Brain fog is a common issue, but what causes it? Learn more about the causes of brain fog and how to get rid of it.
Are you struggling with brain fog? You’re not alone. Many people deal with this issue on a daily basis.
Brain fog, also called “brain fatigue,” is a medical condition that can range from a mild to severe experience of mental confusion. You may have trouble with short-term memory, remembering things mid-sentence, find your mind trailing off, or have difficulty concentrating.
Whether it’s difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, or just general mental fatigue, brain fog can be a real drag. The good news is that there are steps to improve your brain health you can take to get rid of it.
Cognitive symptoms like brain fog can be especially common for women in menopause due to hormonal changes. To learn more about how to manage this phase of life, check out the 10 most common menopause symptoms, and what you can do about them.
In this blog post, we’ll explore what causes brain fog and how to manage it.
Table of contents
What is Brain Fog?Common Symptoms of Brain FogCommon Causes of Brain FogMenopauseDiabetesLack of SleepNutritional DeficienciesSide Effects of MedicationsNeurological DisordersDepression or AnxietyDehydrationStressHow to Get Rid of Brain FogHydrateGet Enough SleepReduce StressEat HealthyExercise RegularlyImprove Mental SharpnessConsider Natural Hormone ReplacementFoods That Help With Brain FogIs Brain Fog the Same as Dementia?Do Carbs Cause Brain Fog?Can Brain Fog Be Permanent?Brain Fog In Menopause
What is Brain Fog?
Have you ever had a day when you couldn’t focus on a single task, found yourself forgetting things more than usual, or felt downright fuzzy? How about memory problems that don’t seem typical?
You were likely suffering from brain fog.
Brain fog describes cognitive difficulties such as dissociation, fatigue, forgetfulness, and excessive cognitive effort.
It can be caused by a variety of things, including poor sleep, stress, hormonal imbalances, and nutritional deficiencies. While brain fog can be a temporary condition, it can also be a symptom of more serious underlying health issues.
Common Symptoms of Brain Fog
In general, symptoms of brain fog can include:
Low energy or motivation
Trouble sleeping through the night
Overall, brain fog causes your thinking to feel cloudy or sluggish—much like when you’re sick with a head cold or are jet-lagged from a long flight.
Common Causes of Brain Fog
Since brain fog is a symptom and not a condition itself, where, exactly, is it coming from? If you’re experiencing brain fog, it could be due to one of these common causes.
Remember to always check in with your doctor if you think testing or diagnostics are required.
Yes, with all the other joys of this glorious time of life, menopause can also bring bouts of brain fog. Scour the internet for memes, and you’ll find plenty that poke fun at the forgetfulness and memory loss that often comes with your menopausal years!
Brain fog during menopause is all thanks to fluctuating hormones in your body. Specifically, a decrease in estrogen. Studies have confirmed that performance on certain memory tasks declines during the menopausal years.
But don’t worry: as your hormones even out, your mental fog likely will too. Research also shows that memory usually improves in post-menopausal years.
People with diabetes can often experience periods of brain fog due to fluctuating glucose. Since glucose is the primary energy source for your brain, fluctuating levels in diabetics can cause short-term brain fog.
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, if you’re experiencing mental confusion or periods of brain fatigue, speak with your healthcare provider about different ways to manage your diabetes.
Lack of Sleep
It should come as no surprise that when you’re sleep deprived, you’re a bit foggy. Your brain needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night to function with the best executive function.
When you experience chronic, long-term sleep deprivation, brain fog and a general impact on your cognitive abilities, like feeling a bit fuzzy are to be expected.
I recommend trying a few of these science backed tips to get better sleep, and to start getting the rest your body needs!
Certain nutrients are essential for proper brain function. Poor nutrition can lead to brain fog. Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet and taking a multivitamin if needed.
Your brain fog could be from a vitamin B12 deficiency.
B12 plays an important role in the health of your brain and nervous symptom. If you suffer from digestive woes and often take medications like Zantac or Pepcid, you may also be particularly prone to having a B12 deficiency.
To correct it, either take a B12 supplement and/or try incorporating more of the following foods which are high in B12 into your diet:
Seafood, such as salmon, shrimp, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring
Side Effects of Medications
Brain fog can be a side effect of many common medications.
Even if it isn’t listed as a symptom of your medication, if you notice that your brain fog has only come about when you’ve started a new medication treatment plan, talk to your doctor.
Everybody is different, and how you metabolize or handle medication can affect your mental state.
Aside from a lack of sleep or nutritional deficiencies, specific disorders can cause brain fog. Conditions like lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia can be some of the main culprits.
If you’ve ruled out other potential causes and can’t seem to get to the bottom of things, make an appointment with your doctor to make sure one of these disorders isn’t to blame.
Depression or Anxiety
If you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, it could also be the cause of brain fog.
Because of the mental energy it takes to be in a constant state of stress, worry, or depression, these conditions can naturally make you may feel more confused, listless, or mentally drained.
Talk with a doctor and/or psychologist to manage underlying mental health conditions, and you’ll likely feel your brain fog lift as well.
Dehydration can cause a number of issues, brain fog included.
When you’re dehydrated, your body and brain don’t function as well as they should. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
Stress can take a toll on your mind and body. When you’re stressed, your body is in a constant state of fight-or-flight, which can lead to mental fatigue and brain fog.
Try to find ways to relieve stress in your life.
How to Get Rid of Brain Fog
Now that we know some of the main causes of brain fog, let’s explore some ways to get rid of it.
Drink plenty of water! Dehydration can cause brain fog. Make sure you’re drinking 8-10 glasses of water each day to stay properly hydrated.
Struggling to get your daily water intake? Try my favorite tips for drinking more water.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential for proper brain function. Make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night to help reduce brain fog.
I know, I know, great sleep can be hard to get for a variety of reasons. In fact sleep problems are incredibly common. Check with your medical provider if you think you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.
I recommend trying a few of these 15 science-backed tips to relax and get better sleep.
Stress can contribute to brain fog. Try to find ways to reduce stress in your life through relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.
These are a few of my favorite resources on stress:
A healthy diet is important for proper brain function. Make sure you’re eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Also, consider taking a multivitamin to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.
Exercise is great for your mind and body. Not only will it help reduce stress, but it will also improve blood flow to the brain and help boost cognitive function.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to ease into regular exercise:
Improve Mental Sharpness
After identifying one of the possible causes above, it’s important to treat the underlying issue that’s causing your brain fog.
If the main cause of your brain fog is menopause or aging, though, there are some daily tasks you can do to improve your mental sharpness:
Learning a new language
Playing an instrument
Consider Natural Hormone Replacement
Natural hormone replacement is a personal decision that you and your doctor can discuss.
I always advise starting with nutrition and lifestyle changes tailored to midlife women’s needs first. Many of these changes might be able to help balance your hormones and reduce symptoms like brain fog.
However, if problems persist, natural hormone replacement is something to consider.
Here are two nutritionists that I follow that share hormone replacement therapy education to help you thrive as you reach menopause. I am seven years post menopause and a believe that you have to be your own advocate to solve your issues.
There are also certain foods you can eat that boost brain function. Read below to discover which foods can help with brain fog.
Foods That Help With Brain Fog
Eating a well-balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals is one of the best ways to keep your brain and body healthy. But there are also specific herbs, spices, and foods that have been shown to specifically improve memory and cognitive function.
Add the foods below to your shopping cart if you want to feel sharper.
Dried oregano contains some of the highest sources of luteolin, according to the USDA.
Why does this matter? Luteolin is a plant compound that fights inflammation, boosts cognitive function, and has been shown to improve memory.
Walnuts are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which help boost brain function and can also improve your mood.
Add walnuts to your afternoon trail mix, or throw onto a salad for some quick brain-boosting power.
Cacao helps improve cerebral blood flow and promotes the development of new blood vessels.
Better blood flow in the brain = the sharper you’ll feel.
It’s also high in antioxidants called flavanols, which have been shown to help boost memory and overall brain function. Try adding raw cacao nibs to your morning oatmeal or smoothie.
This leafy green is high in inflammation-fighting antioxidants which protect the brain from free radicals. Spinach is also high in B vitamins and iron—and a deficiency in either one can contribute to mental fatigue.
In addition to being a wonderful anti-inflammatory, turmeric helps fuel your brain and increase neuroplasticity. Turmeric is found in most curries and can easily be added to tons of recipes, from your morning oatmeal to chicken recipes and more.
Try this simple recipe for Turmeric Golden Milk, a yummy warming drink that’s as soothing as it is delicious.
A great source of B vitamins, nutritional yeast boosts cognitive function and memory performance.
Sprinkle some over top of roasted veggies or toss with some pasta. You can typically find nutritional yeast in the healthy foods bulk section of your grocery store—not everywhere carries it, but it’s worth checking out a co-op or health foods store to find this nutritional powerhouse.
Is Brain Fog the Same as Dementia?
Thankfully, brain fog is not the same as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Just because you’re experiencing a bout of brain fog doesn’t mean you need to be concerned about cognitive decline.
According to rheumatologist Robert Lahita, MD, PhD, who spoke with Prevention, “Impermanence is the big difference between what we know as brain fog and actual dementia.”
Brain fog may last a few days or weeks, or come and go at random as the underlying cause gets sorted out, but dementia is much more severe and will continue to progress.
Always speak with your doctor about how you’re feeling, but be careful not to jump to conclusions! There are many different factors that can cause episodes of brain fog.
Do Carbs Cause Brain Fog?
There is no definitive answer to this question. Some people find that consuming carbohydrates can lead to feeling more sluggish and confused, while others find that carbs help to boost their energy and mental clarity.
If you find that carbs are causing brain fog, it may be helpful to limit your intake of them, or to consume complex carbs instead of simple sugars.
Can Brain Fog Be Permanent?
Brain fog is not a permanent condition. However, if it is chronic and not properly addressed, it can lead to long-term cognitive impairment.
If you are struggling with brain fog, it is important to see a doctor to rule out any underlying health issues. Additionally, there are lifestyle and diet changes that can help to improve brain fog.
Brain Fog In Menopause
Many women experience brain fog during menopause, due to the fluctuating hormone levels. This can lead to forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and general feelings of mental fatigue.
If you are going through menopause and struggling with brain fog, there are some lifestyle changes that can help, including getting enough sleep, managing stress, and eating a healthy diet.
Brain fog is a pesky condition that can cause difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, or just general mental fatigue. I recommend trying as many of the tips above as you can to try and improve brain fog symptoms!