Are you feeling spaced out, forgetful, confused, and unable to focus? Finding it difficult to sleep and getting headaches? You could be experiencing “brain fog.” A foggy head is a set of imbalances that result when you’re recovering from an infection, have a chronic ailment, have jet lag, haven’t slept enough, or are just generally stressed and anxious.
Holistic approaches are helpful in dealing with brain fog symptoms by addressing their root cause. Is lifestyle a factor? Is it dietary? Related to an illness? Hormonal issues? Anxiety? A stressful life event? A comprehensive assessment of the mind-body system is needed. A foggy head causes neurological, psychological, and emotional challenges. It can impact family and work life and be debilitating as well as frustrating. In Ayurveda, brain fog symptoms are taken seriously to assess underlying imbalances. After all, Ayurveda is about prevention, disease management, and living life to your fullest potential. This can be hard to do when you’re contending with heaviness, demotivation, and fatigue.
Ayurvedic view of brain fog causes
Internal (Nija) factors or external (Agantuja) factors like epidemics or war can aggravate Doshas or energy principals and the Gunas (pertaining to mental health, read more here). Vata Dosha imbalance or Ama (toxins) are often causes of brain fog, but that only skims the surface. A personalized assessment is required to establish each of the individual contributing factors.
General causes of disease
- Misuse of the intellect (Prajnaparadha) – e.g. binge-watching shows until late in the night
- Misuse of the senses (Asatmendriyartha samyoga) – like too much screen time and sensory overload.
- Seasonal and time variations (Kala or parinama) – such as degenerative changes to the brain with aging (which can be eased by measures like exercise and doing puzzles).
Imbalance in the Vata dosha
What is Vata?
It is the subtle energy of movement in your mind-body system. It’s composed of air and ether elements. A Vata imbalance can cause a lack of focus, anxiety, fatigue, memory issues, and problems with sleep.
Prevention (Niana parivarjana) is the best management! Vata goes out of balance with an irregular routine, cold, dry food, not enough hydration, sleeping late or too little, cold exposure, controlling natural urges, too much media exposure, and overdoing things. Fall and early winter are Vata seasons in the U.S. Older age is the Vata stage of life, when people are prone to imbalances like brain fog and anxiety. You can learn more about balancing Vata here.
Other imbalances contributing to brain fog
- Vata-Pitta imbalance: Any Dosha imbalance can cause depletion, degeneration, and exhaustion, but Vata and Pitta are particularly implicated. A Vata-Pitta imbalance is like a forest fire, causing burnout and leading to a foggy brain. A Rajasic state of mind with feverishness and restlessness has a similar impact.
- Toxins and blockages: Obstruction of Srotas or channels through toxins (Ama), Kapha Dosha, or any Dosha imbalance can cause brain fog symptoms. As could a lethargic and Tamasic state of mind.
- Poor digestion: weak Agni can lead to nutrient malabsorption and toxin production (Ama). Both could contribute to a foggy mind.
Eight tips to clear brain fog holistically with Ayurveda
Sleep is one of the three pillars of health in Ayurveda. All activities are degenerating, and sleep nourishes a foggy brain. Try to sleep before 10 pm and get eight hours of solid sleep. Do follow a routine through good Ratricharya (nightly regimen) practices (slowing and winding down, not eating late, and if it suits you, having a warm glass of turmeric milk).
Turmeric milk recipe: Boil a glass of milk with ½ tsp turmeric and a pinch of black pepper. Add saffron, cardamom, and grated fresh ginger! Enjoy this soothing drink!
Eat a warm, unctuous diet with plenty of fruits and cooked vegetables. Hydrate properly and avoid overeating, fried and processed foods, white sugar, and white flour. Incorporate spices that support digestion, like ginger, cumin, coriander, and fennel. Sip warm CCF tea throughout the day. And consume Ayurvedically balanced meals.
CCF tea recipe: In six glasses of water, add 1 tsp each of cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds and boil for 15-20 min. Strain and enjoy.
3. Yoga, pranayama, meditation and exercise
Yoga, pranayama, and meditation are effective tools for increasing Sattva (the light, clear quality of the mind), improving focus, memory, and cognition, enhancing a sense of well-being, and sharpening the senses. One size doesn’t fit all in a yoga practice (read more about individualizing Yoga here). Alternate Nostril breathing is Vata balancing, Kapal Bhati can help with Kapha, and slower, abdominal breathing with Vata-Pitta brain fog symptoms.
Exercise or Vyayam is recommended as part of Dinacharya or a daily regimen in Ayurveda. It enhances Agni and improves circulation and clarity of mind.
4. Avoid sensory overload
In today’s society, our brain never catches a break! Try periodic social media fasts, silence, less screen time, aromatherapy, spending time in nature, and practicing Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal). Anything you do to give your sensory organs a rest sharpens them and clears a foggy brain.
5. A daily and seasonal approach
Ayurveda encourages aligning with nature and natural rhythms. Following healthy Dinacharya practices and routines regulate Doshas. The same healthy meal is digested better at noon when the digestive fire is high, than late at night. Similarly, different seasons have a different dominating Dosha. Balancing that dominating dosha helps prevent imbalances like brain fog symptoms in fall and early winter, Vata seasons.
6. Community support
A foggy head can cause you to slow down and withdraw with a sense of ineptitude. Ayurveda is an empowering journey of self-discovery to maintain health. It also advocates we rely on community and our connection with nature. Reach out to people and do things you enjoy.
7. Herbal recommendations
An Ayurvedic Practitioner individualizes herbs and formulations based on the imbalance that a Rogi experiences. Brain fog causes the mind channel (Manovaha Srotas) to be impacted. Medhya Rasayanas (brain tonics or adaptogens) like Brahmi, Guduchi, Ashwagandha, or Yashtimadhu may be recommended.
8. Periodic cleansing
Seasonal transitions can cause brain fog. Ayurveda recommends periodic cleansing (best done in fall or spring) to clear imbalances and ensure the deep-seated ones don’t recur. Cleansing or shodhana is powerful and therapeutic. It can be customized to include personalized therapies, a Panchakarma or a seasonal cleanse.