Brain fog—that feeling of not being able to concentrate, or blanking out on random little things, like what you had for dinner the night before— is annoying at best and alarming at worst, especially if you experience it on a regular basis.
Lisa Mosconi, PhD has made a career out of studying women’s brains, especially when it comes to cognitive health and preventing Alzheimer’s disease. She’s the director of the Women’s Brain Initiative and associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, and her new book XX Brain is full of all sorts of science-backed research related to keeping the brain healthy in both the long and short term (which is where brain fog comes in).
In terms of what causes brain fog, Dr. Mosconi says there are a whole host of reasons. “Quite often, people experience brain fog when they’re exhausted or tired, as fatigue can be a direct cause,” she says. She adds that for women, hormones play a role, too: You’re more likely to feel brain fog right before your period or when going through hormonal changes such as menopause.
Here, Dr. Mosconi shares some tips she takes to avoid brain fog, touching on these reasons as well as others. Keep reading for her tips.
How a neurology expert avoids brain fog
1. staying hydrated
“Staying hydrated is really important for preventing brain fog,” Dr. Mosconi says. “Most people don’t realize that the brain is 80 percent water and that water is literally needed for every chemical reaction happening in the brain.” Knowing this, she not only makes sure to drink enough water, but to drink water with electrolytes and minerals (included in tap water), which she says purified water is often missing.
2. getting enough sleep
As Dr. Mosconi mentioned, fatigue and brain fog are directly related, so she tries to prioritize her sleep. “REM sleep is the brain’s chance to rest and clean itself, removing inflammatory markers and impurities,” she says.
3. eating a well-rounded diet
Dr. Mosconi says if you experience brain fog regularly, you may be low in certain nutrients the brain needs to function. There are some specific ones in particular she’s conscious of: “B vitamins, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin E are all linked to cognitive function,” she says.
4. consuming inflammation-fighting herbs
Inflammation is a major root cause of brain fog, according to Dr. Mosconi, so she likes to incorporate lots of inflammation-fighting herbs into her diet to give her brain a boost. “I do use a lot of herbs and spices in my cooking,” she says. “I’m Italian, so I use a lot of rosemary, basil, sage, garlic, and peppermint, all of which have anti-inflammatory properties,” she says. No surprise that she’s also a big turmeric fan. “I like to have hot tea with turmeric, lemon, and ginger every morning,” she says.
Watch the video below to see why turmeric is so good for you:
5. practicing yoga
Because stress can cause brain fog, Dr. Mosconi likes to do yoga to help keep it at bay. “Personally, I find that it’s really helpful,” she says. “I like to do some good stretches and I especially love candle pose [a shoulder stand]. Because it increases blood flow to the brain, I feel like it helps me think clearer.”
Dr. Mosconi says that while these tips work for her, others may find alternative habits work best as the root cause of brain fog varies from person to person. “If you aren’t sure what’s causing your brain fog, I recommend keeping a journal, writing down when you feel brain fog and possible causes, such as if you felt stressed that day, didn’t get much sleep, or if it’s the days before your period,” she says. “That way, you can get a better idea of what the cause is.”