alternative treatment for cfs

Brain Fog Clouding your Day?

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brain fogLike many ME/CFS sufferers, I experienced debilitating brain fog for most of the time when I was ill.  For those of you that haven’t experienced this symptom, brain fog is the term used to describe impaired mental and cognitive functioning.  Years ago when I used to attend an aerobics class, I remember the teacher telling the class to imagine we were moving through mud (although the reasoning behind this is totally irrelevant to the issue in hand, I think the idea behind this is to imagine resistance so that the muscles of the body have to work harder!).  Well, for me, brain fog is the cognitive equivalent of trying to move through mud.  My thought processes seemed to go in slow motion and no matter how hard I tried to formulate a coherent thought, it was like trying to access information from some very slow, archaic computer, which clunked along seemingly operating but either not retrieving the correct information, or doing so so slowly that I had forgotten why I wanted it or garbling the information causing me confusion and frustration.  Holding a sensible conversation was totally impossible; I could not follow logical trains of argument on even the simplest of topics let alone formulate responses.  Following a short television programme or reading a few pages of a book, likewise ended up in a garbled and addled brain, confused, befuddled and exhausted by the sheer effort of trying to follow a linear trail of information.

Brain fog is an extremely common symptom for ME/CFS sufferers and I think I can safely say that all of our clients with ME or CFS have experienced this for at least some of the time before their recovery.  But what exactly is brain fog?  Well one hypothesis is that any stress impacting on the sufferer can exacerbate this symptom, the reason being is down to how our brain physiology changes when under stress.

Our brains have evolved significantly from the time 6 million years ago when we began to stand up and walk. Scientists believe that back then our brains were not so different from reptiles today. They could handle the essential functions of survival and little else. Eating, temperature control, running away or fighting, reproduction just think of what the average lizard does and you get the picture. As we evolved we developed new parts of brains with new functions. The first of these new areas is often referred to as the mammalian or limbic part as it has characteristics you associate with mammals. Emotions, feelings and basic communication are things you would normally associate with a dog or a horse. Look into a reptile’s eyes and you don’t see much emotion, but look into your dog’s eyes and we can often detect the emotion. The final new part of the brain is the cortex or neocortex; this is the clever part of brain that is involved with creativity, complex thought and language.

So how does this relate to stress? When stressed it is that old reptilian brain that takes over, and the rest of the brain goes on hold for a bit. If you think about it, this makes sense. When faced with a tiger, prehistoric man had few options. ‘Thinking’ would be likely to slow us down and result in a painful death! The part of the reptilian brain responsible for this prioritising of functions is known as the Amygdala.  Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, uses the phrase ‘Amygdala hijack’ to explain what happens, which I think sums it up very well. When the amygdala interprets a situation as a threatening it hijacks the brain, beginning the cascade of reactions involved in the fight or flight response.

Along with creating problems with our thought process, the amygdala also affects our memories. How many people remember of the details of a life threatening situation? How often does it all appear a “bit of a blur”? This is because stress affects our ability to store and retrieve memories[i]. Chronic stress in particular can negatively affect memory and learning[ii]  Even now, when I try to remember fine details of my illness before I recovered, it still seems a blur, because I don’t think my brain really focused on storing this information at the time; it was too busy counteracting the stress I was under and the stress associated with the condition itself.

Stress effectively robs us of the ability to think of anything more complex than running away or fighting and chronic stress hampers our ability to remember and learn. I don’t know about you but this certainly does sound like Brain Fog to me.

Thankfully, once I had started on my holistic journey back to health the fog did gradually clear, as I took control of stress and my limbic brain took over again and thinking through mud became a thing of the past 🙂

Debbie

Sky Blue River

 

[i]Kuhlmann, S., Piel, M., Wolf, O.T. (2005). Imparied Memory Retrieval after Psychosocial Stress in Healthy Young Men. Journal of Neuroscience, 25(11), 2977-2982.

[ii]Pasquali, R. (2006). The Biological Balance between Psychological Well-Being and Distress: A Clinician’s Point of View. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 75, 69-71.

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What Every Health Conscious Woman Needs to Know about Stressors and Why!

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Pete Mulford Therapy and Coaching for Better Health

This is the next webinar in our series of FREE webinars that we are offering. I really hope you will register now because this webinar is packed full of information that could change your life for the better.

Knowledge is power they say and I’m sure you will gain a lot of knowledge from this webinar. It is a vital piece of the health puzzle whether you are ill or not and used to be a part of our attendance programme for those suffering from CFS, ME and PVFS. We have yet to meet anyone who has been diagnosed with those conditions who does not have stress in their lives, but few understand the very detrimental effect it has on their physical health. The very process of being diagnosed with one of these conditions is extremely stressful for most people.

Part of the problem is that the intangible phenomenon we call stress, has become an insidious part of western living. More than 40 million of us living in the UK admit to suffering from some form of stress. In fact, only 17% of us state that stress does not have an impact on our lives. But even those that do believe stress has impact are often amazed at the sheer depth of the physical effects that stressors can have.

So to help you understand the full implication of stress we explain the three main reasons why stressors damage your health. This webinar will allow you to make knowledgeable choices and fully understand how reducing your stress will improve your capacity for physical health. This is one of the key areas in Debbie’s recovery from CFS/ME so we know just how important it is.

If you want to be in more control of your health and imagine a healthier future register now.

Please share the event so as many people as possible will benefit.

Are your beliefs letting you down?

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I recently sat talking to a lady who had completed a free course for people with chronic health conditions provided by the local hospital. Her opinion was summed up as “It’s ok if you believe you can think yourself healthy”. It was not the time or place to question that, but it was interesting to hear her opinions. On the face of it the course had covered many of the things we include on our courses. However, this lady had obviously discarded much of the content as it had failed to open her mind to the possibility that her thoughts do effect her health.

The lady did go on to mention that at least one member of the group seemed to have their own agenda, interrupting others when they spoke and attempting to monopolise the conversation. This of course is the draw back of free courses put on by the public health system, by their nature they are open to anyone with the relevant condition, so it becomes a matter of chance whether you get a group of like minded individuals who support and revel in each others success or a group closed or scared of the fact that their thoughts and emotions effect their physical health.

Many people argue that if a process works it does not matter whether you believe in it or not, although that opinion is dis-proven by most drug research. For a change I wont go on to talk about the placebo effect but rather tell a story often told by those with an interest in hypnotherapy. In Auo. 23, 1952 the British Medical Journal printed an article entitled “A case of -congenital ictrhyosiform erythriodermia of brocq treated by hypnosis”. The article described how Dr Mason treated a boy who he believed had an extreme case of warts using hypnosis. The warts originally covered much of the boys skin, for example it was recorded that 80% of the boys arms were covered. However, 10 days after a session of hypnosis using suggestions that the skin would heal 95% of the arm was clear. Other areas of the body responded with vary success rates too. This in itself may not have surprised Dr Mason if it had not been for the fact that the boy did not have warts but a genetic condition known as congenital ictrhyosiform erythriodermia known at the time to be ‘untreatable’.

You have to believe to achieve
You have to believe to achieve

Interestingly I have heard it said that Dr Mason went on to try and help many people with that condition with far less satisfactory results. When asked about this Dr Mason believed that his lack of success with other patients stemmed from his knowledge that he was now treating a condition known to be ‘untreatable’ and the seed of doubt that created in his mind.

I do think that is a nice story and it goes some way to explain why we think belief in the process is important. Hence we do our best to ensure that by the time you get on one of our courses you have the belief that that you can improve and the course will help.