Tag Archives: Recovery

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

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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