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Brain Fog Is Real—and Here's How You Can Stop It

Are you feeling disoriented? Can’t organize your thoughts or focus on one task long enough to complete it? Find yourself forgetting things constantly and unable to recall recent events? That may be brain fog, baby! 

Brain fog isn’t a medical term, but it’s a common issue that most of us — at some point or another — will suffer from.

But what, exactly, is brain fog? How can you figure out if you have it, and what can you do to get rid of it?

Well, the first two questions are a little complicated, but the third is one we have some definitive answers to.

What Is Brain Fog?

It’s important to remember that brain fog isn’t itself a medical condition. You’re not going to show up to your healthcare provider’s office, tell them what’s going on and then have them sit there and be like, “Yup! Brain fog! You’ll be dead in two weeks!”

Instead, it’s important to think of brain fog as what it actually is: a mild cognitive impairment that can either have simple and resolvable underlying causes, or potentially be a symptom of other medical conditions. 

Now, those “other conditions” could range in severity from mild to wild; from a lack of sleep or minor hormonal changes, to more severe things like Alzheimer’s Disease and multiple sclerosis.

So, first and foremost, it’s important for us to say that if you’re picking up on any of the symptoms we’re going to discuss below, and they get worse, don’t improve or stay the same over time, you should see your healthcare provider. 

Qualified healthcare professionals can typically “test” for brain fog and diagnose it relatively easily, but because it’s something that can be a symptom of many other — more serious — health issues, it’s important to see your healthcare provider as early as possible.

That said...

What Are the Symptoms of Brain Fog?

Brain fog is a little more than just lacking attention and forgetting what you ate for breakfast. It’s not unusual to lose focus at the office on a Monday morning or forget where we put our keys from time to time

But if you’re going for days on end without being able to sit down and focus on your work — or anything else, for that matter — then it could be brain fog.

A lack of mental clarity is also a big symptom of brain fog. And we don’t mean lacking mental clarity in the, “What does it all mean?” sense of the word, but in the, “I can’t figure out what the tip on this dinner tab is,” or, “I can’t remember the six-number password to my phone” sense.

If you’re also finding that you can’t concentrate on the tasks in front of you, or that you’re having prolonged memory issues in general, these are both telltale signs that you may be experiencing brain fog.

If you’re feeling slow or sluggish and are noticing basic everyday tasks are taking you longer to complete, or that your grades or work performance are/is slipping, this may also be indicative of brain fog.

Basically, brain fog sounds simple to detect because it is, really. However, the question you should seek to answer isn’t whether or not you have brain fog, but what is causing it.

Causes of Brain Fog

Pinpointing the possible causes of brain fog can be simple, but it’s also important to note that, like brain fog’s symptoms, there are quite a few things that can cause it, and they range pretty drastically in severity from things like poor sleeping habits, to larger issues like depression and hypothyroidism. Here’s a general rundown:

Stress: When you’re stressed out, your blood pressure may rise, your immune system may be compromised and you may experience what’s called “cognitive fatigue,” which is exactly what it sounds like. 

All of these things can individually contribute to a feeling of brain fogginess, but together, they create the perfect storm for some serious issues.

Lack of Sleep: You’d be surprised at just how valuable a good night’s sleep is to the human body. In order to keep your body — and brain — functioning optimally, it’s recommended that you get at least seven hours of sleep per night

If you’re burnin' the wick at both ends too often for too long, you may experience brain fog, and find it difficult to concentrate, focus and get stuff done.

Medications: It’s super important that when introducing new medications to your body, you’re aware of any and every side effect you may encounter. 

If after you start taking a new medication you start experiencing any of the symptoms of brain fog, it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider to see about either lowering your dosage or trying another medication. Some medications even list some of the symptoms of brain fog — such as difficulty concentrating — as potential side effects.

Diet: The food you put into your body has a lot to do with how you feel. If you’ve taken an elementary level health class, you already knew that. What you may not have known is that the foods you eat may also affect your propensity for brain fog. 

For instance, a vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to depression, anxiety and several of the other symptoms heavily associated with brain fog.

Dehydration: We hear it all the time: “Stay hydrated!” And we also know that our bodies can survive for days, if not weeks, without food — but without water, we’re goners in mere days. In fact, it’s considered to be the single-most important nutrient to our bodies.

What you didn’t know is that aside from keeping us alive, it also keeps our organs — like our brains — working properly. If you’re even a little dehydrated — some studies find as little as one percent to two percent of total body water is enough — you can experience cognitive impairment like brain fog. 

Preexisting Medical Conditions: Remember: brain fog is a cognitive impairment, and while it also has its own varied list of causes and symptoms, it is also itself a symptom of some potentially large medical conditions. That’s exactly why if you think you’re experiencing it, you should contact a healthcare professional immediately. 

Some of those medical conditions include: Alzheimer’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, anemia, lupus and even arthritis. The point is, go see your damn healthcare provider.

Treating Brain Fog

When push comes to shove, treating brain fog should be left up to your healthcare provider. However, there are several things you can do if you’re experiencing symptoms of brain fog to help alleviate some of its symptoms.

Some of these things include:

  • Changing your diet. Adding more vitamin B12-rich foods like beef, breakfast cereal, clams, trout, tuna, salmon, milk and other dairy products.
  • Getting good rest. Aim for seven or more hours. We know that sounds insane for most adults, but we stand by it. Sleep is important.
  • Exercising. Seriously, regular exercise can help with focus, concentration, lethargy, depression and some of the other symptoms of brain fog.
  • Exercising your brain. Working on cognitive puzzles and other games that’ll make you use your brain. Turns out, if you don’t use it, you may actually lose it.
  • Managing stress. Finding effective ways to manage your stress levels could also help with focus. Activities like yoga, mindfulness meditation and even getting regular massages are proven ways to lower stress, blood pressure, etc.
  • Saying hydrated. You’ve heard it everywhere else, and now you’re hearing it from us. Stay hydrated!

The Bottom Line on Brain Fog

When push comes to shove, "brain fog" is a generalized non-medical term for mild cognitive impairment. It's a symptom of many different issues or disorders. It can tell you everything from, "You need to drink more water" to, "you're too stressed — relax" or even, "Hey, you should schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider."

Though ambiguous, make no mistake: brain fog is a very real thing, and it's not all in your head (lol, see what we did there?).

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms above and they don't get better or improve over time as you address what you think might be causing your bout of brain fog, reach out to your healthcare provider — they'll be able to point you in the right direction.

Want more life-changing pro-tips from the hims staff? Check out our blog

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.