These 2 amazing photos show how my brain fog lifted at a cellular level

To some extent, the story of my recovery from brain fog is lacking in scientific detail. This is largely because I couldn’t absorb most of the detail that my medical practitioner was telling me. My spaghetti head just wouldn’t allow it. The first time I saw this terrific lady, she asked me what I ate each day, checked my pulse and took a small droplet of blood and put it under a microscope. The first picture below shows what my blood cells looked like under 100 times magnification when I first saw her. Notice how jagged all of the cells are. She told me that I had the blood of a 90 year old and that my digestion was terrible. Luckily, she said it was easily fixed!

Live blood analysis - 11 September 2012

Live blood analysis – 11 September 2012

After this consultation I was told to eliminate dairy from my diet and to reduce my meat intake to 3-4 meals per week. I was also told to take a vegetable-based digestive aid and some tablets to build up my gut flora. I also started taking dairy free probiotics each day. I don’t think I quite stuck to the meat limitation but I definitely halved my previous meat intake which was pretty much twice a day. It’s quite miraculous, but apart from starting to feel a lot less foggy within 48 hours of these changes, the change in my live blood sample in less than 6 months is just phenomenal. The photo below shows how my cells had recovered to be perfectly round, just like they should be in a health young man.

Live blood analysis - 28 February 2013

Live blood analysis – 28 February 2013

I’m not a doctor and didn’t even expect that you could see things like this under a plain old microscope, but I think it’s amazing. I can’t tell you how thankful I am to this medical practitioner, she is so much more enlightened than most GPs. I still don’t really understand how she knew it was dairy and meat that were causing me so many issues, and not gluten. Either way, I would highly recommend that anyone suffering from brain fog seek out a medical professional who is going to focus on digestion and diet as the primary method for trying to tackle this soul-destroying disease. I feel pretty sure that pills and procedures are not the way to go.

How I found the solution to my brain fog misery

I find it interesting to look back and connect the dots which led to my recovery, to identify the key moments or decisions which put me on a path to mental clarity. As Steve Jobs highlighted, I can only really see these connections now, having the benefit of hindsight.

In October 2011 I read a book my Mum gave me called “Manhood” by Steve Biddulph (Amazon link) which I thoroughly recommend that everyone read, male or female. The book demonstrated to me that the “big boys don’t cry” mentality that many men are brought up with is both unhealthy and destructive. I read this book and I loved it. It empowered me to realise that many of the fears and insecurities that I had secretly harboured my whole life were normal and nothing to be ashamed of. This was the first major dot.

At that time I was actively seeking remedies for my brain fog. My wife and I visited the Mind, Body & Spirit expo in Sydney’s Darling Harbour in late 2011 to see what alternative remedies might be available. As I walked through the stalls of clairvoyants, candle sellers and yoga practitioners, I noticed Steve Biddulph’s book on the shelf of a rather nondescript stall. My interest was piqued so I asked the two men running the stall what their organisation was about. It turned out that they were promoting the Mankind Project (MKP), a not-for-profit group which helps men to be the best they can be through collaboration with other men. I know the idea of this kind of group would freak most Australian men out. I can imagine the eyes rolling because I think I would have done exactly that five years ago. Check out their website which provides a lot more information about the work they do and the personal development that can be achieved.

So I gave the guys at the stall my email address. I hadn’t heard anything for about four months when I received an email telling me about an upcoming New Warriors Adventure Training weekend. I really felt I needed some type of transformation at that time so I signed up with little hesitation. The weekend was transformative, I met some very interesting people and learned a lot about life. One of the men I met during the weekend mentioned to me that his son had had some medical issues and had been treated by a terrific doctor who practiced integrative medicine. Weeks later he gave me this doctor’s details.

About four months later, after much deliberation, I decided to quit the job I had spent the previous 18 months working in. I felt stressed and really wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. I needed a break. When I gave my notice, my boss’ boss made the compassionate and supportive decision to give me a month’s paid leave to consider what I wanted to do next, within the company or without, no strings attached.

I took a few days away from my family in the Blue Mountains to get my thoughts together, as best I could under the cloud of my spaghetti head. I read a book on how to find fulfilling work and wrote a list of all the things I should do to find a more enjoyable career and to get my head straight. One of those things was to visit the doctor to whom I was referred.

I made an appointment to see the integrative medical practitioner, Marilyn Golden, on Sydney’s lower north shore. It took me two years to get to this point and my two visits to see her changed my life, and quickly. Within a week of my first appointment I felt so much better. It took another 18 months to get back to perfect (if there is such a thing) but the changes were dramatic. I will write more about my treatment in other posts.

A year after seeing Marilyn, I took some time off work and went down to Merimbula on the coast with my family for a holiday. I’d say I was 90% better by this point but still suffered from the fog most mornings (see my post on morning fog). I had been keeping a food/stress/medication/activity diary for about 6 weeks before this holiday but had been unable to identify what was causing this remaining fog. Right near the end of the trip, I got up early with the kids and then had the luxury of going back to bed for another hour or two’s sleep. It was on this morning that I discovered that the asthma puffer I was taking at the time, Seretide, was contributing to my fogginess. I have since changed to using the lowest dosage of Flixotide that I can, while still managing my asthma safely.

The final dot happened just last week. I still occasionally get a little foggy for about an hour in the morning. I had been on such a long journey of eliminating possible causes that I had pretty much become resigned to this mild, remnant symptom. Last week, one of my colleagues at work almost died. He had had a continuous migraine for 48 hours over the weekend. On the Monday morning, he still had the migraine and thought that a really hot shower might help clear the pain. Unfortunately, he collapsed in the shower, after a throbbing pain developed in is head and is heart. The good news for him and his young family is that he is now OK. While speaking to him about the incident, he explained to me that a migraine is to some extent caused by the expansion of cells in the brain. It turns out that the hot water from the shower also has the effect of causing the cells in the brain to expand. I have been taking lukewarm showers for the past week and my remaining morning brain fog has disappeared altogether.

I think there are a few morals of this story. Firstly, I don’t believe that the exact things that have triggered my spaghetti head will necessarily be the same for everyone, but I do think that everyone should look at their dietary options first. And I don’t think you should necessarily consult with your regular GP either. My cousin just completed his medical training at Sydney’s premier university and told me that across the whole multi-year degree, a grand total of 2 hours of tuition were dedicated to nutrition. Most of our doctors have only been trained to prescribe pills and procedures to “fix” ailments such as this. I’m sure that my brain fog was cured through a simple dietary change.

Secondly, it was really important to my long-term success that I continued to look for answers that worked for me. Don’t give up, there is a reason that you’re getting brain fog and it’s probably not primarily caused by stress. I recommend that you keep a food/stress/medication/activity diary and listen to your body after you eat.

The final moral of my story is that it was through opening myself up to the universe and talking to the people around me that helped me find solutions. Try to keep an open mind. It is thoroughly depressing having spaghetti head every day and I don’t think I would have been able to live like that for the rest of my life. My belief that I would find a way to work through this major life challenge was the foundation of my recovery.

Please get in touch with me if any of this resonates with you or if you have any questions.

All the best,

PK

The mornings are always the foggiest

I’ve always found that the mornings were the foggiest time of day. It’s taken me a long time to figure out why this is the case. The life-changing medical practitioner I saw explained that this was to do with the Eastern concept of “damp” or “heat” building up in the body overnight and being released during the day. I haven’t researched these concepts in any depth but I can relate to the idea of a build up and clearing of some elements in my body throughout the day. I have come to know that what I consume and the activity that I do during the day are responsible for the level of build up and the speed of release.

The things that contributed the most to my morning fog, number 1 being the most damaging, were the following:

  1. Eating meat, fish, eggs or dairy foods in the evening
  2. Eating too much in the evening
  3. Not sleeping enough
  4. Having a hot shower in the morning
  5. Taking Seretide in the morning to treat my asthma (I recommend Flixotide instead)
  6. Drinking alcohol in the evening

Do you ever notice that your stomach churns and bubbles after you eat certain foods? Before I became foggy, I never paid any attention to how my stomach reacted to food. I recommend listening closely to your body and seeing if certain foods are disrupting your digestion. Discovering the link between poor digestion and brain fog is the most important discovery in recovering from the illness.

Unsurprisingly, what I recommend doing is pretty much the opposite of the list above. If you haven’t already started down the vegan path, I recommend that you consider it. My diet is based on eating lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. I never thought I would change my diet so significantly, but there is simply no comparison between a life eating what you want and being in a haze most of the time, and a life of being vegan and feeling clear and energetic each day. I used to eat meat twice a day and loads of dairy with every meal. I started the change in my diet by removing dairy immediately, as suggested by my doctor, and reducing my meat intake to once a day. Once I felt the benefits, and I did within 48 hours, it became easy to transition to veganism.

I will explain more about the hot showers in another post.

All the best,

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.

Brain Fog – First post

Hi there,

I know this blog is really simple, I’m just getting started. Please have a read of the My Story page which I’m hoping will resonate with some people.

Is there anyone out there dealing with the same symptoms I’ve described? Anyone who needs help?

All the best,
PK