Brain fog - poor memory, difficulty thinking clearly etc

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What allows the brain to work quickly and efficiently is its energy supply. If this is impaired in any way, then the brain will go slow. Initially, the symptoms would be of foggy brain; but if symptoms progress, one will end up with dementia. We all see this in our everyday life, with the effect of alcohol being the best example. Short-term exposure gives us a deliciously foggy brain - we stop caring, we stop worrying, it alleviates anxiety. However, it also removes one's drive to do things, one's ability to remember; it impairs judgement and our ability to think clearly. Medium-term exposure results in mood-swings and anxiety (only alleviated by more alcohol). Longer-term use could result in severe depression and then dementia - examples include Korsakoff's psychosis and Wernike's encephalopathy. See Wikipedia:Korsakoff's syndrome and Wikipedia:Wernicke's encephalopathy. Incidentally, these two examples also illustrate how most drug side-effects result from nutritional deficiencies!

ATP, along with DNA, is an ancient molecule. It multitasks. It also functions as a neurotransmitter - to be precise a co-transmitter. Other neurotranmitters will not work unless they are accompanied by a molecule of ATP. Improve ATP and you improve all aspects of brain function! Improving ATP delivery is the best treatment for low mood and depression.

What I mean by brain fog

  • Poor short term memory
  • Difficulty learning new things
  • Poor mental stamina and concentration – there may be difficulty reading a book or following a film story or following a line of argument
  • Difficulty finding the right word
  • Thinking one word, but saying another

Good Energy Supply to the Brain

A normal nerve will pass a nerve impulse in 75 microseconds. The slower the time, the more we “lose it”. Reaction times are slowed with alcohol. If this interval extends to 140 microseconds, one has dementia; longer than that and we go unconscious - as exemplified by the effects of a general anaesthetic.

What allows good energy supply to the brain is:

Good fuel and oxygen supply

Good mitochondrial function

One then has to be able to convert this fuel and oxygen supply into energy that the brain can use, namely ATP (Wikipedia:Adenosine Triphosphate) . See CFS - The Central Cause: Mitochondrial Failure, but this is only part of the story!

Myelin sheath function

There is a further interesting peculiarity with respect to the energy supply to the brain which is different from that used by the rest of the body. Although the brain weighs just 2% of total body weight, in use it absorbs 20% of the body’s energy requirement! This cannot be explained by the number of mitochondria in the brain (there are not enough), which means there must be another energy-generating source. Brain cells are also very different from normal cells. They have a cell body, and very long tails - or dendrites - which communicate with other cells. Indeed, if a nerve-cell body from the spinal cord that supplied one’s toes was sitting on my desk and was the size of a football, the tail would be in New York! These tails (dendrites) are too small to contain mitochondria, but it has been suggested that the energy supply comes directly from the myelin sheaths (link to Wikipedia article) themselves. They too can produce ATP and it is this that supplies the energy for neuro-transmission. Please see Energy supply to the brain via myelin - Ravera 2009. Myelin sheaths are made up almost entirely of fats, so we need to look to oils and fats for improved energy supply to brain cells.

Some fascinating work by Dr Mary Newport shows that coconut oils can cure dementia - see What If There Was a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease… and No One Knew?. The key ingredient is medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). This suggests to me that these are an essential part of this process. MCTs are an excellent energy supply to the brain which also likes to work with short-chain fatty acids or ketones. You can see an interview with Dr Newport on You Tube Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

My guess is that the myelin sheath membranes have to be of just the right consistency to allow ATP to be synthesized. If this were the case, it would explain how general anaesthetics (GAs) work – presently no-one really knows! If GAs upset the consistency of myelin-sheath cell-membranes enough, then the energy supply to nerve cells would be switched off; the nerves would cease to work and... bingo! – not just foggy-brained but unconscious! See Wikipedia:Theories of general anaesthetic action

Do not be concerned about dietary fat and cholesterol causing arterial disease! The results of some studies of Polynesian peoples for whom coconut is the chief source of energy should put your mind at rest.[1] My guess is that statins, by reducing the cholesterol that the brain loves, are contributing to our current epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease. Certainly it is rare for my CFS patients to tolerate statins – nearly always they are made ill by them.

So, adding coconut oil to the regime of anyone with symptoms of foggy brain to dementia is likely to be helpful, partly by improving fuel supply and partly improving membrane function.

Brain fats and oils

Humans evolved on the East Coast of Africa eating a diet rich in sea food. It is suggested that the high levels of oils, particularly DHA (Docosahexanoic acid), allowed the brain to develop fast, thus allowing humans to outstrip other mammals. So Homo Sapiens came to have bigger brains allowing intelligence to develop. There is lots of research showing that essential fatty acids are indeed "essential" for normal brain function; so oils that would be helpful in addition to coconut oil would be omega 3 (fish), omega 6 (evening primrose) and omega 9 (olive), together with lecithin (which is phosphatidylcholine – i.e. the main component of all cell membranes).

Oils to treat foggy brain and dementia

A suggested regime to start off would be:

  • Lecithin - one teaspoon (5 ml) twice daily (raw material for basic building blocks of membrane).
  • Coconut oil - one dessertspoonful (10 ml) twice daily (perfect fuel for brain cells).
  • Hemp oil which has the right proportion of omega 6 to 3 (4 to 1) (ensures membranes are of perfect consistency - not too stiff, not too elastic).

See Phospholipid exchange for the correct proportions. Hemp oil is near enough perfect with a ratio of 3.8 to 1 of omega 6 to 3. However there are combinations of other oils one can use in case allergy gets in the way!

Ideally, all these oils should be organic. A very delicious way to take coconut oil is first to melt it in a warm place, then stir in organic cocoa powder (eg Green and Black's), possibly a teaspoon of D-ribose - allow to cool and go hard - and hey presto! - perfect chocolate! You may have to vary the ingredients according to taste; but what I like is 1/3 pot (150grams) coconut oil with 1/2 pot cocoa powder (60grams) and a teaspoon of D-ribose!

Throughout life, the brain creates a million new connections every second! This means there is huge potential for healing and repair; it is simply a case of moving things in the right direction! But the brain has to have the optimum energy supply to allow this process to happen!

Also see again Phospholipid exchange

Research done by Professor Caroline Pond ( Professor Caroline Pond ) at Oxford has shown that the immune system, like the brain, is also fat-loving. Wild animals, if they have a food glut, will first deposit fat around lymph nodes where energy is needed for immune activity. This may explain why people who are apple-shaped are more prone to heart disease compared with those who are pear-shaped. Fat deposited around the gut indicates inflammation there (possibly allergy or fermenting gut) and inflammation results in arterial damage.

CFS, alcohol and foggy brains

Alcohol intolerance is almost universal in CFS. This has always puzzled me! It could be partly explained by poor detox, but clinically there seems to be some direct effect on the brain, like a hypersensitivity. The above explains all! Alcohol readily dissolves fats and would be excellent at changing the consistency of the myelin sheath cell membranes. It works just like a general anaesthetic – and, indeed, many CFSs are intolerant of anaesthetics. My guess is that the more fat-dissolving a chemical, the greater its ability to produce foggy brain in CFS. This could also apply to a range of prescription medication.

This knowledge is very useful clinically. Those people who are intolerant of alcohol need brain fats and oils as above. Indeed, as we age, intolerance increases - indicating our greater need for the correct fats and oils as we become metabolically less efficient with the passage of time! Please see also Alcohol intolerance in CFS - gives us a clue as to the mechanisms of fatigue

Treatment of the foggy brain

Are you being poisoned?

From within the body:

  • Gut fermentation - fermented foods result in alcohol, D-lactate, hydrogen sulphide and other toxins being produced. Any tendency to constipation will make this worse. This may explain why colonic irrigation allows a "clearing" of the brain. See Fermentation in the gut and CFS
  • Caffeine in the short term is a mental stimulant. This can be helpful if you have to “perform”, so long as you can rest and recover afterwards. If you are having more than 3 cups a day (tea, coffee), then it is probably having an overall deleterious effect.
  • As a result of a detox regime - which mobilises toxins which have been previously dumped in fat.

From outside the body:

  • As a result of diet - again, alcohol is also a neurotoxin. If you are drinking more than one glass of wine daily, then you will be thiamine deficient. It may be worse than this! I remember John McLaren Howard telling me that anybody who drinks any amount of alcohol and is not taking a supplement will be thiamine deficient. Thiamine is essential for normal brain function.
  • Prescription drugs often have profound effects on the brain, especially in older and younger people

Is there pathology?

Progressive brain symptoms always need investigating with an MRI scan to exclude tumours and other such anatomical lesions. See:

Vitamin B12 by injection

This is an excellent treatment for foggy brain! There are many possible ways in which it may be helpful - see B12 - rationale for using vitamin B12 in CFS. Indeed I was interested to hear that when the top chess grand Masters are competing they inject themselves daily with B12 for improved performance. My organophosphate poisoned farmers love B12 as do many PWME!

Related articles

External Links, linked from this website

External Links

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.


  1. Prior IA, Davidson F, Salmond CE, Czochanska Z. Cholesterol, coconuts, and diet on Polynesian atolls: a natural experiment: the Pukapuka and Tokelau island studies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1981, Vol 34 (8): 1552-61

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