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Feeling Foggy? Let

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.

What are 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
  • Fatigue
  • 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 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 should I do if I 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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

"New Research Shows Impact of Crohn's Disease on Brain Function." ScienceDaily. August 24, 2016. Available at


  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    1 year ago

    Brain fog is so real! I found that when I was flaring, I literally would shock myself with how “slow” I was at everything. Even just having a conversation with someone, I would find that I would just zone out and not be able to take in anything they were saying. It felt like I could process nothing. It’s an awful feeling. This only went away with me, once my flare got under control and my deficiencies were corrected.

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

  • CarmenPallaroso
    1 year ago

    I took cellvamp supplement about a week and I could feel the brain fog start to lift. I do a lot of computer work and I could feel thw words flowing from my brain to my fingers much easier.

  • ce66396
    2 years ago

    Suffer with it alot. Contribute some of it to poor sleep. But it makes sense to me regardless of the direct cause, because, we as humans, have two brains, one in our head and the other, you guessed it, in our gut. Depending on the area of illness in either, causes various systemic reactions, including some in the other. Just my thoughts.

  • SandyIBD
    2 years ago

    Wondering how many of the IBD patients with brain fog, memory issues etc. have ben evaluated for adrenal insufficiency?
    I had symptoms that scared me, brain fog, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, anxiety, and many more and it turned out that they came from
    adrenal insufficiency (ahich can happen in IBD mostly due to steroid use – mine might actually be primary, not from steroid use). These are very serious symptoms and I think it is justified to test IBD patients for adrenal insufficiency when presenting these symptoms (I am a pharmacist/IBD postdoctoral research fellow).
    Thank you.

  • ce66396
    2 years ago

    Hi Sandy;
    I take very little steroids. High dose bursts, short duration, quick tapper. Maybe will start prednisone on a blockage lasting to long, (crohns disease in the upper small intestines only- removal of 3 foot 26 years ago) like days, and facing hospital visit. Took maybe 100mgs all of last year. So it’s not medication for me.
    Do have osteopenia though. Your post has me thinking if crohns can cause maybe cushings disease of different degrees outside medication treatment, in and of itself.
    IOW our bodies make to much cortisol in response to chronic inflammation, or in times of outside stressors. Not like full blown cushings but our gutt gets dependent on this cortisol to keep inflammation under control. When the stress is over and the hormone level goes down, flare ups happen. I can almost count on it, bet many can too. I have felt for years the adrenal glands have something to do with my crohns disease. Just my thoughts.
    retired rp

  • Druidmom
    2 years ago

    I have not been evaluated for adrenal insufficiency; however, I have chronic renal insufficiency and pretty sufficient brain fog. I was recently treated for low vitamin D and B 12 both wnl now…brain fog persists. I have significant anemia being treated with folic acid. Scheduled for abd CT d/t presence of r hydronephrosis and splenomegaly. I’m a retired RN

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