Seven Potential Brain Fog Causes
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Everyone has their own definition of brain fog.
You went into the other room for something, but you can’t remember what.
You can hear instructions but not follow them clearly.
Your ability to stay focused seems limited.
Maybe you just need another cup of coffee, or maybe you need to find the root of what’s causing your brain to be foggy so you can take steps to correct it.
Everyone experiences mental overload from time to time, but if you feel like your mental capabilities are seriously slipping, you owe it to yourself to find out why. We’ll give you seven potential causes of brain fog and offer some solutions that can help you out of the haze.
First, let’s talk a little more about what brain fog really is.
What Is Brain Fog?
Brain fog isn’t quite a medical condition that requires medical attention. Rather, it’s a list of symptoms that makes it difficult for you to think clearly and concentrate.
Feeling like you can’t think, can’t focus, and can’t remember basic information you just thought about a moment ago are all symptoms of brain fog.
People who experience brain fog may have:
- Short-term memory issues. These memory problems are usually related to short-term memory, not long-term. In other words, you may not have problems remembering cherished memories from your childhood, but you may not be able to remember an appointment you scheduled a few days ago, or even who you were going to call just a half-hour after you thought of calling them.
- Less mental clarity. This can mean you feel as though your thoughts are disorganized, scattered, and unclear. You may feel like you’re losing your sharp edge, your ability to think on your feet, or your quickness.
- Concentration issues. It can be hard to focus on one conversation or task at a time. You may feel easily distracted, uninterested, or like you have a mental block.
These feelings may last for hours at a time or may last days to weeks on end. For some people, the brain fog may seem like it gets worse over time or with age.
Seven Potential Brain Fog Causes
What’s causing the mental mess? Let’s look at some of the most common reasons you might feel foggy and what you can do to elevate your mental acuity.
Stress can be healthy for us in small, manageable doses. When we have work deadlines, are competing in sports, or simply have the need to complete a task quickly, stress motivates us to accomplish the goal. Once the goal is accomplished, we can relax.
Chronic stress, however, is detrimental to our health. High levels of stress can increase blood pressure, affect our immune health, and even create mental fatigue. This mental fatigue can cause classic brain fog symptoms.
Hormonal imbalances can also cause you to feel foggy. Many people of childbearing age experience this during pregnancy. A rise in estrogen and progesterone levels can make you feel forgetful and scattered, hence the phrase “pregnancy brain” or even “mom brain” becomes a staple in a new parent’s vocabulary.
People approaching menopause also experience a fluctuation in hormone levels which can lead to cognitive issues like short-term memory loss and lack of mental clarity.
Fluctuations in cortisol levels when under stress can also cause mental fatigue, which can lead to brain fog. When stress levels are continually high, cortisol is no longer delivered in small, short bursts like it normally is. Levels begin to decline, which accounts for brain fog.
An improper diet can also lead to brain fog. This type of brain fog may come and go depending on fluctuations in your diet, but if you are consistently eating poorly, your brain fog may seem like a permanent fixture.
You may experience brain fog after eating certain foods like dairy, foods containing MSG, certain nuts, and some artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
If you can identify and avoid these foods in your diet, you may be able to improve your overall cognitive function.
4. Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
Vitamin B-12 is an essential vitamin that helps with cognitive ability and brain health. A deficiency in this vitamin can cause you to experience brain fog, but can also lead to other noticeable symptoms.
You may experience tingling in the extremities, shortness of breath, and fatigue if you have a B-12 deficiency. Most people will get enough B-12 in their diets, but if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you may be at risk.
Plants cannot make B-12, however many whole grain products are fortified with B-12 to ensure people who do not eat meat and dairy products still get them in their diets.
5. Lack of Sleep
Not sleeping very well for a night or two won’t lead to a massive decline in your overall health, but if you’re consistently getting too little sleep, the effects will be cumulative.
A lack of sleep can cause irritability, depression, obesity, increased risk of heart disease and stroke, and decreased mental acuity. While these side effects are usually cumulative and take time to develop, brain fog is one of the fastest to appear.
Even one to two nights of missed sleep can cause you to feel mentally impaired and unable to concentrate.
All medications come with side effects, and it’s best to not take medication unless it’s prescribed or you have to, even if it’s an over-the-counter drug. Over-the-counter drugs like antihistamines (i.e. some allergy medicines) can have side effects that make you feel foggy and can even impair your ability to drive your car.
If you experience brain fog when you take a certain medication, it’s best to talk with your healthcare provider to consider other options, or changing your dosage or time of dosage. There may be other ways to treat your symptoms without using a medication that keeps you feeling foggy, or you may be able to take the medication at night before bed so the brain fog symptoms are gone by morning.
Some health conditions can cause brain fog. In fact, many medical conditions that are extremely common among Americans are known to impair cognitive function.
You may experience brain fog if you suffer from:
- Insulin resistance or diabetes
- Vitamin deficiency
- Depression or other mood disorders
- Thyroid issues
If you have one of these conditions and suffer from brain fog, there may be a solution available that can help you improve your mental clarity.
How To Get Rid of Brain Fog
Thankfully, brain fog is usually a condition you can easily treat with simple lifestyle changes. Here are some ways you can deal with brain fog, even if you only experience it on occasion.
Eat a Healthier Diet
Changing your diet can improve your overall health and help you clear out the mental fog. A simple blood test can determine if you have any vitamin deficiencies that need to be addressed (like B-12). If not, focus on eating more whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
If you still feel foggy, an elimination diet can help you determine which foods trigger your mental fog.
Physical activity stimulates your brain, releases endorphins, and helps keep you sharp. Just 30 minutes of physical activity per day can help improve your cognitive function and your overall health and wellness.
Taking supplements can help if you feel like you are constantly in a fog. Ginkgo biloba and St. John's Wort are both popularly used to help increase mental ability and sharpen your focus.
However, a simple fatty acid backed with scientific research may be the newest way to help keep mentally sharp, eliminate brain fog, and increase your overall health.
Pentadecanoic acid is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that can help break down mental fog by supporting your overall health.†*
Our total health begins with our cells. As we age, our cells become fragile and weak. When they break down, our organs and systems begin to decline. We lose mental function, we feel tired, and even feel like we’ve lost our “edge.”
Pentadecanoic acid, also known as C15:0, helps bolster cellular health by:*
- Fortifying cell walls. C15:0 gets into your cells’ membranes, keeping them sturdy and protected from external stress.
- Supporting mitochondrial function. Our cells are powered by their mitochondria, but as we get older, mitochondrial function declines. C15:0 helps support proper mitochondria function.
- Improving cellular signaling. C15:0 helps balance our immunity and improve our mood and sleep, by binding to PPAR receptors in our brain that control these functions.*
C15:0 is found mostly in full-fat dairy products and some fish. As such, you probably don’t have a lot of it in your diet.
Not to worry, you can take a once-a-day, vegan supplement that contains the pure powder and vegan-friendly form of C15:0, called fatty15.
Fatty15 is the first and only supplement to offer the daily amount of pure C15:0 you need to support your physical health and mindful wellness, starting with your cells.
Brain fog can be frustrating, but lifestyle changes and fatty15 may help. Small adjustments and a simple little once-a-day capsule can bring back your edge and help you feel fully engaged in life like you were ten years ago.
Sources:Vitamin B12 Deficiency Can Be Sneaky, Harmful | Harvard Health
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.