Have you ever frantically looked for your glasses to only find out they were on your head the entire time? Maybe you’ve struggled to keep your focus, or feel like you’re walking in a daze. The good news is you are not alone and there’s a name for this feeling: brain fog. 

Don’t worry! Brain fog can be reversed by starting with the one place you probably didn’t think to begin: your gut. However, brain fog isn’t exclusively tied to your gut health. Lack of sleep or a diet high in sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and refined carbohydrates can all be causes of brain fog. 

Let’s look at what brain fog is, the causes of brain fog, and how to get rid of brain fog.

What Is Brain Fog? 

So, what is brain fog? And what does brain fog feel like? Brain fog feels like it takes hours to complete a 10-minute task or that you’re struggling to listen and comprehend what is being said in a meeting. Maybe you walk into a room and can’t remember why you are there. Or, you constantly second guess yourself about locking the door or turning off the stove because you truly can’t remember if you did. 

Brain fog is not a medical condition or a diagnosis. It’s simply a term to describe the inability to focus, remember things, use logic, or solve problems.1 It is important to note that brain fog is very different from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The primary difference is that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease affect more than your memory. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease affect your ability to do normal daily tasks and function.2 

Brain Fog Symptoms

Brain fog symptoms vary from person to person. However, many people experiencing brain fog report a general feeling of disorientation or apathy towards life in addition to the following brain fog symptoms:3

  • Lack of energy or fatigue, including chronic fatigue syndrome4
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Trouble remembering information 
  • Mild depression, low motivation, feeling hopeless
  • Trouble sleeping or insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Confusion of feeling disoriented
  • Diminished vision or inability to find words

Some memory loss or brain fog is natural as you get older. However, the causes of brain fog are common and can often occur in pairs or trios. Once you discover the root causes of brain fog, you can begin to eliminate it. I will discuss more about how you can get rid of brain fog later in this article.

The Causes of Brian Fog – Infographic – Amy Myers MD® The Causes of Brian Fog - Infographic - Amy Myers MD® https://www.amymyersmd.com/article/brain-fog-causes/ The Causes of Brian Fog – Infographic – Amy Myers MD®

Causes of Brain Fog

Everyone can experience brain fog symptoms if you aren’t getting enough sleep, under high levels of stress, or after a huge meal full of refined carbohydrates and alcohol. However, sometimes it can be a symptom of a medical condition such as autoimmune disease, digestive issues, or thyroid disease.5 

Here are six common causes of brain fog: 

Stress

We all experience some stress in our lives. A little bit of stress is natural and can come from internal or external factors, including our physical environment, jobs, relationships, traffic, and unexpected events. High levels of stress, or chronic stress, can cause an array of health problems, including brain fog. 

Stress isn’t just a feeling. It’s an actual release of hormones that your body produces when it’s met with a challenge. The number one stress hormone is cortisol, commonly called “the stress hormone.” Think of cortisol like a chemical messenger. When you’re in a stressful situation, cortisol tells your immune system to gear up for a challenge. Your immune system responds by producing inflammation, and then cortisol signals your immune system to calm down when the danger has passed.

This system works really well when you encounter acute stress that happens suddenly and then passes. But too many of us are dealing with chronic stress: constant sleep deprivation, poor diets, long hours at work, problems in our relationships, the list goes on and on.

In The Autoimmune Solution I give a long list of different ways to relieve your stress. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Breathing: Taking time out of my day for meditation and breathing exercises is a good way to calm your anxiety.  
  • Move your body: I like taking walks with my family and dogs. Just 30 minutes of movement can lower your health risks and reduce stress.6
  • Finding “me time”: I like to take a warm bath with homemade lavender bath salts to unwind, or sweat and detox in my infrared sauna

Addressing your stress is just as big a part of your recovery from autoimmune disease as the first three pillars of The Myers Way®. Reducing stress can also help eliminate your brain fog.

Lack of Sleep

Sleep has an important role in supporting brain health, including memory. Yet, a restful night is not always easy to achieve. In fact, 1 in 3 Americans do not get enough sleep.7 It is recommended that adults get 7 or more hours of sleep each night.8 If you are getting less than that, it could be a cause of brain fog. 

Modern society bombards you with everyday stressors that affect sleep-wake cycles. An irregular sleep schedule and poor sleep habits, including not going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, can have a negative impact on your brain function and be a cause of your brain fog symptoms.

Restful, quality sleep can improve your memory and help you think more clearly. Studies show that sleep plays a very important role in making short-term memories into long-term ones, as well as improving your ability to accurately recall events.910

If you are struggling with getting enough sleep try these three simple steps to promote optimal sleep: 

  • Eat foods rich in tryptophan, magnesium, and melatonin, along with drinking herbal teas. 
  • Eliminate fatty foods, foods rich in proteins, chocolate, caffeine and over-the-counter medications. 
  • Get tired naturally with herbal supplements, a regular sleep schedule, waking up early and going to bed early, exercise, and creating a bedtime routine. 

Menopause or Other Hormone Changes

Pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause are natural parts of a woman’s life. All these times of drastic hormone changes are causes of brain fog. 

During pregnancy, women experience increased levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The spike in these hormones can be a cause of brain fog. Similarly, women in perimenopause and after menopause produce significantly abnormal levels of these hormones, causing brain fog, sleep problems, and hot flashes.11

Brain fog doesn’t occur immediately. Estrogen levels go up and down frequently during perimenopause, which usually begins in your 40s and 50s. The changes in hormone levels can trigger brain fog.12 

Menopause is reached when you go 12 months without a menstrual period. In one study13, women in the first year after their final menstrual cycle, or after menopause, showed higher decreases in attention, verbal learning, and verbal memory than in perimenopause.

Hormone fluctuations’ impact on brain fog and memory isn’t clear. Some believe that estrogen helps in communicating to the brain areas related to memory and information processing.14 Estrogen could also promote the growth and survival of the neurons that send the messages to your brain so it can work effectively. This would explain why, during major hormone changes such as pregnancy and menopause, brain fog occurs more often.

If you’re experiencing symptoms, I recommend discussing non-synthetic hormone therapy with your functional medicine doctor or considering natural solutions.

Diet and Vitamin Deficiencies

Certain foods and vitamin deficiencies play a role in brain function and can be one of the causes of your brain fog symptoms. Some brain fog causing foods are obvious, such as alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and stress, which are also causes of brain fog as I discussed earlier. However, other foods that cause brain fog are more subtle.

Common foods that cause brain fog include: 

  • Foods high in MSG, including fast food, chips, frozen meals and processed meats. 
  • Aspartame, which is commonly found in diet soda.
  • Peanuts.
  • Dairy products such as cow’s milk, cheese and ice cream made from dairy milk. 

I recommend you remove these foods from your diet due to their connection to brain fog as well as other health issues such as leaky gut and autoimmunity

Brain fog can also be a temporary problem if you are on a specialized high fat diet such as the keto diet as your body shifts to ketosis. However, it typically only lasts for a few days.15 

Vitamin deficiencies, particularly a vitamin B12 deficiency, can cause brain fog symptoms. Vitamin B12 supports nervous system function and healthy red blood cell production. People with B12 deficiency are more likely to score lower on cognitive tests and have a smaller brain volume than those with optimal B12 levels.16

The recommended daily amount of B12 an adult should consume per day is 2.4 micrograms. However, since B12 is water soluble, meaning your body absorbs what it needs and removes excess amounts in your urine, you can safely take higher doses.17 Your body doesn’t naturally produce vitamin B12, so it’s important to get it through foods such as wild-caught salmon, organ meats, clams, chicken breasts and grass-fed beef18, or supplements. 

If you think you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, your doctor can order a blood test or you can test B12 levels in the privacy of your home through a service such as My Labs For Life

Medications and Cancer Treatments

It’s probably no surprise that some medications can be a cause of brain fog symptoms. Anticholinergics, including allergy medications that contain diphenhydramine such as Benadryl, Ditropan for an overactive bladder, and Elavil for depression, are common brain fog causes because they block neurotransmitters in the brain. 

A study by the University of Washington and Group Health in Seattle tracked nearly 3,500 men and women ages 65 and older and found that anticholinergic medications were more likely to produce signs of brain fog or other cognitive dysfunction.19

A similar study conducted by researchers in France and Canada found that people taking benzodiazepines such as valium and similar medications to treat anxiety showed brain fog symptoms.2021

Similarly, cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and a bone marrow transplant can also cause brain fog. This is called “chemo brain.”22 Cancer treatments may lead to complications such as fatigue, hormonal imbalances, and sleep problems, which as I discussed earlier, affects brain function.

If you experience brain fog symptoms while taking certain medications it’s important to talk to your functional medicine doctor.

Underactive Thyroid 

Your thyroid regulates all of your metabolic processes. So if it is under-active, as is the case with hypothyroidism, all of the body’s processes slow down, including digestion and brain function. 

Thyroid disease is a topic particularly near and dear to my heart because I battled thyroid disease in medical school after being diagnosed with Graves’ disease. An estimated 27 million Americans have some form of thyroid dysfunction. Hypothyroidism (an under-active thyroid) is the most common form of thyroid dysfunction, and 90% of hypothyroidism patients have Hashimoto’s. 

Your thyroid may be underactive because your pituitary gland is malfunctioning and not sending enough TSH to your thyroid, or your TSH levels are normal, but your thyroid isn’t producing enough T4 and T3 to adequately fuel your cells. Hypothyroidism causes a general slowing down of your metabolic processes and can cause brain fog, among other symptoms. Testing for thyroid dysfunction and seeing a doctor who can interpret the results correctly is crucial.

If you’re lacking vital nutrients essential for thyroid function,  you may be at risk of developing thyroid disease. Tyrosine and iodine are needed to create thyroid hormone. Selenium, zinc, and iron are needed to convert T4 to T3. Vitamin D or B are necessary for regulating metabolism and hormones. Luckily, these deficiencies can all be corrected fairly easily which is why I recommend everyone take a high-quality multivitamin.

The Brain-Gut Connection

Conventional medicine views psychological stressors as independent from the rest of the body. In reality, our brains are inextricably tied to our gastrointestinal tract. 

That is because 90-95% of our serotonin, the key neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, is made in our gut. Serotonin and other vital neurotransmitters travel from the gut to the brain via the vagus nerve. Chemical signals travel both from the gut to the brain and vice versa. Because of this, those with gastrointestinal problems such as Candida overgrowth and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) are at a higher risk of experiencing brain fog, mood imbalances, anxiety, and depression.

To solve the problem and prevent future brain fog symptoms, you must address the root cause. Something is happening in the gut that is causing your brain fog. 

How SIBO Causes Brain Fog

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when the trillions of bacteria in our gut get out of balance and overgrow. This happens for many different reasons, however the most common cause I see is from a diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol. 

These bad bacteria release a compound called histamine. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that communicates important messages from your body to your brain. Its primary role in the body is to cause an immediate inflammatory response against potential attackers. When you have autoimmunity, your body is in a constant state of inflammation. Symptoms of that inflammation include feelings of anxiety, panic, and brain fog.

By eliminating toxic and inflammatory foods, you can help prevent the overgrowth of histamine-producing bad bacteria in your gut and reduce your brain fog symptoms.

How Candida Overgrowth Causes Brain Fog

Candida is a form of yeast that lives in your mouth and intestines in small amounts. Its job is to aid with digestion and nutrient absorption. However, the good bacteria that keep yeast levels in check can get out of balance, allowing yeast to overgrow. This can happen by taking a round of antibiotics or drinking too much alcohol. Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates or using birth control pills over a long term can also have an impact.  

The yeast then coats the lining of your intestinal tract and suppresses your ability to make or secrete serotonin. Candida or yeast also affects your brain and mood function by producing chemicals that are directly toxic to the brain. This is why so many of my patients who have Candida overgrowth complain of brain fog symptoms such as poor memory, fatigue, depression or anxiety.

Do you think you have Candida overgrowth? Take this simple quiz to find out!

How to Get Rid of Brain Fog

If you’re wondering how to get rid of brain fog, I have good news: you CAN get rid of it by making a few lifestyle changes. Here are five ways you naturally can support your brain function and get rid of brain fog.

1. Change Your Diet

If you are experiencing brain fog there is a good chance your diet is the cause of your brain fog. As I said earlier, fast foods, refined carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, and alcohol have all been linked to brain fog. I recommend following an autoimmune diet, or AIP diet, to eliminate toxic and inflammatory foods and replace them with foods rich in essential nutrients, including vitamin B12. I also recommend everyone take a high-quality multivitamin.

2. Heal Candida and SIBO

The key to overcoming brain fog is recognizing that most psychological symptoms are rooted in the gut, not the brain. The goal should be to restore the balance of your intestinal flora by treating bacterial infections and avoiding problematic foods such as gluten and dairy. To identify which foods are a problem for you, try an elimination diet.

If you’re suffering from Candida overgrowth or SIBO, avoid fermented foods, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol above all else. While you heal your gut, you can still focus on supporting the optimal health of your brain.

3. Relieve Your Stress

It’s not easy to get away from stress these days, so it’s important to make time every day for doing activities you love to get away from the stress. Doing something you enjoy releases dopamine, the “happy hormone”  in your brain. It’s also important to do stress-relieving activities such as exercise, taking baths or meditating with an app on your phone.

4. Get Enough Sleep 

Studies show that quality sleep can make you eat more healthy and get rid of your brain fog. Sleeping well can also lower your risk for diabetes and heart disease. As I said earlier, adults need 7 hours or more of sleep every night. When you get optimal sleep, the hormones in your brain stay in balance. If you’re finding it hard to pay attention at work, stay focused when talking with someone, or remember something from seconds ago, you’re probably not getting enough sleep.

5. See a Functional Medicine Doctor

Whether you are pregnant or entering perimenopause or you’re being treated for cancer, depression or hormone imbalances such as a thyroid disorder, it’s important to be aware of how your treatments are affecting your health. As I discussed earlier, medications and cancer treatments can disrupt your healthy brain function. Not treating hormonal imbalances because you aren’t aware of them or treating them with harsh medications can be equally damaging. 

Seeking out a functional medicine doctor who will get to the root cause of your brain fog, and not just give you a pill when you ask how to get rid of brain fog, is key to ensuring total body health and banishing it.

6. Support Your Brain Health

I personally formulated NeuroLive™ with a unique combination of nutrients and botanicals to support the control center of your body – your brain! NeuroLive™ was formulated to help maintain healthy memory, focus and support cognitive function. This supplement for brain fog is also packed with ideal levels of essential B vitamins, including 100 micrograms of vitamin B12, in their coenzyme and methylated forms for optimal neurotransmitter balance. NeuroLive™ is the ultimate foundation for optimal brain health and cognitive function.

It can be incredibly frustrating and even frightening to feel as if you’re losing your edge. By supporting your brain function, eating a diet rich in organic foods and leafy-green vegetables, getting optimal sleep, and reducing your stress, you can eliminate your brain fog for good!

NeuroLive is the ultimate foundation for optimal brain health and cognitive function... today, and for all your tomorrows! NeuroLive bottle

Brain Fog FAQs

https://www.amymyersmd.com/article/brain-fog-causes/

What does brain fog feel like?

Brain fog describes the inability to focus, remember things, use logic, or solve problems. Brain fog might feel like you’re walking around in a daze.


https://www.amymyersmd.com/article/brain-fog-causes/

What causes brain fog?

Brain fog can be caused by a number of common factors including stress, lack of sleep, infections in the gut such as Candida overgrowth or SIBO, or a hormone imbalance.


https://www.amymyersmd.com/article/brain-fog-causes/

How do you get rid of brain fog?

Because brain fog is a symptom of a larger issue, getting to the root of your conditions is the first step to get rid of brain fog. Changing your diet, relieving your stress, getting more sleep, and healing your infections can all help to get rid of brain fog.


https://www.amymyersmd.com/article/brain-fog-causes/

Are there supplements for brain fog?

Yes! NeuroLive™ is one of my physician formulated supplements for brain fog that includes 11 brain supporting micronutrients to maintain healthy memory, focus, and cognitive function.


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  6. Simply moving 30 minutes a day can lower your health risks. . UCLA. .
  7. 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. CDC. .
  8. How Much Sleep Do I Need?. CDC. .
  9. About Sleep's Role in Memory. . NCBI. .
  10. Sleep Deprivation and False Memories. . Association of Psychological Science. .
  11. Women’s Health: 25 Hormone Imbalance Symptoms and Signs. . OnHealth. .
  12. Does Menopause Cause Memory Loss?. . Healthline. .
  13. Cognition in perimenopause: the effect of transition stage. . PubMed. .
  14. Does Menopause Cause Memory Loss?. . Healthline. .
  15. What is Keto Flu?. . Harvard Medical School. .
  16. Vitamin B12, cognition, and brain MRI measures: a cross-sectional examination. PubMed. .
  17. Vitamin B12. MayoClinic. .
  18. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful. Harvard Medical School. .
  19. Two types of drugs you may want to avoid for the sake of your brain. Harvard Medical School. .
  20. What Causes Brain Fog?. Medicine Net. .
  21. Two types of drugs you may want to avoid for the sake of your brain. Harvard Medical School. .
  22. Chemo Brain. MayoClinic. .