Fatigue, tension and inflammation can produce brain fog. If you don’t do something about it, it can become a way of life and gradually lead to cognitive decline. Fortunately, your brain can reprogram itself and ward off brain fog symptoms by a unique ability called “neuroplasticity.”
What Is Neuroplasticity?
Neuroplasticity is your brain's ability to rewire. It is part of normal growth and is shaped by your experiences. Neuroplastic changes occur both at the structural and functional levels.
It houses the DNA, which contains nature's instructions for making new neurons and signaling molecules. RNA is also found in it, aiding in DNA code translation.
The structures here perform various functions, like food digestion, energy generation, neurotransmitter production, etc. Proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids abound in the cell body.
It extends from the cell body, transmitting signals to other neurons. Its membrane is high in omega-3s, which accelerate neural communication. Myelin, a choline-rich fatty covering, wraps around the axon to further boost signaling.
Dendrites are cell body extensions that receive signals from other neurons.
A synapse connects one neuron to another. Most neuron-to-neuron signaling occurs here.
At the functional level, neuroplasticity involves the following processes:
Neurogenesis— the growth of new neurons.
Synaptogenesis— the formation of new neural connections. It is a straightforward process when only intact neurons are involved. When damaged nerve cells are present, synaptic connections are built around them.
Long-term potentiation (LTP)— the strengthening of repeatedly used synapses, making them more efficient at signaling.
Long-term depression (LTD)— when synaptic signaling weakens and slows down. It usually comes before synaptic pruning.
Synaptic pruning— the removal of unused synapses. It helps speed up the signals in neural networks that are used often.
Neuroplasticity is either adaptive or maladaptive, depending on the neural pathways you habitually use when responding to stress. Activating brain pathways that enable you to cope well leads to adaptive neuroplasticity. It sharpens your cognitive function, balances your mood and keeps you motivated. But letting the stress get to you can give you maladaptive neuroplasticity, leading to persistent brain fog, depression, anxiety and loss of motivation.
How Can Neuroplasticity Eliminate Brain Fog?
As in other body cells, balance inside every neuron is important. When an imbalance sets in the adult brain, restoration occurs but only to a limited extent. Unlike sunburned skin, which renews easily, it takes a while for neurons to overcome an imbalance because:
“Neuroplastic changes can clear brain fog as they involve more than just cell regrowth. Moving the synapses around also improves brain function by creating new neural circuits. However, the speed of this process also depends on the number of intact neurons involved and how they are used.”
Why Should You Get Rid of Brain Fog?
Brain fog can keep you from successfully pursuing your goals, whether at home, work or school. You don’t get a lot of chances crushing a certification exam, getting a promotion or outwitting a chess grandmaster. What’s more, brain fog can be a symptom of a brewing mental health issue like Alzheimer’s disease or depression. So you should at least consult your doctor about it if it persists.
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What Factors Can Boost Neuroplasticity?
The main promoter of brain plasticity is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which affects all parts of the nerve cell. It is most abundant in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. The factors that increase BDNF levels act by one or a combination of the following mechanisms:
Neuronal excitation enhances BDNF, leading to synaptogenesis and LTP. Activities that can excite the neurons include brain exercises, physical activity, social interaction, etc.
Decreased Blood Sugar
Fasting exposes your brain to acute stress, which also boosts BDNF levels. Other activities that can lead to the peak ketotic state, like sleep, exercise, and the ketogenic diet, may also enhance BDNF release.
Chronic stress leads to the buildup of stress hormones in the body. It decreases BDNF levels and presents as cognitive impairment, depression and demotivation. Stress management by sleep, meditation, breathing exercises, etc. can push BDNF levels back to normal.
Research shows that some heart-healthy eats also directly benefit the brain. Proper nutrition is good for overall health, but your neurons need "brain-healthy nutrients" to protect them from chronic inflammation and early decline.
Increasing BDNF levels enhances brain health and leads to adaptive neuroplasticity. Both manifest clinically as hippocampal enlargement, cognitive improvement, mood balance and overall satisfaction with life . So if you want to rev up your weary neurons, boosting your BDNF may help.
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What Factors Can Curb Neuroplasticity?
Exposures that can reduce neuroplasticity or produce maladaptive patterns include:
Chronic fatigue, emotional tension and lack of sleep all lead to chronic stress. Alcohol, smoking and bad dietary choices fry your neurons with toxins. Physical inactivity and too much screen time leave your brain unchallenged. All these can lower your BDNF levels.
Modern life has created many conveniences but has also damaged the environment. Pollutants can also poison your neurons, producing a wide range of symptoms—from subtle ones like forgetfulness to severe ones like unconsciousness.
Sickness can reduce neuroplasticity in various ways. Severe disease can produce symptoms of brain fog. They can go away or improve by combining medical care with rehabilitative therapy and good nutrition.
These factors impair your neurons by inhibiting BDNF secretion, causing direct injury or both. Addressing them early limits the damage and maximizes the benefits of neuroplasticity.
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Brain-Recovery Foods: How Crucial Is Nutrition in Overcoming Brain Fog?
Nutrition directly impacts mental and athletic performance.
For instance, nutritional deficiencies can damage the neurons, causing mental fatigue, weak senses, movement difficulties, etc. Doctors correct the deficit by vitamin or mineral supplementation. People can regain mental clarity and go back to their usual after medical therapy and rehabilitation.
In cases where a nutrient deficiency is not the cause of brain fog, good nutrition always complements medical treatment. A brain-healthy diet helps restore the neurons by the following mechanisms:
Some nutrients are known to promote brain health and plasticity by stimulating BDNF secretion and other mechanisms. They include:
These nutrients' actions make them important neuroplasticity inducers. So if you want to recharge your brain, don't choose just any food. Choose brain fog foods and get a good helping of these vitamins.
What Are the Best Brain Fog Foods to Kickstart Plasticity and Help Your Neurons Bounce Back?
The MIND diet has been proven to enhance adaptive neuroplasticity and prevent cognitive decline.
Uridine-rich dark green vegetables, such as broccoli. You need at least 6 servings a week.
You must likewise limit your intake of the following:
Pastries and sweets, which raise your blood sugar levels and diabetes mellitus risk. Diabetes mellitus damages neurons. Take no more than 5 servings of these foods a week.
Experts agree that the MIND diet's success is more from the combined effects of multiple brain-healthy nutrients and not just one. Therefore, to jumpstart neuroplasticity and regain your mental focus, you need to make sure that you're getting these food groups in the recommended amounts.
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Neuroplasticity is the brain's main mechanism for restoring itself and getting rid of brain fog. It has adaptive and maladaptive forms. Neuroplasticity is activated by BDNF, a growth factor that increases with acute stress and decreases with chronic stress.
Good nutrition also raises BDNF levels. The MIND diet is a nutritional strategy proven to enhance adaptive neuroplasticity, improve brain health and protect from cognitive decline. Experts agree that its effectiveness lies in the synergy between different BDNF enhancers and not just one. Doctor-formulated Brain Assist is the total neuroplasticity supplement that has them all.
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Mental focus is crucial to a child’s personal development and long-term success. Children with good concentration generally do better in school, have high self-esteem and are motivated to accomplish their goals. Meanwhile, easily distracted kids experience the opposite, with each negative encounter causing a domino effect on all aspects of their growth.
Inattention is common among young people, but when it starts to hurt their academic performance, self-confidence, and personal relationships, it becomes a cause for concern. Your child is born with unique gifts, and it’s only natural to want to help them unleash their hidden genius. In this article, we discuss the many factors that can distract kids and what various field experts recommend to enhance their focus and mental performance.
What Parts of Kids’ Brains Are Concerned with Mental Focus?
Children are born with billions of brain cells connected by trillions of synapses. Different regions of the brain help your child focus, and they work in synergy.
For example, a toddler’s perception of hunger and sighting of food engage different neural pathways. To respond to hunger pangs, another neural network motivates the child to take action and continue until they are fed.
As in adults, children’s mental focus is the result of the combined actions of different brain parts, particularly the following:
Reticular activating system (RAS)
A collection of brainstem nerves involved in wakefulness and sleep.
The seat of memory and learning.
Sensory processing centers
Cerebral regions that analyze and make sense of what a person perceives from the environment. They include cognitive networks for calculation, language, and logic, as well as emotional processing centers
Frontal and prefrontal lobes
The seats of attention, decision-making, motivation, cognition, planning, judgment, morality and impulse control. The prefrontal lobe completes its development in adulthood, well after most other brain regions have finished theirs.
Non-nervous cells that support the neurons’ nutrition and growth. They are critical to neuroplasticity and adaptation.
Adults are taught by experience to ignore various external stimuli and control their urges. Their ability to concentrate mostly depends on the activity of the above parts, which are largely affected by lifestyle choices.
“Children’s brains have not had enough practice to allow for significant pruning, habitualization, and adaptation, so they are more prone to environmental distractions on top of internal ones. In addition to the above regions, their sensory nerve pathways—sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste and position sense—greatly influence their mental focus.”
Nature vs. Nurture: Are All Kids Born with the Same Ability to Focus?
Some children are more proactive in pursuing their goals, whereas others are more laid back. Some “are not the forgiving type,” while others easily forget they were ever angry. Some are more adventurous, while others are overcautious.
These are all explained by differences in temperament, the inclination to behave a certain way in response to a stimulus.
In the 1970s, child psychiatrists Thomas and Chess theorized that kids were born temperamentally diverse, having different moods, thresholds of responsiveness, distractibility, persistence levels, etc. They believed that the combination of these traits determined a child’s goodness of fit into their environment.
“Kids are not born with the same ability to concentrate or filter their thoughts.”
Angry children who keep getting into fights and struggling academically will continue to resort to the same defense mechanisms without intervention.
“However, the brain’s plasticity makes it possible to optimize mental performance by training, therapy and other tools.”
Modern science and patient guidance have helped countless children turn their Ds and Fs into straight-A performances.
If your child seems to have learning and emotional difficulties, you need to find out how to help them focus better. The sooner you do this, the sooner they can overcome developmental barriers.
What Causes Lack of Concentration Among Children?
Children who have focus problems tend to be shy, demotivated, indecisive and full of self-doubt. They can pick up on their parents’ frustration and build negative perceptions of themselves. Additionally, labeling from other children, teachers or parents can make them too discouraged to try again, which often results in withdrawal or aggression. All of these can make it more difficult to unlock their abilities.
Does this sound familiar?
If your child or a friend’s has difficulty concentrating or paying attention, doctors recommend looking into the following possibilities:
These are the more common reasons for poor focus and mental performance in children. A large majority are easy to correct, and thus, have a good prognosis.
Surroundings Full of Distractions
Examine your child’s learning environment. Extra stimulation of their senses can make them lose focus easily. At school, they could be seated next to classmates who would rather talk than listen to their teachers. At home, wall decorations, loud noises, strewn-out toys, TV and others could divert their attention from doing their homework.
Lack of Good Sleep
Not getting enough sleep tires out the RAS and can make kids too drowsy to pay attention. Check for things that make it difficult for them to fall asleep at the right hours or get good sleep quality. Late-night horror shows and electronic gadget use, midnight noises, bed bugs, uncomfortable cots, etc. are common examples.
Finds No Motivation in School
Our educational system recommends the same learning courses for kids. However, as we mentioned previously, children are born with different gifts and temperaments. Lack of interest can mask true intelligence, and it may be because kids find schoolwork too difficult or easy.
Tasks that are too difficult can demotivate young, inexperienced people. Meanwhile, too easy assignments can also bore them. You’ll never know the difference unless you sit with your child and investigate. Either way, lack of interest can result in poor focus and fund of knowledge.
Inactivity-Induced Brain Fog
Take a break and get your child moving. Exercise raises levels of oxygen, nutrients and the neuronal growth factor BDNF in the brain. All of these substances stimulate growth and synaptic formation in regions critical to learning, concentration and emotional balance. Sedentariness deprives your child of the mental benefits of physical activity. The right brain fog foods can help!
Poor Nutrition and Energy Management
The brain needs food for fuel, tissue maintenance, disease protection and proper function. Poor neuronal nutrition comes in three forms: too little intake, too much intake and intake of the wrong kinds of food.
Children who eat too little are at risk for vitamin deficiencies, dehydration, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level) and various electrolyte deficits. All of these conditions reduce mental alertness, attention and motivation. Hunger and thirst can also distract kids.
Meanwhile, children who eat too much may suffer from chronic inflammation and early-onset cardiovascular disease, which also impair mental performance.
Eating the “wrong” kinds of food can likewise damage the body and brain.
Without proper guidance, kids may get accustomed to the standard American diet, which is high in simple sugars, refined carbohydrates, unhealthy fats and sodium. Additionally, since children naturally get curious about many things, parents should watch out for signs of underage drinking or experimentation with alcohol.
Toxic Exposure from the Environment
Too Little Social Interaction
Inborn conditions that can affect mental performance (see table below) are rare. They are not always apparent at birth, and their manifestations range from mild to severe. Their course, treatment, and prognosis depend on symptom severity, with most needing advanced medical interventions or having no cure. Specialist consults are always necessary in these cases.
Those that affect the brain include the following:
Disordered Brain Growth Genetics
“The reasons for poor mental concentration in a huge majority of pediatric cases are trivial. However, since kids cannot articulate their symptoms as well as adults can, doctors routinely try to look for a more serious cause—physical, psychological, social, etc.—until it is completely ruled out.”
They could miss a potentially fatal condition if they ignored subtle neurologic changes.
How Can You Help Improve Your Child’s Concentration and Mental Performance?
Now, you’re aware of the elements that can potentially distract your child. Below is a list of expert-recommended actions that you can take to help them focus better:
Give Them a Room Dedicated to Studying
Help Them Practice Sleep Hygiene
Make Learning Fun through Brain Games
Make Delayed Gratification a Tool
Let Your Child Run and Play
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Feed Your Child's Brain
Aside from their unique cardiovascular health benefits, evidence proves that these nutrients raise BDNF levels in the brain. Ask your doctor about including them in your child’s dietary regimen.
“I give this smoothie to my boys (3- and 4-yr-old) every morning. My 4yr old is a very picky eater and doesn’t eat his green veggies. We force veggies in however we can, but I also make sure he gets this smoothie since it gives me peace of mind that he’s definitely getting the nutrients his little body needs. I’ve also noticed it has greatly improved his attention and focus, which definitely needed some sharpening!”
Have Heart-to-Heart Talks with Your Child
Talking to your child gives you more opportunities to teach or find out if something is bothering them.
Encourage Playtime with Other Kids
Chat with Their Teachers and School Counselors
Find the Child’s Comfortable Learning Style
Some kids do well with just one learning style, while others have mixed learning styles. School counselors and developmental specialists may help you figure out which one suits your child best and formulate study habits that work.
Work with Your Pediatrician
Get Specialist Help
Adjust Their Medications
As you can see from this guide, helping kids regain their focus does not have to be a one-man job. In fact, enlisting the help of a few experts may give your child the best chance at recovery.
“if you sense any bothersome changes in your kid, don’t delay in taking action. The longer they stay sick or adopt a maladaptive behavior, the greater the damage and the longer it will take for them to recover.”
Mental focus impacts various aspects of children’s personal growth. It is the product of the coordinated actions of different brain areas.
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How Does Good Nutrition Boost Your Mental Performance?
The old expression "You are what you eat" sums up food's effects on the body. Feeding it trash makes you constantly feeling sick and energy-drained. Giving it the proper nutrients peps you up and gets you ready for any challenge.
Food Provides Energy to Your Brain Cells
The Energy Content of Food
Nutrients Build Up the Neurons
The best brain diet combines all these nutrients as each has a unique role in maintaining health and peak performance.
Diet Dictates Mental Function
Brain foods improve focus and mental performance because they are rich in high-quality nutrients that boost the above substances.
Good Food Protects the Brain from Disease
Electrolyte and Fluid Balance Are Crucial to Mental Alertness and Focus
A brain-healthy diet lets you compete at the highest levels in any field.
As you can see, nutrition has multiple vital roles in the brain, so careful food selection is key to optimum mental performance. Sadly, many active people are so accustomed to the standard American diet, which contributes little to proper neuronal function and upkeep. If you're on this diet and feeling constantly stressed, depressed, and distracted, you might consider switching to a regimen that will nourish the brain back to health.
“When it comes to overall brain health, just adding certain supplements will sharpen your brain”
Bindya Gandhi, M.D
What Is the Best Diet for Sharpening Mental Focus?
There is a growing body of evidence supporting the beneficial effects of the MIND diet on mental performance.
A diet containing all these food groups will help you enhance your mental focus, stay within a healthy weight range and avoid nutritional deficiencies.
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What Foods Can Make the Brain Sluggish?
For cardiovascular and mental health, nutrition experts advise limiting the intake of the following dietary components:
Added (simple) sugars:
Persistently high blood sugar can kill off your neurons, damage your heart and blood vessels, weaken your immune system and produce other complications. Cognitive decline and other signs of nerve impairment can manifest early in life.
A diet high in added sugars, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol and sodium can severely limit your mental and physical performance over time. Chronically high blood sugar and its widespread complications can all lead to early-onset neurologic decline.
Saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol:
The recommended daily limit for sodium intake is 2,300 mg. This is equivalent to about one teaspoon of table salt.
The MIND diet includes moderate red wine intake, but this is more for the beverage's antioxidant properties and not its alcohol content. People who prefer to have red wine in their regimen can have one glass a day. There is no recommendation that those who are not taking alcohol should start doing it. They can get the brain booster trans-resveratrol from other foods and supplements.
Except for alcohol, these substances are the principal components of the standard American diet. That is why there has been a steep rise in neurological and mental health issues in the last few decades. However, limiting their intake has been shown to enhance mental focus, delay cognitive decline and maintain psychological well-being.
How Should You Make A Brain Food Diet Plan?
A proven nutritional strategy for improving brain health is the MIND diet plan.
Dark green vegetables—at least 6 servings a week
Meanwhile, it also has the following restrictions:
Red meat—no more than 4 servings a week
Butter and margarine—no more than 1 tablespoon daily
Cheese—no more than 1 serving a week
Pastries and sweets—no more than 5 servings a week
Fast food—no more than 1 serving a week
For a 2,000-calorie daily diet, a sample 3-day meal plan can look like this:
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What Else Can Boost Mental Performance Besides the Best Brain Diet?
You may be tired of hearing it from the health buffs, and yet they're right. Studies show that consistent brain training and physical activity can also perk up the brain. When combined with a brain-healthy diet, they can improve mental performance and help stave off cognitive decline.
The best brain diet provides energy, enhances neuronal resilience and growth, promotes proper function, fights disease and ensures electrolyte balance. The standard American diet lacks most of these qualities, so it does not contribute much to brain health.
Help your brain get what it needs to flourish, every day.