Brain fog 101: Why you have it (and how vitamins for brain fog can help)
Brain fog is often one of the first signs that something is off-balance in your body. Don’t let it hold you back.
Brain fog isn’t an actual medical condition in and of itself. But muddled thinking, difficulty focusing, and long-lasting mental fatigue—a few of the common symptoms that people typically refer to as “brain fog”—often serve as a warning sign that something in your body is off-balance. If you want to burn off that brain fog and experience clearer, sharper thinking, it starts with understanding the underlying causes of brain fog (and how vitamins for brain fog can help).
What is brain fog syndrome, and what does it feel like?
Everyone experiences brain fog differently. And while there’s no universally accepted medical definition of brain fog, it typically includes a wide-ranging category of symptoms, including:
Slower thinking and an inability to quickly and clearly articulate your thoughts
Impaired decision making and slower reaction times
Difficulty focusing or concentrating on things
A hard time recalling things, including conversations or information you recently discussed/learned
A general sense of being in a fog: muddled thoughts, lack of mental clarity, and overall mental fatigue and low energy (i.e. feeling “stuck”)
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What causes brain fog?
Brain fog isn’t a health issue itself, but rather emblematic of something else going on in your body. Some of the most common factors that contribute to brain fog and fuzzy thinking include:
Three out of four British adults struggle with high stress.
Unmanaged stress changes the structure of your brain and affects your brain’s hormone and neurotransmitter levels, leading to poor focus, higher levels of mental fatigue, and other symptoms of brain fog.
There’s a strong link between hormonal health and brain health.
For instance, sex hormones—specifically testosterone in men and estrogen in women—affect cognition. This is why older men whose testosterone levels are dropping often struggle with brain fog. And it’s why 60 per cent of middle-aged women report experiencing menopause brain fog.
But many other forms of hormonal imbalances and changes can influence your brain health too. For example, an under-active thyroid that under-produces thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) can cause forgetfulness and fuzzy thinking.
Medications and medical conditions
Many over-the-counter medications, such as popular allergy drugs, impair cognitive function or disrupt your brain’s ability to utilize the neurotransmitter chemicals necessary for quick decision making and improved reaction times.
Likewise, many medical conditions (e.g. chronic fatigue, depression, etc.) may cause brain fog. This highlights the need to discuss your brain fog worries with a medical professional in case it’s part of a more serious health concern.
Your brain requires an array of key vitamins, minerals and nutrients to fuel its many neurological processes. A lack of proper fuel can leave your brain’s proverbial gas tank running on fumes, leading to fuzzy thinking and lack of focus.
If your diet isn’t providing the nutritional foundation your brain requires for optimal cognitive function, it’s time to dive deeper into the relationship between diet and cognition, and consider natural supplements for brain fog to fill in any dietary gaps you’re experiencing.
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6 vitamins for brain fog
Start with these vitamins to help clear the brain fog, get you out of your mental rut, and restore your ability to think quickly and clearly.
Start with the basics—a well-balanced, healthy diet
Poor dietary habits can make you feel sluggish both physically and mentally. Take a look at your diet and emphasise whole, plant-based foods, and consider eliminating or restricting your intake of processed foods and refined grains.
While more research is needed on the role that food allergens and inflammatory foods have on your cognitive function, limited studies suggest that you may want to consider cutting out or limiting:
Foods with added sugars
Gluten if you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity
Stimulants like coffee and other caffeinated beverages (it may lead to a short-term boost in mental clarity, but the ensuing caffeine crash often contributes to brain fog)
1. Get your B vitamins
Your body needs sufficient levels of vitamin B12 for healthy nerve function, and deficiencies are linked with cognitive decline, slowed thinking and poor memory.
Some of the best food sources for B12 include:
Shellfish, such as mussels and clams
Poultry products, such as chicken, turkey, and eggs
Other B vitamins also play a roll in cognitive function and guarding against brain fog. For instance, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and vitamin B7 keeps your nervous system running properly. When it comes to brain cell communication and neurotransmitters, your body needs vitamin B3 and vitamin B6. And vitamin B9 reduces mental fatigue and exhaustion.
2. Eat foods high in omega-3s
These healthy fats protect and preserve your brain cell health and brain cell communication, and it’s a breakdown in cellular communication that may be making your hazy thinking even worse.
Some of the best food sources of omega-3s include:
Fatty fish, such as salmon
Marine algae, including marine algae oil
Nuts and seeds, including nut and seed oils
3. Vitamin D, aka the "sunshine vitamin"
Vitamin D works as a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in your brain. It’s also a mood booster, warding off depression and other mood disorders that typically correlate with higher levels of brain fog.
One of the best ways to increase your body’s vitamin D levels is through 5-10 minutes of sun exposure a day. You can also get your vitamin D through foods, including:
Fortified foods, such as fortified milks and fruit juices
4. Keep an eye on vitamin E
Certain types of vitamin E (look out for DL-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate) act as antioxidants, with the power to reduce free radical damage and fight inflammation. Oxidative stress can affect your brain in many ways, both long-term and short-term, and has been linked to higher levels of brain fog. It’s also great for your skin, so a real win-win.
You can get vitamin E from several food sources, including:
Plant oils (including rapeseed, sunflower, and olive oil)
Nuts and seeds
Wheatgerm, often found in cereals
5. Vitamin C—not just for scurvy
Vitamin C is probably the best-known vitamin, and it’s excellent at fighting brain fog—both as an antioxidant and by helping regulate hormone production. And that’s on top of its many other benefits, like supporting immunity and healing, healthy skin and bones, and your eyesight.
Beyond the classic half-time orange, you can get vitamin C from:
6. And don’t forget Vitamin A
Vitamin A is another antioxidant, so it protects against free-radical damage. It’s also responsible for all sorts of other benefits, including promoting good vision, and helping proper function of the immune system (not related to brain fog, but nice extras).
One thing to watch out for is that Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that it needs to be taken with a small amount of fat (either in a supplement or with a meal), or else your body won’t be able to absorb it.
There are several ways to incorporate a bit more vitamin A into your diet. Focus on foods like:
Many people struggle to get the right nutrients through diet alone
A review of the results of Heights’ Brain Nutrition Assessment (which you can take for free in under five minutes) pinpoints just how difficult it is for many people to get the right nutrients to battle brain fog.
This is where Heights’ all-natural Smart Supplement can help. Heights takes the guesswork out of your meal planning and ensures you receive all the right vitamins, minerals and nutrients to clear away the brain fog and experience clearer, sharper cognitive function. We've included all the key vitamins for brain fog:
Our top-rated formula of 20 key vitamins and minerals, including omega 3 and vitamins D, C and B12, supports your brain and body, all day long.