I recently got someone to sign up for my email list and they were interested in learning how they could help their brain fog from home. As I was thinking about my response to 1 individual I thought this could be helpful to so many of my clients and followers so I’m sharing these tips with you.
Brain fog is a gaining a lot of recognition as our healthcare system continues to have an influx of individuals suffering from long COVID. When the first reports of COVID came out, I started seeing the similarities of an invisible injury in which patients suffer from visual changes, vestibular issues, brain fog, fatigue, impaired respiration, and autonomic nervous system responses. These were very similar to my patients I was used to treating post-concussion and just like those who had a concussion there were varying degrees of neurologic insult. Some people were getting the virus and recovering without chronic changes (like those who recover from a concussion in the typical 10 days) and others who had chronic changes with their gut health, new onset of diabetes, fatigue, and vestibular loss (like those who fall into the post concussion syndrome category of symptoms lasting longer than 3 months). We now know there are certain risk factors that predispose which group you might end up in but there is no clear way to predict this accurately.
This is what I do in my history taking because I like to target the root cause in treatment and not just put band-aids on symptoms. When we better understand what is causing the brain fog we can customize a rehab plan to best improve your symptom. Oftentimes, this is best done with a speech language pathologist who can identify impairments affecting cognition. For example, if someone is having brain fog post COVID and they struggle with decision making then we need to work on drills that involve decision making. All rehab is scalable so we start with easier decisions and get those working better and then create more complex decision-making drills. I like using the blazepods which are reaction light pods and can be controlled so that you have to decide go/ no go for certain colors. Another example of a root cause is an individual post vestibular insult who struggles with brain fog later in the afternoon. They wake up pretty clear but tend to crash mid-day. With a good vestibular examination we might find that there is conflict between the visual, vestibular, and somatosensory processing which takes significantly more brain energy to remain balanced so they run out of gas in their tank. For this individual it would be helpful to work on sensory reorganization so that there is less conflict and therefore less brain fog and fatigue throughout the day.
Start slow with easier challenges. When the brain is already low on resources and fatigues out easily it is important that you don’t add too much too soon. We do need to push the boundary to create more reserve in the brains ability but slowly push that. Similar to training to run a marathon we won’t do well by starting at 26 miles but we go from couch to 5K making slow changes as to not burn out. This is how we can create more endurance.
Get evaluated by a speech language pathologist. My colleagues are specialists in the evaluation and treatment of cognition. Cognition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. With COVID healthcare has adopted virtual visits which can be cash based or covered through your insurance. The most recent news was that telehealth visits will still be covered for hospital settings so call your insurance to make find out what could be covered for you.
Download some games on your smart device. Technology gives us a growing body of access to brain challenges. Some of the most common games are luminosity, brain HQ, Memorado, elevate, impulse, wordscapes, and flow free. Start with just a few minutes a day for a cognitive challenge.
Avoid alcohol and drugs which can adversely affect your brain health and healing ability.
Work on reducing conflict within your senses which can deplete your reserves. The VIZSTIM vestibular dysfunction kit specifically helps train your visual and vestibular systems to work better together. Starting this program can improve the sensory integration meaning less brain fog throughout the day.
Get regular exercise including aerobic and strength training. The research proves that exercise improves brain function, cardiovascular health, and fitness. You may have to start slow and build up. Also do the exercise that you enjoy because no one will be motivated to keep up with something that they hate doing. This might mean dancing, kayaking, taking a tai chi class, or boxing.
Sleep 8 hours a night. While we sleep our brains are hard at work clearing out toxins and improving our ability to clearly fire those neurons.
Eat a mediterranean style diet. Focus on increasing vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins. This enhances the brains ability to use those nutrients rather than get bogged down with processed foods that are high in sugar and can cause neuro inflammation.