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Anxiety & Stress

What Causes Brain Fog?

Confused and tired young woman experiencing brain fog at work.

If you’ve ever wandered into a room only to forget why you went in there, you’ve probably experienced brain fog. 

We all feel out of it from time to time, but persistent bouts of brain fog can indicate a more systemic disturbance in your body’s functioning. 

Here, we’ll cover 7 common reasons you may be experiencing brain fog, and offer some workable solutions, like herbs for memory, that you can implement into your daily activities to clear the mental haze.

What is Brain Fog?

The most important thing to note about brain fog is that it is not a clinical condition, but rather an impairment of cognitive function as well as emotional and energetic functions. Brain fog symptoms may include:

  • Poor recall
  • Physical and/or mental fatigue or lethargy
  • Inability to focus
  • Lowered mood

If you find your spells of brain fog are increasing in frequency, interfering with your daily life, or giving you a chronic feeling of disassociation, it’s time to pay more attention to your episodes and assess the underlying causes that may be to blame.

What Can Cause Brain Fog?

The brain is the captain of all psychological and physiological operations within your body. So, if you’re dealing with brain fog it’s important to account for any other disturbances you may be experiencing within your body.

Let’s dive into some common brain fog causes regarding physical and mental well-being.

Cause #1: Low glycemic index

Feeling foggy? You may just need to eat something. Brain fog is a textbook sign of low blood sugar, which may also be accompanied by:

  • Lethargy
  • Lightheadedness
  • Anxiety
  • Jitteriness
  • Irritability
  • Pallor1

Try eating a low-sugar snack balanced with equal parts fat, protein, and carbohydrates, and see if your cognition sharpens. 

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Cause #2: Gluten allergy

Gluten intolerance can range from mild sensitivities to full-blown celiac disease. A gluten allergy may also cause brain fog. Slow mental processing speeds, a cloudy memory, and an inability to focus are hallmark signs of digestive issues caused by gluten sensitivities.

Individuals living with a gluten allergy report marked improvements after following a gluten-free diet.2 Dietary changes take time—around 12 months—to see concrete improvement, so talk to your healthcare provider for support and guidance if you suspect a gluten allergy is to blame for your brain fog.

Cause #3: Anxiety

Like many mental health conditions, anxiety is a widely misunderstood condition. We all know what it’s like to be under acute stress—whether it comes from our job performance, financial strain, or relationships woes—but anxiety is a chronic misattunement of our mental, emotional, and physical baseline.

Because anxiety often recedes into the background of our conscious mind, it can be difficult to notice something’s changed. That static feeling that accompanies brain fog, however, is a tell-tale sign of anxiety, and may also manifest as:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty following a train of thought
  • Procrastination or avoidance of daily tasks
  • Feeling of mental exhaustion or hopelessness3

If left untreated, anxiety can become a self-fulfilling prophecy: stress about your inability to perform “like you used to” can generate more stress, further impeding daily life and heightening the pressure you feel regarding your daily tasks. This can lead to chronic stress when not met with a treatment. 

Anxiety is a holistic condition affecting all functions of the mind, body, and brain, which means it needs a comprehensive intervention. Developing a decompression ritual that incorporates both herbal support and behavioral changes can help you perform your daily responsibilities without overburdening your body and mind.

Cause #4: Hormones

Hormones are the body’s leading communicators. They’re responsible for signaling and coordinating a symphony of bodily functions 24/7, 365 days a year. Women, in particular, experience fluctuations in their hormonal activity throughout the month. Menstrual cycles, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause can often lead to cognitive problems.

Hormone changes and related brain fog may appear as:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Scattered attention
  • Depressed motor function
  • Irritability

In addition to the fluctuations in reproductive hormones within the body, brain fog may also be a sign of other endocrine issues, like hypothyroidism. If your brain fog persists following periods of hormone fluctuations, consult with your physician to ensure your thyroid is functioning as it should be. 

Cause #5: Medication

If you’re taking pharmaceuticals for a pre-existing condition, you may need to consult with your doctor or psychiatrist if you’re experiencing frequent bouts of brain fog. Cognitive impairment is a common side-effect of many drugs, and routinely taking multiple medications increases the probability that the medication will produce a foggy mind.4

Cause #6: Sleep deprivation

In the age of grind culture, you may not even notice you’re running on empty because running on empty seems to be part and parcel of productivity. However, lack of sleep is one of the most common culprits of brain fog and may be an early sign of imminent burnout.

“Sleep debt” is the colloquial term for the cumulative effects of sleep deprivation over a long period of time. If you’ve been pulling all-nighters or have habituated to fewer than 7 hours of sleep since college, it’s likely your sleep debt is catching up to you.

Chronic sleep deprivation can result in a cascade of psychological and physiological disturbances, affecting:

  • The endocrine system
  • The sympathetic nervous system
  • Digestion and metabolic processes
  • Cognition
  • Emotional regulation5

We all know the statistic—ideally, humans spend ⅓ of their lives asleep. When such an essential bodily function is compromised, the rest of the body is affected, which inevitably leaves us feeling less clear-headed, moodier, and more likely to experience inclement cognitive weather like brain fog.

How to Cure Brain Fog

If you’re concerned about recurring brain fog, be sure to consult with your doctor to rule out any more severe underlying conditions. More often than not, the phenomenon can be mitigated by recommitting to your physical and mental health and making strategic adjustments to improve your overall well-being.

If you’re looking for remedies for how to get rid of brain fog, consider making the following amendments and lifestyle changes to your routine:

  • Keep a brain fog log – Treat yourself to a new Moleskine, pin a note to the top of your Notes app, and get in the habit of recording when and where your brain fog spells happen. Be sure to note details like how much sleep you got, what you ate and drank most recently, and what you were doing when the lapse occurred. Over time, you may notice patterns in the onsets of your episodes, which can help you identify your triggers.
  • Revamp your diet – Whether or not food allergens are to blame for your brain fog, minding your diet can do wonders for polishing up your mental performance. Keeping track of food for brain power can help with brain function. Dairy, processed foods, and excessive sugar can bog down your brain. Further, while coffee may give you the impression of mental clarity, too much caffeine can tax your kidneys and stress levels, which can impair your mental functioning in the long term.6
  • Befriend herbs and plants – Food isn’t the only ingestible to pay attention to when it comes to combating brain fog. Herbs and fungi have been used by humans for millennia to bring the body back into balance. Green tea, ginkgo, and rosemary are known for their ability to re-energize and rebalance the mind, and can be seamlessly incorporated as teas, tinctures, or supplements. 
  • Take 5 to meditate – If anxiety is at the root of your brain fog, simply taking a step back and loosening the reins on whatever’s holding your attention can encourage your mind to come back to a state of ease. Listening to a guided meditation, trying a square breathing exercise, or even taking 5 deep breaths can hit the refresh button on your mind and turn down mental static.
  • Catch up on sleep – Incrementally adjusting your sleep routine is the best way to avoid throwing your body for a loop. Try gradually tucking into bed 10, 15, and then 20 minutes earlier each night, until you reach your target 7 hours of sleep. Sleep-promoting cues like a cool bedroom, dim lights, and herbal tea can all help you get cozy and enjoy a restful night's sleep.

While frustrating, brain fog is a common complaint, and the good news is that strategic, sustainable interventions on diet, behavior, and lifestyle can encourage the fog to lift.

Cut through the Haze with Plant People

Spending time and effort trying to get your mental mojo back can deplete the energy reserves your brain and body need to run efficiently, so don’t be surprised if your brain fog is accompanied by feelings of lethargy or depressed moods. If your brain fog isn't caused by a medically underlying cause, you can start with a few lifestyle changes, such as adding supplements or staying active for blood flow, to achieve optimal brain health. 

Plant People’s Clear Focus Supplements recruits a force of organic warriors like ginkgo, cordyceps, and Lion’s Mane to support holistic wellness that gives your mind and body a complete sense of well-being.

Cutting through brain fog is a journey of trial and error, but making over your routine with helpful herbs and fungi can help rebalance your brain and provide the clarity you need to function happily and healthily.


Reviewed by Gabe Kennedy

 Co-Founder of Plant People, Gabe Kennedy is an acclaimed chef and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house of healers and herbalists, he is passionate about the power of food as a tool for health, and actualized this passion and belief system into his company, Plant People. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 Gabe has shaped menus and cooked his way around the world with his mission to promote a more communal, green and healthy world.

 Gabe is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. You can learn more about his work at his website.


  1. Mayo Clinic. Hypoglycemia.
  2. PubMed. Gluten-induced cognitive impairment ("brain fog") in coeliac disease.
  3. Healthline. Your Brain Fog May Be an Anxiety Symptom — Here’s How to Deal with It.
  4. US News. Brain Fog: Potential Causes and Treatments.
  5. The Lancet. Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function.
  6. Livestrong. Foods That Cause Brain Fog.





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