What Is Chronic Fog Really?

One of the terms that you will commonly hear a person living with a chronic health condition refer to is “brain fog”. I wanted to write something about this today because there’s often a misunderstanding about what it all involves. Brain fog isn’t a medical condition itself rather its a symptom of other medical conditions. Now to be clear I am not a physician so anything I’m writing here is my person opinion or research that I have done to educate myself.
I guess one of the reason’s that I wanted to write about “brain fog” was to give people a better understanding of all the different ways that one can be affected. With a disease like CRPS I am constantly adjusting medications according to the pain levels that I deal with. So yes! Medications are definitely are a common cause of brain fog but not the only cause. I think people naturally gravitate toward thinking that the only causes are medications but there’s a lot more to it than that.
The most common causes of “brain fog” are stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, diet, medications, and medical conditions. So when you ask a person living with a chronic illness if they suffer from brain fog the answer is usually more often than not going to be yes. If you look at all these different causes most of us living with chronic illness can tick a lot of the boxes when it comes to different causes. For me personally when it comes to medications I take neuropathic agents such as gabapentin and amitriptyline, and I am more prone to having episodes of fogginess in my mind. Then there are also the opiates that I take which are also known to reduce mental clarity as well. So constant changes like mine can often make it worse if I’m requiring higher doses.
When it comes to medical conditions, ones like autoimmune diseases, depression, migraines, and hypothyroidism are just a few that can cause periods of cloudiness. These different medical conditions themselves often have symptoms which are some of the other causes. Five out of the six conditions I listed have symptoms that are causes of brain fog.
So can we get rid of brain fog? I’ll leave that answer to the experts but there are definitely things we can do in order to reduce the symptoms. The two easiest changes that we can make in my opinion are diet and sleep. When you look at diet there are a few ways that you can adjust things in order to minimize brain fog. Making sure that you are getting foods high in B-12 is important because it supports healthy brain function. If you suffer from food allergies or sensitivities then avoiding foods with MSG, aspartame, and dairy can be a good idea because those can be triggers.
Sleep is pretty self-explanatory in that without the proper rest our brain function is naturally not as good. We need about 8-9 hrs per night. This can be really difficult for someone with a chronic illness at the best of times. If I’m lucky on a good night I get about 3-4hrs so it can make the brain fog bad. If I take naps however I can certainly reduce the number of symptoms that I deal with. I try and adapt healthy sleeping habits the best I can, that means trying to sleep even though my body may not want me to. Staying in a restful state at least gives my body a fighting chance at getting the rest it needs.
Another cause of brain fog is stress. Chronic stress can raise blood pressure, weaken the immune system and trigger depression. Eventually, your brain reaches the point where its just exhausted and it becomes difficult to think, reason, and even focus. Those of us who live with chronic illnesses know all too well what I’m talking about! So finding a way to reduce stress in your life when your living with a chronic illness becomes very important. The practicing of yoga or meditation tends to be two of the more popular ways for people living with chronic illness to do that.
There are so many different reasons that individuals suffer from brain fog when it comes to chronic illness. Yet the first one that comes to mind for so many is medication. Why is that? Is there a stigma built up around it? Clearly, medication does play a role but so do a lot of other things. When you look at the different causes of brain fog, you can see that often those affected by a chronic illness suffer from one or more of those causes. In a lot of ways, I can relate it to that of an ecosystem. When just one thing gets thrown out of balance within an ecosystem then it throws off the entire balance of that ecosystem. The same thing can happen when it comes to our brain and its cognitive function.
So as you can see from how I have explained things in this post, managing our chronic illness is important even if it’s for this one reason alone. We may not be able to stop all of the symptoms from happening but we do have the ability to try and reduce their effects. I hope that by explaining this the way that I have that it brings a bit more clarity to the picture. Medication is but one part of a bigger pict when it comes to brain fog. In the last few years, I’ve tried to make significant changes to my self-care and I can honestly say that it has helped. Periods of fogginess are less frequent and not as bad as they once were. I’m sure to some extent because I live with an autoimmune disease that I will always have to battle brain fog to some degree. I can however try and do everything I can to help reduce those symptoms.

Making Smart Choices!

Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

While the last post is fresh in my mind I wanted to write part two. Before I get started though I just wanted to say everything in this post is of my own opinion. I’m excited for today’s post because the whole area of good tasting food is important to me! I like food! One of the hardest parts of making all of these changes to me was not knowing what the taste and texture of everything was going to be like. Whatever your indulgences may be when your making these types of changes in eating habits, its hard because in your brain is stamped “tastes good” and for the most part nothing else! Am I ever going to be able to eat that yummy desert again? For all you chocolate lovers out there take a look at the desert I have pictured here! I’m telling you they taste better than peanut butter cups themselves! Why did I start with something sweet? I wanted you to be able to identify with something that really tastes good and know that you “CAN” have good tasting and healthy.

Sweet Potato Veggie Burger

Like I mentioned in the last post it takes a little work to find things you will like. I also told you that it takes some experimental food nights here in my home. Especially when you have two young kids who don’t fully understand the whole healthy eating thing! For the most part they are very willing to try healthy ways of eating but what kid doesn’t still want that loaded hamburger or piece of pizza when it’s offered to them. So when you put something like a Sweet Potato Veggie Burger in front of them (which we haven’t done yet) it’s often met with a “this looks interesting” or “is this healthy” response when they come to the table. Sometimes we are truly surprised though by their reaction after they take a bite! For the record I haven’t tried this burger yet but it might just have to be put on the menu soon! I’m envisioning an experimental food night in the near future. In order to find those foods you like you have to be willing to be a bit adventurous. This burger is largely made of chick-peas and sweet potatoes and so I want to look at the benefit those two ingredients have for those of us dealing with chronic illness. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A which is a powerful antioxidant and plays a huge role in your neurological function. They are also high in Vitamin B5 B6 which helps with stress and anxiety, respiratory disorders, and heart problems. The chickpeas in the recipe are an excellent source of protein. They also help with controlling our blood sugar, improving digestion, and help protect against cancer and heart disease.

Bullet Proof Tea

Today is really about looking at a few recipes and taking a look at how making some simple changes with your eating can really impact your life and your fight against chronic illness. For those of you who like tea I wanted to talk about a version of a Bullet Proof Tea that is really good for you. It uses the combination of organic tea, pumpkin spice, and apple cider vinegar. The pumpkin spice contains four powerful spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves) that help with things such as insulin, cognitive improvement, metabolism, and others. I would get into all the benefits but this would take a post on its own to explain all the different benefits that each ingredient has. If you want the recipe or your interested in what this tea is all about then I would suggest you check out this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jH05oDd3Hw   to Thomas DeLauer and his version of the tea.

What I’m trying to say is be smart about how you are eating, and look at what is in the food and how it might help with your particular diagnosis. It really is a science I’m beginning to figure out! It doesn’t guarantee that I will see change in my symptoms but what it does do is ensure that I am doing all I can in trying to facilitate that change to better my situation. As I learn more and more about how the foods are grown, what is in that food, and how they are prepared, more and more is making sense to me. I urge you to watch some of the food documentaries out there because they’ll open your eyes! In a world where everything is now processed for convenience we are seeing chemicals of all kinds being put into our foods and I can’t help but think that they play a huge part in some of these autoimmune diseases we are seeing diagnosed today.

Chip Chips

Does all of this mean that I don’t occasionally go out and indulge? Of course I do! What’s funny however is that now that I’ve made some changes when I do eat something that isn’t overly healthy my body notices it right away. That bag of Doritos might taste good initially but soon after it begins to catch up with my stomach! I’ve found healthier options that I quite enjoy snacking on and know they’re better for me. Here’s a food fact for you! Did you know that your taste buds are being trained to like those chips or that favorite snack that you enjoy eating! That’s right the chemicals that are found in foods are taking you back again over and over to some of those foods that you like to snack on. It’s amazing how the food industry will go to all kinds of costs just to get people addicted to their products. Going into the food industry is a whole different post however. I don’t want to get off track however that’s maybe for another post. What I’m saying is that with a bit of researching and experimenting it is possible to eat foods that taste really good that are extremely healthy. What do you have to lose in making some smart changes in the way you eat? Nothing! Only benefits will await you!