Brain Fog (or Sometimes I Just Crack Myself Up)

Oh my gosh, sometimes I wonder what in the world is wrong with me. I drive all the way to the north side of town before remembering the store I am going to is on the south side of town. And I’ve been going to the same store for 20 years!

Sometimes I can’t remember what year it is! I’m not joking. I once had to google to see if it was 2013 or 2011.

A few weeks ago I panicked because I thought I missed my good friend’s birthday. It’s February and her birthday is in October.

Brain Fog and Celiac Disease/Food Allergies

I’ve never had a good memory. The fact my husband has a photographic memory is both a blessing and a pain in the butt. Who wants to be reminded of the year, day, and time I slipped into the pool, or rode my bike off the path and into the bushes.  (I’m also a bit clumsy.)

But since developing celiac disease and food allergies, my brain has turned to mush.  Dr. Lawrence Wilson from The Center for Development gives a more educated definition of brain fog :

Brain fog may be described as feelings of mental confusion or lack of mental clarity. It is called brain fog because it can feel like a cloud that reduces your ability to think clearly.  It can cause a person to become forgetful, detached and often discouraged and depressed.  It usually is present most of the time, meaning it does not come and go, although it may become better or worse depending on what a person eats, or one’s state of rest and hydration.

Ah ha! I’ve often thought that since I’ve gotten my celiac and allergies sort of under control, I should be thinking clearer and remembering better. This hasn’t happened. What I do notice is some days are worse than others. Or if you’re the half-full type, some days are better than others.

This week my brain’s been bad. Let’s just say I haven’t been entirely “with it.”  And guess what? My gut has been acting up too!  Because of stupid decisions, such as not identifying all the ingredients in foods I ate out, I’ve been spending a good portion of the day in the bathroom and the other portion on the couch. I have no doubt being “gluten-ed” and probably “soy-ed” has scrambled my brains.

Let me give you an example or two.

Yesterday I had a meeting in an office in downtown Colorado Springs. After I pulled into the parking garage and walked into the building, I suddenly realized I was in the wrong building and heading to the wrong office.  Fortunately, when I googled the directions, I discovered the right office was 23 feet away. I laughed. Sometimes I just crack myself up.

But there’s more. After lunch, I went back to the parking garage. I had absolutely no idea where I’d park my car. Was it on the first floor of the garage, or the second? Was it in the north tower, or the south tower? As I was walking around, discreetly clicking my car door opener, two men asked if I was looking for something.

“My car.” I laughed. They looked at my pitifully. Then they attempted to help, but to no avail.

I had to go back to the ticket booth and retrace my steps while continually pushing the panic button.  Eventually my car alarm sounded. I ignored the glares from the ticket booth lady.

Okay, I know you’re dying for a third example, so here it is.

That same evening I attended a brain-empowering lecture by Katherine Boo at Colorado College. Her book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity was recognized in 2012 as a top-ten book by The New York Times Book Review. (No, I didn’t just recite that from memory; it’s on the book cover.) I bet Katherine Boo has never experienced brain fog a day in her life.

After Boo’s inspiring talk, my friend and I decided to get a gluten-free meal at Croquette’s Bistro. When we got there, I remembered the restaurant wasn’t supposed to open for a few weeks.

So we went across the street to Poor Richard’s, which has a great menu of salads and soups. But my eyes locked onto the words scrawled on the chalkboard: “Gluten-free pizza.”

I ordered a slice, adding roasted red peppers and mushrooms which I knew wouldn’t have soy, gluten or dairy. The pizza came out and I lifted it to my lips and froze. I’d forgotten to say no cheese! I’d been watching all the people around me eating cheese pizza and it still hadn’t occurred to me that I’d forgotten to order correctly.

I’ve been ordering gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free meals for the past five years! How did I forget?

“Well, I guess I’ll just bring it home to Daniel,” I said to my friend who was enjoying her soup. “He’ll have to pick the mushrooms off since he doesn’t like them.”

When I handed the slice to my son later, he raised his eyebrows. My son has a dairy allergy.

Brain Fog (or Sometimes I Just Crack Myself Up) originally appeared at Adventures of An Allergic Foodie.

Mom’s Memory Is Going. Could it be Celiac Disease?

Mom is slightly bent over and her hair is thin and white, but she still rakes her lawn all summer long and trims the tree branches, then hauls the overfilled black bags to the landfill—all by herself. She’s the first one in the neighborhood to clear her driveway after a heavy New England snowstorm. She walks her dog around the block at least seven times a day. She rarely eats red meat, preferring salmon or chicken, and she grazes on fruit and vegetables. Mom hardly ever gets sick.

Meme Summer 2011

You could say my mother is the epitome of what we’d all like to be in our silver years.

Until now.

Something is wrong with Mom’s memory.

This past Sunday she told me about seeing The Butler with her neighbor Bonnie. Not once. Not twice. Not three times. She told me at least five times during a ten-minute conversation!

I asked her if she was feeling okay.

“Oh yes, I had a lovely time with Bonnie at the movies, and then we had dinner. Do you remember Bonnie?”

“Mom, maybe you should drink some water. Are you dehydrated?”

“Well, I had coffee during dinner. Oh, did I tell you I went to the movies today. We saw The Butler–”

“Mom, when was the last time you saw a doctor? You’ve lost a lot of weight, maybe your prescriptions need to be lowered.”

“Oh those doctors don’t know what they’re doing . . .”

An hour later, I’d tracked down Bonnie. She told me she hadn’t noticed my mother’s memory being any worse than usual, just the occasional “senior moments.” I felt tons better. Maybe The Butler really was that good.

When Mom called on Monday, she sounded fine.

“I called to see what you and the family were doing for Labor Day.”

“You mean next Monday?”

“Today. Isn’t today Labor Day?”

“No, next week, Mom.”

“Oh, I should look at a calendar I guess. By the way, have you seen The Butler?”

WHAT’S WRONG WITH MOM?

After our call, I typed “memory loss,” “dementia,” and “Alzheimer’s” into the computer and pulled up a few reputable medical websites. I felt relieved to see many plausible explanations for sudden short-term memory loss, ones that didn’t necessarily lead down a dark path. I know Mom needs to see a doctor, but believe me it will take some persuading.

She’s scared.

I’m scared, too.

A few months ago when I attended a seminar on celiac disease at a local pharmacy, I was surprised to see the room filled with recently diagnosed elderly people. Many told me that memory loss was one of their first symptoms. At the time, I figured they were talking about the brain fog we CD folks all experience. But after the frightening conversation with my mother, I can’t help wondering if they were talking about something different.

You see I inherited celiac disease from one or both parents, according to genetic testing, so I I’m worried Mom’s memory difficulties might be caused by undiagnosed and untreated celiac disease. While never tested, both of my parents (Dad is diseased) definitely showed CD symptoms over the years. My brother also shows signs, and one of my sons is severely gluten intolerant.

Based on data from the University of Chicago  http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=150813

Based on data from the University of Chicago
http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=150813

The good little researcher I am, I headed to the Internet. Though my investigation was brief, what I discovered didn’t provide me much comfort. It appears the elderly are just now being diagnosed with CD—and at record numbers. According to The University of Maryland School of Medicine Center for Celiac Research, CD is about two and a half times more common among elderly people than it is in the population as a whole.

Wow! I wonder what is causing this explosion in gluten-intolerant grannies and grandpas.
Holding Hands with Elderly Patient

My research also revealed that older people are pretty much getting left out of the celiac research. Celiac.com’s Jefferson Adams, who deciphers medical research on celiac disease for the layman, says that “despite a growing body of research on celiac disease, very little is known about this condition in older people.”

I would think finding out why older folk are developing a disease that was once thought of as a childhood disease would be incredibly helpful to the medical community. Such research would certainly be helpful to families with genetic links to CD.

But maybe that’s just me–a daughter, a sister, and a mother worried about what celiac disease is doing to her family and wanting to do something about it.

What I Read:

Adult Celiac Disease in the Elderly (ncbi.nlm.hih.gov)
Neurological Disorders in Adult Celiac Disease (ncbi.nlm.gov)
Celiac Disease in the Elderly (celiac.com)