Memory loss and disorientation are two of the most challenging symptoms of fibromyalgia. Suddenly not knowing where you are can led to embarrassment or even panic. Here are 6 tips recommended by experts to prevent and beat brain fog caused by fibromyalgia.
Sometimes we forget grocery store items or loved one’s birthdays, but for people with fibromyalgia, memory lapses happen more often and can be more serious.
This chronic pain disorder triggers a sudden forgetfulness known as “fibro fog” or “brain fog“. It changes cognitive functioning and leads to memory loss or other thought-processing problems, says fibromyalgia expert.
The cause of brain fog is unknown, but it is related to imbalances in the central nervous system.
Fibromyalgia symptoms can also cause episodic disorientation – 30 to 90 seconds of not knowing where you are or where you are going. That happens in a third of women with fibromyalgia, often when they are heading off a highway or shopping at the grocery store, she says.
Such cognitive problems can make fibromyalgia patients fear that they are developing Alzheimer’s disease, but the two are not related. “Brain fog can cause you to lose your keys,” he explains. “Alzheimer’s makes you forget how to use a key.” But you can ease the symptoms of brain fog . Here are 7 ways.
7 ways to beat fibromyalgia brain fog.
1. Get enough sleep.
Fibromyalgia patients often start the day exhausted. They struggle not to fall and stay asleep and often suffer from a variety of sleep disorders.
Daily fatigue triggers cognitive problems. So, the more sleep deprived you are, the more fibromyalgia brain fog symptoms you’ll suffer.
Maintaining healthy sleep habits can also help you get better rest.
- Place the bedroom clock out of arm’s reach and facing away from you so you can’t see it.
- Take a hot bath before bed.
- Don’t drink alcohol close to bedtime.
- Skip caffeine after 4 p.m.
2. Take ribose supplements.
Ribose, a natural simple sugar, plays a key role in metabolism.
“Anything that improves energy production in cells helps brain cells.”
Specifically, ribose is a component of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), considered the body’s energy molecule. ATP helps the body use key nutrients, like vitamin B1, that are necessary for proper brain function, he says.
Ribose improved mental clarity by an average of 30% in 203 patients after three weeks of use. It also increased energy an average of 61%.
Participants also reported a 37% increase in general well-being, a 29% improvement in sleep, and a 15% decrease in pain.
Try it: Take 5 grams (g) of ribose three times a day (15 grams total) for three weeks.
Then, do it in 5g twice a day, “although you may find that 3g twice a day is enough to prevent mental clouding,” says Dr. Teitelbaum.
In addition to ribose, other supplements can help with mental health and relieve fibromyalgia symptoms.
Exercising can physically grow your brain. Exercise increases the right and left sides of the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in memory, according to a 2011 study.
“The increased blood flow that occurs when our heart pumps faster improve concentration, learning, and memory.”
Start out slow, the Mayo Clinic suggests: maybe just 15 minutes of walking a day, gradually working up to 30 or 60 minutes.
Also try low-impact aerobics activities: swimming, cycling, or water aerobics. It can be helpful to work with a physical therapist who is experienced in training fibromyalgia patients.
Stay active throughout the day too. “Increasing your heart rate by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking faster, or standing up during phone calls improves mental clarity.”
And it cuts down on TV time. It takes away energy and makes you even more tired and brain foggy. “Excessive television or screen watching is associated with depression, poor cognitive function, and a decline in overall physical health.”
4. Change your routine.
A new daily routine challenges your mind and body.
“When we are stuck in a rut, we are constantly stepping on the same brain pathways.” “Participating in a new activity literally wakes up our brains.”
That’s because the brain has to establish new neural pathways to process new information. Swap out the treadmill for a stationary bike, shop at a different store, take an alternate route home, or try a new recipe.
And get out of your social comfort zone. The next time you’re in the grocery store checkout line, start chatting with a trustworthy stranger. Meeting new people and participating in conversations forces your brain to pay attention.
5. Communicate with nature.
Our modern lives – with computers, television, text messages, tweets, emails, and cell phone calls all at once – can overstimulate the brain and increase stress levels.
“Our brains can only hold one thought at a time.” Constant interruptions disrupt our ability to focus, concentrate, and retain information.
Nature has a calming effect. So, walk in the park, take the scenic drive to watch the sunset, or just look at the stars at night.
Spending time in green spaces decreases brain fog, according to a 2013 study published. Researchers compared the brain wave patterns of participants who took a 25-minute walk through urban areas, versus another group who walked through a lush park. They found that walkers in the city showed signs of frustration, while those walking in the park were more mentally calm and brooding.
“The beauty of nature will give your prefrontal cortex, the area of your brain that helps you focus, a chance to recharge.”
6. Practice yoga, tai chi, or mindfulness meditation.
Relaxing activities like yoga, tai chi, qigong, and meditation can improve sleep problems, fatigue, poor memory, and anxiety, all of which are linked to brain fog, according to many studies.
For example, 20 volunteers with fibromyalgia saw improvements in sleep, pain, and physical and mental functioning after practicing Qigong for eight weeks, according to a 2013 study.
And those who practiced the most had the best results, the researchers said. Sign up for classes at your local gym or purchase an instructional DVD.
If possible, practice outside. “Combining exercise with sunlight and fresh air can help reduce brain fog.”
How much do you know about fibromyalgia? Described by Hippocrates in ancient Greece, fibromyalgia is one of the oldest medical mysteries in the world. The disease, a complex disease characterized by chronic muscle, tendon and ligament pain, fatigue, and multiple tender points in the body, affects approximately 2% of the population in the US alone, most of them women. How much do you know about fibromyalgia?