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Home > Newsletters > September 2007 > Brain Fog - The Fog that Never Lifts

Brain Fog - The Fog That Never Lifts

By Dr. Maoshing Ni, L.Ac., D.O.M., Ph.D.

Many of us have experienced feelings of spaceyness, together with difficulty focusing and a slight feeling of being disoriented. When these feelings cannot be associated with any identifiable disease or condition, I group them under the nonspecific category called “brain fog.”

Most people’s episodes of brain fog are brief and fleeting, but for some the feeling is semi-permanent. It is one of the most frustrating and non specific conditions that patients complain about because it robs them of their quality of life. Those afflicted are often not sick enough to be bedridden, but are not well enough to enjoy a productive life. Brain fog can be associated with other conditions where maintaining mental focus is an issue, as in Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Autism.

The inability to concentrate can affect both adults and children alike and is often associated with other physical, psychological, and emotional problems. Some causes relate to infectious diseases such as Lyme disease, Epstein Barr virus and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that go undiagnosed and untreated for years. Physical changes from concussive accidents, low blood pressure, and menopause can leave people dazed and unfocused for months and even years. Neuropsychological problems such as depression, Anxiety, and insomnia can also produce alarming rates of cognitive decline. In some cases there may be added complications such as memory loss.

In Chinese medicine, the ability to concentrate relies heavily on the abundance of vital energy (Qi) and a smooth flow of nutrient rich blood to the brain, providing for a clear mind, healthy heart, and radiant spirit. The source of the nourishing vital energy that is essential for clarity of mind comes from the normal digestive functioning of the stomach, spleen, and pancreas as well as the kidneys. Excessive damp and mucous build-up in the digestive organs, notably the spleen, prevents pure energy from rising to our heads and denies the energetic nourishment needed for clear mental activity and a bright spirit.

In my experience poor diet and inadequate sleep are the most common causes of digestive weakness. Excessive consumption of foods such as sugars, dairy, wheat and fried foods are commonly implicated in the production of dampness and mucous.

It is important to first pin point the underlying cause of the brain fog and determine how the pure energy is being obstructed from rising to the brain. Treatment is often two fold: first, we focus on removing the cause of the fogginess, and second, we strengthen and harmonize the functioning of the digestive organs and of the heart blood circulation to increase production and flow of vital energy and restore clarity of spirit.

A successful treatment involves the following: Changing one’s diet to remove the foods that contribute to dampness and/or heat, and to include foods that regulate blood sugar and nourish bodily functions; weekly acupuncture to direct the flow of nourishing energy to the brain; Chinese herbal tea to restore organ function and balance; and regular energy enhancing exercise and meditation to improve circulation and mental concentration.

Gradually, over the course of several months, our patients observe their Vitality returning and they are able to regain a normal and full life.

Dr Mao’s Case Studies

Here are two typical cases of patients with brain fog and the treatments they received.

The first involved a teenage girl who, despite being a good student, struggled with concentrating in class and completing her homework. She would often study well into the night because it took her twice as long to complete her school assignments as her classmates. A psychiatrist diagnosed her with ADD and recommended she take prescription medication. Her mother was concerned about the long-term health risks of prescription medication, so she bought her to us in an attempt to find a more natural approach and solution.

Upon questioning, I discovered that the young girl’s diet was inadequate and she overextended herself with school commitments and sporting activities, and therefore was not getting adequate sleep at night. From a Chinese medical perspective, I diagnosed her as having weakness in the stomach/spleen and kidney systems.

My lifestyle recommendations included: eating 5 small nutritious meals per day; avoiding all refined starches and sugars; getting to bed by 10 pm; and having regular acupuncture and herbal therapy.

She recovered completely within three months. This was because of her consistent efforts to modify her lifestyle, drink the herbal tea and come for weekly acupuncture treatments.

The second case involved a female in her mid-thirties who, despite having seen various specialists, was not diagnosed or treated effectively for her condition. She was experiencing constant fatigue, muscle and joint pain throughout her body, and had difficulty performing even simple tasks such as reading. She was unable to think clearly or concentrate for any length of time. She dragged herself through life even though she appeared normal. This caused her further frustration because the people around her could not understand why she was unable to function normally.

I determined that she was suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In my experience many of my chronic fatigue patients have been exposed to viruses like Epstein-Barr and Cytomegalo that stress and weaken the immune system.

In Chinese medicine, conditions like these are due to an invasion of damp and heat pathogens. These pathogens weaken the functioning of the spleen and kidney systems and lead to an inability to produce adequate energy for normal immune and brain functioning. The dampness and heat obstruct the muscle meridians, often causing pain and inflammation and they also depress the digestive functioning of the spleen, stomach and pancreas, which under normal circumstances work together to form our vital life energies. Overall, her ability to produce life-giving energy was chronically compromised.

Her treatment plan focused on supporting her vital energy and organ systems along with restoring her immune function.

The comprehensive treatment plan incorporated the following:

1. Diet to reduce inflammation

2. Daily Qi Gong and Tai Chi exercise

3. Weekly acupuncture

4. Daily herbal tea

After 4 to 6 months of regular weekly treatments she was 95 percent recovered and back to living a full and normal life.



This Month's Articles

September 2007
Volume 5, Number 9

Brain Fog - The Fog that Never Lifts

Bill Would Require Insurance to Cover Acupuncture in California

Recent Research

Ask The Doctor

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