Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on
June 4, 2022
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on:

Do you feel like you’re head is wrapped in a fog as you walk around? Are you struggling with headaches more often than usual?

If so, you may be experiencing brain fog and headaches. This can be a frustrating and debilitating combination, but don’t worry—we’re here to help.

In this article, we’ll discuss the causes of headaches and brain fog, as well as some treatment options.

We hope that by the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s causing your symptoms and how to treat them.

Let’s get started.

What is brain fog, exactly?

Brain fog or mental fog is a term used to describe the feeling of mental fatigue. If you’re experiencing brain fog, you may feel like your thinking is fuzzy or slow.

You may also have trouble concentrating or focusing on tasks. Brain fog can make it difficult to think clearly and make decisions.

Some people experience this condition as a mild cognitive impairment that could go on for a few days, while others deal with it as cognitive dysfunction that affects their lives for months.

What is a headache, exactly?

A headache is pain that occurs in the head, face, or neck. It can be a dull ache or a sharp pain.

Headaches can be caused by a number of things, including stress, dehydration, and eye strain.

There are different types of headaches, including tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches.

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They’re usually caused by muscle tension in the neck and head.

Migraines are a more severe type of headache. Migraine symptoms often include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound, especially during and after a migraine attack.

Cluster headaches are a less common type of headache that tends to occur in cycles. They’re characterized by sharp, severe pain on one side of the head.

The Difference Between Brain Fog and Headaches

The two conditions share some similarities, but there are also some important distinctions between them.

For one thing, brain fog is more likely to cause mental fatigue than physical fatigue. You may feel like your brain is working overtime, even when you’re not doing anything mentally strenuous.

Headaches, on the other hand, tend to cause physical fatigue. You may feel pain in your temples or forehead, and your neck and shoulders may feel tense.

Additionally, brain fog can make it difficult to concentrate or focus on tasks. Headaches, on the other hand, tend to cause distraction and make it difficult to focus.

What causes brain fog and headaches?

There are a number of different things that could be causing your headaches and brain fog.

Here are the most common causes:

Lack of sleep

Sleep is essential for brain health. When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain or central nervous system don’t have a chance to rest and recover. This can lead to brain fog and headaches. 

In fact, a recent study found that people who slept less than six hours per night were more likely to experience cognitive problems than those who slept for seven or eight hours.

If you’re struggling with sleeping efficiently, we have plenty of advice that will help optimize your sleep. So, keep on reading. 

Chronic stress

Chronic stress can take a toll on your cognitive health as well as your immune system. When you’re constantly under stress, your brain doesn’t have a chance to relax. This can lead to mental fog and a migraine attack.

In addition, chronic stress can also cause other problems, such as anxiety and depression. If you’re struggling with chronic stress, it’s important to find ways to manage it, which we will discuss later.

Poor diet

What you eat can affect your cognitive functioning significantly. Eating a diet that’s high in sugar and processed foods is a sure-fire way to get migraine pain and brain fog.

On the other hand, eating a healthy diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits, and omega-three fatty acids can help improve your cognitive function. 

Continue reading to see the list of brain-friendly foods we recommend and determine which ones you can easily add to your diet.

Nutritional deficiencies

If you are nutrient deficient, you may experience challenges in your brain function. This is because your brain needs certain nutrients, such as vitamins B12, vitamin D, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids, among many others, to function properly.

A deficiency in these nutrients can lead to cognitive problems, including migraine brain fog.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to get these essential nutrients. You can take supplements or eat foods that are rich in these nutrients, which we’ll elaborate on later.

Dehydration

When you’re dehydrated, your brain doesn’t have enough fluids to function properly. This can lead to mental fatigue and difficulty concentrating.

It’s important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to prevent dehydration, especially if you sweat a lot and live in a tropical climate.

Water is always the best choice, but you can also drink other beverages that are healthy and efficient in supplying electrolytes in your body, such as herbal tea, green juice, and bone broth.

Lack of movement or exercise

A sedentary lifestyle can take a toll on your cerebral health. When you don’t move your body, your brain doesn’t get the chance to exercise either.

A recent study found that people who are physically active have a lower risk of developing dementia than those who are sedentary.

So, if you want to keep your brain healthy and prevent brain fog and a migraine attack, make sure to get moving. You don’t have to go to the gym or run a marathon. Just 30 minutes of walking every day can help improve your cognitive functioning.

Heavy metal exposure

Heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, can be toxic to your brain. Exposure to these toxins can cause cognitive problems, including cognitive fog and headaches.

If you think you may have been exposed to heavy metals, it’s important to see a doctor so that they can test your levels and determine the best course of action.

You can also limit your exposure to heavy metals by eating organic foods, consuming filtered water, and avoiding contaminated areas.

Medical conditions or underlying health conditions

There are a number of medical conditions that can cause migraine brain fog, such as the following:

  • Mental health conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder)
  • Sleep disorders (e.g., sleep apnea, insomnia)
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Brain tumors
  • Migraines
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
  • Lupus
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Covid-19 or long Covid

If you’re struggling with brain fog or headaches, it’s important to see a doctor to rule out any underlying health conditions.

Once you’ve ruled out any serious health problems, you can start to look at other potential causes, such as diet and lifestyle. 

Medications and treatments

There are several medications that can cause mental fog and headaches as a side effect. These include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Birth control pills
  • Antihistamines
  • Chemotherapy (e.g., chemo brain)

If you think your medication or treatment may be causing your headaches and cognitive fog, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They may be able to switch you to an alternative that doesn’t have these side effects.

Common Symptoms of Headaches and Brain Fog

There are several common symptoms associated with cognitive fog and headaches. These include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Challenges in problem-solving
  • Slow thinking
  • Memory problems
  • Migraine attack
  • Mental fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

If you’re having any of these headache pain and brain fog symptoms, it’s critical to visit a physician to rule out any underlying health concerns.

How to Treat Headaches and Brain Fog

Once you’ve ruled out any serious health problems, you can do a few things to help ease your migraine symptoms.

Here are our recommendations: 

Get enough sleep

We already stated how vital sleep is for cognitive functioning. If you are struggling with falling asleep or staying asleep each night, here’s what you can do: 

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bedtime.
  • Refrain from using any electronics or gadgets while you’re on your bed.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine that will help you wind down for the evening.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. 
  • Practice some relaxation techniques 30 minutes before bed, such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation.

If nothing works, you might be dealing with a sleep disorder like insomnia. So, make sure to consult your doctor as soon as possible to avoid migraine attacks and other symptoms of any headache phase. 

Remember that you need to prioritize your sleep to ensure optimal cognitive function and avoid headaches and brain fog, among many other lifestyle changes.

Manage your stress levels

Chronic stress can lead to a host of health problems, including mental fog and headaches. To manage your stress levels, we recommend:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Spending time outdoors in nature
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Journaling
  • Listening to calming music
  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Doing something you enjoy every day
  • Finding a creative outlet

As soon as you start managing your stress levels, you’ll see improvements in your mental clarity and focus.

Maintain a healthy and brain-friendly diet

You are what you eat, and that goes for your brain, too. Eating a healthy diet is essential for cerebral health and can help reduce the risk of developing cognitive problems, such as brain fog, headaches, and cognitive decline. 

Here are some food and drinks that are particularly good for cognitive health:

  • Omega-three fatty acids (e.g., salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed)
  • Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables (e.g., blueberries, kale, and tomatoes)
  • Green tea
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans and legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Dark chocolate
  • Citrus fruits 
  • Avocados 
  • Water

Including this brain-friendly food and drinks in your diet will help improve your cognitive function and reduce the risk of developing headaches, brain fog, and other cognitive problems. 

Rehydrate always

The recommended daily intake of water is eight glasses, but this may vary depending on your weight, activity level, and other factors.

If you’re struggling to drink enough water each day, here are a few tips that can help:

  • Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go.
  • Set reminders on your phone or computer to drink water at regular intervals.
  • Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up in the morning.
  • Add some flavor to your water by adding fresh fruit or herbs.
  • Drink water before, during, and after exercise.

Dehydration can lead to many problems, including headaches and brain fog. So, make sure you’re drinking enough water each day to stay properly hydrated.

Exercise regularly

Exercise is not only good for your physical health but also for your mental health. Regular exercise can help improve brain function, memory, and cognitive performance.

Here are some benefits of exercise for mental health:

  • It increases the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps promote the growth of new brain cells.
  • It improves brain blood flow and oxygenation.
  • It helps reduce stress levels and improve mood.
  • It increases the production of endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects.

Get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day—you can do a full 30 minutes or divide your time throughout the day.

We highly recommend aerobic exercises, such as: 

  • Jogging
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Tennis
  • Zumba

Studies show that aerobic exercises are particularly good for cerebral health because they increase BDNF levels and brain blood flow more effectively than other kinds of exercises.

Detox regularly

Toxins can accumulate in your body and lead to brain fog, headaches, and other health problems. To detox your body and get rid of these toxins, we recommend:

  • Eating more detoxifying foods (e.g., broccoli, cabbage, kale)
  • Drinking detox teas
  • Sweating it out in a sauna
  • Getting a massage
  • Doing a liver cleanse

Detoxing your body on a regular basis will help improve your brain function and overall health.

Manage any underlying health condition

If you have any underlying health condition, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or an autoimmune disease, make sure to manage it properly.

Uncontrolled health conditions can lead to brain fog, headaches, and other cognitive problems. So, if you have any underlying health condition, we recommend:

  • Working with a healthcare professional to develop a treatment plan
  • Following your treatment plan religiously
  • Monitoring your condition closely
  • Making lifestyle changes to improve your condition (e.g., eating a healthier diet, exercising regularly)

If you have any underlying health condition, managing it properly is essential for cerebral health.

Consider medication or treatment alternatives.

If you’re taking medication for a headache or other health condition, we recommend talking to your doctor about alternative treatments.

Medication can sometimes cause brain fog as a side effect. So, if you’re taking medication and struggling with brain fog, we recommend:

  • Asking your doctor if there are any alternative medications that don’t cause brain fog.
  • Asking your doctor if there are any alternative treatments for your condition that do not cause headaches and mental fog.

Remember that most often, incorporating lifestyle changes, natural coping strategies, and modern medicine is the best way to heal or manage any health condition.

In Conclusion

Dealing with brain and headaches can be a frustrating and debilitating ordeal.

It is something that could negatively affect your daily life significantly. We’re talking about dropping productivity at work, depleted motivation, and strained relationships.

Thankfully, you can take deliberate steps to bring back your mental clarity and even improve your overall brain function in the long run.

We hope that the advice we give here will help you clear the fog and aid your headaches.

If you want to learn more about brain fog and its natural remedies, check out our resource on the topic and see what people talk about in this online community for brain health enthusiasts.

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