When battling Meniere’s disease, with all its hardships and difficulties, I find that sometimes it’s the lesser symptoms that are the most frustrating. Even if you happen to have gained some semblance of control over the vertigo, learned to ignore the tinnitus, and live an overall healthy lifestyle, brain fog can quickly derail any momentum you may have working for you. It can bring your productivity to a grinding halt and can rob you of precious hope.
Brain fog is an insidious phenomenon. It will not handicap you like vertigo will, but can impair your quality of life considerably. So what is brain fog? Loosely defined, brain fog is a form of fluctuating cognitive impairment that affects concentration, executive function, decision making, memory, and word recall. For sufferers of Meniere’s disease and other vestibular disorders, brain fog is a seemingly ever-present clouding of consciousness and an unfortunate reality.
Fear not though, there are many ways to fight back against brain fog. Some methods are lifestyle based, and subtle in their approach, while other methods are much more direct and combat the symptoms of brain fog at the chemical level.
Between these two extremes, there are also many other techniques for managing the specific symptoms of brain fog. This article will be part 1 in an exploration of treatment strategies for winning in the struggle against brain fog.
Many of the lifestyle management techniques for managing brain fog mirror the lifestyle management techniques for managing Meniere’s disease. Sleep, diet, mediation and exercise all play specific rolls in lessening the impact of brain fog. These lifestyle changes will serve as a foundation to build on. Without this foundation, all other treatment strategies will be unsuccessful. I will briefly examine the impact of each in this section.
For me personally, sleep is the glue that holds all of my treatment efforts together. When I get plenty of high quality sleep, I find that my symptoms are manageable and lessened. When I don’t get enough though, the ravaging effects of sleep deprivation quickly sabotage my recovery. Brain fog is always the first sign; a warning that more symptoms are on their way.
Just one night of impaired sleep is enough to start cognitive decline in a normal healthy person. Worse still, the effects of sleep deprivation compound quickly. Getting enough sleep each night is your first line of defense against brain fog. With Meniere’s disease, we are already starting out with the cognitive disadvantage of brain fog; sleep deprivation will make it much worse and handicap your treatment efforts.
Your diet can also have a significant impact on the severity of your brain fog, as well as your other symptoms. Knowing your food allergies, sensitivities, and triggers will go a long way towards managing brain fog. For me personally, my symptoms are triggered by sodium, milk and as a consequence dairy. If I ignore this and eat ice cream, I get brain fog every single time.
Keep a journal to help identify your food triggers and sensitives. Sometimes just cleaning up your diet is enough to make a noticeable difference in the intensity of your brain fog. It probably won’t be enough to eliminate it, but it will make a dent and every little bit adds up. Avoid food triggers, allergies, and sensitivities while eating organic, whole foods whenever possible.
Dehydration can also contribute towards brain fog. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day and stay hydrated. Remember, coffee, juice, tea, and soda, don’t count; stick to water for maximum benefit.
Exercise can also help to decrease brain fog. I find this to be a particularly effective method. If your other symptoms are currently bad, this may not be an option. Keep in mind however, that simply going for a walk can be enough. If you can muster the strength and balance to go for a short walk around your neighborhood, it can make a huge difference. The endorphins released during exercise are a powerful force for strengthening mental clarity. I find that when my brain fog is bad, a nice long walk or jog is enough to cut through the haze. I usually feel much sharper afterwards.
A meditation practice can help as well. I find 20 minutes of meditation has the power to reduce brain fog considerably. A daily meditation practice works even better. The cumulative effect of the practice will reduce brain fog even further.
Life constantly requires us to creatively solve problems and come up with ideas. Brain fog can make this extremely difficult. It’s hard to come up with good ideas when your brain feels like mush. You can reduce the impact of brain fog and strengthen your creative abilities by adopting a simple creativity practice into your daily routine.
The basic technique here is simple. Every day, grab a piece of paper and a pen, and choose a topic. Next come up with a list of ten ideas based on that topic. For example, yesterday my list was 10 articles I could write for this blog. Some other examples for list topics could be, 10 ideas of products for my cat, 10 gift ideas for my significant other, or 10 things that could help me at work.
This practice is like lifting weights with your brain. After 6 or 7 ideas it usually gets hard; I tend to break a mental sweat. This is the goal. You are forcing your mind to think hard and generate ideas.
I highly recommend the book “Becoming an Idea Machine” by Claudia Altucher. It provides 6 months’ worth of daily prompts for this practice and is an excellent resource for learning more about this method.
I’ve practiced this daily for months and have found that I constantly have a flow of ideas when I need them. It counteracts some of the effects of brain fog quite well. I also find that by forcing myself to do this exercise when my brain fog is at its worse, it reduces the severity. Nothing seems to get my brain firing like forced concentration and the “ah ha” moment that precedes a great idea.
I have found this to work with other creative practices as well. If writing is more your style, set time aside daily to write. You can find hundreds of creative writing prompts here.
If you consider yourself an artist, set time aside each day to create or work on your art. The principal is the same. You are taking time every day to strengthen your creative muscles. The more regularly you do this, the less your creativity will be affected when brain fog strikes.
Nootropic Supplements (Cognitive Enhancing Supplements):
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and don’t pretend to play one on the internet. Everyone is different and all supplements can have side effects. Please speak to your doctor or medical professional before taking any new supplement or drug. The following are my personal opinions only!
Of everything I have found to work against brain fog, nothing has worked better or more immediately than Nootropic supplements. Nootropics are any over the counter herbs, vitamins, supplements, and nutraceuticals that are known to improve and enhance cognitive functions such as concentration, attention, and memory.
Caffeine for example, is considered a Nootropic substance. However caffeine is a common trigger for Meniere’s symptoms and is often not an option. If you find however, that you are not triggered by caffeine, a cup of coffee can help to temporarily decrease brain fog.
There are a wide variety of other compounds though, both artificial and natural, that fall under this umbrella. Many have been extensively studied and researched, though some have not. I only intend to provide a brief introduction to Nootropics at this time and highly advise you speak with your doctor before trying anything. At some point in the future I will write an article covering Nootropics in much greater detail.
Many of the Nootropic supplements tend to work best when combined. These combinations are known as Nootropic stacks and often have powerful synergistic effects. Though some people create these stacks on their own, many companies offer pre-formulated combinations.
One of the most common Nootropic stacks, is the combination of caffeine and L-theanine (a calming substance found in green tea). This combination provides the cognitive benefits of the caffeine with the calming effect of the L-theanine for focused concentration without jitteriness.
I have personally tried many pre-formulated products, but the one that I feel comfortable mentioning, is a product called Alpha Brain, produced by Onnit Labs (I am not affiliated with Onnit Labs in any capacity). I have had tremendous success with this product over the last year or so, and Alpha Brain is the only product I know of that has undergone clinical trials. The results were highly positive. You can find alpha brain on Amazon as well.
I find that on days where my brain fog is most intense, a single dose of Alpha Brain reduces my brain fog significantly for 4-6 hours. Sometimes it’s the difference between having enough focus to get my work done or not. It improves my memory and decreases the notorious “tip of the tongue syndrome” where you can’t recall words. It works by increasing the amount of neurotransmitter Acetylcholine in your brain. Higher Acetylcholine levels are linked to increased focus, concentration, and executive function.
If you are interested in researching Nootropics further, I recommend the following resources and message boards:
There is no magic bullet for eliminating brain fog but the cumulative effect of all of these techniques can reduce it considerably. In part 2, I will explore more techniques for fighting brain fog, specifically focusing on improving memory and energy levels. Stay tuned and subscribe to my email list today!