What is "Brain Fog" and What Causes It?

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  • By Denise Potter
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What is "Brain Fog" and What Causes It?

The inability to think clearly affects most people from time to time. Commonly called ‘brain fog’, this state of mental fogginess can disrupt daily life and be a great source of frustration. The inability to focus on the simplest of tasks can even lead to feelings of anxiousness and depression. With this cloud over our minds, we are unable to recall things as easily as we once were. Not only that, but we are unable to assimilate new information as easily when trying to learn something.

Brain fog is not simply something that affects mental clarity. It can also manifest as headaches, trouble concentrating, low energy, the lack of drive and motivation, and increased irritability. Pairing that with the sleeping troubles, anxiety, depression, and increased stress that is often associated with brain fog, it’s no wonder this ends up being a major concern for many people!

The brain is constantly hungry for nutrients such as amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and glucose from things like complex carbohydrates. Feelings of stress and exhaustion, along with toxic and nutritionally deficient food choices put more stress on an already starving brain. This leads to that sensation of feeling ‘off’ or cloudy headed. It is believed that most cases of brain fog are rooted in lifestyle choices that encourage inflammation and hormonal imbalances. Thankfully, this is an issue that can be remedied with adjustments to diet and lifestyle!

Identifying and Resolving the Issue


The first thing to consider when dealing with brain fog is the amount and quality of sleep. Do you have a difficult time falling asleep or staying asleep? Is it the feeling of physical pain, or the stressors of life that is keeping you awake at night? For many people, a magnesium deficiency may be the culprit of the sleeping issues, and therefore the brain fog. It could also be that the pillow or mattress needs to be changed, or a chiropractic session may be in order to feel comfortable enough to fall into a relaxed state. Bodywork therapies such as massage or CranioSacral therapy can help to relax the muscles, nervous system, and emotional state enough to bring a lasting peace into the body. There are many different adjustments that can be made in order to help bring about a good night's sleep that will bring about a myriad of benefits to the physical, mental, and emotional states.


If sleep is not the main culprit of your brain fog, consider your stress load. Do you have a highly stressful home or work life? Are you stuck in front of a computer or electronic devices all day? Electronic devices often emit a blue light that has the ability to pass through the retina of the eyes and impact the pineal gland which controls our circadian rhythms, throwing off our sleep and energy cycles throughout the day. Avoiding excessive use of electronic devices, especially at night can be a simple fix for some hormonal and sleep problems. Although human lifestyle has changed greatly since the beginning of civilization, our biological reactions to stress have not adapted. Our bodies respond to and recognize stress the same way now as they did thousands of years ago. When humans would hunt for survival and lived in a world that was in many ways much more harsh than it is now, our bodies would release endorphins, hormones, and chemicals to help us deal with the current stressor. These days, our stressors aren’t as intense as say, running from a lion; however the stress that we have now is constant. Most of us always have many daily responsibilities in both our personal and professional lives that don't let up, so our bodies are in a constant state of releasing the stress hormones. When we are faced with this day to day release of cortisol and other stress hormones, our bodies become depleted as they require more nutrients to help calm the brain and nervous system after such a heavy load. If this is left unchecked, it can lead to inflammation throughout the body, weight gain, anxiety, and of course, brain fog. Stress is considered to be one of the leading causes of health imbalances out there and is something that we are all too familiar with. When stressed, the body burns through many key nutrients needed to function properly. Following a food plan that is best suited for your individual body type will help to maintain that nutrient balance when those nutrient reserves are being taxed. Along with diet and a healthy physical outlet for stress such as yoga or exercise, there are many supplements that can be used as an aid to calm the intensity of stress. Adaptogen herbs are a class of herbs that are wonderful at helping to maintain a healthy balance when undergoing stress. Herbs such as licorice root, ashwagandha, and astragalus are a few adaptogens commonly used to help manage stress and a healthy hormonal balance. One of the best minerals for stress as well as one of the most deficient minerals in our bodies currently is magnesium. This mineral is even nicknamed “the relaxer” as it helps to relax the bowels, the muscles, and the nervous system.



The Standard American Diet (S.A.D), does not follow guidelines for optimal health. Most of the food in this type of diet is filled with inflammation causing sugar, preservatives, unhealthy trans fats, and other chemically altered “foods”. Most of the foods and drinks that are consumed in our society are incredibly harmful to the body and build up within the system over a period of time. There is a very strong connection between the digestive system and the brain that has been studied extensively over the last several years, showing that the foods we eat have a direct impact on our mental health. If we eat foods that are difficult to digest, or that don’t work as well with our personal body chemistry, we are not able to live up to our full potentials. By drinking plenty of good quality water and eating organically grown or raised food products, our bodies can absorb the nutrients from these foods more readily and will be able to transform the amino acids and nutrients into usable energy for our brains. A healthy diet is very individualized, not everyone will respond to healthy foods in the same way so it is best to see a qualified practitioner like a Naturopath in order to determine what the best avenue is for you. Dietary changes can be very overwhelming for many people. A great place to start is to cut the junk! Begin by removing as much white sugar in the diet as possible. Start looking at the ingredients in your foods and drinks and you may be surprised at how much sugar is poured into the things we consume regularly. Sugar is highly addictive and causes inflammation throughout the entire body. By cutting out sugar, many people notice a drastic change in their mental clarity as well as a reduction in pain! Another change that can be made is to decrease the amount of trans fats in the diet and increase the amount of healthy fats. Not all fats are made the same! Healthy fats such as avocados, fish, nuts, and coconut oil are incredibly important when it comes to mental health. These types of fats nourish the brain and allow it to think more clearly and rapidly.



Let’s face it, our world is a toxic place. From the pollution in the air, to the contamination in the soils and water supply, it’s nearly impossible to avoid absorbing some of these toxins. When we are exposed to chemicals and heavy metals, our bodies need to work toward cleaning them out of the system. Some heavy metals such as aluminum, can settle on the brain and onto other tissues within the body that block the body’s ability to absorb the key nutrients and disrupt normal bodily functions. Heavy metals and other chemical toxins are found in unhealthy processed foods, some over-the-counter medicines, and even in our cookware! This is a major contributor to brain fog as well as other imbalances. Chelating heavy metals from the body can have a great impact on mental and emotional health, as well as physical health. Although these toxins can be very harmful for the body, it is not always a good idea to begin a cleanse immediately. The body sometimes needs a bit of preparation in order to enter into a cleanse of any kind, especially when it comes to cleansing out heavy metals. To see if a heavy metal cleanse is right for you, consider seeing a Naturopath. 


Common symptoms and effects on the body/mind/emotions

  • Irritability 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired memory
  • Low energy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Trouble sleeping


  • Overwork
  • Stress
  • Malnutrition
  • Lack of sleep
  • Inflammation
  • Leaky gut
  • Hormone imbalance 
  • Over-exposure to electronic devices 

What can be done

Super Omega 3 EPA 
Magnesium Complex
Bodywork therapies
Get quality sleep!
Physical activity and spend time outside
Detox from chemicals and heavy metals
Drink plenty of clean water
Eat healthy fats such as avocados and coconut oil
Avoid sugar and processed foods.


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