Brain Fog 101: What It Is, What Causes It, & How to Fix It

Brain Fog 101: What It Is, What Causes It, & How to Fix It
by Dan

Although “brain fog” isn’t a medical term, it’s likely something you’ve experience a few times in your life, maybe even on a regular basis. Brain fog is essentially the clouding of the mind and it can cause a variety of symptoms, such as: an inability to focus, fatigue of the brain, confusion, and forgetfulness.

Dealing with brain fog is never fun, as it can seriously impact your day-to-day life, especially if it’s a chronic issue for you. It might cause you to experience low moods and even impact your productivity at work.

In order to clear your brain and get it functioning properly once again, you need to first identify what’s causing your brain fog. It could be any number of issues or even a combination of multiple things. Once you figure out the cause, you’ll know what the next steps should be in order to remedy the situation. There are also a few ways you can relieve symptoms of brain fog and start feeling better in no time at all. We’re sharing it all in this post to help you feel better!

Causes of Brain Fog

In order to banish the brain fog you’re dealing with, you need to first identify what’s causing it. By remedying the cause, you should be able to see an immediate improvement in the way you feel. However, there are a number of things that could cause you to be experiencing brain fog symptoms. See if any of these causes resonate with you:

1. Not Enough Sleep

Lack of sleep causes a variety of health issues for us, which is why it’s so important to get a good night’s sleep each and every night. If you find that you’re often experiencing brain fog, ask yourself “Am I getting enough sleep?” You might notice a correlation between brain fog and those nights where you aren’t getting the recommended 7-9 hours.

The reason a lack of sleep can cloud your mind and make it more difficult for you to focus is because of all that hard work your brain is putting in while you rest. If you don’t get enough sleep, you aren’t giving your brain ample time to do its job. You see, while you sleep, cerebral fluid essentially cleanses your brain by clearing it of debris. Not only that, but your brain also works to consolidate memories from the day. And if you get plenty of sleep, your brain has the chance to create new brain cells (since we lose some every day).

When you get a good night of uninterrupted sleep, your brain has the chance to get all of this work done. It also helps to keep your brain hormones in balance.

If you don’t get enough sleep, it can impact your mood, memory, and concentration ability for the day ahead. So, make sure you hit the hay a little earlier if you’re guilty of not getting enough rest. You should notice an improvement in brain fog symptoms right away.

2. Foods

What we put into our bodies can directly impact how we feel, which is why it’s so important to be conscious of what we eat. If you struggle with brain fog, take a look at the foods you eat on a regular basis to see if they could be causing an issue for you. It might even be helpful to start a food journal and record what you eat, as well as how you feel throughout the day to see what is impacting you the most.

Here are a few things to know about the foods you eat:

Sugar

Sugar and high fructose corn syrup can increase your blood sugar level, which will ultimately result in a crash later in the day. Because the levels go up and down, this causes an issue for your brain. You’ll start out having too much blood glucose and then too little. When your blood glucose level is too low, it causes mood swings, tiredness, irritability, and even mental confusion.

Low-Fat Diets

Low-fat diets are also problematic because they directly impact how your brain functions on a daily basis.

Many mistakenly believe that eliminating fat from their diets will help them lose weight, but the reality is, your body actually needs the nutrition that healthy fats provide. And by cutting out fats entirely, you’re doing more harm than good.

In fact, the author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working?, Dr. Datis Kharrazian, says that your brain begins to digest itself in order to get the raw materials it needs to create the brain chemicals your body relies on. This occurs when you aren’t providing you body with the dietary fat it needs to function properly.

In order to prevent brain fog, make sure you’re incorporating healthy fats into your diet. These healthy fats include:

  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Wild salmon
  • Eggs
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Grass-fed meat

Food Allergens

It’s also important to note that you should avoid any foods that you have a sensitivity or allergy to. When you consume these foods, it can also put you into a state of brain fog. The top food allergies include wheat, corn, soy, dairy, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts.

By eating foods that your body has trouble tolerating, it can also impact the health of your gut by causing inflammation. Inflammation can prevent your body from absorbing the nutrients it needs and even impact hormones.

If you suspect you may have a sensitivity or allergy to any of those foods (or any others), express the concern to your doctor. You can get tested to find out. You can also go on an elimination diet to figure out if any foods are triggers for you.

Food Additives

Unfortunately, the foods we consume on a regular basis are often filled with a lot of additives that aren’t great for our bodies. Before you stock up on your favorite treats at the store, take a look at the ingredients. Do the same at restaurants as well. If the server can’t provide you with nutrition facts, you may be able to find them online.

You should avoid foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) because it can lead to mood swings, headaches, anxiety, and even depression. Sometimes this is clearly labeled on a food’s packaging, but it’s often disguised under terms like “natural flavors”, “seasoning”, or “spices”. If you want to find out what those vague ingredients actually are, do some research online or call the company directly.

You’ll also want to avoid food additives like aspartame and sucralose. Aspartame is made from aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol, all of which can damage your brain. Sucralose is made when sugar is bonded to chlorine, which makes it a toxic chlorocarbon.

3. Not Enough Fluids

We all know it’s important to keep our bodies hydrated by drinking water, but the truth is, many of us aren’t drinking enough on a daily basis. The recommendation is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water throughout the day (not all at once). This provides your body with the hydration it needs to function properly.

Your brain is comprised of 75% water and even a mild case of dehydration can impact mental cognition. In fact, it only takes 2% dehydration to negatively impact your memory and your attention. So, if you find that you’re having trouble staying focused throughout your day at the office, ask yourself if you’re drinking enough water.

It’s helpful to keep a water bottle on your desk at all time and you can even set a reminder to drink water throughout the day. Many people prefer Nalgene’s BPA-Free Water Bottle with millimeter markers for easy measurement.

Not only will staying hydrated help your mind, but you’ll likely notice an increase in energy and even better skin.

4. Vitamin Deficiency

Vitamin deficiencies are another common cause of brain fog symptoms, but the key to resolving it is to figure out which vitamins you are lacking. For many adults who struggle with poor memory, they may have a vitamin B12 deficiency. In fact, this particular deficiency affects around 40% of adults.

The cause of your brain fog could be that you’re lacking vitamin D, which is that powerful vitamin the sun provides us with. When people are low on vitamin D, they often experience low moods, poor memory, and even feelings of depression (usually categorized as “Seasonal Affective Disorder”). This is a major problem worldwide and can result in some very serious health issues. Many people find they get especially low on vitamin D during the winter months when they spend less time outdoors. If this is the case for you, a supplement will help.

Because omega-3 fatty acids are essential to brain health, it’s important that we consume plenty of it on a regular basis. Omega-3s are important for our memory and for the overall function of our brains. You can add more omega-3s into your diet by consuming wild, fatty fish like sardines and salmon or by taking a daily supplement.

If you are someone who really struggles with brain fog, you’ll want to purchase an omega-3 supplement that also contains DHA. DHA is an important part of your brain cells and therefore essential to your mental health.

You can determine which vitamins you’re deficient in by doing a simple blood test at your doctor’s office. This will ensure you’re getting the right vitamins into your body and giving yourself a correct dosage.

5. Stress

If you experience brain fog on a regular basis, you should also consider how stressed you are. If you find that your stress levels are high pretty often, now would be a good time to start doing some stress-relieving exercises. Prolonged stress can lead to some serious health issues such as depression and anxiety. It can even cause insomnia and memory loss.

When you’re stressed, your body produces more cortisol (a stress hormone). That leads to an increase in free radicals inside your brain, which can damage the membranes of your brain cells and ultimately cause them to die. To decrease feelings of brain fog and prevent damage like this from happening to your brain, you need to find ways to relieve your stress.

One of the keys to decreasing stress is to incorporate things that you love into your daily life. Ask yourself what makes you happy. You might find that an uplifting playlist does the trick for you or maybe you’ve jumped on the adult coloring trend. Whatever it is, figure out what works to relieve your stress and do more of it.

6. Not Enough Exercise

You may hate exercising, but your brain actually loves it and needs it in order to function properly. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which lift your mood, and it also decreases the amount of cortisol in your body, thus cutting down on those stressed out feelings. Exercise can also lower inflammation and help you to be healthier overall.

So, to get more oxygen flowing to your brain and to stimulate the formation of new brain cells, you need to incorporate a great workout into your regular routine. Whether you go for a walk or do a full cardio session is entirely up to you. Either one provides amazing benefits for your mind and body. This is especially important for those who sit at a desk all day long.

You should also make sure to incorporate some rest days into your workout schedule so that your body has time to rest and restore itself. Not only will you feel the impact of a great workout immediately after you’re done, but getting into the habit of exercising regularly will provide you with a great feeling throughout the whole week.

7. Other Medications & Drugs

It’s no secret that the medications we take come with a laundry list of side effects. More often than not, those side effects are symptoms of brain fog. They can cause forgetfulness, make it harder for you to concentrate, and even impact your memory.

If you notice that you’re dealing with any of these symptoms, and especially if they are correlated to you starting a new medication, consult with a doctor. Your doctor will be able to let you know if brain fog is a common side effect of your medication and should be able to address the issue. Switching from one medication to another may do the trick or your doctor might have some other helpful advice.

The Best Ways to Relieve Brain Fog

If you’re tired of dealing with brain fog and want some easy ways to deal with it, these five tips are sure to help you out.

1. Sleep

As mentioned above, if you know that you aren’t getting enough sleep every night, it’s very likely that it’s what is causing your brain fog symptoms. To help remedy the situation, try to get into the habit of going to bed at the same time every night. You’ll want to hit the sheets early enough that you’re able to get in a full eight hours or whatever your body needs to function at its best. Here are a few simple tips to ensure that you get to bed on time and fall asleep fast:

  • Don’t drink caffeine for at least five hours before your bedtime.
  • Create a ritual before going to bed (i.e. reading or making your bed).
  • Don’t wait until you feel sleepy.

2. Supplements

There are plenty of supplements on the market that can help clear up brain fog and boost your cognitive function. As mentioned above, it could be as simple as taking vitamin B12 or vitamin D if you find that you have a deficiency. You may also be low on omega-3, which you can get by consuming a supplement on a daily basis.

Adaptogens are also helpful at lowering cortisol levels within your body so you can effectively fight off stress and fatigue. Holy basil, maca, and ashwagandha are all great for this.

View All Brain Fog Supplements

3. Change Your Diet

Are you constantly snacking on sugary treats or other junk foods? Do you feel like your diet isn’t balanced whatsoever? Well, it’s time for a change! Changing up your diet will directly impact how you feel and can help banish those feelings of brain fog.

Make sure you’re getting plenty of healthy fats and proteins in your daily diet. This will keep your energy levels up and give your body the nutrients it craves. Great sources of protein include meat, dairy, fish, and also eggs. For those health fats, you’ll want to eat things like nuts, avocados, coconut oil, and olive oil.

4. Exercise

By creating a regular workout routine and sticking to it, you’ll be doing a lot of favors for your body. Not only will you see changes in the physical appearance of your body, but you’ll feel changes in your mood, energy levels, and your thinking. To get a good workout into your day, try something like going for a walk or doing a morning yoga routine. If you want something more active, get in a good cardio session either at home or at the gym. It’s important that, no matter what, you just get up out of the chair and get moving.

5. Meditation

Meditation is amazing for relieving stress because it can help boost your mood and help you to handle stress better when it comes along. In fact, those who meditate regularly report improved focus and concentration, better sleep, more creativity, and less stress.

There are plenty of meditation CDs or videos that you can follow along with. Try starting and ending your day with meditation for optimal results and you’ll surely feel better in no time at all.

Banishing Brain Fog

If you’re ready to say goodbye to brain fog forever, make sure you read through our list of causes and figure out what’s likely creating an issue for you. From there, incorporate the five brain fog relieving tips to start seeing results.

DISCLAIMER: We are not doctors. The opinions on this website are not to be taken as medical advice. None of these opinions have been reviewed by the FDA. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements. We receive free products to review and participate in affiliate programs, where we are compensated for items purchased through links from our site (at no cost to the buyer). See our disclosure page for our list of comped products and affiliate programs. BrainWiz.org is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

One Comment

  1. I’ve had brain fog for as long as I can remember. In fact, I think it’s one of the main reasons I did so poorly in high school. Why hasn’t brain fog been studied more? I’m sure there are secretly bright students who perform poorly just due to the symptoms of brain fog… Shame.

    I’ve literally devoted hundreds of hours trying to figure out what works best to beat it. What I ended up coming up with was a strict diet (including supplements), exercise, and sleep regimen. If I follow it carefully, I am able to keep my brain fog at bay.

    One thing I noticed was that once I cut out gluten and refined sugar from my diet, my brain fog seriously subsided. I think that the gluten and sugar was causing a lot of inflammation.

    Thanks for putting this together. Hopefully it helps others who need to beat this awful predicament.

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