could be the problematic since you may have an unknown intolerance... hope it helps

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 26, 2013 at 1:47 PM

Sorry to hear that Marc. I once developed the same symptoms as you: feeling very dizzy and near to faint (yet I did never) and very spaced out. Cannot say what I did to get out of this because I don't remember, meds could not help. I thought It could be a comeback rom mononucleosis becase I felt the same as when I got it when I was 25... I see you're a little late to it but may be it could be worth checking.

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 26, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Also, when I felt like that, I was on an ovo-lacto-vegetarian lifestyle for some time back then and now on Paleo I feel pretty well, I mean that it could just be a coincidence (or not, but it could) and I guess the best thing would be going to see a doc and get some lab tests done. Check for thyroid, anaemia, pre-diabetes, inflammation (HS-RCP) and adrenal fatigue (salivary cortisol) to see that everything is ok... good luck!

048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72
3150 · March 26, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Sorry to hear that Marc. I once developed the same symptoms as you: feeling very dizzy and near to faint (yet I did never) and very spaced out. Cannot say what I did to get out of this because I don't remember, docs could not help a lot. I thought It could be a comeback from mononucleosis because I felt the same as when I got it when I was 25... I see you're a little bit old to get it (typical from adolescence) to it but may be it could be worth checking.

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