Brain-Fog_181002982
Written by Erik Levi, FNTP — Updated on June 13, 2021

OVERVIEW:

  • “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

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“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.

Nootropics For Brain Fog
“Brain fog” isn’t a “real” medical condition, but we all know it when we feel it.

What Are The Best Nootropics For Brain Fog - Quick Answers

Mind Lab ProThe Nootropic MultivitaminLearn More
MagnesiumInvolved in Hundreds of Biochemical Reactions in Your BodyLearn More
Blood Sugar BreakthroughStabilizes and promotes healthy blood sugar levelsLearn More
Qualia MindMost advanced fully-loaded formulaLearn More
Chaga MushroomOne of the most powerful antioxidants on EarthLearn More
Lion's Mane
Powerful medicinal mushroom for brain healthLearn More
AdrafinilA legal over-the-counter version on ModafinilLearn More
L-TheanineThe all-natural "chill pill"Learn More
Alpha-GPCGreat source of choline that works well in nootropic stacksLearn More
Huperzine A
Traditional Chinese herb for improving cognitionLearn More
Ginkgo BilobaAncient herbal cognitive enhancer and energy supplementLearn More

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
  • Exhaustion
  • Mind goes blank
  • Easily distracted
  • Confusion
  • Easily annoyed
  • Sleepy
  • Lost
  • Detached
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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
  • Hormones
  • Obesity
  • 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.

These include:

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

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.

brain fog

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.

Oddly enough, one of the many side effects could be brain fog.10Tom Stockmann. What it was like to stop an antidepressant, Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2019

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

Bad stuff:

  • Processed food
  • Refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners
  • Environmental chemicals and heavy metals
  • Mold
  • Stress

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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

1. Mind Lab Pro

Mind Lab Pro Best Nootropic 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.

    2. Magnesium

    Involved in Hundreds of Biochemical Reactions in Your Body

      Clouding of consciousness, also more commonly referred to as brain fog or mental fog is medically coined as a state of subsyndromal delirium and it is often characterized by a cluster of symptoms such as inattention, cognitive delays, and comprehension abnormalities.11Anna E. Kirkland, Gabrielle L. Sarlo,1 and Kathleen F. Holton, The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders, Nutrients. 2018

      There is some recent data that suggest a positive effect of magnesium in the management of subsyndromal delirium, based on the clinical evidence that people with depleted levels of magnesium are more likely to experience symptoms of clouded consciousness.12Magdalena D. Cuciureanu and Robert Vink., Magnesium and stress, University of Adelaide Press. 2011

      However, it is an emerging research topic and more prospective studies are required to clearly understand the use of magnesium in managing symptoms of brain fog. Magnesium Breakthrough contains an exclusive variant of magnesium, i.e., magnesium L-threonate, it has been found to have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and help manage symptoms of clouded consciousness.


      3. Blood Sugar Breakthrough

      Blood Sugar Breakthrough

      Stabilizes and promotes healthy blood sugar levels

        Understanding the connection between brain fog and metabolism is absolutely crucial.

        A hyperglycemic state induces oxidative stress on the body which is associated with mild to moderate cognitive impairment, psychomotor slowing and reduced mental flexibility.13María Muriach, Miguel Flores-Bellver, Francisco J. Romero, and Jorge M. Barcia, Diabetes and the Brain: Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Autophagy, Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2014

        The early stages of cognitive impairment can be manifested as clouding of consciousness, otherwise known as brain fog.14Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016, Impact of diabetes on cognitive function and brain structure, A Moheet, S Mangia, and ER Seaquist15Seth Stoykovich , Kelly Gibas, APOE ε4, the door to insulin-resistant dyslipidemia and brain fog? A case study, Alzheimers Dement (Amst). 2019

        Blood Sugar Breakthrough is an effective formulation for managing blood glucose levels as it includes ingredients that reduce glucose-associated oxidative stress on the body.

        This is especially important for neural cells, blood vessels and endocrine islets.


        4. Qualia Mind

        Qualia Mind For Brain Fog

        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.

          5. Chaga

          One of the most powerful antioxidants on Earth

            Chaga mushroom is highly recommended as a natural remedy to brain fog.16Honghai Hu Zhenya Zhang Zhongfang Lei Yingnan Yang Norio Sugiura, Comparative study of antioxidant activity and antiproliferative effect of hot water and ethanol extracts from the mushroom Inonotus obliquus, Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering. 2009

             This therapeutic mushroom has been found to be beneficial for optimizing the mind-body connection, by stabilizing innate immunity, which when left unchecked lead to the physical inflammation that causes brain fog..17Yoo Kyoung Park , Hyang Burm Lee, Eun-Jae Jeon, Hack Sung Jung, Myung-Hee Kang, Chaga mushroom extract inhibits oxidative DNA damage in human lymphocytes as assessed by comet assay, Biofactors. 2004

            Chaga also supports mental health by improving blood sugar metabolism.18Zhiguo Li, Junjie Mei, Liping Jiang, Chengyan Geng , Qiujuan Li, Xiaofeng Yao , Jun Cao , Chaga Medicinal Mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Agaricomycetes) Polysaccharides Suppress Tacrine-induced Apoptosis by ROS-scavenging and Mitochondrial Pathway in HepG2 Cells, Int J Med Mushrooms. 2019

             Improving your metabolism can help lower oxidative stress that causes cognitive impairment, psychomotor slackening and reduced mental flexibility.19You-Min Ying , Lin-Yan Zhang , Xia Zhang , Hai-Bo Bai , Dong-E Liang , Lie-Feng Ma , Wei-Guang Shan , Zha-Jun Zhan, Terpenoids with alpha-glucosidase inhibitory activity from the submerged culture of Inonotus obliquus, Phytochemistry. 2014

            By boosting immunity and blood glucose metabolism, Chaga acts as a potent combatant against brain fog.20You-Min Ying , Lin-Yan Zhang , Xia Zhang , Hai-Bo Bai , Dong-E Liang , Lie-Feng Ma , Wei-Guang Shan , Zha-Jun Zhan, Terpenoids with alpha-glucosidase inhibitory activity from the submerged culture of Inonotus obliquus, Phytochemistry. 2014

            Freshcap Mushrooms provide the highest percentage of beta glucans and fruiting body nutrients, making this mushroom product my preferred choice for Chaga.


            6. Lion's Mane

            Powerful medicinal mushroom for brain health

              Lion's Mane (Hericium Erinaceus) is a therapeutic mushroom which has been found to benefit all primary components of your central nervous system including the brain, nerve cells and also the immune system.21Vikineswary Sabaratnam , Wong Kah-Hui , Murali Naidu , Pamela Rosie David, Neuronal health - can culinary and medicinal mushrooms help?, J Tradit Complement Med. 2013

              This mushroom also prevents nerve cell impairment and stimulates production of enzymes that release Nerve Growth Factor (NGF).22Pit Shan Chong , Man-Lung Fung , Kah Hui Wong, Lee Wei Lim, Therapeutic Potential of Hericium erinaceus for Depressive Disorder, Int J Mol Sci. 2019

              This growth factor helps with neuronal regeneration and hence, memory retention.

              Addition of this medicinal mushroom into your routine diet will not only help you to restore and recall old memories but it will also help you to promote mental alertness, improve focus, and eliminate brain fog.23Kah-Hui Wong , Gowri Kanagasabapathy , Murali Naidu , Pamela David , Vikineswary Sabaratnam, Hericium erinaceus (Bull.: Fr.) Pers., a medicinal mushroom, activates peripheral nerve regeneration, Chin J Integr Med. 2016

              Freshcap Mushrooms provide the highest percentage of beta glucans and fruiting body nutrients, making this mushroom product my preferred choice for Lion's Mane.


              7. Adrafinil

              Adrafinil for Brain Fog

              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.24Ping 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


                8. L-Theanine

                L-Theanine for Brain Fog

                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.25Anna C Nobre, eta al. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state, Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008 26Kenta 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.


                  9. Alpha-GPC

                  Alpha GPC for Brain Fog

                  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.27Schettini 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 28Parnetti 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 29Canal 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.


                    10. Huperzine A

                    Huperzine A for Brain Fog

                    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.30Sun Quing-qui, et al. Huperzine-A capsules enhance memory and learning performance in 34 pairs of matched adolescent students, Acta Pharma Sun. 1999 31Wang 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


                      11. Ginkgo Biloba

                      Ginkgo biloba for Brain Fog

                      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. 32R. 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.33Wu 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.


                        Wrapping Up

                        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, FNTP

                        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.

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