Brain fog is a temporary state of low mental capacity in people and animals. Brain fog is a symptom rather than a diagnosis, described as mental fatigue. 

The most common brain fog causes are head injury, infectious diseases, stress, poor sleep, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal problems, certain drugs, and medical conditions, like diabetes, allergies, fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue syndrome.   

Symptoms of brain fog include memory problems, poor concentration, lack of mental clarity, and feeling overwhelmed. The symptoms are similar among species, making people feel fuzzy, less mentally sharp, or scatterbrained. 

The primary brain fog treatment is addressing the underlying cause. Lifestyle changes, including a quality diet, brain-boosting supplements, regular sleep, daily exercise, and mental stimulation, help reduce brain fog symptoms. 

Brain-supporting supplements are an important part of the multimodal brain fog treatment plan and include vitamins (D, C, and B), minerals (magnesium), herbs (Ginko biloba and ginseng), spices (turmeric), omega-rich fish oils, and hemp-sourced CBD products. 

What is Brain Fog?

Brain fog is a symptom manifesting with impaired mental capacity and causing forgetfulness, confusion, and lack of mental clarity and focus. 

Brain fog is a “temporary sensation of reduced mental acuity,” according to Everyday Health. Foggy brains are typically associated with age-related cognitive decline, but in some cases, they are triggered by injuries and illnesses. 

Brain fog is not new, but regained prominence during COVID-19 because many people experienced poor cognitive performance at the same time. 

Brain fog is not a diagnosis alone but rather a symptom. The original term, brain fag, was coined by James Tunstall in 1850. The British physician invented the phrase to describe mental exhaustion in “brain workers” like writers, teachers, and lawyers. 

Brain fag syndrome was added to the DSM-4 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in the 1960s to indicate “excessive academic strain.” The name has been changed and is used to describe a state of mental fatigue today. 

How does Brain Fog Work?

Brain fog works on a cellular level, where it is triggered by high inflammation levels and changes in chemicals that affect mood, focus, and energy. Brain fog works similarly to cognitive decline on a higher level and is often described as fuzzy thinking. 

The answer is mental fatigue and feeling scatterbrained or less mentally sharp to people asking, “what does brain fog feel like?” 

What Caused Brain Fog?

Brain fog is caused by brain inflammation. The common triggers of brain inflammation are head trauma (even mild traumatic injuries), infectious diseases (Lyme disease, long COVID-19), hormonal imbalances (thyroid hormones, reproductive hormones), certain drugs (chemotherapy, sleep aids, antacids), and medical conditions (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome). 

Specific lifestyle factors, such as chronic stress, lack of sleep, and nutritional deficiencies, trigger neuroinflammation and brain fog in some cases. Long-term exposure to toxic molds is another cause of brain fog. 

Brain fog causes are sometimes atypical and seem unrelated. For example, people with severe food sensitivities develop brain fog after eating triggering foods, and diabetic people get brain fog if their blood sugar levels spike. 

What are the Symptoms of Brain Fog?

The symptoms of brain fog are listed below. 

  • Memory Problems: Short-term memory issues are common brain fog symptoms. Typical examples are the inability to learn new things, forgetting necessary appointments, or starting dinner and failing to finish if distracted by something. 
  • Poor Concentration: Brain fog lowers concentration, and people struggle to focus. Inability to follow instructions, short attention spans, and getting easily distracted are signs of poor concentration and brain fog symptoms. 
  • Lack of Mental Clarity: Mental clarity manifests with high focus and a clear perception. Brain fog diminishes mental clarity, and people find it difficult to recognize, understand, and organize their thoughts and emotions. 
  • Feeling Overwhelmed: Brain fog causes people to be frenetic when having to make a decision or consider the consequences of the decision. Feeling overwhelmed makes it difficult to plan and multitask.  

How Long Does Brain Fog Last?

Brain fog lasts from several days to a few months. The duration depends on the underlying cause and how quickly it is managed. Anxiety-related brain fog diminishes once stress levels are reduced, while COVID-related brain fog, in some cases, lasts for up to two years, for example. 

The Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology published a study titled “Evolution of neurologic symptoms in non-hospitalized COVID-19 “long haulers” in 2022. The study explains that some patients’ COVID-triggered brain fog symptoms do not improve for nine months after the infection, and others exhibit at least five symptoms of brain fog for as long as 18 months after recovery. 

Are there Treatments for Brain Fog?

Yes, there are treatments for brain fog. The exact treatment depends on the cause of brain fog. A healthy diet, daily exercise, mental stimulation, enough sleep, and less screen time help reduce brain fog symptoms regardless of the underlying trigger. 

Recovery from brain fog occurs with proper treatment and time. Patients with post-COVID-19 brain fog, the most prevalent, recover completely within six to nine months in most cases. 

How can Brain Fog be Treated?

Brain fog can be treated by managing the underlying cause and implementing lifestyle changes. The mainstream brain fog treatment focuses on the trigger and is specific. 

For example, if the brain fog is caused by a certain medication, discontinuing the drug is the treatment of choice. The treatment for people with diabetes-related brain fog is keeping blood sugar levels in the normal range. 

The lifestyle changes are general and do not affect the cause of brain fog but rather the symptoms of brain fog. 

Brain fog treatment through lifestyle modifications includes eating a healthy diet rich in brain-boosting nutrients, such as berries, leafy greens, nuts, and oily fish, getting plenty of restful and high-quality sleep, being physically and mentally active daily, and spending less time looking at phones, and tablets. 

Supplements for cognitive health help treat brain fog symptoms. Commonly used supplements are vitamins  B, C, and D, minerals, fish oil, CBD oil, L-theanine, Ginkgo biloba, and Ginseng. 

How does CBD Treat Brain Fog?

CBD treats brain fog by reducing inflammation, supporting neurogenesis, and relieving anxiety. 

Inflammation is the main trigger of brain fog. Cannabinoids have proven anti-inflammatory effects and are particularly potent in reducing neuroinflammation (inflammation of the nervous system). 

Frontiers in Pharmacology published a study “Cannabidiol for neurodegenerative disorders: A comprehensive review” in 2022. The study found that “CBD can also prevent neuroinflammation by acting on multiple molecular targets.”

Neurogenesis is the process of forming new neurons (main cells of the nervous system) and is essential for normal cognitive function. 

A 2021 Molecules study titled “Cannabinoids and Neurogenesis: The Promised Solution for Neurodegeneration?” says that “CBD has an effect on neurogenesis” and “the current results of cannabinoids effects on neurogenesis are encouraging.”

Anxiety is a contributing factor to brain fog development, and cannabinoids help relieve stress. A stressful environment triggers a foggy brain and worsens the condition’s symptoms. 

Jessica W. S. and associates, in “Use of cannabidiol in anxiety and anxiety-related disorders,” wrote that “CBD shows promise as an alternative therapy for anxiety disorders.”

Regular use of CBD oil or treats helps prevent brain fog and manages foggy brain symptoms. CBD works through the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in all mammals, meaning the effects of cannabinoids are similar in humans and animals. 

Will Brain Fog Eventually Go Away?

Yes, brain fog will eventually go away. Brain fog is a temporary condition and, in most situations, resolves once the underlying problem is under control. 

Permanent brain fog is more lasting and associated with severe illnesses such as fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, COVID-19, and stress. Treating the illness resolves the brain fog.  

Healthy eating habits, regular sleep, daily exercise, and plenty of mental stimulation reduce brain fog symptoms faster. 

What Vitamins Can Help Brain Fog?

Vitamins that can help with brain fog are vitamin D, vitamin C, and B complex, particularly B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cobalamin). 

Vitamin D is essential for normal brain function, and a lack of it harms cognitive health and worsens brain fog symptoms. Vitamin D deficiency is closely associated with depression, which is linked to brain fog and poor mental wellness. Vitamin D supplementation was shown to support mental by Cheng Y. C. and associates, in “The effect of vitamin D supplement on negative emotions: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” 

Vitamin C supports brain health and improves memory, attention span, reaction time, and focus. It improves mood in people with subclinical depression, which helps manage depression-related brain fog, as stated in the study titled “The effect of vitamin C supplementation on mood status in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials” 2021. 

B vitamins promote cognition and healthy brain function. Low levels of specific B vitamins result in brain fog symptoms such as difficulty concentrating and memory problems. Studies show that the most important B vitamins for brain health are B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cobalamin). 

What Types of Food Reduce Brain Fog?

The types of food that reduce brain fog are listed below. 

  • Dark Leafy Greens: Dark leafy greens are high in antioxidants and brain-supporting vitamins and minerals, helping reduce brain fog symptoms. Collard greens, kale, bok choy, broccoli, and spinach are examples of dark leafy greens.  
  • High-Fat Fish: Salmon and tuna are high in polyunsaturated fats, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omegas are essential for brain health and improve memory, attention, and mood. 
  • Berry Fruits: Blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and strawberries are rich in flavonoids, an antioxidant associated with delayed memory decline. Berries contain lots of magnesium, which is important for brain health, too. 
  • Nuts and Seeds: Nuts, especially walnuts, are high in healthy omega fatty acids, while pumpkin seeds are rich in brain-supportive antioxidants and minerals like magnesium, iron, and zinc.  
  • Fermented Foods: Gut health impacts brain function and mood. Add fermented foods to the diet to promote cognition by supporting the good gut bacteria. Easily available fermented foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso, and non-dairy yogurt. 
  • Spices: Recommended spices for brain fog are turmeric and black pepper. Turmeric contains curcumin with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, while black pepper is very high in an antioxidant called luteolin. 

Is Brain Fog an Early Sign of Dementia?

No, brain fog is not an early sign of dementia. Brain fog and dementia have many overlapping symptoms and are often confused; however, they are very different and occur independently.  

Brain fog is temporary and not a medical condition, but rather a term to indicate a lack of mental clarity. Dementia is ongoing and an umbrella term encompassing several degenerative neurological conditions that impair cognition. 

The different types of dementia include Alzheimer’s disease, frontal temporal lobe dementia, vascular dementia, and alcohol-related dementia. 

Can Animals Have Brain Fog?

Yes, animals can have brain fog. “Brain fog affects species across the animal kingdom” was confirmed in Hamilton College paper “Infectious Disease and Cognition in Wild Populations,” 2022. 

The study’s lead author, Professor Andrea K. Townsend, concluded that brain fog is not limited to humans when investigating the impact of infectious diseases on the problem-solving skills of American crows.

Researchers agree that brain fog in animals is caused by many factors, such as certain immune responses, malnutrition, parasite damage, lack of motivation, changes in the gut microbiome, and chronic stress. 

How to Know if Your Dog Has Brain Fog?

To know if your dog has brain fog, read the telltale signs in the list below. 

  • Loss of Memory: Memory loss in dogs manifests in failing to respond to previously learned commands and forgetting about house training (toileting inside or outside the litter box). 
  • Disorientation: Dogs with cognitive deficits feel disoriented in familiar surroundings. They get stuck in unusual places, wander around, and get lost in the house, which is a sign of disorientation and brain fog. 
  • Disinterest in Activities: Brain fog makes dogs lose interest in activities that used to bring them joy. Dogs with cognitive dysfunction prefer to spend the day in bed instead of playing or going for walks, for example. 
  • Behavioral Changes: Dogs with brain fog change their perception of other pets and humans in some cases. A once-friendly dog becomes edgy and easily irritable if dealing with brain fog. 
  • Altered Sleep Cycle: Dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction are restless at night and pace around the house without being able to settle down. They then spend the entire day sleeping to compensate for the sleep loss. 
  • Excess Vocalization: Increased vocalization for no reason is common in dogs with brain fog. Excessive barking, whining, or crying are more striking in otherwise calm and even-tempered dogs. 

How can Animals Experience Brain Fog?

Animals, particularly dogs and cats, experience brain fog as part of the cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Cognitive dysfunction is a mental health disorder manifesting with impaired cognition, and it is the animal equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Brain fog and cognitive decline in animals are associated with old age, but in some cases, the onset is triggered or accelerated by other factors, such as stress, lack of certain nutrients, and lack of sleep. 

Animals tell owners they have brain fog by not sleeping, barking, whining, and crying, being disoriented and lethargic, and forgetting learned commands and toilet training.

How to Prevent Brain Fog?

To prevent brain fog, follow the steps below. 

  1. Eat a Healthy Diet. A healthy diet supports cognitive function, memory, and overall brain wellness. Focus on mind-boosting nutrients like dark leafy greens, berries, nuts, and seeds, and avoid alcohol, tobacco, and canned sodas to prevent brain fog. 
  2. Consume Brain Supplements. Talk to a physician about using supplements to support brain health and cognitive functions. Popular options include omega fatty acids, CBD oil, vitamins B, Ginkgo biloba, ginseng, curcumin, and L-theanine. 
  3. Get Enough Sleep. Get 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night to stay mentally sharp and fresh. Make a schedule and create a healthy sleep environment to prevent brain fog.  
  4. Stay Physically Active. Exercise helps boost physical and mental health. Daily physical exercise speeds up cognition and improves memory.  
  5. Boost Mental Health. Spend more time with friends or find a new hobby to engage the mind in positive and mentally stimulating activities. Exercises like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness are perfect for mental wellness and reducing the risk of brain fog. 
  6. Limit Screen Time. Reducing screen time helps prevent brain fog. Limit the number of screens, track screen time and habits, and schedule screen-free breaks to establish a healthy routine. 

Preventing brain fog in animals is similar to humans. Feeding animals a high-quality diet rich in brain-boosting foods, ensuring a stress-free environment, allowing enough quality rest, and daily physical exercise and plenty of mental stimulation are animals’ main brain fog preventive measures. Pet-specific supplements for brain health help prevent brain fog in animals, too. The modern pet market is saturated with brain supplements, and talking to a veterinarian is vital for finding the right product. 

Do Animals Have the Same Brain Fog Symptoms as Humans?

Yes, animals have the same brain fog symptoms as humans. The clinical manifestation of brain fog symptoms in animals is slightly different. 

Forgetfulness is a brain fog symptom in humans and cats, for example. A forgetful human fails to recall an important appointment, while a forgetful cat urinates on the carpet because litter training has slipped from its mind. 

Poor concentration is a brain fog symptom in humans and dogs, too. A person lacking concentration is unable to focus on work tasks, while a dog with concentration issues fails to learn a new command.  

Is Brain Fog a Mental Health Illness?

No, brain fog is not a mental health illness. Brain fog is closely associated with mental health because it is a symptom of depression and a cause of other cognitive problems, like anxiety. 

Brain fog is not an official diagnosis but a popular term used to describe a type of cognitive dysfunction manifesting with confusion, lack of focus, and memory problems. 

Brain fog, while not a mental health illness on its own, affects mental wellness in humans and dogs. Poor mental wellness affects life quality and requires medical attention. 

Is Brain Fog a Symptom of Anxiety?

Yes, brain fog is a symptom of anxiety. “Chronic stress increases blood pressure, weakens immunity, triggers depression, and causes mental fatigue or brain fog” were the findings of a human study “The impact of stress on body function: A review,” 2017.

Anxiety is similar in people and dogs and has the same effects. Brain fog is a symptom of dog anxiety and fuels the dog’s stress levels. Mental fatigue impairs focus and thinking abilities, creating confusion. The confusion increases the dog’s anxiety.

Anxiety-related brain fog is manageable through stress control. The brain fog resolves when the dog’s or person’s stress trigger is identified, minimized, or eliminated. 

Is Brain Fog One of the Effects of COVID-19?

Yes, brain fog is one of the effects of COVID-19. Viral infections trigger brain fog. The exact link between brain fog and COVID-19 is uncertain. A study, “How COVID-19 Affects the Brain,” published in 2021, says that the virus works on several levels to cause brain fog. COVID-19 causes brain inflammation, disrupts sleep, harms cognition, and turns the immune system into overdrive, which attacks the brain. 

Brain fog develops during COVID-19 recovery and lasts for months. Some patients experience brain fog symptoms for up to two years after the infection. 

The symptoms of COVID-related brain fog improve with a healthy diet, daily exercise, quality sleep regimen, and mental health optimization; however, so far, there is no quick and definitive treatment available.