8 Ways To Eliminate Your Brain Fog Once And For All
You know that feeling of confusion, forgetfulness, and lack of focus you have every so often? Although “brain fog” is not a medically recognized term, it’s a common feeling that many people suffer with. But, even though many people experience it, brain fog is by no means normal.
In fact, it is avoidable and 100% treatable. In this 8-part series, you’ll learn the main causes of brain fog and what you can do to get rid of that hazy feeling once and for all.
What Is Brain Fog?
When you’re feeling foggy, unfocused, disorganized, and like you just can’t think, your brain is sending an important signal that there’s an imbalance in your life that needs to be addressed. It affects your ability to think and you may find it difficult to put your thoughts into words.
The 8 Causes of Brain Fog
The causes of brain fog usually fall into two categories — lifestyle-related or a side effect of a medical condition or medication.
Below are the eight main causes of brain fog and what you can do to prevent each one.
- You Are Eating The Wrong Foods
- Nutritional Deficiencies
- Lack Of Quality Sleep
- Chronic Stress
- Physical Inactivity
- Toxins In Your Home
- Underlying Health Conditions
- Prescription Drugs and OTC Medications
8 Ways To Eliminate Your Brain Fog Once And For All [Part 1]
You Are Eating the Wrong Foods
One of the first things you may think when your brain gets foggy is “Was it something I ate (or didn’t eat enough of)?” Eating the wrong foods is by far, the most common cause of brain fog. But luckily, it’s also the one that’s easiest to fix!
Watch Out For Sugar
Your brain uses glucose (sugar) as fuel, but refined carbohydrates like sugar and high fructose corn syrup are not good sources of fuel. Your brain gets a burst of too much glucose, then too little.
Low glucose in your brain leads to brain fog, mood swings, irritability, tiredness, mental confusion, and impaired judgment. On the other hand, high blood glucose levels lead to insulin resistance and diabetes, both of which have been linked to Alzheimer’s.
Increase The Fat In Your Diet
That wasn’t a typo.
If glucose is the fuel for your brain, then fat is the “super fuel”.
Your brain is comprised of 60% fat, which is why low-fat diets have failed so disastrously, both for our weights and for our brains. Fat helps the brain produce the raw materials it needs to create essential brain chemicals. This is why there low-fat diets are so awful – without enough fat, the brain will literally consume itself.
When you don’t eat enough healthy fats, the brain uses itself for fuel.
To keep your brain healthy and to get rid of brain fog, we recommend a diet of roughly 50% healthy fat from nuts, avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, wild salmon, eggs, and grass-fed meat.
Get Rid of Vegetable Oils
Note that the list above does not include vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower or canola oil.
Canola oil especially is high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids which contribute to brain inflammation. Brain inflammation can be an underlying cause of not only brain fog, but also ADHD, anxiety, depression, and memory loss, as well as serious neurological diseases such as stroke and Alzheimer’s.
And you don’t need to be concerned about dietary cholesterol being bad for your brain.
Your brain contains a lot of cholesterol and too little of it increases your risk of dementia, depression, and even suicide. Avoiding dietary cholesterol not only puts your brain at risk, but also your life.
Being mindful of what you eat is a huge part of reducing brain fog and getting your brain back on track. There are 3 ways to ensure you’re eating the proper foods to keep your brain healthy. 1) Watch out for added sugars in your foods; 2) eat more healthy fats; and 3) remove vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, etc.) from your diet.
8 Ways To Eliminate Your Brain Fog Once And For All [Part 2]
Let’s say you’re already eating healthy — you’re not consuming too much sugar, you eat healthy fats, and you’ve removed vegetable oils from your diet. But for some reason, your brain is still feeling fuzzy. In that case, you may want to look into vitamin supplements. Nutritional deficiencies are still quite common — they’re not just a thing of the past!
Your brain needs all kinds of essential nutrients and vitamins to work properly, but there are a few deficiencies are more likely to slow you down. Below are 3 of the most common nutrition deficiencies that are likely to manifest themselves as brain fog.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
If you have poor memory and you feel like you’re in a constant state of fogginess, you may have a vitamin B12 deficiency. It’s one of the most common vitamin deficiencies, affecting 40% of adults.
Although common, a Vitamin B12 deficiency is a serious matter. It should not be ignored since it can lead to a wide variety of mental and neurological disorders.
Two particularly high risk groups are: 1) seniors, who often have poor nutrient absorption; and 2) vegetarians/vegans, since B12 is found only in animal products.
Digestive disorders and the use of acid-suppressing medications also increase your risk of deficiency. Antacids like Nexium, Pepcid, and Zantac are strongly linked to vitamin B12 deficiency since stomach acid is needed to break down and absorb vitamin B12.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D can lift your mood, eliminate brain fog and depression, improve memory, and increase your problem-solving ability. However, over 1 billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient.
Sun exposure is the best source of vitamin D, but few people who live in North America and much of Europe can realistically get the sun they need year-round. Most people benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 essential fatty acids are found in high concentrations in the brain. They are crucial to memory and overall brain health and function, yet are widely lacking in our diet.
The best dietary sources are wild-caught fatty fish like sardines, salmon, and trout. If these fish aren’t a regular part of your diet, consider taking an omega-3 supplement.
When your brain fog is especially bad, choose a supplement with a high concentration of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Of all the omega-3s, DHA is the most beneficial for your brain. It’s a major structural component of brain cells, especially of those in the cerebral cortex — the area of the brain associated with memory, language, abstraction, creativity, judgment, emotion and attention.
8 Ways To Eliminate Your Brain Fog Once And For All [Part 3]
At least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders. If you have brain fog, you may be one of them.
Sleep is critical to the way your brain works both short term and long term.
While you sleep, cerebral fluid rushes in, “power washing” your brain, clearing it of debris. Also, it’s during sleep that you consolidate memories so you can remember what you learned the previous day.
Every day you lose brain cells, but every night you have the opportunity to create new brain cells — provided you are getting enough high-quality uninterrupted sleep.
Just one bad night can affect your memory, concentration, coordination, mood, judgment, and ability to handle stress the following day.
According to Dr. Alexandros Vgontzas, director of the Penn State Hershey Sleep Research and Treatment Center, losing one night of sleep affects your mental performance as much as being legally drunk.
Getting adequate sleep can go a long way towards curing many cases of brain fog.
There are several ways you can improve your sleep:
- Reduce your caffeine intake. We all seem to run on caffeine, and even though it wakes us up, it could contribute to insomnia, stress, anxiety, and even full-blown panic attacks. By drinking your coffee early and experimenting with “cut-off times”, you could greatly improve your sleep habits.
- Don’t snack right before bed. A good rule of thumb is not to eat less than 2-3 hours before bed. But, if you’re very hungry, snack on something that has healthy carbs and a little protein.
- Stick to a routine. Try as much as possible to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. If you can’t avoid erratic sleep schedules, consider melatonin supplements to help regulate your internal clock.
If you want to reduce brain fog, getting a good night’s sleep is key. Unless there’s an underlying health condition, you can improve your sleep habits simply by making a few changes to your lifestyle. By making small changes to your daily habits, you can greatly improve your sleep.
8 Ways To Eliminate Your Brain Fog Once And For All [Part 4]
Stress has become a weird “badge of honor” in our society. It is wrongly equated with being productive and successful.
However, being stressed puts you at a greater risk for every major disease you can think of, including brain diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. And, chronic stress can lead to anxiety, depression, poor decision making, insomnia, memory loss, and of course, brain fog.
Cortisol is the hormone released when you’re stressed, and it’s fine in small amounts. But, too much of the stress hormone can interfere leads to a surplus free radicals — unattached oxygen molecules — that damage brain cell membranes. When the brain cell membranes are damaged, this causes them to lose function and die.
Cortisol interferes with the formation of new brain cells; stress causes brain cells to prematurely “commit suicide” before they’re fully developed.
Stress Management Techniques That Works Well … and Fast
The best stress reduction technique that offers significant added benefits is meditation. Over 20 million Americans meditate regularly. In fact, the US Marines use meditation to help troops deal with stressful situations they face on the job. “It’s like doing pushups for the brain,” one general says.
Corporate executives at General Mills, Target, Google, Apple, Nike, HBO, Procter & Gamble, and Aetna Insurance use it to maximize their brain health and fitness. Meditation can make you happier, smarter, and more resilient to life’s ups and downs.
People who regularly meditate experience improved focus and concentration, greater creativity, reduced stress, and better sleep. Research shows it can even decrease your biological age by 12 years!
More Mind Body Relaxation Techniques
Meditation is not the only proven way to conquer stress.
Many people don’t have the patience for traditional meditation since it can take years to master. But, brainwave entrainment technology is a “shortcut” to get similar benefits quickly and easily. All you have to do is put on your headset and listen.
Other proven relaxation techniques to consider include:
- Diaphragmatic breathing
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
- Autogenic training
You might want to try one of the latest personal biofeedback devices such as the emWave2, Muse, NeuroSky, or Thync.
Most of these techniques can deliver noticeable stress relief within a few minutes.
8 Ways To Eliminate Your Brain Fog Once And For All [Part 5]
Physical exercise increases endorphins and gets more glucose and oxygen flowing to the brain. It also burns off cortisol (the stress hormone) and stimulates new brain cell formation. In fact, physical exercise may be the single most important way to improve the health and function of your brain. So, when you aren’t doing enough physical activity, you may experience brain fog in a big way.
But, you don’t need to work out strenuously to remedy this. There are several easy ways to give your brain small energy boosts throughout the day.
Easy Ways To Boost Your Physical Activity
- Walk around. Walking is one of the best exercises for your brain. That’s why you often hear suggestions like “take a walk around the block” when you have a mental block. Walking helps increase the glucose and oxygen flowing to the brain, which in turn stimulates brain cell formation. Just taking a quick walk can help clear your unwanted brain fog.
- Stand up frequently during long sitting periods. You’ve probably heard that too much sitting is very bad for your brain and your overall health. In fact, sitting has been called “the new smoking.” The easiest way to counteract sitting at your desk all day is to simply stand up frequently throughout the day. Just by using those muscles, you’re stimulating brain function and helping to reduce that brain fog.
8 Ways To Eliminate Your Brain Fog Once And For All [Part 6]
Toxins In Your Home
Unfortunately, in this day and age, we live in a sea of untested and unregulated chemicals. Toxins lurk in your home, in the water you drink, and the air you breathe.
Of the 80,000 new chemicals we have placed into our environment in the past 100 years, only a few hundred have been tested for safety.
Although outdoor pollution can cause cognitive problems, indoor air pollution is often ten times more prevalent!
Toxins like formaldehyde and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are released from your carpet, furniture, and mattress. Many household cleaners have toxic chemicals in them and just inhaling them can be detrimental to your health. Molds, dust, pet dander, pollen, perfume, air fresheners, and cigarette smoke can get trapped inside the average home, creating even more of this “chemical stew.”
And this chemical stew can cause brain fog, fatigue, and memory loss.
While you can’t control the air outdoors or at work, you can control the air you breathe at home. Below are some tips on how to reduce the toxins in your home:
Reducing Toxins In Your Home
- Switch to natural cleaning products and personal care products
- Don’t smoke inside — not even if you open the window!
- Unplug your air fresheners
- Run a HEPA air filter in your bedroom to lighten your toxin load while you sleep.
8 Ways To Eliminate Your Brain Fog Once And For All [Part 7]
Underlying Health Conditions
Although the factors above outline unhealthy lifestyle factors that cause brain fog, there are also underlying health conditions that plagues many people and is the root cause of their cognitive issues.
If you were to ask your doctor “What causes brain fog?”, the answer you receive will not be very helpful. As I mentioned earlier in this post, there is no clinical definition of brain fog and therefore, no “brain fog test” that you can take to determine if you have brain fog.
However, your doctor can test you for underlying health conditions, which could be the source of your problems. Brain fog is such a common side effect of many medical conditions that they have their own condition-specific brain fog term, which I’ve listed below:
A common side effect of chemotherapy used to treat cancer is a type of brain fog dubbed “chemo fog” or “chemo brain.”
The American Cancer Society’s official stance is that chemo brain is caused by a combination of the disease itself, treatments, sleep problems, hormonal changes, depression, and stress.
When researchers scanned patients’ brain activity before and after chemo treatments, they found chemotherapy caused observable changes in brain function indicating that chemotherapy itself plays at least some role in mental decline.
Brain fog is one of the most common complaints of people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Many say their “fibro fog” is more of a disability than their pain and fatigue.
People with CFS are sometimes dismissed as being hypochondriacs and told that their problems are “all in their head.” However, Stanford University researchers recently found distinct differences between the brains of patients with CFS and those of healthy people which should help put these unfortunate ideas to rest.
Lupus fog is a term used to describe the cognitive impairments that almost always appear with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
In some people, lupus fog is constant but more often it waxes and wanes along with other lupus symptoms.
The brain fog that accompanies thyroid disorders hasn’t been labeled as “thyroid fog”.
According to Harvard Medical School, more than 12 million Americans have thyroid disease, many of whom still remain undiagnosed.
Both hypothyroid (low) and hyperthyroid (high) conditions can cause brain fog.
Other Health Conditions The Cause Brain Fog
- adrenal fatigue
- brain injuries
- candida albicans
- chronic pain
- heavy metal toxicity
- hepatitis C
- hormonal imbalances
- irritable bowel syndrome
- Lyme disease
- multiple sclerosis
- neurodegenerative disorders
- neurotransmitter imbalance
- nutritional deficiency
- rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- seasonal allergies
- substance abuse
- substance withdrawal
8 Ways To Eliminate Your Brain Fog Once And For All [Part 8]
Prescription & OTC Medications
Every medication carries some risks.
Brain fog is one of the most commonly reported side effects of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications.
Statin cholesterol-lowering drugs and prescription sleeping pills are notorious for causing memory loss.
An entire group of drugs known as the anticholinergics work by blocking the action of acetylcholine, the brain chemical of memory and learning. Typical side effects of anticholinergic drugs include brain fog, forgetfulness, and inability to concentrate.
It’s not only prescription medications you have to watch out for.
Many popular over-the-counter (OTC) drugs also work by blocking acetylcholine including Benadryl (for allergies), Pepcid AC (for acid reflux), and Tylenol PM (for pain and insomnia).
Finding Your Personal Brain Fog Solution
As you can see, there are innumerable causes of brain fog.
Finding your personal solution will take some trial and error, but having a clear mind again will make it worth your while!
Here’s a checklist to get started finding your brain fog solution:
- Experiment with your diet to see if any specific foods or food additives are to blame. Start with eliminating the most obvious offenders which includes processed foods — the source of sugar, unhealthy fats, and additives — and foods high on the allergy/sensitivity scale.
- Introduce plenty of healthy fats into your diet — nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, and fatty fish — since they are important nutritional building blocks for a healthy brain.
- Get regular, high-quality sleep. Poor sleep curtails essential brain regeneration.
- Exercise. It increases the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your brain and can sharpen your thinking in minutes.
- Take proactive measures to reduce stress. Chronic stress often leads to brain fog and a variety of cognitive and mood disorders.
- Take a whole foods multivitamin supplement to fill in any nutritional gaps. This alone can improve brain performance.
- Take an omega-3 supplement. It’s widely agreed this is one of the best things you can do for both your overall health and your brain.
- If you suspect you have an underlying medical condition, get a checkup and know for sure.
- If you have a medical condition, do what you can to get it under control.
- If you take any medications known to cause cognitive problems, talk to your doctor about switching or changing dosage. Discuss lifestyle changes that might minimize your need for medication.
Brain Fog: The Bottom Line
Brain fog is a catch-all phrase used to describe feelings of fuzzy thinking, mental confusion, and lack of focus. Sometimes brain fog is caused by lifestyle factors like diet, stress, or lack of sleep and exercise. Other times, it’s caused by an underlying health condition or is a side effect of a medication.
Be proactive about adopting a brain-healthy lifestyle and managing your health and medications.
No one cares about your brain as much as you!