7 Causes of Brain Fog (And How To Fix It)

Healthy Living, Lifestyle, Lower Body Workouts

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // November 6, 2017

Feeling a bit fuzzy lately?

Brain fog, also called “brain fatigue,” can range from a mild to severe experience of mental confusion.

You may have trouble remembering things mid-sentence, find your mind trailing off, or have difficulty concentrating.

Let’s take a look at the symptoms of brain fog, its causes, and—most importantly—how to get rid of brain fog and get back to feeling like yourself again.

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? You were likely suffering from brain fog.

Brain fog describes cognitive difficulties such as dissociation, fatigue, forgetfulness, and excessive cognitive effort.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

In general, symptoms of brain fog can include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Forgetfulness
  • Low energy or motivation
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • 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.

What Causes 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.

1. Menopause

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 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 brain fog likely will too. Research also shows that memory usually improves in post-menopausal years.

Related: How To Deal With The 10 Most Common Menopause Symptoms

2. Diabetes

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 doctors about different ways to manage your Diabetes.

3. 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 at its best.

When you experience chronic, long-term sleep deprivation, brain fog and feeling a bit fuzzy are to be expected.

A woman sleeping on a white pillow.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Try resetting your natural body clock by going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day and keeping a lavender aromatherapy diffuser by your bed to help induce sleep.

4. Nutritional Deficiencies

Your brain fog could be from a vitamin B12 deficiency.

B12 is extremely important for 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
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Eggs
  • Fortified yeast

5. 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, talk to your doctor.

Everybody is different, and how you metabolize or handle medication can affect your mental state.

6. Neurological Disorders

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.

7. Depression or Anxiety

If you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, you may also experience brain fog.

Sad woman wearing casual clothes sits on couch at home.
Photo Credit: DepositPhotos

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.

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 mental 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.

Activities That Help Get Rid Of Brain Fog

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 things you can do to improve your mental sharpness:

  • Meditation
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Daily exercise
  • Learning a new language
  • Writing
  • Playing an instrument
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi

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

bowl of walnuts

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.


Spinach 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.

Nutritional Yeast

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.

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