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5 Ways to Conquer Thyroid Brain Fog

Practical advice on how people with hypothyroidism can overcome brain fog and regain mental focus.
5 Ways to Conquer Thyroid Brain Fog
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Have you ever felt spaced out or unable to focus on the task at hand day after day? If so, you aren’t alone. An estimated 16.5 million people between 18 and 64 experience these types of symptoms.

This difficulty focusing and concentrating is often referred to as “brain fog” and is characterized by a range of symptoms that extend beyond forgetfulness. Brain fog is often defined as “mental cloudiness or lack of mental alertness.”

Brain fog is not unique to one health condition. Instead, there are many potential causes of brain fog, including long COVID, menopause, side effects of chemotherapy treatments, chronic fatigue syndrome, and, yes, hypothyroidism.

Brain fog symptoms don’t come and go. They often stick around, impacting daily function and quality of life. In this article, we’ll discuss the connection between a thyroid disorder and brain fog and five tips to help you regain your mental sharpness.

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Brain fog symptoms

Here are some symptoms of brain fog that you should be aware of:

Memory problems: One of the most common brain fog symptoms is difficulty with memory and recall. You may find it challenging to remember names, dates, or events that you were previously able to recall effortlessly.

Lack of focus: Brain fog can make concentrating on tasks or retaining information challenging. You may be easily distracted or unable to focus on a particular task for an extended period.

Mental fatigue: If you often feel mentally exhausted, even after getting adequate sleep, it could be a sign of brain fog. Ongoing mental fatigue can make it difficult to think clearly or perform cognitive tasks effectively. The mental fatigue may also be accompanied by physical fatigue and sleepiness.

Confusion and disorientation: Brain fog can cause feelings of confusion, making it difficult to understand or process information. You may feel temporarily disoriented or have trouble understanding complex concepts.

Slow thinking and processing speed: Another symptom of brain fog is a noticeable decrease in thinking and processing speed. You may find it takes longer to complete tasks or struggle to develop ideas or solutions quickly.

Difficulty with decision-making: Brain fog can impair your ability to make decisions efficiently. You may find it challenging to weigh options, analyze the pros and cons, and come to a clear conclusion.

Mood swings and irritability: Brain fog can also affect your emotional well-being. You may experience mood swings, increased irritability, or have difficulty managing stress and emotions effectively.

What is the connection between thyroid disease and brain fog?

About half of those with hypothyroidism will experience brain fog symptoms before receiving a hypothyroidism diagnosis. While hypothyroid patients can experience any of the brain fog symptoms described above, the most common brain fog symptoms reported in people with hypothyroidism include:

  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Feeling sleepy

There are several links between a thyroid disorder and a lack of mental focus to consider.

Low thyroid levels

Thyroid levels of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 affect how your brain operates. Having low thyroid levels, a condition known as hypothyroidism, is linked to mental focus. Thyroid hormone fuels every body process, including brain function, and when thyroid hormone is deficient, these functions slow down. Because of this slowdown, you may struggle with tasks that once seemed effortless, experience a decline in alertness, and feel mentally exhausted.


As we know, thyroid hormones are crucial for maintaining metabolism and brain function. Thyroid inflammation can affect how much thyroid hormone the gland can produce, resulting in a lack of mental focus. Inflammation can arise from various sources, such as stress, poor diet, or autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s.

Hashimoto’s is a thyroid autoimmune condition and the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. In this autoimmune condition, your immune system attacks your thyroid, resulting in chronic inflammation and an underactive thyroid. Because of this, the balance of thyroid hormones is disrupted, contributing to many hypothyroid symptoms like brain fog.

Vitamin deficiency

Your thyroid’s health depends on the availability of essential nutrients. Vitamin deficiencies can worsen a thyroid condition and contribute to mental focus problems.

Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and may help reduce inflammation, thus supporting thyroid health. And studies show that those with Hashimoto’s often have low vitamin D levels. Other vitamins that are also essential for maintaining thyroid health include:

There are several steps that you can take to make improvements to your brain health. Let’s look at the top five ways people battling brain fog can relieve symptoms.

Tip 1: Get plenty of sleep

Lack of sleep can have significant effects on the body, including impaired judgment, feelings of depression, and memory loss. Interestingly, these are also symptoms of an underactive thyroid. So, ensuring you get adequate rest can help relieve these symptoms.

Set yourself up for success by working backward. If you know you need to wake up at a particular time, give yourself a bedtime of 7 to 9 hours earlier. Then, set an alarm for an hour before bedtime so you know to start winding down. This way, you’re less likely to get stuck in the famed Netflix auto-play loop! Here are some other tips for sleep success

  • Create a calm, quiet, and dark sleep environment
  • Adjust the room temperature to keep it on the cooler side
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime
  • Remove devices, including TVs, phones, and computers, from the bedroom
  • Exercise during the day to make falling asleep easier

If you have a sleep condition like sleep apnea that prevents you from getting optimal sleep, talk with your provider about treatment options. Addressing underlying sleep issues further enhances your success.

Tip 2: Exercise the fog away

When you feel exhausted, the last thing that you want to do is exercise. However, exercise has been proven to have numerous benefits for both physical and mental health.

About 10% of those with hypothyroidism report improvement in brain fog symptoms with more exercise.

Exercise also helps combat brain fog by improving memory and concentration. In addition, it may help protect your brain from stress and inflammation. Regular exercise increases blood flow to the brain, leading to the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters that improve mood and cognitive function. Additionally, exercise promotes the growth of new brain cells and strengthens neural connections, further aiding in reducing brain fog.

You don’t need a high-intensity, sweat-drenching workout to exercise the fog away. Low-impact physical activities such as walking, a leisurely bike ride, or water aerobics are just as beneficial and maybe more enjoyable! 

Tip 3: Change those dietary habits

Believe it or not, what you eat can profoundly impact your thyroid’s health and mental clarity. Since everyone’s dietary recommendations differ, it is best to work with a nutritionist to develop a dietary plan that meets your needs and promotes thyroid health. Here are some general rules of thumb:

  • Incorporate the right amount of saturated fats into your diet. These types of fat support your thyroid and provide energy. However, overeating can harm your heart health, so you must find the right balance. Examples include coconut oil, cheese, cocoa butter, or fatty meats.
  • Add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain health. They improve blood flow to the brain and may also help reduce inflammation. Fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts are foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. 
  • Limit processed foods and sugar intake. Too much sugar intake, especially at one time, can cause your blood sugar level to spike and then crash. In turn, this can alter your cognitive function and energy level. Sugar may also contribute to inflammation in the body and prevent healing.
  • Watch your gluten intake. Gluten is a protein found in different grains such as wheat, rye, and oats. It can also be added to beverages and even medications or dietary supplements. Brain fog is a common symptom associated with gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Many people with a thyroid condition also suffer from gluten intolerance and celiac disease and may not even be aware of the condition. It is believed that gluten intolerance can cause inflammation in the brain, leading to these cognitive issues. Thus, a gluten-free diet may help improve thyroid symptoms, especially in those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
  • Correct vitamin deficiencies. Many thyroid patients suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Vitamins B and D and magnesium are all generally low in people with thyroid conditions. And these vitamins play a crucial role in mental clarity, focus, depression, and overall energy levels. Ideally, you would get your vitamins and minerals from your food. But you can also take them as supplements; talk to your healthcare provider first.

And lastly, watch your alcohol intake and make sure to stay hydrated!

## 5-day meal plan

Tip 4: Stress management

Chronic stress, whether mental, physical, or emotional, can worsen thyroid symptoms and may contribute to inflammation. And as mentioned, inflammation can impact your thyroid function. Stress can also have a negative impact on the brain, leading to difficulties with concentration, memory, and mental clarity. When stressed, the body releases stress hormones that can interfere with cognitive function and impair our ability to think clearly. This can result in feelings of brain fog. Addressing underlying stress puts your thyroid health and brain function back on track. There are many ways to reduce stress, including:

  • Mindfulness activities such as meditation
  • Gentle movements like yoga and Tai Chi
  • Listening to music or playing a musical instrument
  • Crafting or painting
  • Baking, gardening, woodworking

Tip 5: Manage underlying health conditions

Managing underlying health conditions, not just hypothyroidism, can help improve brain fog.

Correcting low thyroid levels can help combat mental fog. According to a 2022 survey of those with hypothyroidism, starting or adjusting the dose of a thyroid hormone medication leads to an improvement in brain fog symptoms.

But, even with proper hypothyroidism management, about 10% of people taking levothyroxine still experience brain fog symptoms. Levothyroxine is the most commonly prescribed thyroid hormone replacement medication for managing hypothyroidism. Sometimes, brain fog symptoms are due to a suboptimal levothyroxine dose. But recent research suggests another reason.

T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone and the main form that the brain uses to maintain cognitive function. Levothyroxine monotherapy may not adequately increase T3 levels in the brain despite normal thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. Because of this, individuals may still experience brain fog symptoms. Thus, your provider may need to add a T3 medication to levothyroxine to help improve brain fog.

Furthermore, the presence of other medical conditions, such as depression, sleep apnea, or vitamin deficiencies, may also contribute to brain fog. These conditions also need to be addressed to help resolve brain fog.

A note from Paloma Health

If you suspect thyroid issues are affecting your mental focus, talk with your healthcare provider. They can conduct tests to assess your thyroid function and offer guidance on treatment options. These options may include thyroid hormone replacement therapy or dietary adjustments.

At Paloma Health, we specialize in providing comprehensive care for those with hypothyroidism. Unlike traditional healthcare, where you only check in with your provider once a year, our team of board-certified physicians provides around-the-clock, personalized care. Take charge of your cognitive well-being and prioritize your thyroid health by scheduling an appointment today.

Paloma also offers consultations with our experienced thyroid nutritionists, who can provide personalized dietary advice and guidance tailored to your specific needs and goals. They can help you create a balanced and nutrient-rich meal plan,  identify any nutritional deficiencies or imbalances, and recommend appropriate supplements or modifications to your diet to support thyroid health and combat brain fog. Learn more about the benefits of including a nutritionist on your care team now.  


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Emilie White, PharmD

Clinical Pharmacist and Medical Blogger

Emilie White, PharmD is a clinical pharmacist with over a decade of providing direct patient care to those hospitalized. She received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. After graduation, Emilie completed a postgraduate pharmacy residency at Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center in Virginia. Her background includes caring for critical care, internal medicine, and surgical patients.

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