Feeling Foggy? Let's Talk About Brain Fog
Brain fog. It's a funny term, which while not often medically used, manages to perfectly encapsulate the struggles of its symptoms when your brain just feels as if it's wrapped up in a ball of cotton!
But what's it got to do with Crohn's disease? Let's talk about brain fog, its symptoms, and why it is more common in us IBD folks.
The symptoms of brain fog
Brain fog can't be tested for or diagnosed officially, unfortunately. Instead, it's a bit of an umbrella term for multiple symptoms that cover things like...
- Not having motivation
- Struggling to sleep
- Not being able to concentrate
- Memory issues
- Struggling to comprehend/take in information
We all have these symptoms occasionally, but if you suffer regularly, you'll know how perfectly the term 'brain fog' sums up how you're feeling!
The link between brain fog and Crohn's disease
You might wonder why I am mentioning this on InflammatoryBowelDisease.net in particular, but actually, brain fog has more to do with IBD than you'd think. First, let's talk about a study that looked specfically at Crohn's disease and cognitive impairment. It found:
- People with Crohn's disease had a 10% slower response time than a control group.
- This correlates to active inflammation and pain.
- People who drive drunk still had higher scores than those with Crohn's disease.1
Pretty shocking stuff, isn't it? Of course, it's only one study but this correlation suggests that the symptoms of brain fog, such as struggling to concentrate, react and take in information, can certainly be much more prominent in those of us who have Crohn's disease.
Why does Crohn's cause brain fog?
I am NOT a scientist so I thought I'd share a quote from a doctor on the study. Dr. Van Langenberg explains, "The findings appear consistent with experiments that have shown that bowel inflammation results in an upregulation of inflammatory hippocampus activity in the brain. This, in turn, might account for the slower response times that were observed in the study." 1
In other words, our bowel inflammation can link directly to our hippocampus, which is the part of the brain associated with memory.
My own take on things is that it could also be because of certain nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin B12 plays a big role in helping our nervous system and fish oils have long been linked to improving our cognitive reasoning. IBD patients are often deficient in B12 because it's synthesized in our guts.
What you can do if you have brain fog
There's no one test for brain fog, but chatting with your medical team about your symptoms may still be beneficial. They can help get you checked for different nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin D or B12, which could be causing brain fog symptoms.
Looking at how often you're eating to prevent sugar rushes has helped from my experience. I'll always make sure I'm eating plenty of protein for breakfast because otherwise, I find I crave sugary food and this can lead to energy dips.
In general, meditation is thought to really help with improved concentration and focus. While there's no IBD specific evidence around this, it certainly couldn't hurt to try to get a little more zen.
What's your experience with brain fog and how does it impact you on a daily basis? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
What is your comfort level disclosing your IBD to your employer?