We’ve all experienced low energy levels. Perhaps you didn’t sleep well and woke up feeling groggy. Maybe you didn’t have anything to eat and experienced some light-headedness. Or, you’ve taken some medication that made your brain feel fuzzy. These symptoms can be restored quickly by eating, getting a good night’s rest or your brain fog clears up as the medication wears off.
These examples are temporary symptoms that happen every now and again. Continued brain fog where you cannot think clearly and struggle with impaired cognition and memory collection can feel debilitating, especially when it impacts your work and productivity.
Dealing with brain fog after Covid
I have been fortunate to not have had Covid, but many of my clients have, and I’ve had so many reports from clients saying that my BHB ketones have made a massive difference for them. The feedback and reports from clients is what prompted me to do a little research and write this blog post.
These are two stories people shared with me of how they struggled with brain fog after suffering from Covid.
Why people continue to experience brain fog after suffering from Covid and exactly how the virus affects the brain (CNS) is still unclear. Even when other symptoms such as shortness of breath and smell return to normal, some people continue to experience brain fog symptoms.
Brain fog isn’t a medical condition, but people describe the symptoms as follows: Struggling to think clearly. Feeling confused or disorganised. Finding it hard to focus. And struggling to recall memory.
People try all kinds of things to get more energy and clear up their brain fog. Some have tried homoeopathic remedies, IV drips and ozone therapy. One person shared with me how they drank three to four energy drinks throughout the day just to keep going. Most of these things can become quite costly.
Don’t neglect lifestyle interventions that should form part of our foundation for a healthy lifestyle.
Whether it is resistance training, tai chi, aerobic exercise, anything that gets you moving can help improve your brain health.
Prioritising sleep is another lifestyle intervention that most people neglect. Sleep is so crucial as it is the time when the brain and body heal and repair.
Last but definitely not least, eating healthy and avoiding excess sugar and processed foods. Research shows that supplementing with vitamin D, vitamin C, and zinc can support our immune system.
Finding a balance with these three foundational lifestyle pillars can help the body and brain restore naturally.
Can exogenous ketones help with brain fog?
The brain is the most energy-demanding organ in the body. It never shuts off, not even when we’re sleeping. The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and energy to function properly. And, it can be affected if it does not have a continuous supply of fuel.
If I look at the research on brain energy utilisation in conditions such as TBI, Alzheimers and other inflammatory diseases, it could be that if you have had Covid, the normal metabolism of glucose in the brain has been affected, or the brain is unable to adapt effectively. Below, I’ll briefly go over four different conditions that impair brain energy metabolism and what the research says.
Brain Energy Impairment – Inflammation
We typically think of inflammation as a part of the body where you can see the body, or the joint show symptoms of redness, swelling, pain, and it is mostly associated with an injury or infection. This is acute inflammation, and it’s how the body fights infections and speeds up the healing process. Usually, inflammation is a protective response that facilitates the healing process. However, prolonged inflammation can cause tissue damage. When you contract the virus, it leads to a cytokine storm. As the name alludes to, a cytokine storm is an extreme release of cytokines in response to infection. Cytokines are small protein molecules that modulate inflammation. Too many cytokines molecules can damage our cell membranes and cause reactive oxygen species.
In her podcast, Dr Caroline Leaf says that potential fevers and lack of oxygen can alter grey matter volume in the brain. And some studies have shown that the immune response to the virus can also lead to increased inflammation across the brain.
We also know that people with diabetes and obesity have chronic levels of inflammation. People with co-morbidities such as Cardiovascular disease and diabetes have been highlighted to be at greater risk for Covid.
Although more research needs to be done on the effects of exogenous ketones and inflammation, decades of research demonstrate that nutritional ketosis is surprisingly effective at reducing chronic inflammation.
Brain Energy Impairment – Traumatic Brain Injury
A concussion, defined as a short-term dysfunction of the brain caused by blunt or mechanical force, is considered a mild TBI (traumatic brain injury). Signs of TBI include confusion, disorientation, dizziness, and headaches.
As with other cognitive disorders, the root cause of TBI symptoms seems to be a cellular energy crisis. Following a concussion or blow to the head, a cascade of events occurs that causes a robust increase in energy needs in the brain. At the same time, TBI impairs the brain’s ability to use glucose.
The neuroprotective properties of ketones have been well researched. More specifically, several studies show promise of the benefit of exogenous ketones infusion after suffering a traumatic brain injury.
Brain Energy Impairment – Alzheimer’s disease
There has been extensive research showing impaired mitochondrial function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. However, by the time cognitive impairments due to the disease are diagnosed, the brain has already atrophied significantly.
One of the first studies with patients with Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive decline put on a ketogenic diet showed improved performance in paragraph recall and the Alzheimer’s disease assessment scale test (Reger et al., 2004). Another inspiring story is Dr Mary Newport, who treated her husband, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease with ketones. The treatment improved his memory retrieval, other complex tasks, and overall quality of life.
In another study, researchers discovered a neuroprotective mechanism in which the ketone bodies BHB and AcAc may block an amyloid protein from entering neurons, improving mitochondrial energy production, synaptic plasticity, learning and memory reduced oxidative stress in mice with Alzheimer’s symptoms. (yin et al., 2006). It’s almost as if ketones act as a sort of bouncer, preventing this bad protein from entering the brain’s neurons and thus protecting the brain from the harmful effects that the protein could have.
As someone who advocates for the ketogenic diet as a lifestyle and understands the benefits of exogenous ketones, it has been exciting for me to hear people’s feedback on how exogenous ketones have helped them recover from Covid.
From the anecdotal evidence and extensive research on the ketogenic diet and the use of exogenous ketones, it seems that an increase in blood ketone levels can bridge the gap in brain energy deficiency and may be helpful as a treatment for post-Covid symptoms such as brain fog.