Brain Fog in Lyme Disease: What is it?

Photo by Erik Karits on Pexels.com

First Published: 1/2/17
Updated: 8/20/20

There are two kinds of brain fog in Lyme disease. Some people have both forms.

  • Type 1 Brain Fog. The first kind is a feeling or sensation of cloudiness or fogginess of the head.
  • Type 2 Brain Fog. The second type is a problem with brain function where a person cannot think. People with thinking problems usually have problems with short-term memory, confusion, poor attention, organization, word finding, or concentration.

Type 1 brain fog is caused by a buildup of cytokine inflammation chemicals and another chemical made in brain infections called quinolinic acid. It is also due to a buildup of toxins in the blood from mold or yeast overgrowth in the intestines. While the literature does not describe this type of brain fog or its treatment. I have observed great improvement in Type 1 brain fog by lowering cytokine inflammation chemicals with liposomal curcumin 500 mg 3 times a day, eliminating intestinal yeast, or removing mold toxins. See Step One: Treat Infections or Mold Toxins below for links to articles on this site regarding yeast and mold toxins. Note, fixing Type 2 brain fog also fixes Type 1 brain fog.

In this article I focus primarily on the treatment steps for Type 2 brain fog. Type 2 brain fog has three possible causes

  • inflammation caused by infections like Lyme and/or mold toxicity,
  • mitochondria cell energy factory dysfunction caused by oxidative stress from infections or direct damage from mold and other toxins, and
  • excess histamines due to allergies or Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

Step One: Decrease Inflammation

Eliminate Infections or Mold Toxins

Determine which infections you have or if you have mold toxicity and treat them to lower inflammation that leads to Type 1 brain fog in Lyme disease.

For information about how to diagnose Lyme, yeast, bartonella, or mold toxin problems see:

For more information about treating Lyme, yeast, bartonella or mold toxicity see:

Lower Inflammation Cytokines and/or Quinolinic Acid

Curcumin is a component of turmeric that lowers both cytokines and quinolinic acid which improves brain fog. Take a liposomal form of curcumin to increase the absorption. Liposomal means that it is microscopically wrapped in fat to increase its absorption.

  • Curcumin 500 mg (liposomal) 1 pill 3 times a day.

For more information about cytokines and additional supplements see Control Cytokines: A Guide to Fix Lyme Symptoms & The Immune System. For more information about curcumin see Curcumin.

Step Two: Fix Mitochondria

Mitochondria provide power to cells in the body. This cell power provides energy to function and to heal. In mitochondria dysfunction, infections and mold toxins cause the immune system to make excess oxidizing agents that damage the covering of the mitochondria. This leads to poor uptake of sugar and fat into the mitochondria and damages chemical reactions in the mitochondria. Because of this brain cells cannot function nor do they have the energy to heal – this causes Type 2 brain fog.

For Type 2 Brain Fog I find there are two important steps to repair the mitochondria.

  • First, fix the outside of the mitochondria by repairing the damaged phospholipid fat covering. This is called phospholipid repair.
  • Second, repair the inside of the mitochondria using the antioxidant called glutathione.

Phospholipid Repair

There are two products I suggest to support phospholipid membrane repair. These products are both manufactured by Researched Nutritionals. These products are NT Factor Energy* and ATP 360*. The main difference in these products is that ATP 360 includes Co Q10 and NT Factor Energy does not. ATP 360 is the newest product. Co Q10 should not be used in Babesia treatments that include atovaquone (Mepron and Malarone) because it interferes with their ability to kill this germ. For more information see A Comparison of ATP Fuel, ATP 360 & NT Factor Energy by Researched Nutritionals.

Choose one of the products below based on whether you can take Co Q10 as I describe above. Do not use both of these products together at the same time.

  • NT Factor Energy take 2 pills 3 times a day for 2 months, then decrease to 1 pill 3 times a day for 4 months. (This product does not include Co Q10.)
  • ATP 360 take 3 pills 1 time a day for 6 months. (This product includes Co Q10)

Increase Glutathione

Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that repairs cell injury and mitochondria energy from the inside. It is made in every cell. Liposomal glutathione is best. This type of glutathione is microscopically wrapped in phospholipid fats which increases its absorption. One can also breathe glutathione in using a nebulizer or take it by IV. The nebulizer and IV versions may work more effectively in some than the liposomal oral form. Read more about the nebulizer and IV versions including dosing and how frequent to take them in the article Glutathione: The Great Fixer.

An alternative to glutathione is to take a building block of glutathione called N acetyl-cysteine (NAC). Inside cells NAC is used to make glutathione. My preference is the liposomal glutathione but in some it does not work or is too expensive.

  • Liposomal Glutathione 500 mg/5 ml take 5 ml 1 or 2 times a day, or
  • N Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) 500 mg 1 pill 3 times a day.

See How to Fix Mitochondria & Get Energy in Lyme Disease for additional steps you can take to repair the mitochondria.

Step Three: Lower Histamines

Histamines are made in excess in allergies and in a condition called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. If you have either one of these conditions, then you should work to stabilize the cells where histamines are made. These cells are called mast cells. Histamines in the right amount actually help brain function. But in excess they can shut down brain function. Excess histamines cause a brain immune cell called microglia to make too many cytokine inflammation chemicals. As I note above, cytokine inflammation is a cause of brain fog. In addition the brain has an H3 histamine receptor that shuts down brain function when there are too many histamines.

To treat this condition, work to stabilize your mast cells so they do not produce or release as many histamines. The bioflavonoids quercetin and luteolin stabilize mast cells. You can use one or both of these.

  • Quercetin 250 mg 2 pills 2 or 3 times a day
  • Luteolin 100 mg 1 pill 2 or three times a day.

See Mast Cell Activation Syndrome & Lyme for additional steps you can take to treat this condition.

Timing

At the beginning of treatment focus on removing the sources of inflammation like infections and removing mold toxins. In addition, lower inflammation cytokines with curcumin. If you have excess histamines, use the luteolin or quercetin.

Later, after three to six months if you have no improvement then add the mitochondria repair steps using phospholipid repair and liposomal glutathione. These additional steps can take up to six months for maximum effect.

Hyperbaric Oxygen

At times even the supplements and antimicrobials are not effective. In these situations treatment with hyperbaric oxygen can be helpful. This requires a minimum of 40 dives to a depth of 2.4 atmospheres. Hyperbaric oxygen lowers brain inflammation, improves nerve function and connections in the brain, and improves mitochondria function.

Disclaimer

The ideas and recommendations on this website and in this article are for informational purposes only. For more information about this, see the sitewide Terms & Conditions.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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About the Author

Marty Ross, MD is a passionate Lyme disease educator and clinical expert. He helps Lyme sufferers and their physicians see what really works based on his review of the science and extensive real-world experience. Dr. Ross is licensed to practice medicine in Washington State where he has treated thousands of Lyme disease patients in his Seattle practice. 

Marty Ross, MD is a graduate of Indiana University School of Medicine and Georgetown University Family Medicine Residency. He is a member of the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) and The Institute for Functional Medicine.

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