What Causes Brain Fog In Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? – 5 Known Reasons

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Hang On A Sec…… I Just Need To Think Of The Right Word!

If this sounds like you, no you’re not going crazy, it’s just the annoying brain fog of chronic fatigue syndrome temporarily affecting your thinking.

During the time I had chronic fatigue syndrome, I’d go through periods when I would be literally lost for words. My brain would be searching around for a known word for what seemed an interminably long time. Then – ping it would suddenly appear in my mind, usually right in the nick of time before I began looking like a blithering idiot.

This didn’t happen too often thankfully. But I did have other weird brain fog symptoms too. I’d often find myself at the top of the stairs in my home thinking ‘now what did I come up here for?’ I’d go back downstairs again and remember what I was going upstairs for….. and up I’d go again.

And once after searching everywhere for my purse, I found it in the fridge. Why on earth I put it there I have no idea, and I have no recollection of doing so either.

Whilst these experiences can have a funny side, they can also be scary if you don’t know that brain fog is one of the symptoms of this illness, or what causes brain fog in chronic fatigue syndrome. At times, it can feel as if you’re starting to lose your marbles, but don’t worry………you’re not.


What Are The Symptoms Of Brain Fog?

If you are suffering with numerous other chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms, brain fog can add further frustrating symptoms into the mix.

Particularly when you are fatigued and struggling to find enough energy to get through each day, it can already be difficult to concentrate on tasks. Add brain fog to the list of your many baffling symptoms and it becomes almost impossible to focus.

Of course, this can affect your work life and daily life depending on just how bad your brain fog symptoms are.

Simply put, brain fog is a number of ‘thinking-related’ issues such as confusion, short term memory problems and difficulty with focus and concentration.


Brain fog symptoms include:

  • Difficulty with finding a word or words – known words become difficult to recall.
  • Issues with short-term memory.
  • Disorientation Episodes – Lasting only a few seconds you may not know where you are, or might not recognize people you know.
  • Trouble Concentrating – Difficulty learning new information and you become easily distracted.
  • Forgetfulness – Inability to remember what you’ve heard or read.
  • Attention Difficulty – Multitasking is difficult, you cannot pay attention to more than one thing at a time.


Brain Fog Causes

It’s thought that low energy production in the brain with its alterations in blood flow, and changes in brain chemicals like adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin (neurotransmitters) can contribute to brain fog.

what causes brain fog in chronic fatigue syndrome skull

Some of the major contributing factors to brain fog in chronic fatigue syndrome can be attributed to the following:

Low Adrenal/Thyroid Hormones

Changes in blood sugar levels, common if you have an adrenal component to your chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as alterations in blood pressure, can also contribute to brain fog. Carry out saliva testing for adrenal hormone levels and blood tests to find out your thyroid levels.

Both adrenal and thyroid levels can be normalized with the use of nutrition, supplements and herbs.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Low levels of Vitamin B12, magnesium, amino acids or dehydration can be causes of brain fog. Make sure you are staying hydrated and your nutritional profile is optimized.

Changes In Hormone Levels

Changes in hormone levels can set off brain fog. For women, certain life stages e.g., pregnancy and menopause can cause hormonal fluctuations. These fluctuations can cause brain fog, forgetfulness and lack of clarity in thinking. In men, changing levels of testosterone can cause brain fog. Blood testing can help gauge your hormone levels.

Food Sensitivities

Sensitivities to certain foods can cause brain fog. Blood testing can show if you are sensitive to common foods such as MSG, peanuts, dairy, yeast and gluten etc.

Poor Gut Health

In my case I’m pretty sure my brain fog was caused mainly by the issues I was having with my gut, namely gut dysbiosis, a parasite infection and yeast overgrowth. Many factors can underlie the symptoms of brain fog but one of the best known is poor gut health.

poor gut health brain

The gut and the brain are closely connected via what is known as the brain- gut axis.

Intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut,” occurs when the lining of your gut becomes over-porous. When this happens it allows undigested food, and toxins to enter the bloodstream.

This triggers an immune cascade in your body resulting in system wide inflammation which sets you up for developing food sensitivities, pain, and autoimmune disease.

Leaky gut is responsible for a leaky brain as the protective membrane around the brain (the blood – brain barrier) also becomes permeable. This allows pathogens and toxins to enter the brain resulting in inflammation.

When your brain is inflamed the tissues are damaged and your brain can age more rapidly causing symptoms of brain fog, fatigue, memory loss etc.

It is well-known that gluten can cause gut symptoms for people with gluten sensitivity. However, research shows that many people with celiac disease have no gut symptoms, but DO have brain related symptoms instead. This can be a very good reason to carry out food sensitivity testing to find out if gluten is a problem for you.


Brain Fog Treatment

There is no test for brain fog and therefore no specific treatment. However, generally the brain and gut respond well to anti-inflammatory protocols. If you are working with a naturopath or functional medicine practitioner for your chronic fatigue syndrome they will no doubt start you on this type of treatment.

As you work together to unearth the root cause(s), carry out testing and start treating your chronic fatigue syndrome your brain fog will begin to disappear.

Besides this treatment, you should also aim to make sure of the following:

  • Optimize your sleep to ensure you get a solid 8 to 9 hours sleep each night.
  • Make sure you are eating a healthy anti inflammatory diet consisting of fruit, vegetables, protein and healthy fats from fish, avocados and other healthy oils such as olive, coconut and flax.
  • Avoid caffeine, sugar and alcohol.


Putting It All Together

When brain fog is a part of your chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms, work with your practitioner to carry out testing and find out where you need to make improvements. Following an anti inflammatory protocol can help reduce your brain fog. While you work on your recovery there are some products that can help you manage your brain fog symptoms. 

Please Feel Free To Leave Any Comments Below.




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  1. This is an amazing article. You’ve captured all these elements of what brain fog has. I remember having no clarity at all on certain days. However, I’ve made changes to my diet, and gotten more sleep; now I have a lot of mental clarity. Thank you for this post, you’ve great information about this particular subject. Thanks.

  2. Hello Ann – You are providing quite a service with your site.  I understand that you are speaking from experience and I’m sure that helps your readers to identify with you.  There are few things worse than feeling poorly and either not knowing why or not having the tools or knowledge to get well.

    I have not been visited by this malady but know a couple of people in duress right now.  I am sharing your site and information with them right now.

    Thank You – Mike

    • Hi Mike thanks for stopping by and leaving your kind comment. Hopefully your friends will find some useful information on this site. 

  3. I have had trouble recalling the correct words for common things for awhile now. For me, it is noticeable to people because I can’t think of the word in time or even worse, I say a different word. I have trouble managing my stress levels so it comes on more frequently when I am overwhelmed. I have heard that the gut is like a ‘second brain’. I will look into it more and see what I can do. Very informative article and I am going to explore this further. 

  4. Oh! There are actually few times I’ve experienced this lost of words issue and also faced with the difficulties of concentrating at my place of work, I do not even know it’s called brain fog. Thanks for the comprehensive guide. However, will you advice frequent intake of fruits to cure brain fog?  Thank you.

    • Hi Geebeln Thanks for leaving a comment. I am not a doctor and cannot recommend anything for your issue. If you think you have a problem, you should see your health care practitioner. This post is written with chronic fatigue sufferers in mind. 

  5. It was concise but informative write up. There are a lot of things which can bring about brain fog. Anything that ulters the hormone, can as well ulter the function of the brain. Anxiety and depression can ulter one’s reasoning and memory retentiveness. When the brain looses it’s level of retentiveness, it could be termed as memory loss or brain fog.

    • Kenechi, you are correct, there are several other things that can cause brain fog, however my website is about chronic fatigue syndrome, so this article is about brain fog in relation to chronic fatigue syndrome. In that regard, hopefully it is informative to those who have this illness. 

  6. A very interesting article in that I’m pretty sure I’ve experienced this ‘brain fog’ on numerous occasions in the past…and thinking about it…it’s probably down to the way I live life…

    I don’t stop, and I don’t want to stop! 

    Does this Chronic Fatigue Syndrome appear in different forms, so that it can more often than not be confused with general tiredness through burning both ends of the candle?

    • Hi Chris thanks for stopping by. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not the same as tiredness. Tiredness can be relieved by rest/sleep. Chronic fatigue syndrome or ME is an illness characterized by unrelenting fatigue not improved by rest. 

  7. I must say that i appreciate your efforts in explaining in details the cause of brain fogs, this is one of the most common complaints I have had with my doctor about chronic fatigue syndrome which weakens the immune system and causes depression and it becomes harder to think properly. Thanks for the solution you offered in this post, I will definitely work towards overcoming fatigue syndrome.

  8. I very often have brain fog, I always blamed it on being a Mum and just having too many things to do. I don’t know if I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome but I do know that I am an overtired mother trying to balance everything so there is never enough time for proper sleep. Those symptoms of brain fog describe me to a T! Thanks for your tips, I will try to implement them into my daily life, although 8-9 hours of sleep is slightly out of reach!

    • Hi Hollie Rose thanks for leaving a comment. Being tired and having chronic fatigue syndrome are two different things. There can be many other causes for brain fog, such as hormonal imbalances etc. Sleep is also important, it sounds like you are struggling to get sufficient sleep each night too. 

  9. I admit that I frequently suffer from this chronic fatigue syndrome you’re discussing in the article. From there, I realized that there are many thins that I have to change, especially my habits that take a toll on my body. For someone with an eating disorder, it’s quite a challenge. More difficult. 

    Normally, chronic fatigue syndrome is considered part of the lifestyle of most people with ED and syndromes of workaholicism (is there such a word?) as I do. I’ve been working at least 16 hours a day for 7 days. It’s like 24 hours a day isn’t enough to achieve something. I don’t know it’s been with me almost 10 years now. 

    Having read the article, it reminded me to take a pause and think of what I’ve been doing with my life. It’s very informative and articulate to make the heavy topic as understandable as it could. The author did a great job on that one. 🙂

    • Thanks for your complimentary comments. I’m glad my articles make people stop and think about their lifestyle and working habits. 

  10. I can relate to this article as my mother is suffering from thyroid problems and she got the same symptoms (symptoms of brain fog) that are listed here. My opinion is, illnesses like this no matter how serious it is, need emotional support from loved ones. You should always show to the patient that you care, and that they are not alone, you are always there to support them. The care and support can alleviate the disorder, as we did to our mother.

  11. Hi Ann,

    I am shocked. Your article just described to me! I put my symptoms down to “just getting old.” Until I read your article, I didn’t even know such a thing as “Chronic Fatigue” was a condition! 

    It doesn’t matter how much I sleep, and I struggle through the day. And, the brain-fog thing. That’s me all over! So many times during the day, I am in conversation with people and an I start to talk about something and, ah! It’s gone! My favourite saying when this happens, is “My brain has gone walkabout. I don’t worry about it; it’ll be back shortly!”

    I don’t get stressed about my problem, but it does concern me. I have bookmarked your site, as I will be back to read more on the subject. Changing my diet is something I will consider doing. I have been thinking about this for some time.

    For years, poor digestion has plagued me, and I am on medication for excess acid. I love the idea of treating myself naturally.

    Many thanks for the information.


    • Thanks for visiting my site and taking the time to leave a comment. I’m so glad the information was useful to you. 

  12. I guess people experienced brain fog at a point. Mine would be that i know everyone’s discussing something important but my mind is fuzzy. I wasn’t able to grasp what everyone is talking about. It feels like i wanted to agree on something I don’t really know about. They think I was listening but I didn’t understand any single word. And then snap, it’s like a trance. My mind would just get fully awake and aware at that moment. It happens when I’m really stress from meeting a deadline. I tend to forget where i put things or go back to a certain task which is supposed to be considered as part of my work routine.

    I am really interested on how to manage stress. Yes, we do have it at work but none actually is working out for me. They didn’t even tell me that I should at least limit my caffeine and sugar to avoid or prevent stress. Thank you for these information. People today are consumed with everything except for their own well being. A Brain Fog for me is a warning that we have to take care of ourselves.

  13. Good Morning Ann,

    I am 69 and it sometimes happens that I am at a loss to find a word.

    I have noticed, but this has always been like that as long as I can remember, that I think way faster than I can speak or write. That can cause a gap.

    Reading the list of symptoms you include in your good post, I do not suffer anything else than forgetting a word sometimes and I am still very good at multitasking. 

    As I go to an anti-aging doctor who keeps my hormones balanced I am ok on that front also. Very important your hormones as I had a total hysterectomy in 2008.

    As I live a healthy life/food my gut health is automatically also ok. I do some fastings of 9 days each year to get rid of accumulated toxins. All in all, I think I am in good shape but I could do with some more sleep. 

    Thank you for this post which will be helpful to a lot of people so they can understand why they suffer from brain fog.

    Regards, Taetske


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