Brain fog has become one of the most frustrating effects of “long COVID-19”, Persisting for weeks and months after the first symptoms of the coronavirus disappear.
Patients often report difficulty thinking or concentrating, feeling confused or tired, or having memory problems, which leaves them overwhelmed when trying to accomplish tasks at work or home that were easy before. their diagnosis.
“It’s very boring because what people find out is that they can’t keep up,” said TODAY Dr. Uma Naidoo, director of nutritional and lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. from Boston.
Brain fog cases have become “much more prevalent” in her practice over the past six months, she said. But the problem can strike anyone, even without an underlying condition, writes Naidoo in her book, “It’s your brain on food. “
As a prescribing psychiatrist, nutritionist and trained chef, she advises patients on how to modify their diet to improve their mental health, including reducing brain fog. It works because the gut and the brain are uniquely connected – linked by the vagus nerve, which carries signals between them, Naidoo said.
When food interacts with the gut during the digestive process, it will impact the brain-gut connection.
Eating fast food and other pro-inflammatory options, for example, feeds the ‘bad bugs’ in the microbiome, allowing them to take over and prepare a person for inflammation, which in turn can have an impact. about how he thinks and feels, she noted.
“What I want people with long symptoms of COVID who have brain fog to feel is that they should adjust their diet and nutrition to see if it can potentially help,” Naidoo advised.
“There is definitely hope … is making a plan, taking these steps slowly and steadily, and making it part of your lifestyle every day so that you eat better, healthy ingredients. . “
Consider these options:
Foods rich in luteolin:
They include fresh peppermint, sage, thyme, hot and sweet peppers, radicchio, celery seeds, parsley and artichokes. Dried Mexican oregano, which is slightly different from regular oregano, is one of the best sources.
Research shows that luteolin, a flavonoid, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory agent, has many brain fog-lowering properties, writes Naidoo in her book.
This means eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and plant sources such as flax seeds. Nuts and olive oil also play a role. Colorful vegetables are especially good because they contain powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients, as well as antioxidants and polyphenols.
“Inflammation is considered to be the basis of many mental health issues these days, and that’s where food becomes important as well,” Naidoo said.
Vitamin C and folic acid:
Both have been shown to be weak in people with chronic fatigue syndrome, so she asks patients with brain fog to include them in their diets. Citrus fruits, kiwis and red peppers contain a lot of vitamin C. Folate is found in dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, salads and kale.
They provide good bacteria which can aid digestion. Opt for foods fermented with live cultures such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and plain, unsweetened yogurt.
Studies have shown that modest coffee consumption – one to two small or medium cups of coffee per day – can help prevent brain fog, Naidoo said. Coffee is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants. Green tea is also very helpful for focus and clarity, she added.
Consider creating a “brain fog fighting plate” with every meal:
Rather than focusing on just one food, try combining several of these options each time you eat. Have a leafy green salad with lots of colorful veggies and a dressing that has parsley and thyme, or lemon and fresh peppermint. Enjoy the salmon with a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste the kiwis.
The goal is to be consistent and to see it as a complete plan that you will act on every day. If you make a less healthy choice on any given day, correct yourself at the next meal, Naidoo advised. People generally feel better within two weeks to a month of starting a cohesive plan, she added.
Beware of gluten and alcohol:
Naidoo is a fan of everything in moderation and she didn’t want to demonize the ingredients that everyone consumes. That said, she advised people to experiment with the impact of gluten and alcohol on their brain fog. When it comes to gluten, it may be about limiting it rather than giving it up altogether. The source makes the difference, Naidoo said. Eating sliced bread that is highly processed and filled with preservatives from the supermarket can affect a person differently than a loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread from the local bakery.
If a glass of wine makes brain fog worse, it may be worth drying for a few weeks to see how it makes a difference.
Bottom line: “Dietary interventions are extremely helpful,” Naidoo said. “But it’s not one thing and it’s not quick and immediate.”