We all find it difficult to focus sometimes — especially in the age of technology.
But here’s the thing: it’s not just the constant stream of notifications that’s to blame for our limited attention spans. Stress, poor sleep, viral infections, and malnutrition can all play a role in causing our minds to wander.
Discover three supplements for focus that may help you get back on track (and ready to concentrate).
What is brain fog and why do we get it?
We’ve got news for you. Brain fog isn’t an “official medical term.” Instead, it’s a term used to describe symptoms of other conditions (mainly stress, insomnia, and hormonal imbalances).
The three symptoms most commonly associated with brain fog include forgetfulness, lack of focus, and fatigue.
You know that feeling you get when you just know you left your keys somewhere (they couldn’t have just up and walked away on their own, could they?) but you just can’t remember where that was?
Do you get that feeling a lot? Us too.
Forgetfulness can happen when we’re stressed, tired, on medication, or sick. There are a lot of reasons for forgetfulness (and you should always tell your doctor about such symptoms, as they could be indicative of certain conditions).
But sometimes forgetfulness is just a sign that we’re living full (or overworked) lives. If you’re not suffering from any underlying conditions, your forgetfulness is probably just a side effect of one of the above issues.
Lack of Focus
Ever start a project… only to find you’re still not finished hours later? And to top it all off, you haven’t been able to actually focus on the task at hand for more than five minutes at a time?
If so, you’re not alone. We live in a world where we’re constantly stimulated and our focus is pulled in so many different directions. And even if you’re one of the lucky few who can manage to turn off their alerts for several 25-minute focus seshes a day, you may still find it difficult to concentrate.
Lack of focus could be the result of adrenal fatigue, too much caffeine, fatigue, or another dozen conditions.
It’s safe to say most of us are tired… pretty much all the time.
If we’re not working or playing, we’re sleeping. And most of us just aren’t getting enough of that last one.
The salt rubbed into the insomnia wound is that once you’ve got it, there’s a good chance it’s compounding because the more fatigued you get, the harder it is to get a good night’s sleep.
Fatigue can lead to performance and focus issues.
If you’re not getting at least seven hours of sleep each night (possibly more depending on your age, activity, medications, or other factors), you’re probably fatigued.
The more fatigued you become, the easier it is to get stressed; and the more stressed you get, the harder it is to get a full seven-to-eight hours of sleep each night.
Why We Get Brain Fog
Brain fog can be caused by a long list of conditions (most of these conditions can become chronic if left untreated for too long).
But the most common triggers of brain fog include stress, insomnia, and hormonal and nutritional imbalances.
The symptoms of many medical conditions won’t be triggered on their own. People who suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS), psoriasis, and other conditions won’t experience symptoms until they get stressed.
Of course, stress can also affect our focus.
If we’re constantly worried about something, it’s difficult to focus on the task at hand. And once we become stressed, we can experience the symptoms of chronic stress — even when there isn’t any reason to be stressed!
When the brain releases stress hormones too often, it can damage the HPA axis (also known as the stress stem), which is the route the signals travel to the adrenal glands. This means that our stress responses can start firing even when there’s no danger to fight or flee.
Poor sleep is another condition that can affect focus.
If you don’t get enough sleep each night, you’ll struggle to stay focused throughout the day.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Getting seven to eight hours a night can help you restore clarity and improve memory,” and, “going without sleep for 48 hours impairs cognitive abilities to the same degree as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1%, above the legal limit for driving in every state.”
And poor sleep is much like the other causes of poor focus on this list — once you’re overly tired, it may become more and more difficult to enter a deep sleep state, one that is critical for rest and repair.
Anyone that has gone through menopause knows firsthand how hormonal imbalances can affect focus, attention, and memory.
But it’s not just menopause or puberty that can lead to hormonal imbalances.
Diet, medications, stress (there’s that stress again!), pituitary issues, hormone therapy, injuries, and more may lead to hormonal imbalances.
And all of these issues can also lead to poor focus, too.
You may have also guessed that since stress, malnutrition, and medications lead to brain fog, hormonal imbalances can compound those effects. Meaning, stress can lead to poor focus and hormonal imbalances, leading to even poorer focus over time.
If you’re not getting the right nourishment, you’re probably also experiencing poor focus.
Certain vitamins and minerals, such as B-12, are needed for focus. Carbohydrates (otherwise known as brain food) are also necessary for mental focus and clarity. It’s important to get supplements through food and minerals through supplements, as our bodies can’t make many of them on their own.
Other macronutrients, such as protein and fat, are also necessary for brain function. Low-fat, low-carb, or protein-deficient diets may lead to poor nutrition and also poor focus.
COVID Brain Fog
While a little different than the other reasons for brain fog on this list, researchers have discovered that one of the long-term symptoms of COVID may also be brain fog.
And it’s not just COVID that may cause brain fog, either. Viral infections, such as Lyme Disease may cause confusion and some memory issues.
According to neuroplasticity therapy company re-origin CEO Ben Ahrens, “The brain's one job is to protect the body, and once it's learned to associate these symptoms with that potentially very dangerous pathogen, even after it's gone, things like a normal headache can trigger an immune cascade.”
Can adaptogens help with brain fog caused by viral infections? There simply isn’t enough research on adaptogens to know for sure.
Supplements for Focus
It’s important to make some lifestyle changes if you want to avoid brain fog and maintain good focus.
Getting enough sleep, exercising daily, sun exposure, hydration, managing stress, and taking vitamins and minerals are all ways to increase focus.
But you may find that checking all these tasks off your focus to-do list isn’t easy if you’re struggling with chronic stress, insomnia, and fatigue. Adding a few supplements to your routine may help kickstart your efforts.
Adaptogenic mushrooms, such as reishi, turkey tail, and cordyceps may help to increase focus, reduce brain fog, and fight fatigue.
The aim of using adaptogens for focus is to hopefully repair the HPA axis while combatting stress, insomnia, and fatigue.
Reishi is a medicinal mushroom that has been used for hundreds of years. In addition to helping to fight brain fog, this adaptogen is used to fight insomnia and prevent fatigue.
Reishi has been shown to help increase focus, and it may also help to boost the immune system. In trials, reishi has also been shown to have antidepressant effects on rats.
Basically, it’s one of the adaptogens that may be able to do it all. Some people even use it as a natural alternative to Xanax.
Turkey tail is another adaptogen that shows anecdotal evidence of boosting the immune system. It grows in wooded areas of the U.S. — particularly on tree trunks. The mushrooms look like a turkey’s tail (thus, the name!) as their caps are marked by horizontal colorful stripes that look almost feathered.
This mushroom contains polysaccharide-K (PSK), a compound that has been approved as a cancer treatment in Japan.
Turkey tail is used to boost immunity and may protect cells against free radicals.
If your energy feels low, you can always use cordyceps to get an instant boost. This mushroom is used by athletes for performance, energy, and recovery.
While we happen to think that adaptogens are one of the best supplements available, we do acknowledge that other supplements may help enhance performance and focus.
One of those supplements is B-12.
B-12 is found in foods, such as beef, chicken, and fish. You can also consume milk, yogurt, and eggs if you need to increase your B-12 levels.
Of course, you can get B-12 supplements and injections if you’re not getting enough of this vitamin through diet alone. Many vegetarians and vegans take B-12 supplements because they don’t eat meat or dairy products.
Want to enhance performance and stay focused throughout the day? Take focus-inspiring adaptogenic mushrooms to support cognitive function, increased focus, and enhanced mental clarity blended into a spreadable sunflower seed butter.