Category Archives: Brain Fog

The meaty stuff

Is “Leaky Gut” the Cause of my Brain Fog?

Hi All,

I went through a long process of getting healthy again after suffering from brain fog for a number of years. I got some excellent medical advice along the way, largely from a wonderful integrated medical specialist in Sydney. I made major changes to my diet and have taken a number of different supplements, mainly probiotics and digestive aids, to get me back to health. However, I was never specifically given a diagnosis along the way as to what was causing my spaghetti head. Perhaps it’s because I never actually asked or maybe I was told but couldn’t take it in while I was in the fog. Either way, I think I might now know what my problem was.

After reading parts of Dr Datis Kharrazian’s “Why Isn’t My Brain Working” and some articles on Dr Josh Axe’s website, I think that I may have been suffering from Leaky Gut Syndrome. The part of Dr Kharrazian’s book that led me to this conclusion was his mention that new food allergies could surface as a result of Leaky Gut. I never used to have any major issues eating anything. I used to eat meat twice a day and have dairy with and between every meal. Now I’m vegan I feel 100 times better than I did. The other thing that lead me to believe that I had Leaky Gut was the similarity between the treatments that are suggested by these two health professionals and the treatment that I myself was prescribed to overcome brain fog.

I don’t profess to being a medical expert (because I’m not), so I thought I’d share a couple of links to more insightful sources so you can read up more for yourself. The first provides a quick overview of Leaky Gut Syndrome and the foods to avoid and to eat with reference to Dr Kharrazian’s guidance (link). The second is on Dr Axe’s website where he outlines the symptoms of Leaky Gut and how to heal yourself. In my opinion both of these are excellent sources of information.

The only thing I’d add to these two great sources of information about Leaky Gut Syndrome is the positive effect that I’ve found taking slippery elm powder has had on my brain fog. See my post on this natural product for more information.

Feel free to get in touch with me by sending me an email at spaghettiheadmaster@gmail.com or even better, share a post with me and all the visitors to this site. The whole point of this site is to help share my experience and hopefully others to help people to clear their brain fog.

All the best,

Paul

Excellent article on natural brain fog cures

Hi All,

I just read an article about natural brain fog cures that I wanted to share with you. I read through it and think that this guy, Dr Axe, really seems to know what he’s talking about. I like his holistic approach and the way he links together a lot of wisdom that I’ve seen written elsewhere.

Happy reading -> Brain Fog Article by Dr Axe

Paul

Improving digestion to beat brain fog

Hi readers,

It’s now been 5 years since my brain fog began, and a little over 2 years since I began my road to recovery. I am now healthy and only suffer mild fog symptoms some mornings, but these are gone by about 8am.

The key to my recovery was the discovery that poor digestion was the cause of my fogginess, or my “spaghetti head”, as I like to call it. The challenge for me was that even after I’d learned that good digestion was critical to my recovery, I had to identify what worked for me and what didn’t. As I’ve discussed in my other posts, meat and dairy were the main causes of my poor digestion and resulting fogginess. But greatly reducing my intake of these food groups still didn’t leave me with perfect clarity each day. Getting 7.5-8 hours of sleep helps me, as well as going to bed and waking at a fairly consistent time (asleep at 10:30, awake at 6:10 is my usual routine). After all this time, I’m still not sure how much exercise really helps in reducing brain fog. However, exercise helps relieve any anxiety that may otherwise arise. Having said that, I still exercise 2-3 times a week because the health benefits and stress relief are virtually indisputable.

Even though I’ve changed my diet to become (very close to) vegan, there are still a few foods that disagree with me and even upon careful scanning of the ingredients, I cannot for the life of me figure out why they are causing me issues; one is pasta, even the buckwheat-based ones; the other is pizza bases. Does anyone have any idea as to why these would be a problem? It’s not gluten as I eat bread every day with no problems.

I have recently discovered a supplement which helps my digestion which I wanted to share with you. I have started taking a digestive aid and have noticed that my morning fog has improved even more. I have tried two different brands of digestive aid (Eagle Vegie Digestaid and Blackmores Digestive Aid), both are vegan-friendly. Although they both help relieve fog symptoms, I have found the Eagle product to be more effective. I take two tablets of the Vegie Digestaid with my dinner, and one with my breakfast each day.

I hope that anyone suffering from brain fog might find this post useful. If you’d like to add anything from your own experience, or would like more details about mine, feel free to post a comment (I’d love to get my first one!!!) or send me an email at spaghettiheadmaster@gmail.com.

All the best,

Paul

So now I’m vegan, here’s what I eat to keep brain fog away

It’s been three years since I first discovered that my brain fog was being triggered by eating meat and dairy. From that point on, I eliminated dairy from my diet completely and began to reduce my meat consumption. It took me another year or so to realise that I felt much better when I completely eliminated meat from my diet. So I’ve been effectively vegan for the past two years and you’re probably wondering what do I actually eat each day to fill up and stay healthy. Well, here’s a run down:

Breakfast

Every morning I eat home-made muesli, made from as many of the following ingredients as I can muster:

  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pepitas/pumpkin seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Linseed/flaxseed
  • Coconut flakes
  • Psyllium husks.

I buy all the ingredients in bulk from the internet (from Sydney-based Honest to Goodness) and mix them once a month in a large Tupperware container. I add unsweetened almond and coconut milk or just almond milk and some honey. I’ll admit that it gets a bit boring sometimes so now I usually add some of my favourite “normal” cereals such as Special K or Weet-Bix.

I also make “green drinks” every morning in my Nutri Bullet. I try to use two types of greens, usually kale, silverbeet/chard and/or celery. In addition to these greens, I add 3-4 types of fruit, usually banana, apple, pear, orange, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, papaya and/or paw paw. From what I’ve read, it’s pretty important to eat leafy dark green vegetables to maintain good calcium intake.

The final thing I eat each morning is some natural peanut butter (ie. just peanuts) and jam on dark rye bread. I don’t think this is quite as healthy as the muesli and green drink but it doesn’t cause me any problems and it’s yum (so bite me)!

Morning Snacks

When I first cut out meat and dairy, I found it very difficult to fill up at first but if you stock your pantry with the right ingredients, it’s not too hard. Here are the things I usually snack on at home or in the office:

  • Unsalted mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamias and/or cashews), sometimes with a date and coconut flakes
  • Humus and celery and carrot sticks (I really like Obela Classic Hommus)
  • Dolmades (vine leaves filled with white rice).

Lunch

When I’m at home, I normally make a massive salad and try to keep in mind the guiding principle of “all the colours of the rainbow”. Here are my “go to” salad ingredients:

  • Mixed lettuce leaves
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Spanish/red onions
  • Avocado
  • Red or yellow capsicum/peppers
  • Sweet potato or pumpkin roasted in coconut or olive oil
  • Sprouts (any type)
  • Mixed beans from a can
  • Cup mushrooms sautéed in vegetable oil, salt and pepper
  • Seed mix (sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds)
  • Humus
  • Dressing, 2 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar

Do you know that tired feeling you get after you eat something like pasta or pizza for lunch? I guarantee you that you won’t feel any of that after eating a salad made from some or most of these ingredients. I’m not going to say you will feel amazing, you won’t, but you will feel pretty much the same as you did before you had lunch, just fuller.

I’m pretty busy with full-time work and a young family, so I don’t have time to make this salad every day, although when I make it, I always make enough for lunch the next day as well. But when I’m at work, I buy my lunch each day, and the following meals make up my repertoire:

  • Miso soup and vegetarian sushi without egg
  • Roasted vegetable and salad sandwich on brown bread
  • Falafel and salad sandwich on wholemeal bread
  • Salads comprising brown rice, quinoa, roasted vegetables, beetroot, legumes/pulses (you can usually find these sorts of salads at organic or new-age health bars)
  • Chilli and basil thai stir fry with tofu and vegetables (this dish doesn’t normally have any fish or oyster sauces, which don’t generally agree with me)
  • Thai green curry with tofu and vegetables, which contains coconut milk rather than dairy
  • Subway Veggie Pattie with no cheese, all the salads and sweet onion sauce

After lunch I always have a couple of pieces of Lindt 70% dark chocolate, my refined sugar hit for the day. My afternoon snacks are pretty much the same as my morning snacks mentioned above, although I usually have some Ryvitas with humus instead of vegetable sticks. I generally also have some fruit, normally a banana or apple.

Dinner

Dinner is often not as well planned out as my other meals but I still have a list of “regulars” which make being vegan easier. I find that if you have to think too much about what you’re going to have for dinner, you either get a bit deflated by the limitations of being a time-poor vegan or you just start getting really hungry! So here are my regulars, which I usually have with a simple salad of mixed lettuce leaves, tomato, cucumber, avocado and spanish/red onion with olive oil:

  • Lentil patties (in the frozen aisle of the supermarket) with sweet thai chilli sauce
  • Steamed shitaake mushroom and vegetable dumplings (same aisle as above) with soy sauce
  • Fried “Chinese” flavoured tofu (different aisle) with brown or white rice
  • Burritos with kidney bean, tomato and onion sauce, mixed leaves, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, spanish/red onions, guacamole and taco sauce. Guacamole is a great snack with some corn chips, I make mine from avocado, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Dahl (made from lentils) with brown rice
  • Roasted sweet potato and pumpkin, baked with olive or coconut oil, salt and pepper

Dessert

I guess I don’t get all that excited by dessert any more, although you can buy or make some pretty tasty vegan treats. I usually just have a little bit of chopped fruit.

In terms of keeping brain fog away, I have found that I feel better the next day if I don’t overeat at dinner time. In fact, the earlier I eat the better, as it gives my digestive system more time to process the food before morning. And, as I’ve mentioned in another post, the mornings are always the worst in terms of feeling foggy.

Let me know if you’d like any more detail about my diet. I’d also love to hear from anyone who has any easy-to-make suggestions to add to mine.

Happy (and healthy) eating!

PK

People who helped along the way…

Once I’d discovered that I had a problem that wasn’t going away in a hurry, one of the most important things that helped me on my journey to recovery was finding people who I could talk to about my worries. This might come easily to some but being a perfectionist made it very difficult for me to explore this avenue. My experience of being a perfectionist was that I always had to work very hard to make it seem to others that I had all my stuff together. I’ll talk about perfectionism in a future post but for now, let’s just say it wasn’t an easy step for me to say to others that I couldn’t cope.

There have been some giants in my journey, people who’ve supported me because they cared. People who took the time to listen to me, who said exactly the things that I needed to hear. I have always felt that the vast majority of people in this world are good and trustworthy. Several moments over the past four years have confirmed this view, I placed trust in various people throughout this process and my willingness to be vulnerable was almost always rewarded.

The first giant was my manager in London. I wasn’t functioning well at work and became anxious that people would discover my lack of concentration and think me inept. I took the step of taking my manager aside and explaining to him that I was having difficulty concentrating and that I was getting really stressed as a result. He told me that he understood and gave me time off to try to reduce my stress levels. Although the time off didn’t help resolve the problem, it reduced the pressure that I was feeling at work, which gave me some breathing space to look for solutions.

I returned to Australia a couple of months later, not because of the brain fog, but my wife was due with our first baby and we wanted to raise our children in Australia, close to our extended families. By now my symptoms had deteriorated, the severity of those mind-numbing sensations had grown significantly. What started out as mild, intermittent symptoms, mainly present in the mornings, had stretched out into a heavier and more constant strain on my mental capabilities lasting well into the afternoon.

My second giant, the most important non-medical person who helped me through my recovery, was my older brother. My brother has been through his fair share of tough times, having worked his way through many years of anxiety and depression. He is one of the most grounded and positive influences one could hope to have in their lives. I had never really spoken openly to him about my issues in the past but he was immediately equipped and ready to help guide me through my current struggles.

Over the next few years I continued to find more giants along my path; a previous mentor who was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome; an old friend; immediate family members; my new manager at work. After spending 18 months in a new job back in Australia, I decided to quit as I was finding the pressure of the job to be too great given my lack of concentration. In an amazing show of compassion, the Finance Director at my work, who did not know about my condition, gave me a month’s paid leave, with no strings attached, to determine whether I really wanted to leave the company and to give me some space to figure out what I wanted to do next. She does not know how critical this month off was to getting me on the path to recovery. During this break I went to see the doctor who put me on the right path to recovery.

Early fog symptoms

I first noticed something wasn’t quite right when I was living in the UK in mid-2010, just before my 30th birthday. I can remember playing a game of Scrabble in the English countryside with my Dad. As I looked down at my letters, trying to work out the best word I could play, I can recall a slight tingling feeling in my mind. Too slight for me to pay much attention to at the time but enough in hindsight that I can recall the moment it all began, the onset of something much worse to come.

In September of that year, I was on holidays in Israel, getting ready to set out for breakfast, applying sun cream and trying to figure out an exciting itinerary from my Lonely Planet guidebook for the day ahead. That was the first time I really started to wonder what was going on in my head. The front of my brain felt really uncomfortable, it’s hard to explain as it’s almost not a physical sensation but I could feel a throbbing and warmth in my forehead or mind, it’s hard to distinguish. This was the first time I can recall that it actually became uncomfortable to think.

These symptoms of fogginess became more frequent and more pervasive when I returned to work in London. I work as a Commercial Manager and my day-to-day work requires me to take in a lot of information, analyse it and collaborate with others extensively. At first I really didn’t know what was going on. I was in a meeting, staring at a PowerPoint presentation but none of the information was sticking in my memory, it felt uncomfortable to look at the screen. One of the senior sales managers came to speak to me one morning and I couldn’t take in what he was saying. I was trying to repeat what he was saying to me in my head, hoping it would stick the second time but to no avail. I had a problem and needed a solution quickly.

One thing I noticed very early on was that the symptoms always seemed to be strongest in the morning, they would generally have dissipated by late afternoon.