7 Best Nootropics For Brain Fog
“Brain fog” is usually the result of some underlying condition
There are several nootropics that can help cut through the haze if you are feeling foggy
There are both synthetic and natural options for dealing with brain fog
“Brain fog” is something that everyone will deal with at some point.
While it’s not classified as an official medical condition, it is quite prevalent in the western world.
With the ebbs and flows of life, it’s completely normal to have days where you feel “off.”
Maybe you had a poor night of sleep, or had a few drinks the night before, or are just feeling burnt out.
We all know that feeling of waking up and just feeling “not all there.”
However, for many people, this is a more chronic condition, and it may be a sign of more serious issues.
Brain Fog Symptoms
Brain fog is a type of mental fatigue characterized by:1Amanda J Ross, Marvin S Medow, Peter C Rowe, Julian M Stewart. What is brain fog? An evaluation of the symptom in postural tachycardia syndrome, Clin Auton Res. 2013
- Slow thinking
- Poor memory
- Inability to focus
- General lack of mental clarity
- Feeling cloudy
- Difficulty finding the right words and communicating
- Mind goes blank
- Easily distracted
- Easily annoyed
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Brain Fog Causes
The biggest issue with treating brain fog is that it’s a fairly broad term with many factors at play.
There can be a number of causes of brain fog which include:
- Gut health
- Heavy metal or chemical toxicity
- HPA Axis and stress
- Blood sugar
- Chronic inflammation
- Mental disorders
- Chronic Disease
It goes to show that treating brain fog may require more than just treating the symptom.
The symptom of brain fog could be your body telling you that a bigger problem needs to be addressed.
You may have to dig a few levels deeper to correct this problem truly.
Chronic Disease Associated with Brain Fog
There are also several chronic medical conditions and autoimmune diseases associated with symptoms of brain fog.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome2Anthony J Ocon. Caught in the thickness of brain fog: exploring the cognitive symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Front Physiol. 2013
- Fibromyalgia3Howard M Kravitz, Robert S Katz. Fibrofog and fibromyalgia: a narrative review and implications for clinical practice, Rheumatol Int. 2015
- Gut Disorders4Satish S C Rao, Abdul Rehman, Siegfried Yu, Nicole Martinez de Andino. Brain fogginess, gas and bloating: a link between SIBO, probiotics and metabolic acidosis, Clin Transl Gastroenterol. 2018
- Lupus5Meggan Mackay. Lupus brain fog: a biologic perspective on cognitive impairment, depression, and fatigue in systemic lupus erythematosus, Immunol Res. 2015
- Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)6Anthony J. Ocon. Caught in the thickness of brain fog: exploring the cognitive symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Front Physiol. 2013
- systemic mastocytosis (SM)7Meng Chen, MD, Alexander Kim, MD, Bruce Zuraw, MD, Taylor A. Doherty, MD, and Sandra Christiansen, MD. Mast Cell Disorders: Protean Manifestations and Treatment Responses, Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2019
- Obesity8Theoharis C. Theoharides, Julia M. Stewart,1 Erifili Hatziagelaki,5 and Gerasimos Kolaitis6. Brain “fog,” inflammation and obesity: key aspects of neuropsychiatric disorders improved by luteolin, Front Neurosci. 2015
While each of these disorders have specific presentations they can all be traced back to chronic inflammation.9Lihua Duan, Xiaoquan Rao, and Keshav Raj Sigdel. Regulation of Inflammation in Autoimmune Disease, J Immunol Res. 2019
In The Gut
Brain Fog, Anxiety, and Depression
One of the major problems with brain fog having so many possible causes is that it often is diagnosed as a more severe mental condition like anxiety and depression.
This leads to patients using psychiatric drugs like anti-depressants and anxiolytics to treat a problem that may be rooted in a physiological disorder.
While the psychotropic drugs may help you get over the hump initially, many of these drugs are being used long-term and have several side effects.
Can You Cure Brain Fog?
Because brain fog isn’t an actual disorder but more a symptom of a bigger problem, you can’t really cure it.
The problem with trying to cure brain fog is you end up using drugs and products that only focus on the symptom instead of treating the underlying disorder.
Not only does this not help the brain fog, but it may also lead to more problems.
Implementing a holistic protocol that targets inflammation by improving diet and lifestyle factors is the most effective approach.
This includes adding in more stuff and avoiding the bad stuff.
Good stuff includes:
- Eating more nutrient-dense, whole foods
- Regular exercise and movement
- Mindfulness practices
- Stress reduction
- Good relationships and community
- High-quality supplements and nootropics
- Deep, restful sleep
- Processed food
- Refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners
- Environmental chemicals and heavy metals
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Nootropics For Brain Fog
Using nootropic supplements as part of a holistic protocol involving the above-mentioned good stuff is a great tool.
Because there are so many different kinds of nootropics, it’s important to know what you need and why you need it.
Some nootropics are stimulating while some are sedating. Some are good for memory and learning, while others are good for stress reduction. Some do a combination of all these things.
It’s also important to honor your body’s bio-individual needs. This means being mindful of the fact that what worked for one person might not work for you.
Nootropics could be ineffective due to genetics, gut health, stress levels, among many other reasons.
You must use nootropics responsibly by constantly monitoring your progress with a journal or health tracker.
Some nootropics are great when paired together, but it’s important not to overdo it and make a targeted plan.
Always consult your physician before making any dietary changes.
Best Nootropic Supplements For Brain Fog
The Nootropic Multivitamin
- Mind Lab Pro is a top choice for improving brain fog.
- The mix of nootropic and adaptogenic ingredients lower inflammation while boosting mental energy.
- You also get the added benefit of B vitamins and phosphatidylserine for added stress support.
- The supplements themselves are 3rd party tested and free of excess fillers and toxic ingredients.
- I love this stack for nootropic newbies and experienced nootropic users alike.
Most advanced fully-loaded formula
- Breaking through brain fog is one of the top features of Qualia Mind's comprehensive formula.
- The included 28 ingredients, including nootropic compounds, neuro-vitamins, amino acids, choline donors, and herbal adaptogens, give your brain a jolt and increase mental clarity.
- You can even choose between a caffeinated or decaffeinated version.
- This stack is great for more experienced biohackers or anyone who needs a significant boost in brainpower.
A legal over-the-counter version on Modafinil
Adrafinil is a prodrug for the legendary smart drug modafinil. What this means is that your body naturally turns adrafinil into modafinil, and you do not need a prescription to buy it.
When adrafinil metabolizes into modafinil in your body and starts to kick in, it has a mildly stimulating effect.
Although researchers are not totally sure how it works yet, we do know that it modulates several brain systems, such as dopamine, GABA, and histamines, to achieve its effects.
It was developed initially as an anti-narcolepsy drug and can keep you focused and engaged under adverse conditions. Militaries around the world use this drug during extended, stressful operations.
We think that adrafinil is one of the best bets for improving mental clarity, especially if your brain fog is due to lack of sleep, overwork, and stress. Although it’s not a long term substitute for getting proper rest, it can help you stay sharp short term during crunch time.
Many users report improved mood, more energy, and better ability to concentrate, even in less-than-ideal conditions. And there is significant clinical evidence it can improve performance while fatigued.11Ping Sheng, et al. Efficacy of Modafinil on Fatigue and Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Associated with Neurological Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, PLoS One. 2013
The all-natural "chill pill"
L-theanine is an amino acid that comes from tea leaves. It’s largely responsible for tea’s relaxed-but-focused energy. And, you can buy it on its own as a supplement.
It stacks extremely well with caffeine, and this combo is one of the classic nootropic stacks for fighting brain fog.
There are clinical studies that show this nootropic can improve focus and concentration, as well as reduce stress.
It seems to work by promoting GABA production, which is considered a “calming” neurotransmitter.
It does this without causing sleepiness or grogginess, which you do not want if you are already suffering from brain fog.12Anna C Nobre, eta al. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state, Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008 13Kenta Kimura, et al. l-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses, Biological Psychology, 2007 L-theanine and caffeine together are some of the go-to’s for cutting through mental fatigue.
Great source of choline that works well in nootropic stacks
This nootropic is a concentrated form of the nutrient choline, and it has proven benefits for brain fog.
Choline is the precursor to acetylcholine (ACh), which is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the brain.
By increasing ACh levels, you can improve the speed that your nervous system communicates.
This process can have big benefits for your mental performance. In both human and animal trials, the subjects that took Alpha GPC scored better on cognitive tests.14Schettini G, et al. Molecular mechanisms mediating the effects of L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, a new cognition-enhancing drug, on behavioral and biochemical parameters in young and aged rats, Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1992 15Parnetti L1, Amenta F, Gallai V. Choline alphoscerate in cognitive decline and in acute cerebrovascular disease: an analysis of published clinical data, Mech Ageing Dev. 2001 16Canal N, et al. Effect of L-alpha-glyceryl-phosphorylcholine on amnesia caused by scopolamine, Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol. 1991
It also has virtually zero side-effects and is not a stimulant. If you are having trouble with memory or fuzzy thinking, Alpha GPC could help get you back in the game.
Traditional Chinese herb for improving cognition
Huperzine A is an all-natural herbal remedy for brain fog that works similarly to Alpha GPC.
It inhibits acetylcholinesterase, which is the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine.
So, it indirectly increases ACh levels in the brain, which can improve overall cognition.
This process can help clear up your brain, as well as improve your memory.
Many people report a boost in energy after taking this nootropic, but without the crash associated with stimulants.17Sun Quing-qui, et al. Huperzine-A capsules enhance memory and learning performance in 34 pairs of matched adolescent students, Acta Pharma Sun. 1999 18Wang BS, et al. Efficacy and safety of natural acetylcholinesterase inhibitor huperzine A in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease: an updated meta-analysis, J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2009
Ancient herbal cognitive enhancer and energy supplement
Ginkgo Biloba is one of the most popular all-natural nootropics out there.
In use for millennia in some cultures, there is clinical evidence that it is effective for improving cognition. 19R. B. Silberstein, et al. Examining Brain-Cognition Effects of Ginkgo Biloba Extract: Brain Activation in the Left Temporal and Left Prefrontal Cortex in an Object Working Memory Task, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011
Ginkgo can improve blood flow, increase oxygen levels in the blood, and fight inflammation.
All of these benefits can have a rejuvenating effect if you are suffering from brain fog.
It can also prevent the breakdown of dopamine, which can improve mood and motivation.20Wu WR, Zhu XZ. Involvement of monoamine oxidase inhibition in neuroprotective and neurorestorative effects of Ginkgo biloba extract against MPTP-induced nigrostriatal dopaminergic toxicity in C57 mice, Life Sci. 1999
All-in-all, ginkgo biloba is one of the best natural remedies if you are trying to cut through the “noise” in your head and focus on the task at hand.
While nootropics and supplements can help eliminate brain fog, we always recommend seeking professional help if your symptoms persist.
Do you experience brain fog? Let us know how you are coping in the comments below.
About the author:
Erik Levi is a co-founder of HolisticNootropics.com and a certified holistic nutritional therapy practitioner.
As an NTP Erik takes a nutrition first approach to health. He has worked with many different people to help them use nutrition to optimize their quality of life.
Erik believes that mental health is a physiological process and cognitive enhancement is not something that can be achieved by just taking some pills with good Amazon reviews.
Instead, true cognitive enhancement comes with the right balance of nutrients, movement, and gratitude. Erik continues to stay up to date with the most current nootropic and holistic health research and promises to deliver the best solutions possible.
You can check out his personal health blog/podcast/YouTube Channel all under the name Holistic A-Hole.