Coping with “Brain Fog”
Posted on August 3, 2012
One thing that no one tells you when you are diagnosed with Celiac Disease is that the strange, almost tipsy feeling that you get when you eat gluten, is normal … or at least nothing to freak out about.
The first time I experienced “brain fog,” it felt like taking a bad pain killer. The slow, seeping confusion filled my mind, almost lulling me to sleep.
But here’s the catch: I was driving. My 16-year-old self was behind the wheel of one very large SUV driving down the 101 at full speed. I kept thinking to myself, “did I get drugged?” I did not pull over, which was a stupid mistake, but I think we can all agree that teenagers do not make the smartest decisions. Sure enough, the brain fog was quickly followed by a nagging, dull headache, and like clockwork, my stomach curled up and started to stab from the inside out. And well, we all know what happens after the stomachache… hello, toilet!
Years later, I am 100% gluten free and take every precaution to stay healthy, but there are those slip ups that are out of my control. From cross-contamination at restaurants that boast “gluten free” options to miscommunications with friends and family, mistakes happen. And yet I still question my mind when the fog sets in after a gluten contamination. Have I been slipped a valium? A Percocet? Something, anything?!
There really isn’t anything that I have found to combat this strange and mysterious occurrence on my mental capacity, but if you are a Celiac and share these foggy moments, know that you are not alone. We can’t always prevent the unknown, but here are some helpful ways that I’ve found to get through an episode:
Write to-do lists frequently
I find that the more gluten gets in your system, the more forgetful you become. Unfortunately for us Celiacs, gluten can somehow wiggle its way into a meal in the tiniest form and set us off on a path to internal destruction. My fogginess has climaxed in missing a final exam in college, dropping numerous glasses and bowls, and more recently (though this can be up for debate), breaking my collarbone —a story for another time.
To-do lists keep me grounded and for the most part, I do not need them, but when I am having an especially stressful week and simultaneously dealing with gluten sickness, those lists are a godsend.
This is a big one, and I mean it. Pushing through the initial phase of gluten sickness will not make you a hero. We’ve all gone out with friends, left the house, or stayed at work just to be miserable, upset, and then desperately searching for a bathroom within an hour with such urgency that it would make police chases seem slow. So yes, lie down, go home, and stay there until you’re feeling better. Small as this seems, it helps.
Drink lots of water
The moment you feel it coming on, drink a full glass of water. And then another. And another. It’s hard to drink a lot of water, but you are about to be very dehydrated, and I’ve made the mistake of refusing to drink while very sick only to end up in the Urgent Care with an IV of fluids in my arm the next day. Three times.
Until someone finds a better solution, I’d recommend following these tips to help get through the brain fog. And hey, maybe you can find some small, tiny, deep down joy in feeling slightly drunk at the office when it’s only 3pm.