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Hashimoto's and brain fog
Episode 13617th November 2022 • Thyroid Strong • Emily Kiberd
00:00:00 00:18:52

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Welcome to this week’s episode of Thyroid Strong where I map out why you may be experiencing brain fog and several solutions to help combat the foggy feeling. You’ll want to see your doctor for labs, switch up your diet, prioritize your sleep, and be specific with your exercise. 

Key Takeaways

Brain fog is a common symptom when we have neural inflammation or nutrient deficiencies. There are several causes of brain fog and even more tools to help eliminate it from your daily life. We are going to be experimenting with diet, supplements, exercise, and sleeping patterns. 

What is Brain Fog and The Causes of Brain Fog

Brain fog is any kind of reduced cognition. That is trouble thinking clearly, the inability to concentrate and focus, or difficulty with short-term and long-term memory. The main causes of brain fog are neural inflammation and nutrient deficiencies. 

Tools to Help with Brain Fog and Inflammation

You want to optimize your thyroid hormone levels as a first priority. Next, start reducing inflammation and increasing cerebral blood flow by exercising with kettlebells. Experiment with eliminating foods from your diet or adjusting the times of consuming your food, intermittent fasting could be a huge help. Managing stress is a big one, always working on going from a sympathetic state to a parasympathetic state. Lastly, optimize your sleep. Do whatever you can to have six hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. 

In This Episode

What is brain fog and the symptoms associated [2:55]

Common contributors to brain fog [3:41]

Causes of brain fog [4:46]

Things to help with brain fog [7:21]

Tools to help with inflammation [8:11]

Going from a sympathetic state to a parasympathetic state [10:06]

Optimizing sleep and tools to help [10:48]

Underlying environmental factors contributing to brain fog [11:48]

Supplements to help with inflammation [12:15]

Questions to ask yourself if experiencing brain fog [15:11]

When to exercise to combat fatigue and brain fog [15:36]


“Optimizing sleep is a non negotiable.” [10:48]

DISCLAIMER THIS PODCAST/WEBSITE/COACHING SERVICE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. The information, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained, are for informational purposes only. NO material on this show/website/coaching practice/or special guests are intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of YOUR physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding medical treatment. Never delay seeking medical advice because of something you read/hear/see on our show/website/or coaching practice.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

Topics Covered:

  • Defining brain fog and the symptoms associated
  • Different type so of inflammation in the body that can lead to brain fog
  • Reducing brain fog starts with prioritizing thyroid hormone levels
  • Diets to help regulate the body and reduce inflammation
  • Strategies to get from a sympathetic state to a parasympathetic state

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Emily Kiberd:

or sleep will throw off your brain function and increase inflammation. So optimizing sleep is a non negotiable. If you want to clear up your brain fog aim right the research shows six hours uninterrupted, but I would with Hashimotos aim for more like seven to nine hours of sleep a night What's up lovely ladies Dr. Emily Kiberd. Here with thyroid strong podcast, I am a chiropractor, a mama to Elvis and Brooklyn and I have Hashimotos what is currently in remission. On this podcast, I share simple actionable steps with a little bit of tough love on how to lose that stubborn weight, get your energy, getting your life back and finally learn how to work out without burning out living with Hashimotos. What's up lovely lady's Dr. Emily Kiberd here we are going to talk about Hashimotos and brain fog, the causes and the cures. I know for myself, when I was first diagnosed with Hashimotos, I had massive brain fog, I was running a practice in New York or a wellness clinic, I was trying to start a sentence with the patient and I would start it describing their diagnosis and what was going on. And I couldn't remember the end of my sentence, really, really distracting in the day. Very frustrating. And you can imagine how that really took away from not only my confidence, but also, you know, running a team of eight employees and seeing hundreds of patients every week really would throw me off. And the journey of working through the root causes and root triggers on my Hashimotos also helped start to address the brain fog. Right. So some of the things that I did, I'm going to share more in depth. What is brain fog? What are some causes, and what are some ways to treat the brain fog. But some of the things I did were get out of a moldy apartment and heal from mold exposure, cut out gluten in my diet, and stopped overtraining, right doing like double soul cycles or SoulCycle classes spinning class and then a high intensity interval class afterwards for 90 minutes of day. Yeah, when I cut that out and replace it with heavy lifting, thyroid, Strong Style, low reps, heavier weights, nice long rest breaks, my brain fog started to ease. And many women expect their brain fog to go away after they might get their thyroid hormone levels back in range maybe with medication. And while your brain fog is nearly guaranteed to improve if you are on thyroid replacement hormones, but you may be discouraged if your brain fog doesn't go away completely. And you feel like your brain still isn't back to normal. But there's many things you can do. But let's talk about like if you're like What is brain fog am What are you talking about? Brain fog is like this constellation of symptoms, reduced cognition. So trouble thinking clearly, like literally think your brain and like a fog around it. The inability to concentrate on and focus. I know a lot of people in this country put on Adderall or diagnosed with ATD or ADHD. And I wonder if maybe there's something else going on? Right? So that inability to concentrate and focus, trouble multitasking difficulty with short term and long term memory. I know for me, it was more kind of just trouble thinking clearly. Or I would go to do something like go get something Oh man, what was I getting? I'm not at what am i What's going on. So any condition can negatively affect brain function and can lead to some level of brain fog, some sort of neural inflammation, some brain inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, the brain's struggled to produce enough energy more all common contributors to brain fog. Brain fog also is a common symptom in these conditions. Not only Hashimotos but other autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, which unfortunately is kind of a garbage can diagnosis when people can't figure out what's going on. Same thing with fibromyalgia brain fog is one of the symptoms. Also another kind of quote unquote garbage can diagnosis when doctors can't figure out what's going on depression and other mental health disorders, mold exposure. That was one of my big things and my kryptonite that I mentioned earlier, Alzheimer's and you know, mild cognitive impairment. Other reasons for brain fog could include just decreased blood flow to the brain and decrease glucose available for neurons to make energy. So what could be some causes of brain fog? Thyroid hormones, regulate metabolism and all ourselves. Every single cell in the body needs thyroid hormones, including your brain. So it may makes sense that if you're hypothyroidism underactive thyroid, it can slow down that brain metabolism leading to brain fog. Hashimotos patients on long term thyroid hormone replacement can still have lingering brain fog that affects their day to day, even if they're on that medication. So here's some other possible reasons you could still have brain fog despite having stable quote unquote normal thyroid labs. First one is chronic inflammation, chronic inflammation can slow down the overall firing of the brain and can make you feel mentally sluggish and tired. Right so one of the ways to heal or to address that chronic low grade inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, from that chronic inflammation, which can reduce the brain energy to transmit neuronal signals and produce the right amount of neurotransmitters. One of those neurotransmitters acetylcholine is crucial for memory and focus and is often the first to go thyroid antibodies or the presence of thyroid antibodies, especially thyroid peroxidase. antibodies can bind to neurons then leading to brain fog. increased brain cytokines can affect your neurotransmitters. We talked about reduced brain blood flow either from just reduced circulation or high blood pressure. And as you know, many women with Hashimotos struggle with weight gain which can also contribute to high blood pressure. And this can reduce oxygen, glucose nutrients in the brain, which then can affect memory and attention. Lastly would be a leaky blood brain barrier due to inflammation and oxidative stress. The blood brain barrier allows glutamate toxins and other inflammatory molecules enter the brain contributing into more brain fog. So a lot of the Hashi ladies report depression, anxiety, dementia, right? Dementia, anxiety, depression, how many of those are caused from lingering brain fog, even though they have potentially normal, stable thyroid labs and are on medication? Maybe there's some other underlying causes that I mentioned, that could be contributing to those feelings of anxiety, dementia. So what are some things that can help with brain fog? Obviously, optimize your thyroid hormone levels should be your number one priority. Finding a practitioner that helps you find optimal and will test all of your thyroid hormones to ensure that they're balanced across the board. If you still have thyroid, normal, stable thyroid labs, but you're still having brain fog, you're going to start to need to look into reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, increasing cerebral blood flow Hello exercise kettlebells thyroid Strong Style balancing your immune system and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. And I know you're thinking that's great. Um, but how do we do that? So some of the tools I really like following it first, an autoimmune paleo protocol diet, an AIP diet, just to help create a kind of dietary baseline, right, so no gluten, no dairy, cutting out a lot of things that could add inflammatory load to the gut. This helps bring down inflammation and balance your blood sugar and includes foods that balance inflammation, eliminate those that cause it. So I love an autoimmune paleo protocol. It is not meant to be done forever. There's an elimination phase and then there's a reintroduction phase to see what's a trigger. If something then creates a trigger, then you cut it out. So for example, for me gluten huge trigger, I haven't had gluten in probably since 2016. If I accidentally eat something with gluten in it, I get a really bad headache. Or my body literally throws it up, which I have experienced accidentally having some soy sauce with some sushi. So Bodhi literally rejects it. Another strategy is intermittent fasting, which is a modified fasting protocol, where you consume all of your calories in a particular window of time during the day. So usually eating within a window of eight hours, sometimes at most 12 hours, and then not eating for those 16 hours the rest of the hours of the day. You don't take in any calories. This helps decrease inflammatory immune cells and helps balance your blood sugar. managing your stress, which I know a lot of you hear me say, like, how can we leverage our stress to our advantage but also knowing how and when to unwind, right. And I even do this in between my sets, right so when you're working out, it's creating inflammation, right because you're tearing the muscle tissue, especially if you're lifting heavy. And there's a sympathetic drive, there's an increase in heart rate when you pick up a weight. But then you put the weight down, you have a rest break. So you're doing diaphragmatic, breathing, humming, singing things to bring you back into that parasympathetic state. Other ways to start to do that outside of exercise and kind of humming and singing between your sets would be getting out in nature, meditating 10 minutes a day, looking into therapy, I think everyone should have a therapist. I've also lived in New York for 14 years where everyone does have a therapist, and then also really prioritizing sleep. So poor sleep will throw off your brain function and increase inflammation. So optimizing sleep is a non negotiable. If you want to clear up your brain fog, aim, right, the research shows six hours uninterrupted, but I would with Hashimotos aim for more like seven to nine hours of sleep at night. And I recommend getting in a rhythm where you wake up at the same time every day, get your eyes on the horizon, sun on the face the first 30 minutes of waking up and helps reset your circadian rhythm and just practicing good sleep hygiene. I really love my sleep crown right now. I wear that over my eyes. It's kind of like this weighted eyemask that just right when I put it on my eyes, it's like, cool, ready to go to sleep? Blackout curtains. And I sleep with my ruler. So those are like my non negotiables blackout curtains, my sleep crown and my ruler, if I don't have those bedtimes not happening, other issues, especially when we're talking about low grade inflammation, contributing to brain fog would be those underlying environmental factors that you hear me talk about heavy metal exposure, mold exposure, digestive issues, right? If you have underlying irritable bowel syndrome, or SIBO, pernicious anemia, that's not an environmental factor, but getting properly diagnosed for anemia, or addressing that high blood pressure component that could decrease oxygen to the brain. Some of the supplements that I take daily, this is not medical advice for you. I'm just gonna share what I take and maybe you can take something away from it. omega three fatty acids, EPA and DHA are primarily found in fish oil and ocean sourced fish. I like to take them in a pill. I don't love eating fish. I don't love the taste of fish. But when you do take omega three fatty acids they help modulate whole body inflammation. And our neuro protective DHA is a primary Omega three source found in the brain. But both DHA and EPA are important for balancing brain inflammation. Omega three supplementation has been shown to improve mood, improve fatigue, improve memory, improve cognitive function. I really love designs for health. I'll make a Hypo right now. Choline is a second supplement is essential brain nutrient to overcome brain fog is a precursor to acetylcholine. And acetylcholine helps orchestrate the nervous system function and is important for learning and memory. Loss of acetylcholine neurons is associated with brain fog, memory loss and Alzheimer's. So you can get choline in some of my favorite protein sources, liver, red meat, egg yolks, salmon, chicken, you can also take it in a supplement form. So another supplement that I take on the daily is a B complex B vitamins are essential cofactors for cellular energy production. The brain has a very high energy demand and need. So if you're providing your body with enough B vitamins, this is a very just kind of comprehensive solid approach to ensure your brain cells can produce enough energy from the glucose it uses. B vitamins can also help modulate inflammation and mitigate age related cognitive decline Alzheimer's and as such, it is B 12 specifically is required for myelin formation, which is kind of the sheath around the nerves. And B 12 deficiency can cause cognitive impairment and depression. So those are some of the vitamins in my repertoire that I take every day. I definitely have an omega i really love optimal PC by seeking health which is a phosphor titled choline. It helps make the cell membranes and just plays a really critical role in brain health. So optimal PC by seeking health, optimizing life, that's the company as well. is a B complex. So those are some of the supplements I take. But you have to get the foundational stuff, right? How we're eating, how we're sleeping, how we're working out if I'm ever in a funk, like I can't make a sentence, I asked myself, how's my eating been? Have I been hitting my protein? Have I been really following just kind of like a protein veg approach? I've been eating more junk food, have I been eating more calories? How have I been eating? How's my sleep I've ever been on my phone, binge watching Netflix and going to bed too late, or have I been going to bed and get enough hours not only of quality sleep, but getting the right quantity. And then lastly, I've been working out you know, one of those women with Hashimotos that feel like they go down. They've been exhausted all day, and then they go down and lay to bed and they feel tired, but wired and their brain is racing. If you're not exercising, and you're not like tired and trying to hit the sack by the end of the day. Go try lifting a kettlebell for 10 minutes and then see how your sleep is. Later that day. I like to work out just to bring the exercise piece in here before noon before too if I work out too late. I am like amped and ready to roll for the rest of the night. So I like to do heavy weightlifting, resistance training, three to four days a week, around 20 to 30 minutes, sometimes 40 minutes of a feeling like a rock star. Those kind of compound essential seven movements. And I like to do them before two o'clock otherwise I am amped and wired. So that's my approach to how I lift weight. I hope you enjoyed this episode brain fog is so debilitating. I'm going to tell you though secret for me as a Capricorn who really values intelligence and education and really does not like being judged for coming across dumb at any time in my life. Brain fog was like my kryptonite that and mold so get the basics right and then start to work on the other things we talked about. If you enjoyed this episode, feel free do me a favor, do me a big one. Go to iTunes, subscribe, rate and review. Throw up what you thought about or maybe just one thing you learned from this episode, it would mean the world to me because then it spreads this kind of knowledge to more harshly ladies around the world. Alright ladies, I'll see you next week. If you enjoyed this episode, or even learned just one new piece of information to help you on your Hashimotos journey. Would you do me a huge favor, rate and review thyroid strong podcast on iTunes, Spotify or whatever platform you used to listen to this podcast and share what you liked. maybe learn something new. And if you didn't like it, well shoot me a DM on Instagram Dr. Emily hybird I read and respond to every single DM I truly believe all feedback is good feedback. Even the ugly comments if you're interested in joining the thyroid strong course a home workout program using kettlebells and weights where I teach you how to work out without the burnout. Go to Dr. Emily forward slash T s waitlist. You'll get all the most up to date information on when the course launches and goes live special deals and early access bonuses for myself and my functional medicine doctor friends again Dr. Emily forward slash T s weightless hope to see you on the inside ladies