Written by Dr. Savannah Muncy, Pharm.D on
May 28, 2022
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

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

Have you been feeling “out of focus” lately? You seem to forget things more often, and your productivity is plummeting day by day.

You might be experiencing brain fog—a condition that has negatively affected people worldwide, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Thankfully, there are things you can do to prevent brain fog, and one of the first steps you can take is to know the root cause of the problem.

In this article, let’s talk about what can cause brain fog, how you can manage the cause, and improve your mental clarity and overall brain health in the long run.

Let’s get started.

What is brain fog, exactly?

Brain fog, also known as mental fog, is a condition that makes you feel mentally exhausted, perplexed, and forgetful.

People who experience brain fog often have trouble with their short-term memory, and they may feel “out of it” or “zoned out.”

The condition can also cause physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and body aches.  

Some of the common cognitive symptoms of mental fog include:

  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks
  • Trouble remembering things
  • “Zoning out” or staring blankly into space
  • Slow thinking
  • Challenges in problem-solving
  • Difficulty in simple decision-making
  • Feeling mentally exhausted
  • Irritability or low mood

Brain fog is a common issue that some people cope with as a brief cognitive impairment, while others regard it as a severe cognitive dysfunction that persists for months.

What can cause brain fog?

There are many potential causes of brain fog.

The condition can be brought about by lifestyle choices, health conditions, medications, and more.

And here are 12 of the most common causes of brain fog that you should look out for:

1) Sleep deprivation

One of the most common causes of mental fatigue is sleep deprivation or sleep disorder.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your body and brain are not able to function at their best.

This can lead to difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and other cognitive problems.

If you’re frequently experiencing brain fog, make sure that you’re getting sufficient sleep every night.

Most adults need at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night to strengthen their immune system and prevent mental fatigue.

If you have trouble sleeping or staying asleep at night, there are a few things you can do to improve your sleep quality, such as:

  • Establishing a regular sleep schedule
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed
  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Exercising regularly
  • Managing stress levels

Sleep is essential for your mental clarity and overall health, so make sure that you’re getting enough of it.

2) Lack of movement or exercise

Another common cause of brain fog is a sedentary lifestyle.

If you don’t move your body enough, your blood circulation can become sluggish, and this can lead to oxygen and nutrient deficiencies in the brain.

This can result in mental fatigue, difficulty concentrating, the decline in your central nervous system, and other cognitive problems.

To avoid this, make sure that you get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day.

You can also add a few brain-boosting exercises to your routine, such as:

  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Pilates
  • Strength training

Regular exercise has many benefits for your cognitive function, especially in improving the flow of red blood cells to your brain, so make sure that you incorporate it into your daily routine. 

3) Dehydration

Dehydration can also lead to brain fog.

When you’re dehydrated, your body is not able to function at its best. This can cause difficulty concentrating, headaches, and fatigue.

So, make sure that you drink enough water everyday to keep an optimal brain function. Most adults need at least eight glasses of water per day.

You can also increase your water intake by eating foods that are high in water content, such as:

  • Cucumbers
  • Watermelons
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Oranges

If you’re not getting enough water from your diet, make sure that you supplement with a good quality electrolyte drink.

Electrolyte drinks can help replenish the electrolytes in your body that are lost through sweat and urine.

They can also help increase your water intake, which is essential for keeping your body hydrated throughout the day.

3) Poor diet or nutritional deficiencies

When you eat a diet that’s high in processed foods and low in nutrient-rich foods, your body and brain can become depleted of the nutrients they need to function properly.

This can lead to immune system decline, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and other cognitive problems.

To avoid this, make sure that you eat a healthy diet that’s rich in whole foods, such as the following:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean protein
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats

We also recommend consuming foods rich in iron to improve the flow of red blood cells to your brain, which aids in enhancing your cognitive function.

If you’re not getting enough nutrient-rich foods in your diet, you can supplement with a good quality multivitamin.

A multivitamin can assist with the nutritional gaps in your diet by ensuring that your body and brain receive the nutrients they require to function properly.

4) Chronic stress

When you’re constantly under stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that can cause difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and other cognitive problems.

To avoid this, make sure that you manage your stress levels effectively. There are a few things you can do to manage stress, such as:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Spending time in nature
  • Full body massage
  • Getting sufficient sleep
  • Eating a healthy diet

Chronic stress can have a negative impact on your overall health, so it’s important to find ways to manage it.

5) Mental health conditions

Mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and bipolar disorder can trigger brain fog.

If you’re dealing with a mental health condition, it’s important to seek professional help.

Also, there are a few things you can do to manage your mental health condition effectively, such as:

  • Medication
  • Counseling
  • Therapy
  • Support groups
  • Regular exercise
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating a healthy diet 

Mental health conditions can be difficult to manage, but there are many resources and support systems available.

6) Keto diet

When you’re on the keto diet, your body is in a state of ketosis, which means that it’s using fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.

This can cause difficulty concentrating, headaches, and fatigue, but usually only lasts within a couple of weeks when you start the diet.

If you’re on the keto diet, make sure that you eat enough calories and drink plenty of water. You can also supplement with a good-quality electrolyte drink.

The keto diet can cause brain fog, but there are a few things you can do to avoid it. 

To avoid keto brain fog, make sure that you:

  • Eat enough calories
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Supplement with a good quality electrolyte drink

Remember that ketosis brain fog usually happens when your body is adjusting to the keto diet. So, it’s important to be patient and give yourself enough time to adapt.

7) Gluten intolerance

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. If you’re gluten intolerant, it means that your body can’t digest gluten properly.

This can lead to symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, and brain fog.

If you think you might be gluten intolerant, it’s important to get tested by a doctor. And if you are, you must learn how to avoid gluten altogether.

There are many gluten-free options available these days, so it’s easier than ever to find foods that suit your needs.

8) Alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to dehydration, which can cause brain fog.

It’s important to drink alcohol in moderation and make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water when consuming liquor.

If you’re going to drink alcohol, it’s best to stick with drinks that contain little sugar, such as:

  • Red wine
  • Whiskey
  • Tequila
  • Vodka
  • Gin

There are a few things you can do to avoid brain fog from alcohol, such as:

  • Eating a full meal before drinking liquors
  • Drinking water in between alcoholic beverages
  • Avoiding other sugary drinks
  • Sticking with clear liquors

By following these tips, you can help prevent alcohol brain fog.

9) Sinus infection

Sinus infections can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Facial pain and pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

Brain fog is the most common symptom of sinus infections, among others. If you think you might have a sinus infection, it’s important to see a doctor.

And here are a few things that can help you relieve your symptoms of sinus infections:

  • nasal sprays
  • decongestants
  • humidifiers
  • hot showers
  • sinus rinses
  • antibiotics

Sinus infections can be extremely painful, but there are many treatments available.

But don’t suffer from brain fog any longer, and see a doctor if you think you might have a sinus infection.

10) Covid-19

Covid brain fog is a real thing, and it’s something that many people are dealing with right now.

It is common among people who have been infected by the virus (post Covid) or those experiencing what is referred to recently as “long Covid.”

Covid brain fog can include symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Headaches
  • Slow thinking

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to dealing with Covid-19 brain fog, but there are a few things that might help:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Managing stress
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs

If you’re struggling with Covid brain fog, talk to your doctor and see what brain fog treatment they suggest.

11) Medical conditions

Many medical conditions can cause brain fog, such as:

If you think you might have one of these conditions, it’s important to see a doctor.

They will be able to diagnose you and offer treatment options that can help relieve your symptoms. 

12) Medications

There are many medications that can cause brain fog, such as:

If you think your medication is causing brain fog, talk to your doctor. They might be able to switch you to a different medication that doesn’t have the same side effects.

The Bottom Line

Brain fog can indeed change your life in a not-so-pleasant way. Other people even find it overwhelming and debilitating.

You might have found it already affecting your productivity at work and the relationships you have with the people around you.

There are many things that can cause brain fog, but the good news is that there are also many solutions.

If you’re struggling with brain fog, talk to your doctor and see what they suggest. And try out a few of the tips above to see if they help relieve your symptoms. 

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