Brain fog is a classic part of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. In some cases, brain fog is mild. For some, however, it can be severe and quite scary — especially in professionals who otherwise function at a very high level.
Though standard testing will often not pick up the problem, in these cases the brain fog can make it difficult or even impossible to continue one's job.
It may even leave you concerned that you are developing Alzheimer's.
But you're not. CFS brain fog is when you keep forgetting where you left your keys — Alzheimer's is when you forget how to use your keys!
Poor energy production in the brain with associated alterations in blood flow, as well as alterations in neurotransmitters (brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine or adrenaline), blood pressure, or blood sugar can all contribute to brain fog.
The good news? Brain fog responds very well to treatment. Let's look at the key issues and treatments.
- Getting eight hours of sleep a night is critical, but make sure your sleep, pain or other medications are not the cause of your feeling foggy the next day. Add natural treatments at bedtime such as melatonin, calcium and magnesium. These are less likely to cause brain fog and will lower the amount of medications needed.
- Optimize thyroid function by adjusting the thyroid type and dose based on your symptoms, using only the Free T4 blood test to make sure you are staying in the normal range for safety. Do not let your doctor use the TSH test to monitor treatment in CFS/fibromyalgia. It is not reliable in this illness and you will be undertreated and brain foggy.
- In men, optimize testosterone; and in women, estrogen and progesterone. If you get irritable when hungry, optimize adrenal support, as recurrent low blood sugar also can trigger brain fog.
- If you have nasal congestion or sinusitis or irritable bowel syndrome (gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation) you likely have Candida/yeast overgrowth, and this can leave you very foggy. If so, look into taking the medication Diflucan while avoiding sugar. Probiotic pearls and anti-yeast herbals can also help.
- Optimize your nutritional support with a good multi-vitamin supplement and take ribose — in a study of 257 CFS/FMS patients, a daily intake of ribose not only increased energy an average of 61%, but also improved mental clarity an average 30% and overall well being 37%. Also ask your physician about B12 injections. If you have dry eyes, dry mouth or depression, increase your consumption of fish oil through supplementation or by having 3-4 servings of tuna or salmon each week.
- Stay hydrated. If your mouth or lips are dry, you're dehydrated. It's amazing how the mind can clear significantly after simply drinking a glass of cool water. Getting fresh air and sunshine (in moderation — don't burn) can also help.
- So called "energy drinks" loaded with caffeine and sugar are loan sharks. Avoid them. Instead, drink 1-2 cups of tea (made from real tea bags or leaves — not the powdered/bottled stuff loaded with sugar). This is often enough to jump start your brain in a healthy way without crashing you later, and the antioxidants in 1-2 cups of tea a day help your CFS and overall health as well.
Like CFS/fibromyalgia pain, brain fog responds well to treatment. The problem is largely that most physicians are simply not trained in these illnesses.
Most of these treatments can be done on your own, and you can ask your physician to assist with those requiring a prescription.
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