Brain fog is common, but depending on the severity, it can feel debilitating.
When you struggle with brain fog, it can affect your career and your relationships. It can even lead you to be in dangerous situations. For example, human error is the primary cause of car accidents. If you’re experiencing brain fog you’re not focusing on the road, and you could be at greater risk of being in an accident.
Understanding the underlying causes of brain fog can be helpful, and there are also some remedies you might try to deal with it.
What is Brain Fog?
Brain fog isn’t an independent condition. Instead, it’s usually a symptom of something else. If you have symptoms of brain fog you might feel scattered, disorganized, or disoriented. Brain fog can make it challenging to think through complex scenarios, and you might have a hard time expressing your thoughts.
Fatigue, decreased focus, and memory problems are all related to brain fog.
Brain fog can mean you don’t feel mentally sharp, you process things more slowly, you have memory lapses or you have problems with attention.
If you deal with brain fog, you may have a difficult time making decisions, and it can create challenges in your home and work life.
So what causes it?
The Causes of Brain Fog
There isn’t one set cause of brain fog, but instead, there are many and sometimes you may be dealing with multiple potential causes.
Generally, causes of brain fog can include:
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Mental health disorders
- Hormonal or endocrine changes
- Sleep deprivation
- Lack of exercise
- Certain medications like blood pressure medicine, sleep aids, anti-anxiety medicines, and antihistamines
- Chemotherapy or other cancer treatments
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Low blood sugar
- Alzheimer’s disease or age-related cognitive decline
- Multiple sclerosis
What Should You Do?
First and foremost, if you’re experiencing brain fog and you haven’t spoken with your health care provider yet, that’s one of the first things you should do. Your doctor will need to rule out any potential underlying conditions that could be causing the brain fog. That’s important because some conditions can be serious or may need treatment.
The treatments can be very different, depending on what’s causing the brain fog. For example, the treatment options for anxiety-induced brain fog are going to be very different than treatments for brain fog that’s stemming from a nutritional deficiency.
It may turn out that there isn’t any major underlying reason for your brain fog.
Dealing with Brain Fog
Again, how you deal with brain fog depends on what’s causing it.
If you have an autoimmune disease that’s causing it, your doctor may put you on a steroid or some other type of medicine to control inflammation and stop your immune system from overreacting.
If it’s a nutritional deficiency, that can be easier to deal with because you can start using supplements if necessary.
Generally, if you have brain fog, the following steps can be helpful:
- Try to get at least eight to nine hours of sleep a night
- Don’t use caffeine or alcohol in excess as both can worsen brain fog
- Get regular physical activity
- Try to solve brain puzzles or do games that activate your brain
- Do activities that you enjoy
- Eat a healthy diet that’s low in processed items and high in protein, healthy fat, fruits, and vegetables.
If stress seems to trigger your brain fog or make it worse, then you should focus on healthy coping mechanisms and avoiding triggers when possible. You might also consider working with a therapist who can help you deal with negative thought patterns and break them.
As far as nutritional deficiencies, there are quite a few that most often play a role in brain fog.
A vitamin B-12 deficiency is one of the most common. Vitamin B-12 plays an important role in the functionality of the brain.
Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to brain fog. Many people are deficient in vitamin D, and it can have far-reaching health effects.
If you’re anemic, you may not produce enough red blood cells, leading to brain fog along with other symptoms. In this case, the solution might be taking an iron supplement, although not everyone with low red blood cells should take an iron supplement, so speak with your doctor before taking anything.
You may be allergic or sensitive to certain foods, and that can cause brain fog too. For example, many people have sensitivities or allergies to dairy and peanuts. If you have a gluten intolerance, it can cause cognitive dysfunction because of links to inflammatory pathways.
Hormonal imbalances can lead to brain fog, and especially imbalances with thyroid hormones. When your body produces too little or too much of a hormone, you have problems with cognitive function.
If a medication is causing your brain fog, don’t just stop taking it. Instead, talk to your health care provider.
You might be able to lower your dosage or try another medicine.
If your doctor gives you the green light, some people find intermittent fasting helps their brain fog, and it’s good for neurological health overall. Intermittent fasting means that you extend the time between your meals. You might, for example, stop eating at 7 p.m. and not eat again until noon the next day.
Too often, people will ignore brain fog and think it’s not happening or that it’s no big deal. That’s bad for your quality of life, but that can also mean you’re missing a potentially serious underlying health condition requiring treatment.
You shouldn’t have to go through life with brain fog.
Talk to your doctor who can do different tests and get to the bottom of your brain fog so you can work toward treating it, whether with medicine, nutrition, lifestyle changes, or a combination.
There are options available to you if you’re dealing with the effects of brain fog, and they can make a big change in your life.