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    PlaydohYeti's Avatar
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    I fought the brain fog...

    Primal Fuel
    ...and I won!

    Hi everyone,

    I'd been suffering from the whole gamut of cognitive impairment collectively known as brain fog along with migraine aura for years. I'd already given up all the usual dietary suspects like booze, caffeine, MSG, gluten, dairy, anything processed and as a result was able to mostly keep the aura under control, but not shift the brain fog.

    Recently I decided what the hell and jumped into a complete elimination diet to get to the bottom of it once and for all. For days I ate nothing but buckwheat then switched to brown rice thinking that these 'health foods' would be the best staples, yet I still felt terrible. I reasoned that since I was eating nothing but grains, these must be the culprit so I ditched these too. Within a few days my symptoms lifted, I had tonnes more energy, my head no longer felt like it was stuffed with cotton wool and I could think and see clearly again for the first time in years.

    I'm obviously elated at this breakthrough though still want to work out what the heck is going on in case it has other implications so was wondering if any of you have had similar experiences.

    I've read about the health risks of lectins and phytic acid, but that can't be the answer alone because I can eat other foods which contain these components without suffering the same reactions. Also I know it's not purely a glucose/carb sensitivity because I can eat sugary foods like dried fruit and honey and carb dense foods like potatoes and parsnips (in moderation) without losing my mind in the same way I did after eating grains.

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated, thanks.

  2. #2
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    Congrats on beating it, PlaydohYeti! I'm still fighting the fog myself over a good few years, so I know exactly what you're describing and how alive you must be feeling right now. It's literally like you've been watching your life play out in front of you without being actively part of it.

    From what I read, I'm guessing that you are gluten sensitive. If you can eat high-glycemic foods without much of a problem, then that rules out hypoglycemia as a possibility, in your case. You are either sensitive or completely intolerant to gluten, the protein found primarily in grains (and a lot of processed foods), hence the brain fog. The PB eating style contains no gluten anyway, so it's all good!

    The day I feel clear-headed will be the best. I'll get there soon enough. See you around!

  3. #3
    PlaydohYeti's Avatar
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    Thanks muchius. Absolutely! It's almost like being reborn because I'm seeing things as they really are for the first time in nearly ten years. Yesterday I woke up in the apartment I bought last year and didn't recognise the place. I only wish now I could go back and re-live all the half-experiences I was only there in body for. I want to hang on to the jobs I lost because of this condition and form the relationships I was too zombiefied and depressed to make work. I feel like I should apologise to all the people I met during that time for being such a miserable, anti-social git. You must know yourself how difficult it is to explain to healthy people what you're going through when all you have to go on is a menagerie of undiagnosed, vague symptoms. Often I'd just let them believe it was common or garden depression and hoped they'd leave me alone.

    Anyway, that's quite enough wallowing for one day. About three years ago I noticed that after eating a bowl of wheat cereal I would be knocked out as though hit by a wrecking ball and would have to sleep it off for an hour. I made the connection to gluten and really thought I'd cracked it when I eliminated the nasty gunk from my diet. I had a celiac test including a gastroscopy (without anaesthetic - never even consider that if it ever comes up for you!).

    The test came back negative, but I continued to avoid gluten and so no longer experienced the really, really extreme fatigue episodes. My useless doctor couldn't get his head round the fact that there are degrees of feeling ill - he seemed to be under the impression that health is black and white with no spectrum of grey in-between.

    I continued eating all gluten-free grains such as rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and celiac-approved oats assuming that I was being kind to my body and would eventually hit upon the magic bullet that would make everything OK. Every time I ate something with the grains that didn't agree with me I blamed the accompanying food and cut if from my diet. I never considered that these 'super-foods' could be the problem because I believed all the hype from the media.

    On a few occasions since giving up gluten I've tested my reaction to certain wheat-based foods and found that I didn't react at all. This made me wonder if I have a gluten tolerance threshold and can get away with dabbling with the stuff every now and again, but then maybe I was already so messed up I wouldn't have noticed the difference. Strangely enough I have problems with cross-contamination from gluten-containing oats - the reaction is now more severe than it is to wheat itself, which obviously contains much more gluten than the oats along with contamination from other grains such as barley and rye.

    It's all such a wacky guessing game. As the theory goes, you should eat protein with carbs to balance your blood sugar, and I thought I was already doing this by only eating high protein, whole grains. It definitely didn't work with brown rice or buckwheat, yet I can tolerate small portions of gluten-free oats and only suffer a slight twinge of tension in the forehead. This might be explained by the high fibre content which acts to slow metabolism, except oats aren't the only grains that contain decent amounts of fibre.

    I read some of your other posts and can see that you're getting excellent advice on which tests to request to get to the bottom of your own brain fog issues. I really hope you manage to suss it out and can share your success story with the board soon.

  4. #4
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    "seeing things as they really are for the first time"; I swear, in the past 5 years, there were some extremely rare occurrences where I woke up and the brain fog was completely gone. I was actually AWAKE, extremely energetic and genuinely ecstatic. That was very short-lived though. By the next day I was back in the fog. As far as I remember there was no trigger. It literally just happened!

    Explaining what it's like is comparable to trying to describe colour to a blind person. Over a month ago I tried to explain the brain fog to my GP. I still remember the expression on his face. It was like I was speaking another language to him, he was completely lost! I have depression now (more like sporadic episodes), because I know the fog isn't a normal state of mind to be in. It's a sign that something is wrong in your life and it needs correcting if you ever have any hope of being yourself again. I haven't told my friends, but I have told my family. They're clueless, as expected, but I would actually be somewhat worried if they did know what I was talking about. Them not knowing simply means that they're healthy in that regard, and that's a good thing.

    There's a flip side to all this, though. It's a curse, no doubt, as I find it to be very similar to depression in that you can't enjoy life anymore. In one other way, it's a blessing. When I began experiencing the fog, I researched obsessively on finding ways to feel clear again. Eventually, after many years of a progressively worsening fog, I was led to MDA. I read Mark's articles, agreed with his stance on numerous topics (such as grains) and decided to buy the book. I put the PB laws into practice and, despite struggling with the fog 24/7, am feeling relieved that I've already sorted out my position health-wise. I used to be a sedentary, junk-food eating kid that stayed up until the early hours of the morning talking to friends (what teen hasn't in this day and age? ). The only thing that frightens me is that I still have the fog, but I'm always trying new things to get rid of it. I may even attempt a IF lasting for 24-48 hours, starting tomorrow, to see if I'm possibly eating too much, or if my digestive system just needs a break. No harm in trying!

    I admit, I'm getting increasingly worried with each passing day. For example, tomorrow I have an important A-level exam that I should be revising for, and despite wanting to achieve and having the desire to put the effort in, I simply have this diminished mental acuity that's holding me back. I'm becoming more apathetic too, with a developing 'I don't care' attitude to things. Not good!

    I do my best to keep optimistic though. Attitude means a lot, and that's the driving force in the trial-and-error emotional roller-coaster of getting rid of this persistent little bugger.

    I'm sorry for crashing into your thread with my own sob-story, but as someone else who has experienced it, it's obvious that you actually get what I'm saying. It's debilitating because it's long-term, yet apparently 'harmless' to the people you reach out to who have never had this state of mind.

    Despite all this, I'll be posting my own topic soon with a very similar title to yours. Definitely.

    Enjoy your life!

  5. #5
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    I envy you, I've been grain-free for nearly 5 months and I'm still dysthymic, irritable and slightly anxious, unable to focus, and just...slow on the uptake. What makes this even more disconcerting is that I used to be a really bright guy; not anymore.

    I've turned into a dull nihilist!
    I began this Primal journey on December 30th, 2009 and in that time I've lost over 125 LBS.

  6. #6
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    I'm sorry for crashing into your thread with my own sob-story, but as someone else who has experienced it, it's obvious that you actually get what I'm saying. It's debilitating because it's long-term, yet apparently 'harmless' to the people you reach out to who have never had this state of mind.
    Not at all. I was hoping to draw out some people who've had similar experiences, to compare notes so to speak. If it's helping to get it off your chest, go for it.

    That's exactly it; when there's no end in sight you feel totally helpless - it's no wonder that depression follows. There would be something seriously wrong if you weren't depressed under the circumstances. And that's all the doctors can put their finger on so they'll try to fling medication at you like they're sweeties. I went down that road, and if there's one piece of advice I could give you it's to refuse them. All these so-called treatments do is dope you up and mask the symptoms so you haven't got a hope in hell of working out the root cause. The idea is to suppress your nervous system, block synapses in the brain and generally slow everything down to combat the effects of whatever excito-toxins are triggering the overactivity in your immune system. They tackle every condition in the same way whether it's high blood pressure, depression, migraine or whatever. The 'experts' don't understand how these drugs work, but will give them a shot anyway - it's you that has to live with the side effects after all, so who cares, right?

    You've had a few rare moments of relief so you know there's hope for you yet. You just need to join the dots and work out what led up to those brief glimpses of normality. Keep plugging away with the lifestyle changes and I'm sure you'll get there.

    I may even attempt a IF lasting for 24-48 hours, starting tomorrow, to see if I'm possibly eating too much, or if my digestive system just needs a break. No harm in trying!
    Is that some kind of fast? Sorry I'm not up to speed with the lingo as I've only just discovered MDA. If you could stand to lose a few pounds then I don't suppose it will do any harm, but an elimination diet may be better. You'd start by only eating one hypoallergenic food until you get back on an even keel, and then gradually re-introduce foods one at a time and note any changes in your health. That way you can put together a personalised safe list. It's no fun, but then you get to the point where you're prepared to try any extreme measures to feel healthy again. It's also helpful to be able to establish if diet is having any bearing at all. You never know, your triggers could be environmental instead.

    Have you ever suffered with migraine or migraine aura? In my experience this brain fog seems to be an extension of the aura phase so you might want to start researching the common migraine triggers and try controlling those.

    I admit, I'm getting increasingly worried with each passing day. For example, tomorrow I have an important A-level exam that I should be revising for, and despite wanting to achieve and having the desire to put the effort in, I simply have this diminished mental acuity that's holding me back. I'm becoming more apathetic too, with a developing 'I don't care' attitude to things. Not good!

    I do my best to keep optimistic though. Attitude means a lot, and that's the driving force in the trial-and-error emotional roller-coaster of getting rid of this persistent little bugger.
    You actually sound amazingly upbeat for someone who has put up with this nightmare for so long. Every day I would wake up thinking about ways I could 'check out' while minimising the effects on my family. These rapid mood swings are all part of the condition. The positive thing is that if you can get through the bad patches (well, the worse than usual patches anyway) you'll spring back to the 'one more adjustment and I'll be fine' stage.

    Good luck with your exam. I've sat plenty in a hazy fog all the while popping Ibuprofens like smarties and battling to stay awake, and somehow still managed to pass with excellent grades so there's hope for you. Revision took three times as long as it would for someone in control of their faculties, but somehow you retain the information and can often operate on autopilot when it comes to the crunch. There should really be extra credits available for operating a pen under the influence you know! If you can pass exams using a quarter of your brain capacity, think what you could achieve when it's powered back up to 100%.

    I envy you, I've been grain-free for nearly 5 months and I'm still dysthymic, irritable and slightly anxious, unable to focus, and just...slow on the uptake. What makes this even more disconcerting is that I used to be a really bright guy; not anymore.

    I've turned into a dull nihilist!
    Sorry to hear that. Shame ditching them isn't the answer for everyone, eh. I know the feeling. I have a good degree and yet I've been doing a job a monkey could handle in its sleep just because that's all I've felt capable of taking on. Before now I'd have to rewind the TV half a dozen times or get people to repeat themselves to be able to comprehend what's being said. It makes you feel retarded doesn't it.

    I began this Primal journey on December 30th, 2009 and in that time I've lost nearly 70 LBS and more than 30 inches.
    Congrats! This seems to be what attracts the majority of people to the PB diet. What I've been wondering is what happens when you reach your target weight? Do you maintain the changes and keep losing weight until you starve yourself to death?

    After all these elimination diets I'm now underweight and set to lose more now I've cut out grains. I'm also still exercising because I'm programmed to feel guilty if I don't keep that up no matter what. At this rate I'm going to have to drink cooking oil to bulk up (becoming vegan just recently isn't going to do me any favours either).

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    I've been struggling with brain fog for the past few years but noticed an improvement after giving up gluten-containing foods over the holidays this year. After starting PB in March I noticed even more of an improvement. I don't fantisize about slipping away from my desk so that I can go to the 'sick room' and take a nap, for example. Energy is better in general. I am by no means an expert on the subject but here are some random ideas:

    --The Carbohydrate Specific Diet (book is called "Breaking the Vicious Cycle") talks about types of bacteria in the gut and how the wrong kind (those nourished by grains and sugar) can create psychoactive consequences including autism and depression. Part of the program is to tip the balance towards the correct type of gut bacteria. Might be worth a read.
    --the old menopause thing...women 'of a certain age' are known to get brain fog due to hormonal changes. My own brain fog definitely started up in my perimenopausal years; I never used to have the problem when I was younger. So this may be why I'm doing better on PB, because insulin is the master hormone and influences so many others (?)
    --Books called "The Mood Cure" and "The Diet Cure" by Julia Ross, nutritionist, describe using the amino acid supplement Tyrosine to improve focus and concentration.
    --in general, brain fog is associated with depression. Rather than the fog causing the depression, could depression be causing the brain fog? If so, maybe you need something new in your life to get excited about and shake off the depression.
    --There is a website and program called Anti-Inflammation Diet, by an herbalist on Vashon Island, WA. Lots of people who do her elimination diet say that it improves their brain fog (as well as pain from arthritis, etc.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by PlaydohYeti View Post
    Congrats! This seems to be what attracts the majority of people to the PB diet. What I've been wondering is what happens when you reach your target weight? Do you maintain the changes and keep losing weight until you starve yourself to death?

    After all these elimination diets I'm now underweight and set to lose more now I've cut out grains. I'm also still exercising because I'm programmed to feel guilty if I don't keep that up no matter what. At this rate I'm going to have to drink cooking oil to bulk up (becoming vegan just recently isn't going to do me any favours either).
    My first goal's to get down to 299.9 pounds which I should achieve by July. My second and final goal is to get down to 250 pounds and then maintain that weight while slowly improving my body composition over time. Unlike many people here, I don't aspire to have a 6-pack or to look like Mark Sisson, I like being a big guy. I've been surviving on mainly animal products since I began, consuming less than 20g of carbohydrate/day. Once I get down into the 200's I'll reincorporate vege's back into my diet (including potatoes! in moderation), and some fruit too, and then it's the slow grind down to 250 pounds.

    It's a long road.
    I began this Primal journey on December 30th, 2009 and in that time I've lost over 125 LBS.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canarygirl
    I've been struggling with brain fog for the past few years but noticed an improvement after giving up gluten-containing foods over the holidays this year. After starting PB in March I noticed even more of an improvement. I don't fantisize about slipping away from my desk so that I can go to the 'sick room' and take a nap, for example. Energy is better in general.
    I know that feeling well only I wouldn't just fantasise about it, I would go AWOL without telling anyone. How are you supposed to explain anything when you can't even form coherent sentences? If the dizziness hadn't passed when I got back I would just stare at people blankly, saying nothing and praying that they would stop blathering.

    --in general, brain fog is associated with depression. Rather than the fog causing the depression, could depression be causing the brain fog? If so, maybe you need something new in your life to get excited about and shake off the depression.
    In my case, no I don't think so, but everyone's different. You'd have to think back to the pre-brain fog days and work out if you were prone to depression then. I had mood swings, though not clinically manic ones that you'd need treatment for.

    Thanks for the tips.

    Sounds like a plan Jokaman. If you're mostly eating zero carb meat then your health issues aren't likely to be down to yo-yoing blood sugar. Maybe it's purely an intolerance that's knocking your body off kilter.

    I found a really interesting article about insulin resistance which describes my situation to a tee. Hopefully it will help others here too.

  10. #10
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    That's exactly it; when there's no end in sight you feel totally helpless - it's no wonder that depression follows. There would be something seriously wrong if you weren't depressed under the circumstances. And that's all the doctors can put their finger on so they'll try to fling medication at you like they're sweeties. I went down that road, and if there's one piece of advice I could give you it's to refuse them. All these so-called treatments do is dope you up and mask the symptoms so you haven't got a hope in hell of working out the root cause. The idea is to suppress your nervous system, block synapses in the brain and generally slow everything down to combat the effects of whatever excito-toxins are triggering the overactivity in your immune system. They tackle every condition in the same way whether it's high blood pressure, depression, migraine or whatever. The 'experts' don't understand how these drugs work, but will give them a shot anyway - it's you that has to live with the side effects after all, so who cares, right?
    Thanks for your advice on the doctors; I hear you loud and clear on that. Don't get me wrong, I'm more than grateful that we have specialists in various fields that are on call to help should there ever be a serious injury, such as breaking a bone or heart surgery, for example. What I really don't like, however, is the fact that 99% of doctors devote all their resources and expertise into the pills they prescribe and, just as you said, they almost always completely ignore the backbone of health and well-being; lifestyle. They treat the symptoms without a second thought, forgetting that if they correct the lifestyle issue of their patient, not only will they improve their overall health, they'll also prevent the same incident from happening again.

    You've had a few rare moments of relief so you know there's hope for you yet. You just need to join the dots and work out what led up to those brief glimpses of normality. Keep plugging away with the lifestyle changes and I'm sure you'll get there.
    I sure will!
    A holistic approach is probably best, and the PB supports this entirely. Rather than searching endlessly for specific issues, chances are it's all down to how I've lived in the past. Being extremely sedentary whilst eating through mountains of junk food and drinks whilst skimping on sleep and sunshine in previous years; when I put it like that, how could I possibly be surprised at how I feel?

    Well, it's all a learning experience and like I mentioned before, I'm fortunate enough to find places like MDA where there's a simple, comprehensive approach to health & fitness that'll get me to where I need to be.

    Is that some kind of fast? Sorry I'm not up to speed with the lingo as I've only just discovered MDA. If you could stand to lose a few pounds then I don't suppose it will do any harm, but an elimination diet may be better. You'd start by only eating one hypoallergenic food until you get back on an even keel, and then gradually re-introduce foods one at a time and note any changes in your health. That way you can put together a personalised safe list. It's no fun, but then you get to the point where you're prepared to try any extreme measures to feel healthy again. It's also helpful to be able to establish if diet is having any bearing at all. You never know, your triggers could be environmental instead.
    My bad, I completely forgot that you were a newcomer; IF is Intermittent Fasting, which is actually very, very easy to do when you're eating right, as your genes actually expect to go for certain periods without any food. The first time I did it, I wasn't intending to; my insulin and blood sugar levels are so stable and balanced that I simply do not get hungry. The majority of other people who eat this way are the same.

    I actually believe that it's down to my fitness; it's a long shot, but the fact that I'm essentially very unfit means that it's possible that I have an inadequate oxygen supply, or something along those lines. It's a possibility, and I'm willing to address it with more low-level aerobics daily. For example, today I came back from a nice long walk that lasted around 4-5 hours in total; I did not feel tired in the slightest in terms of energy, but my fog is much worse. I feel spacey and very light-headed, but not to the point where I feel sick or dizzy. It's uncomfortable, but at the same time my mood is much better today. Such a strange situation to be in, and all from just a walk! I'm not even slightly hungry, but I admit that the walk seems to have been a wake-up call of just how crap I've treated myself health-wise in the past.

    Have you ever suffered with migraine or migraine aura? In my experience this brain fog seems to be an extension of the aura phase so you might want to start researching the common migraine triggers and try controlling those.
    As far as I'm aware, I have never suffered from a migraine in my life. My sister has had them in the past to the point that she had to remain in bed all day until it wore off. It's very rare, but I can tell that the difference between a headache and migraine is much like the difference between a regular cold and the flu; unless you've suffered from the latter, they're very distinct in severity.

    Now that you mention it, for all this time that I've had brain fog, it's accompanied with a chronic headache. By chronic, I mean long-term, but the pain is almost non-existent. I think that it may be a tension headache, but I'm not too sure; basically it's a very, very dull feeling that affects my entire head instead of a sharp jolt in specific areas. After my walk, I feel very fuzzy. I'm starting to think that my years of being overly sedentary may have caused my muscles to become tense from the inactivity.

    You actually sound amazingly upbeat for someone who has put up with this nightmare for so long. Every day I would wake up thinking about ways I could 'check out' while minimising the effects on my family. These rapid mood swings are all part of the condition. The positive thing is that if you can get through the bad patches (well, the worse than usual patches anyway) you'll spring back to the 'one more adjustment and I'll be fine' stage.
    Thanks for the kind words!
    Like Jokaman, before the brain fog struck I was actually very bright, being one of the top pupils in my class back in primary and the early years of secondary school. Learning new things was enjoyable and very easy. The brain fog makes it much harder to comprehend what's being said, and how to form new connections in a deep, contextual manner. Then again, it's harder, but not impossible.

    Good luck with your exam. I've sat plenty in a hazy fog all the while popping Ibuprofens like smarties and battling to stay awake, and somehow still managed to pass with excellent grades so there's hope for you. Revision took three times as long as it would for someone in control of their faculties, but somehow you retain the information and can often operate on autopilot when it comes to the crunch. There should really be extra credits available for operating a pen under the influence you know! If you can pass exams using a quarter of your brain capacity, think what you could achieve when it's powered back up to 100%.
    The exam was terrible. Period.
    Saying that, I can't really care less right now. What's done is done, and I could always resit and completely destroy that paper once I get the gears cranking again. Damn straight on the extra credibility! It's like trying to take an exam after a hangover whilst being drunk at the same time.

    I reckon that a general approach to attacking this is best;

    . Eat plenty of fresh foods
    . Take a high-quality multi-mineral/vitamin supplement; a fish-oil supplement; and perhaps a lecithin supplement
    . Drink bottled or filtered water
    . Exercise regularly to keep active; 'use it or lose it'
    . Get plenty of high-quality sleep at regular times in respect to circadian rhythm
    . Get sunlight daily if the weather permits
    . Maintain an optimistic attitude

    With that, I find it hard to go very wrong!
    Last edited by KG; 05-27-2010 at 09:58 AM.

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