For some people dealing with an autoimmune condition, brain fog is not much more than a frustrating nuisance. For others, like those suffering with Autoimmune Encephalitis, Lupus or Multiple Sclerosis, it can be debilitating.
No matter the degree, it impairs quality of life, and makes it difficult to deal with your other symptoms. And, because it can be caused by many things other than autoimmune disease, brain fog can be a confusing addition to the list of symptoms a patient might present to a physician, making it difficult to obtain a diagnosis.
Brain fog can also occur because of conditions completely unrelated to autoimmune disease, things like:
- Lack of sleep
- Too much sleep
- Hormonal changes
- Some medications
- Alcohol consumption
- Exposure to toxins
- Depression or bipolar disorder
- Adult ADHD
Thus, it’s essential to keep track of what kinds of things fall under your experience of brain fog. Do you experience the symptoms all the time, or only intermittently? How severe is the brain fog in comparison to other symptoms you may be experiencing? Do the same things trigger brain fog as your other symptoms?
Symptoms of Brain Fog
Just as fog on a road makes it difficult for you to see other cars and landmarks, so, too, does brain fog make it hard to see what’s going on around you. But brain fog is not just one experience. It can also include:
- Forgetfulness, like misplacing items or walking into a room but not remembering why
- Short-term memory problems, like not remembering if you just washed your hair in the shower or what you had for breakfast
- Confusion, especially if more than one thing is going on in your life or your surroundings
- Trouble thinking clearly or grasping a concept
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
- Difficulty accomplishing tasks or making plans
- Lack of energy, even though you are sleeping well
- Problems communicating your thoughts or following what someone is saying, Difficulty finding words to express something is a common complaint.
Unfortunately, the conventional medical approach to brain fog and most auto-immune symptoms is to prescribe powerful drugs. However, these drugs often have long term effects much worse than the original disease. So, let’s look at a few ways we can help alleviate auto-immune induced brain fog in a more natural and sustainable way.
Step One: Eliminate Inflammatory Foods
Generally speaking, most autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), gout, and Kawasaki’s Disease result from an abnormal inflammatory response to something.
Because so many foods can trigger that inflammatory response, the first step toward reducing brain fog and alleviating other symptoms is to reduce exposure to the top inflammation-inducing foods. They are sugar, sugar substitutes, dairy, corn and grains, gluten, processed foods, and for some people, nightshades.
As I mentioned above, it’s important to keep track of when and under what circumstances your brain fog and other symptoms are triggered. Thus, it’s important to keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat every day, what time, and how you feel at various times during the day.
Soon a pattern will likely emerge, and that will help you see if there is something specific that is connected to you feeling more or less “foggy.”
But I always recommend eliminating one inflammation-causing substance no matter what. That substance is sugar.
It has absolutely NO nutritional value and is highly addictive. For many people, this feels impossible, but if you are suffering from brain fog and don’t know where to start, this is a great place. Because it is more addictive than cocaine, you may need to work with a health coach or naturopath to accomplish this first step, but it will be well worth it. Actually, I recommend working with a health coach through the entire discovery and elimination process, because it is a lot of work, and it can be difficult to stay on track. If you want to connect with a health coach who can help you through this process, click here.
Step Two: Exercise
Nothing helps oxygenate your brain better than exercise. It depends of course on your other symptoms, but most people report improved brain function once they start a regular course of exercise.
Step Three: Add Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Celery, dark leafy greens, and walnuts are some of the top anti-inflammatory foods along with blueberries, cruciferous vegetables, and avocados.
All of these reduce the oxidative stress that contribute to many cognitive issues including memory problems and brain fog, so eat up!
Step Four: Monitor Your Stress
Monitor your stress levels and do whatever you can to reduce it. Stress causes inflammation of the body and brain, and it alone can cause you to suffer brain fog.
Yoga, meditation, even listening to music or playing with pets can help.
Step Five: Improve the Quality of Your Sleep
Work to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep. Even without an autoimmune disease, lack of sleep can make us feel like we’re walking around in a daze, so this is an essential component if you’re going to reduce brain fog.
Brain fog is a common complaint among those who have autoimmune diseases, and it can have a severe impact on your quality of life. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to help clear it away. As a Wellness Clusters coach, I’m happy to discuss them with you.
Kate Kunkel is an Amen Licensed Brain Health Trainer, vegan nutritionist, and author of several books including Don’t Let the Memories Fade and The Vegan Brain. Kate is also the creator of the Wellness Clusters program, “Banish AutoImmune Brain Fog and Pain in 12 Weeks”.