What Causes Brain Fog?

Brain Fog

Do you feel confused, unclear, forgetful, fatigued, or have a hard time multitasking? It could be brain fog, which isn’t considered a medical condition but rather a symptom of other issues, such as cognitive dysfunction, which affects about 600 million people worldwide. Brain fog has been in the news recently as it is a common symptom of long COVID, but that’s not the only reason people experience it. Other causes of mental fuzziness aren’t talked about as much but have the same impact on day-to-day life. In this blog, you’ll discover 12 causes of brain fog and 12 brain fog remedies that can help you clear the fog.

Brain fog has a variety of causes—obesity, depression, stress, food allergies, hormonal imbalances. Getting to the root cause can help you find solutions and climb out of this state of confusion, haziness, and lack of clarity. Click To Tweet


1. Obesity

It is common knowledge that obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, joint issues, and heart disease. Did you know it can negatively impact your brain health too? Inflammation is a major factor associated with obesity and is directly linked to brain fog. A 2015 study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience reviewed the connection between mast cells, which play a role in how fat is metabolized. This relationship can impact inflammation in the brain, resulting in brain fog.

Clear the Fog: Learn to love foods that love you back. Adopt a brain-healthy diet that supports cognition—think fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon), protein for better focus, berries, and nuts.

2. Stress

Life changes, whether exciting or difficult can cause stress, overwhelming the brain and leading to the fuzzy thinking and dullness associated with brain fog. If you’re undergoing intense change or dealing with a traumatic situation, you might struggle with symptoms of brain fog. If the stress you’re under requires you to make important decisions, you might have a harder time doing so. Research shows that chronic stress results in reduced blood flow to the brain, which contributes to brain fog and other adverse symptoms.

Clear the Fog: Reduce stress with relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation.

3. Untreated depression

Depression is strongly associated with memory loss, which is considered a common brain fog issue. Untreated depression can also result in fatigue, confusion, and an inability to focus—all of which are also linked to brain fog. Because the cognitive effects of depression are so far-reaching, it is imperative to seek help from a mental health professional with a brain health specialty.

Clear the fog: Discover which type of depression you have so you can get treatment targeted to your needs.

4. Hormonal imbalances

Brain fog and hormone issues go hand-in-hand. Hormonal causes of brain fog include hypothyroidism, perimenopause/menopause, and abnormal cortisol levels. Brain fog can be so extreme when hormonally related that it’s not uncommon for people to think they have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and get tested for memory loss.

Clear the Fog: Have your healthcare provider check your hormone levels and balance them if necessary.


Lack of focus, being easily distracted, and having trouble concentrating are all symptoms of ADD/ADHD that can contribute to brain fog. A study in Frontiers in Psychiatry found that people with ADD/ADHD have higher levels of cytokines, which have an inflammatory effect on the brain. A spike in cytokines can interfere with your working memory, slow your reaction time, and cause brain fog.

Clear the Fog: Find out which of the 7 types of ADD/ADHD you have and look for natural solutions to help and take medication if necessary.

6. Food allergies

Your diet can either make you feel focused and sharp or slow and sluggish. A study published in Behavioural Brain Research found a correlation between food allergies and cognitive impairment, including brain fog. More mile food sensitivities and food intolerances can also mess with your brain. The typical American diet is riddled with commonly allergenic foods such as gluten, corn, soy, sugar, dairy, and food additives and dyes.

Clear the Fog: Eliminate potential food allergens for 30 days and see if your foggy thinking improves.

7. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) has a host of symptoms involving digestive issues, sore lymph nodes, muscle weakness, food allergies, and irregular heartbeat. Another challenge of the condition is brain fog and overall difficulty with information processing, attention, and working memory.

Clear the Fog: Seek treatment for CFS from an integrative or functional medicine physician.

8. Long COVID

According to the World Health Organization, people suffering from long COVID have symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of smell and taste, muscle aches, depression, and anxiety. In a 2022 study, 71 percent of participants reported brain fog as a symptom of long COVID, and it is one of the top three symptoms including fatigue and shortness of breath.

Clear the Fog: Get on a brain-healthy program to help combat long COVID and its symptoms.

9. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease

Mild cognitive impairment (MPI) found in early-onset Alzheimer’s is different from brain fog but might feel similar. Keep in mind the distinction is that dementia symptoms include memory loss that is more profound than the mental cloudiness seen with brain fog, and as Alzheimer’s progresses will interfere dramatically with everyday life.

Clear the Fog: Get screened to rule out Alzheimer’s disease if more pronounced memory loss is a factor.

10. Medications

The blood-brain barrier weakens as we age, which can allow medications to seep into the brain. Over-the-counter and prescription medications that can cause brain fog include pain relievers, sleep aids, anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines, antidepressants, high blood pressure medication, allergy medication, and drugs that lower cholesterol (statins).

Clear the Fog: Check your medicine cabinet to see if you are taking anything that may interfere with cognitive function and talk to your doctor about it.

11. Sleep issues

There’s no way around it: we need our sleep. Without it, every aspect of life suffers. The idea that you can “get away with” a few hours of sleep every night or interrupted sleep is just not true. Lack of sleep – even one night – can cause brain fog and a host of other symptoms. Chronic lack of sleep is another source of inflammation that can wreak havoc on cognition.

Clear the Fog: Make sleep a priority in your life. Set a sleep schedule and stick with it, even on weekends.

12. Inflammation

The connection between brain inflammation and cognitive dysfunction is found throughout research on brain fog and applies to ADD/ADHD as well as obesity, depression, long COVID, anxiety, food allergies, sleep issues, and other causes listed here. A study conducted in 2021 found that even low levels of chronic neuroinflammation can have an impact on clear thinking and result in chronic brain fog.

Clear the Fog: Consider taking anti-inflammatory supplements, such as fish oil, curcumin, and probiotics.

Given the wide range of issues that cause brain fog, it’s crucial to seek professional help to find what’s at the root of your problems.

Brain fog, memory problems, depression, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. wonderful advice!

    Comment by douglas morris — May 24, 2023 @ 8:12 AM

  2. What are some natural hrlps for ADJD

    Comment by Gretchen Goodmam — June 5, 2023 @ 4:15 AM

  3. How long does long Covid last?

    Comment by Holly Weston — June 5, 2023 @ 4:46 AM


    Comment by tish hembury — June 5, 2023 @ 4:48 AM

  5. Left out migraine!

    Comment by Kathy — June 5, 2023 @ 4:54 AM

  6. Very insightful information!! Thank-you!!

    Comment by Melissa Young — June 5, 2023 @ 6:14 AM

  7. Why is Lyme Disease not on this list?

    Comment by A. Kaur — June 5, 2023 @ 7:34 AM

  8. Can Chemo and Radiation cause brain fog?

    Comment by Eva Wallace — June 5, 2023 @ 8:03 AM

  9. Thank you for your article. Is there any way to test for cognitive delays or brain fog without trying to figure out which one of the 12 reasons it could be?

    Comment by Melissa Groh — June 5, 2023 @ 9:59 AM

  10. I appreciate the wide range of detailed info Amen Clinic gives.
    Super helpful
    Thanks a bunch

    Comment by Carol-Ann Stadelman — June 5, 2023 @ 11:38 AM

  11. Excellent article from an expert whose work is well known to me. I would only add that “brain fog” is not a medical term and imprecise in its nature and meaning. “Brain fog” can also vary in intensity and duration. It can be a symptom of much more serious disease and one should be cautious using such terms without sufficient warning. To elaborate – the brain naturally adapts including during the course of injury recovery and disease. The “user” isn’t always aware – in fact rarely aware – of the degree of changes actually occurring (and being seamlessly compensated by said plastic brain) until such time as thresholds are crossed and we start to see “system crashes” in the brain’s CPU and data is systems. Summary – be careful you are not underestimating your brain fog and be very careful if you have had insidious past exposures (physical/chemical/disease trauma). I had “brain fog” that turned out to be chronic quinoline encephalopathy and it’s not going very well if you know what I mean. Take care all. Thanks Dr A

    Comment by Philip - Lawyer, Banker, Veteran — June 5, 2023 @ 12:55 PM

  12. I learned about the genetic factor that was setting me up for multiple chemical sensitivities and brain fog. It is simple for medical professionals not to make a big deal of that but a lifetime of health challenges from physical and emotional problems makes it frustrating to learn about after good health crashes. I'm trying to get fixed up with methyl-folate and methyl-B12 and then continue to try to repair the damage within my cells to try to see if I can get my body and disposition improved vs. continued frustration. Such is life. EGN

    Comment by Elinor Nosker — June 5, 2023 @ 6:49 PM

  13. Yes. U could not go out in my garden for 5 days. Rained every day and windy. I felt shortness of breath. Confusion. Tired. Headache. I took Tylenol a few days and used heating pad. I journal. No Facebook. It makes me feel drained if I do not feel well already. Took a break.
    I went outside Thursday and walked around my yard. Rested on porch. Sunday also. I fed my plants. I rested on porch. I'm 72. I exercise.
    I have to go in my garden every other day to feel well. I think it's scheduling my time better.
    Some fresh air and working outdoors.
    Dr told me 1 hr week in garden is enough exercise for my age. I was 58 then. I lost 20 lbs too.
    I keep busy. Recipes. Cooking. Reading. Bible study. I see and quilt. I study my bible. I can't do anything about my family in Pa or my daughter in NY. They know where I live. I choose not to travel anymore. I visited all of them many years.
    Now I'm going outside in my garden. Brain fog go away! Breathe in. Meditate happy memory with my Mom. We had a wonderful relationship. I loved her. She loved me. We wanted to see each other. She died. Biggest shock in my life!

    Comment by Donna Hopcraft — June 6, 2023 @ 4:54 AM

  14. Hello Eva, thank you for reaching out. Here's another helpful article for you: https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/do-you-have-chemo-brain/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 8, 2023 @ 11:35 AM

  15. Hello Gretchen, thank you for reaching out. Here are more articles on ADD/ADHD that may be helpful: https://www.amenclinics.com/?s=ADD.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 8, 2023 @ 11:36 AM

  16. Have you carried out brain scans of people with CFS/ME? If so, what have you found?

    In the UK the health system does not provide access to integrative or functional medicine care, so in the absence of this option what are your recommendations to patients to support their recovery?

    Comment by Debbie Ashwood — November 21, 2023 @ 10:16 AM

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