Although brain fog isn’t considered an official medical condition, it’s a very real problem for many people. Brain fog is a set of symptoms caused by a variety of other medical conditions.
Here we discuss the potential causes for brain fog, and identify some natural ways you may be able to eliminate or avoid it.
What Causes Brain Fog?
Brain fog is an indication that the brain isn’t performing at its best.
The functional unit of the brain is the nerve cell. In order for the neurons to work properly, they need to have a ready supply of oxygen, glucose, and minerals. They use neurotransmitters to send communications between them from one region of the brain to another.
If any part of this system is deficient or dysfunctional, the nerve cells will send signals more slowly, causing us to feel brain fog.
There can be many causes for brain fog. Some of the most common include:
- Insomnia or poor sleep quality
- Neurotransmitter imbalance
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Neurological diseases
- Food allergies
- Side effects to medications
Sleep Issues Are The Most Common Causes Of Brain Fog
A study published in 2014 set out to find a better definition of brain fog. They investigated patients suffering from symptoms of brain fog and asked them questions about their lifestyle, diet, and symptom picture. 90% of these patients reported that lack of sleep was the main cause of their symptoms. 86% suggested dehydration, and 67% said that stimulant medications were the cause .
Throughout the day we build up a compound called adenosine. It’s a normal byproduct of the nerve cell function. This adenosine binds to the nerve cells, and tells them to delay the signals. As this builds up throughout the day, the nerve cells become slower, causing us to feel tired. This is a helpful system to make us feel sleepy at the end of a long day.
After sleeping, the adenosine is removed and eliminated from the nerve cells.
If we have difficulty sleeping, however, or we are unable to reach a deep sleep for long enough in the night, we will still have some of this adenosine when we wake up in the morning. This is likely to be one of the main causes for brain fog caused by issues with our sleep.
Interestingly, this is also how coffee works to make us feel awake. The caffeine molecule binds to the adenosine receptor sites on the cell, but doesn’t cause any effects. This works to block the real adenosine from binding, and making us feel tired.
How To Eliminate Brain Fog
Fortunately, there are a few supplements you can take to improve the symptoms of brain fog.
The most important step to fixing your brain fog is to figure out what the cause is.
Most people experiencing brain fog are likely suffering from poor sleep quality, so ensuring you are getting a good quality sleep is a simple way to address these symptoms.
L-Theanine is the active compound in green tea. It’s a nootropic, anti-anxiety, and general cognitive enhancer. It’s one of the best brain fog-busting supplements we have available. It can increase focus and mental clarity, and protects the body from the negative impacts of stress.
Ashwagandha is a traditional Ayurvedic herb from India. Herbalists think of this on as an “adrenal tonic”. The adrenals are tasked with regulating the stress response in humans. When the adrenals become worn out from chronic stress, we begin to lose our edge both mentally and physically.
By improving the health of the adrenals, we can gain back your mental sharpness and adaptability.
Ashwagandha is a great herb for long term brain fog, however, it’s important to be patient as it can take 1 or 2 months of regular use to build the adrenals back up to health. Usually, benefits are noticed after about 1 or 2 weeks of use, which will gradually increase over time.
The nerve cells use electrical impulses and neurotransmitters to send signals throughout the brain and to the rest of the body. In order to do this, they need to have access to trace vitamins and minerals like magnesium, zinc, selenium, calcium, sodium, and vitamin B3 & B6.
Although all of these vitamins and minerals can be obtained from the diet, nutrient deficiencies are common, leading to the development of brain fog over time.
A multivitamin is one of the easiest ways to ensure that we’re getting all of our required trace minerals and avoid brain fog due to poor nerve function.
Rhodiola is perhaps the best symptomatic support for brain fog. It may not treat the underlying cause, but does a great job of sharpening the mind to reduce the effects.
Rhodiola works directly on a special region in the brain known as the hypothalamus. This is the part of the brain that regulates homeostasis, including neurotransmitter balance.
An imbalance of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are often the cause of brain fog in humans. This is especially true in people with known dysfunctions in these two important neurochemicals, such as in those with ADHD, anxiety, or depression.
Rhodiola has a rich history of use for conditions like depression, and is taken by athletes and students for increase sharpness of both the mind and the body.
Brain fog is a common term used among people to describe a set of symptoms including difficulty concentrating, confusion, frustration, and fatigue. It’s as though the mind is slowed down, or there is a dense fog making it difficult to come to conclusions effectively.
Eliminating brain fog therefore relies heavily on identifying the cause for the condition. This can include side effects of medications, nutritional deficiencies, and poor sleep quality. Since the most common cause of this condition is poor sleep quality (including issues with falling asleep or staying asleep or both), it’s useful to start with this if you are unsure of the cause for the brain fog.
- Ross, A. J., Medow, M. S., Rowe, P. C., & Stewart, J. M. (2013). What is brain fog? An evaluation of the symptom in postural tachycardia syndrome. Clinical Autonomic Research, 23(6), 305-311.