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7 Triggers That Can Stunt How Well Your Brain Performs By addressing these seven issues, you may just find you're more than capable of creating a strong, successful business after months or years of disappointments.

By Ben Angel

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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The following excerpt is from Ben Angel's book Unstoppable: A 90-Day Plan to Biohack Your Mind and Body for Success. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound

Throughout my 90-day mission to become unstoppable, my attention was repeatedly drawn back to seven critical areas that depleted my battery and impacted my mood:

  • Medication
  • Food sensitivities
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Digestion
  • Hormones
  • Allergies
  • Toxins

All these triggers have one thing in common; They can cause inflammation within the body and the brain. Short-lived inflammation is healthy and necessary to the healing process. The problem occurs when chronic inflammation takes over, and the immune system remains activated beyond the point of being helpful.

If an individual continues to interact with the trigger of the inflammation, causing it to become chronic, it can be serious, leading to the following side effects:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Low mood
  • Anxiety
  • High fever
  • Hot flashes
  • Swelling/redness
  • Nausea

If your body's resources are constantly fighting off inflammation, you'll barely have enough energy to make it through the day, let alone progress toward your goals. Learning to control inflammation is vital to enhancing mood, memory and day-to-day performance. To do so, let's delve further into the top seven triggers blunting our brains.


Did you know that 70 percent of the U.S. population is taking a prescription medication of some kind? The danger in taking medication is that people can experience a broad range of side effects, ranging from mild to severe. We might not even relate the symptoms to the medication we're taking and even go back to the doctor and get another medication to treat our side effects -- all without seeking to work out the underlying cause of our problems.

Regardless of the medication, there are potential mood-altering side effects that aren't always clearly described by our doctors. Adverse reactions can be caused by allergies to the medication. Sometimes interactions can occur between two medications, creating severe symptoms that may be wrongly diagnosed as a new illness.

Food Sensitivities

If you are present with mild symptoms from the following list, a food sensitivity could be at fault:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Respiratory issues (e.g., asthma, sinusitis, rhinitis)
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Eczema/acne/psoriasis
  • Joint aches and pains
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness

Nutritional Deficiencies

Ninety-two percent of the U.S. population has a vitamin deficiency. Why do deficiencies occur despite many of us eating healthy? It comes down to farmland soil across the globe becoming deficient in micronutrients. In 2003, Canadian researchers compared the nutrient content of vegetables to data from 50 years ago. They discovered the mineral content of cabbage, lettuce, spinach and tomatoes had depleted from 400 mg to less than 50 mg.15 As soil quality continues to decline due to changes in farming practices and widespread use of pesticides, we can no longer rely on a balanced diet to get all the nutrients we need to feel alert and sharp.


Prolonged stress can cause inflammation and chemical changes within your digestive system. This can lead to nausea, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and, because the stomach has a direct effect on the brain, behavioral symptoms, like procrastination, talking or brooding about stressful situations, difficulty completing assignments and increased desire to either be with or withdraw from others.


Controlling everything from emotions, mood, hunger, reproduction and critical bodily functions, hormones play a vital role in everyday well-being. A hormonal imbalance can cause chronic inflammation, a loss of sex drive and behavioral changes. A hormone deficiency can wreak havoc in all aspects of your life.

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, author of Fat for Fuel: A Revolutionary Diet to Combat Cancer, Boost Brain Power, and Increase Your Energy, to balance our hormones, we must start with our diet. That includes taking supplements to improve some hormone levels and eating high-quality proteins, healthy fat and fermented and cultured foods that promote healthy hormone levels.


If you suffer from hay fever, you know better than anyone how bad it can be. The symptoms aren't just limited to congestion, runny nose, sneezing and redness. It can also trigger fatigue and headaches. Current evidence indicates that individuals with allergies appear at higher risk (to what degree is unknown) for developing anxiety and mood disorders.

The matter gets more complicated when specific medications are introduced to help mitigate symptoms. A 2016 study indicated that hay fever drug use could correlate to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's as well as reduced brain size. Other common side effects could affect cognitive functions negatively, including use of short-term memory, problem solving and verbal reasoning. We may end short-term suffering, but the potential consequences in later years could be detrimental to the quality of our lives.


According to the University of Southern California, aggressive behavior in teenagers could have something to do with an uptick in air pollution. This finding highlights the need for responsible public policy regarding the toxins we breathe, eat, or apply to our skin, which may be impacting the way we behave.

While we can't always control our air quality, we can gain greater awareness of what we put in our bodies and on our skin. Below is a list of the top three toxins we most often overlook, which are linked to a variety of side effects and illnesses, such as headaches, anxiety, depression, brain fog, Alzheimer's and hormonal changes. These substances numb our ability to become conscious creators.

  • Aspartame. Popular artificial sweetener, a.k.a. Equal® or NutraSweet®. Aspartame is harmful for your brain. Reported side effects include brain fog, migraines, dizziness, memory lapses, anxiety, depression and amplified symptoms of ADHD.
  • Sucralose. A surprising side effect of sucralose, oth­erwise known as Splenda, is that it prevents nutrient absorption and reduces good bacteria in your intestines by up to 50 percent.
  • Phthalate. Phthalates are in countless products, including deodorants, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, shaving creams, vinyl flooring, some cosmetics, organic spices, and more. Writing for The Guardian in 2015, Amy Westervelt reported that, "Researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues." They've also been shown to disrupt hormones.

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Ben Angel

Entrepreneur Network Contributor

Tackle AI's toughest questions with Ben Angel, mapping the business terrain for 20 years. Master the AI landscape and reach peak productivity and profits with insights from his latest work, "The Wolf is at The Door — How to Survive and Thrive in an AI-Driven World." Click here to download your 'Free AI Success Kit' and get your free chapter from his latest book today.

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