Fibromyalgia is characterised by widespread muscle pain but as any sufferer will tell you ….. it doesn’t stop there!
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome which can be a primary condition or it may exist secondary to another illness and it’s important to know the difference. It’s a chronic condition that affects each individual in it’s own way and fits nicely under the umbrella of being a Functional Systems Disorder. Fibromyalgia Syndrome is just one of the chronic health conditions where it’s widely accepted that linked to a dysfunction in the Central Nervous System. Although the symptoms are many and varied there are a set that we will all relate to:
- Chronic Pain
- Fatigue and non-refreshed sleep
- Digestive Health Problems
- Heightened Sensitivities
- Frequent headaches
- Mood swings / anxiety / depression
- Cognitive Impairment and ……..
We all hear about it or have expereinced first hand, it’s that thing that just happens out of the blue and at the most inappropriate time when your brain decides to leave you for a moment whilst you’re in mid-sentence, getting dressed, lost your keys, can’t find where you parked your car, the list goes on. The worst one being when you’ve made it halfway up the stairs and and suddenly you can’t remember if you were going up or coming back down!
What is Brain Fog? Apart from being a trip switch that causes annoyance, frustration and confusion it can also be frightening yet it’s not a medically recognized term or a diagnosable condition. Symptoms can include memory problems, an inability to concentrate or focus, a lack of mental clarity and trouble with putting thoughts into words or on paper. Many sufferers describe it as a feeling of fogginess that takes over them, hence its name, accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of mental fatigue or exhaustion and can be quite embarrassing or create worry that it’s something more sinister.
What can you do about it? First thing is to ascertain if your medication is partly responsible. Several of the prescribed or,over the counter and natural pain and sleep remedies can cause drowsiness and reduce cognitive function. Also noticing if it has a pattern, is it worse as the day goes on or is it noticeable first thing in the morning and gradually wears off? It’s worth finding out if something might be attributing to it.
Common Causes of Brain Fog include sleep deprivation or insomnia which leads to daytime fatigue and exhaustion. Over exertion may be another cause as well as dehydration, hunger and unhealthy eating habits.
It’s important to keep hydrated throughout the day and to eat a healthy balanced diet to keep your body supplied with the nutrients needed to function at its best and restore your energy supplies. It’s all too common when you’re in a fibromyalgia flare up to retreat to bed or the sofa and neglect diet and fluid consumption which actually increases pain.
Stress goes hand in hand with fibromyalgia and can accumulate over a short period of time and become chronic making you anxious, short-tempered, distracted and forgetful. It’s not long before elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, can gnarl away at your emotional, physical and mental health and damage your brain. Stress kills neurons and prevents new cell growth in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory whilst it increases activity in the amygdala, the fear and emotional centre of the brain which makes it difficult for the brain to take in new information and remember it.
Stress also causes our breathing to become shallower and for the body to tense up which compromises our posture. Holding the tension in our shoulders and neck and lack of deep breathing restricts the blood flow and oxygen reach our brain is another reason for an unhealthy brain, short term memory impairment and fibro fog.
It’s worth trying stress reducing methods such as Mind-Body Awareness Techniques to include Breathing Exercises, Mindfulness, Meditation and Movement, Qigong, Tai Chi or Chair Yoga are all proven to bring benefits for fibromyalgia and stress, increase mental clarity and focus.
Diet can influence the brain’s capabilities and what we eat is vital to the health of the enteric nervous system (second brain) which communicates with the brain in your head. A healthy balanced diet is required to include essential fats, protein and complex carbohydrate and avoid hydrogenated fats, sugary drinks and foods and limit the amount of caffeine, alcohol and other drugs which interfere with sleep patterns and may deplete the body of essential nutrients. It might be worth supplementing your diet and make sure you get adequate levels of Vitamin B12 which helps with brain health.
Sleep Disorders are a very common symptom of fibromyalgia and brain fog. Studies reveal that a lack of quality REM sleep can lead to serious impact on general health. Losing sleep creates a sleep debt that has to be repaid or the consequences are fatigue, stress, lack of concentration and brain fog to name a few. Practicing meditation at night helps to relax the body and calm the mind, or you can rid your mind of all your worries on to paper or create a night time ritual to help you unwind.
Hormones when out of balance can lead to brain fog. The entire body and the brain rely on an intricate balancing act of keeping hormones in check. When one falls to low or is pushed too high, like cortisol the stress hormone, the whole system is thrown off. Hormone changes that can effect short term memory include menopause when a drop in estrogen can also lead to having foggy episodes.
Brain fog is a symptom of fibromalgia but there are many other causes that could be adding to your brain fog which can be addressed and improvements can be made. If you are concerned it might be worth discussing it with your doctor and check out your medications are right for you.
Author Jok Saunders, Mindfulness Teacher and fellow sufferer. Thank you for reading and hope it is helpful.