If you feel as though life is passing you by, or you’re living in a detached sort of dream state, then think for a minute about what you eat on a daily basis.
A lack of focus, or brain fog, is a real condition.
Often, people believe that getting “fuzzy” is a side-effect of aging. But cloudy thinking goes beyond forgetting car keys and grocery items. The inability to concentrate or complete a task to a higher standard could be the result of something more insidious.
In many cases, a sensitivity to gluten may cause these issues.
Crackers, some protein bars, cookies, salad with croutons and whole wheat sandwiches can cause spikes in blood sugar and energy crashes. We hardly give a single thought about wheat being the culprit. After all, we’ve been conditioned to eat more healthy grains. How many lunch bags and desk drawers include wheat-containing snacks and cookies for that instant, carbohydrate pick-me-up?
It might not hurt to consider eliminating gluten if only to reduce mental lethargy and that mid-day crankiness.
Gluten is a protein composite found in most grains and often causes a laundry list of problems aside from brain fog such as irritable bowel syndrome, skin rashes, fatigue and dementia.
The wheat bread we eat today is not the product of our grandmother’s era.
In the days of black and white television, scientists began cross-breeding wheat to make stronger, hardier stalks and promote insect resistance. Modern wheat has emerged into a shorter, easier to grow product that can easily feed millions faster than ever.
In his groundbreaking book “Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health,” cardiologist Dr. William Davis breaks down the gluten universe from its proteins to the history of wheat hybridization in our nation – an effect that has changed the structure of the most basic ingredient in our foods.
Wheat also may cause the condition of celiac disease — a genetically-linked autoimmune digestive disorder in which the absorbing surface of the small intestine is damaged by gluten.
Some recurring problems that gluten intolerant individuals deal with, prior to understanding their condition, include tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, abdominal pain, joint pain, elevated liver function tests, colitis, peripheral neuropathy, anemia and so much more.
A startling statistic reveals that gluten intolerance now affects an estimated 10 percent of the population and many people live with some form of gluten intolerance while never developing celiac disease.
While gluten causes inflammation just about everywhere in the body, it’s no surprise that it also affects the brain.
Studies show gluten can trigger autoimmune attacks in the brain, damaging tissue and causing multiple symptoms including learning disabilities and cognition problems.
The research from neurologist Dr. Marios Hadjivassiliou presents how gluten affects the brain. The doctor draws the analogy of thinking of the grey matter in our brain as a computer and the white matter as the cables that hook everything together and maintain proper function.
Brain scans of those with gluten-related damage from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity reveal various degrees of damage.
An estimated 1.6 million Americans eating gluten-free have adopted the diet without having a celiac disease diagnosis, according to a study from the Mayo Clinic.
It’s important to seek advice from a medical professional before making any dietary changes or a “self-help” diagnosis. With that said, many folks are quietly making the choice to eliminate gluten from their diets as an experiment to see if any improvements take place. Celiac experts do recommend not excluding gluten, unless you’ve been tested, to ensure accurate results.
The downside to dropping wheat may be the taste and texture factor. Let’s face it: Nothing beats a flaky, fluffy biscuit or a chewy, melt-in-your-mouth cookie.
Gluten helps dough rise and gives foods that essential, addictive hold over our bodies and minds.
But if you look at the downside from a different perspective, that being a healthy one, than finding alternative recipes can become a fun challenge. Also, if your current diet is almost entirely made up of pastas, breads, refined flour products and cookies then a switch to diet filled with more vegetables, healthy grains (such as amaranth, brown rice and quinoa) and fruits would almost guarantee an improved body and mind!
The good news is that hundreds of cookbooks, Internet recipes and magazines are available to help make the transition to gluten-free living a little easier.
Below are some of the items to watch out for that may contain gluten ingredients:
- Salad dressing
- Some protein bars
- Snacks made from all-purpose flours
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Modified food starch
- Natural flavorings
- Soy sauce
- Breaded meats or vegetables
- Soups, gravies and thickened sauces
- Breakfast cereals, both hot and cold
- Pies, pretzels and all other baked goods
To make the gluten-free transition easier and help clear brain fog, try incorporating some of these ingredients into your diet:
- Foods high in fatty acids such as avocados, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and salmon could help increase healthy blood flow, increasing brain function
- Antioxidants like artichokes, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries have some of the highest memory-protecting properties
- Legumes help lower blood sugar levels while providing energy throughout the day
- Nuts and seeds help reduce inflammation and provide fiber. Experts say a helping of certain nuts and seeds each day such as walnuts and almonds provides essential vitamins and brain-boosting omega fats
- Olive oil and green tea help reduce inflammation
- Wild Salmon contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in addition to essential B vitamins that increase brain health
- A good quality, dark chocolate as a snack also may improve focus and concentration