You set your alarm only find you have done it already. You walk into a room and forget why. After a frustrating search you find that you put your keys in the fridge with the milk. The word or name is on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t recall it. You bump into furniture or trip and fall.

We all know this feeling.  We’ve experienced it when we’ve had a bad flu, too little sleep, a severe shock as in the death of a loved one, or a few drinks too many.  

But what if you experience this most the time?  

It’s what is commonly known as brain fog.  

If it lasts over an extended period it can be debilitating - interfering with performance at work or school and your social life.

Below I will guide you in the various causes of brain fog and how to fix it.  

Once you identify and deal with your personal cause of brain fog you can regain mental clarity and improve the quality of your life.


Brain fog is a widespread symptom these days. However, it is subjective and there is no simple test or measurement for it. You just know that your thinking, remembering and understanding are not working normally. It feels as if your brain is filled with cotton wool.

“Suffering from brain fog is basically the opposite of feeling level-headed, calm, optimistic and motivated. Brain fog can easily rob you of inspiration and happiness, while increasing the likelihood for symptoms of anxiety and depression,” wrote Dr. Axe. [1]

The medical fraternity has yet to recognize brain fog as a specific health condition. The usual description used in the literature is mild cognitive impairment.


Brain fog can affect a variety of mental functions. As an individual you can experience only some or all of the symptoms. They can vary in intensity from day to day or even hour-to-hour.  

The symptoms which sufferers describe most often are:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Slow and hazy thinking, easily derailed by interruptions
  • Inability to focus
  • Forgetfulness – both in daily living and inability to remember facts for example when studying or even in a conversation.
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Poor spatial awareness

All of the above affect your ability to process information and function normally when you need to organize, plan and solve problems.  Eventually this can lead to feelings of hopelessness, depression and anxiety.


The most common causes of brain fog are related to your lifestyle – factors that lead to biochemical and nutritional imbalances that affect your brain. It can also be caused by other underlying medical conditions.


Evidence suggest that one of the critical functions of sleep is to restore and optimize neural connectivity – so sleep is absolutely essential for learning and memory [2]

You don’t have to be an expert to know that your alertness and thought processes suffer after a night of no or very little sleep. The reduced brain activity after sleep deprivation can even be seen in brain scans.

The problem comes in when you don’t get enough sleep over long period and get used to how you feel. We trade in sleep to get more time for the demands of work or school or to fit other activities into our busy days.

Adults need 7 or more hours of sleep a night for optimal health and wellbeing.  A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control found that about a third of Americans average less than 7 hours of sleep per night. [3]

Dr. Axe believes that a lack of sleep is the main reason why so many people are experiencing brain fog.


Your brain is the most hard-working organ in your body.  Besides needing energy to function, it also needs a constant supply of micro-nutrients including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids.

A poor diet with lots of sugar and refined carbohydrates, with too little protein, fruit and vegetables to supply the nutrients you brain needs, can result in brain fog.

Find out more about foods that can improve brain fog symptoms in

Science Says Eat These 17 Brain Foods for More Focus and Memory

A diet high in unhealthy carbs and fats, as well as processed foods, is also known to cause high levels of inflammation in the body. Inflammation affects the brain on cellular level. It causes changes in the three main hormones – dopamine, serotonin and cortisol – that regulate mood, energy and focus.

Brain fog is also a symptom of a number of inflammatory diseases like fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s.

Your brain fog could also be caused by food allergies and sensitivities of which you might be completely unaware.  The most common culprits include gluten, peanuts, dairy, aspartame and MSG.


Water makes up 73% of the brain. Even mild dehydration causes an imbalance in the whole body.

We have all seen how some runners are confused and disorientated at the end of a marathon. However, studies have shown that even 2% dehydration can affect mental performance. Mild dehydration can alter concentration, alertness, short-term memory and perception. [4]

So if you don’t drink enough water to top up your body’s fluids this could be contributing to your brain fog.


The body releases cortisol, or the “fight-or-flight” hormone in response to a stressful situation.  Under normal circumstances this response is switched off when the danger has passed.

With the ongoing daily stressors of modern life there can be a continuous flood of cortisol throughout the body. The stress response is never switched off and this is contributes to many health problems.

Some of the known effects of increased levels of cortisol are already included in the causes of brain fog discussed above:

  • Increased inflammation
  • Insomnia which leads to a lack of sleep
  • Increased utilization of various micronutrients, such as magnesium – your usual diet just doesn’t keep up.


When you get regular aerobic exercise – the type that gets your heart pumping and causes you to break into a mild sweat – it boosts the size of parts of your brain that are involved in thinking, memory and learning. [5]

Recently researchers also found that people who spend many hours sitting had thinning of the parts of the brain responsible for memory formation. [6]

Sitting is seen as the new smoking.  We need movement to increase blood flow and therefor oxygen to the brain and to stimulate the hormones responsible for the growth of new brain cells.

Exercise also burns up cortisol and releases endorphins – or happy hormones.   It can combat brain fog by reducing inflammation, improving mood and sleep and counteracting stress and anxiety.


Brain fog can be the result of hormonal changes.  

During pregnancy and menopause changes in the levels of estrogen and progesterone are known to lead to changes in memory and concentration.

A lack of thyroid hormone is also associated with brain fog.


Brain fog is the side-effect most commonly reported for prescription as well as some over the counter medicines.

It is most common with medications that are prescribed for mental problems.  This includes sleeping pills, anti-depressants, as well as anti-anxiety medications.

Cognitive impairment has also been reported with certain blood pressure medicines as well as statins which are prescribed for lowering cholesterol.

Acetylcholine is an important brain chemical for short-term memory and recall. Anticholinergics block its action and can cause symptoms of brain fog.

Many prescription medicines are anticholinergics.  They are also widely available as over-the-counter medications for conditions including allergies; motion sickness; diarrhea, nausea and vomiting; acid reflux; and insomnia.


Brain fog can be one of the symptoms of a number of medical conditions, including:

  • Conditions associated with inflammation such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia
  • Anemia (shortage of oxygen-carrying red blood cells)
  • Diabetes
  • Autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus
  • Migraine
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Age related cognitive impairment.


I believe that in most cases brain fog can be treated naturally by changes in lifestyle and supplements to counteract micro-nutrient deficiencies, improve circulation to the brain, restore and maintain nerve cells and boost nerve transmission.

However, if you are also experiencing other symptoms you should consult a medical practitioner to rule out any specific medical condition.



Our brain needs high levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids to function optimally but most people don’t get enough in their diets.  

You need to eat plenty of oily fish like sardines and salmon to get enough Omega-3’s. If this is not a regular part of your diet I suggest that you supplement with Omega-3’s if you suffer from brain fog.


Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and is involved in over 350 biochemical reactions that keep it working.  This includes transmission between neurons.

Studies have found that a high percentage of people don’t get enough of this vital mineral in their diets.  

So for treating brain fog I recommend Magnesium as an essential supplement to start off with. Besides improving brain function magnesium also improves sleep and relieves depression.


As I mentioned above, acetylcholine (ACh) is a very important neurotransmitter. Research has shown strong links between a lack of ACh and cognitive decline.

The body needs choline to manufacture ACh and your brain fog could be due to a lack of this essential nutrient in your diet. An acetylcholine supplement would solve this problem.

To find out more about this you can read

Choline Deficiency: How Not Getting Enough Impacts Your Body and Mind


Folate, or folic acid is essential for brain function and a deficiency has been shown to cause cognitive impairment. You can supplement with folic acid alone or in combination with other B-vitamins that that are known to improve mental function.


Rhodiola Rosea is a well-known herb. It is classed as an adaptogenic herb – plants that promote balance in the body.

Rhodiola has been used mostly to counter physical and mental fatigue as it improves energy metabolism at cellular level. The herb is now it gaining popularity as a natural remedy for boosting cognitive function and particularly for treating brain fog.


Phosphatidylserine (PS) is an essential phospholipid that provides support to cell membranes.  It improved communication between cells and supports both the maintenance and growth of neurons.

A number of studies have shown that it improves symptoms of brain fog.


If you are suffering from brain fog, but are otherwise generally healthy, I suggest that you weigh up the causes against your lifestyle.

Are you sleeping at least 7-8 hours every night? If you struggle to sleep try some natural cures.

Go to bed and rise at the same time every day. Get a bedtime routine where you dim the lights, play soft music and relax in a warm bath, and even practice some deep breathing or meditation. Avoid coffee for a few hours before bedtime and ban your cell phone and other screens from the bedroom.

I cannot emphasize the importance of a healthy diet enough. You need the input to get the output. Provide your body with the micro-nutrients it needs to function. Avoid too much sugar, refined carbs and processed food. Fill up with fruits, vegetables, proteins and healthy fats. Make sure that you drink enough fluids throughout the day.

If you think you might have food sensitivities keep a diet journal to find out if there link between what you eat and your symptoms. You can also try to eliminate certain foods of a week or two to see if it makes a difference.

Manage your stress by planning for down-time. Get some healthy exercise every day, engage in fun activities, socialize with family and friends, practice meditation or mindfulness.


Brain fog has many different causes and every person is different. You need to take action to find your own personal solution. This may be challenging and take time but it will be worthwhile.  

I believe that there is a solution for everyone and that you will be grateful for the effort once you can think clearly again and perform to the best of your ability.

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