How to Overcome Thyroid Brain Fog

How to Overcome Thyroid Brain Fog

Thyroid Brain Fog
Dr. Katie Rothwell
Medically reviewed by

Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND, a licensed Naturopathic Doctor with clinical focus in thyroid conditions and Hashimoto's disease through The College of Naturopaths of Ontario, Canada.

Do you ever just forget where you left your things or what you were about to say? Do you struggle to concentrate on what your actions or what someone is saying to you? Although most of us experience this once in a while, if you are experiencing symptoms of forgetfulness or are struggling to concentrate more often than not, you could be experiencing what is commonly known as brain fog

In this article, we will look at how thyroid dysfunction can result in brain fog, how thyroid brain fog usually manifests, and some practical ways to overcome thyroid brain fog.

What exactly is thyroid brain fog? And how does thyroid health affect cognitive function?

The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones, mainly thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are then released into the bloodstream and distributed throughout the body by the circulatory system. Thyroid hormones help regulate metabolism and energy production throughout the body, including the brain. The thyroid’s influence on brain function also includes the development of brain cells and the production of brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters.

Thyroid brain fog refers to a cognitive symptom of thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism, characterized by difficulties with concentration, memory, mental clarity, and overall cognitive function. 

Usually, when thyroid function is compromised, either due to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), it can negatively impact cognitive function. However, in hypothyroidism specifically, where the thyroid hormone production is low, there is a slowdown in metabolic processes, including those in the brain. This can lead to reduced cognitive processing speed, difficulties with memory retrieval and concentration, and an overall feeling of mental fog or sluggishness.

On the other, hyperthyroidism, characterized by excessive thyroid hormone production, can also affect cognitive function, although in different ways. In this condition, the body’s metabolism is accelerated, which can result in symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, and difficulty focusing. Ultimately, thyroid brain fog is mainly associated with hypothyroidism, although it can occur in hyperthyroidism as well.

A recent study published in the Endocrine Practice journal in 2022 examined how patients with hypothyroidism experience brain fog, even after taking medication. The research found brain fog to be very common, affecting nearly 80% of participants frequently. Fatigue and forgetfulness were the top complaints. Interestingly, almost half the participants said they experienced brain fog even before their hypothyroidism diagnosis. The study also revealed that getting more rest was the most common strategy patients used to manage their symptoms. However, the research identified a crucial aspect beyond standard thyroid symptoms – many patients expressed concerns about their diagnosis, medication, and the relationship with their doctor. Overall, this study highlights brain fog as a significant issue for people with hypothyroidism, and suggests that addressing broader patient concerns, not just thyroid function, might be important for better management. 

What does thyroid brain fog feel like?

Here are some common experiences associated with thyroid brain fog:

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Memory problems

  • Mental fatigue

  • Slowed thinking

  • Impaired decision-making

  • Forgetfulness

  • Confusion

  • Difficulty getting motivated

  • Reduced reaction time

What are some strategies for overcoming thyroid brain fog?

Managing thyroid brain fog involves addressing the underlying thyroid disorder while implementing strategies to support cognitive function. Here are some approaches to help you overcome thyroid brain fog:

1. Thyroid Treatment

Proper management of thyroid disorders is essential for reducing brain fog. This may involve medication (such as levothyroxine for hypothyroidism) to restore thyroid hormone levels to normal ranges. Regular monitoring and adjustments guided by healthcare providers are also crucial for optimal treatment outcomes.

2. Balanced and Anti-inflammatory Diet

Nutrient deficiencies, such as low levels of vitamin B12 can exacerbate cognitive symptoms. Consuming a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants supports brain health and may alleviate brain fog. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish and flaxseeds, are particularly beneficial for cognitive function.

You should also prioritize an anti-inflammatory diet that supports our gut health. The gut contains a complex network of nerves called the enteric nervous system, which is sometimes referred to as the body’s “second brain.” There truly is a gut-brain connection in your body. Inflammation which begins in your guts can affect the rest of the body’s immune system, brain function, and thyroid health. This is why it’s important to incorporate whole grains, dark leafy greens, non-dairy alternatives, fresh herbs and spices such as turmeric and ginger into your diet.

3. Regular Exercise

Physical activity has been shown to improve cognitive function and reduce brain fog. Engaging in regular exercise, such as aerobic activities, strength training, or yoga, can enhance blood flow to the brain, alleviate cognitive symptoms associated with thyroid disorders, and promote neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to adapt structurally and functionally). It’s important to find an activity you can stick to regularly. You can start with consistent walking for 20-30 minutes every day.

4. Sleep

If you have a thyroid disorder such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, you may already experience poor sleep. Addressing sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, is crucial for managing thyroid brain fog. It is therefore important to prioritize your sleep and work on developing a regular sleep schedule where you can get 7-8 hours of sleep daily to promote cognitive function and overall well-being. 

Try drinking herbal tea in the evening one hour before bed, staying off all devices, and practicing mindfulness/breathing techniques. You’d be surprised at how effective breathing exercises can be!

5. Cognitive Training

Engaging in activities that challenge cognitive function, such as puzzles, games, or learning new skills, can help sharpen mental faculties and fight brain fog. These exercises work like a workout for your brain. They challenge your memory, focus, and problem-solving skills. By stimulating neural pathways, these exercises can strengthen the connections in your brain. This can make your brain more resilient and adaptable, potentially improving your ability to concentrate and think clearly.

Key Takeaways

  • Thyroid brain fog is a common yet distressing symptom associated with thyroid disorders, particularly hypothyroidism. 
  • Thyroid brain fog often manifests in the form of forgetfulness, poor concentration, and mental fatigue.
  • Brain fog can have other causes besides thyroid issues. It’s therefore important to get a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional to rule out other potential causes.
  • Understanding the underlying trigger of brain fog and implementing strategies for management is essential for improving cognitive function and quality of life. 
  • By prioritizing your thyroid treatment, adopting a healthy lifestyle (including a healthy diet, regular exercise, and quality sleep), and nurturing cognitive resilience, you can overcome thyroid brain fog and regain mental clarity. 

Managing your thyroid health on top of your general health can sometimes be overwhelming but ThyForLife is here to help. If you’re looking for answers or curious about what other people with thyroid conditions are using, head over to the News & Community section on the ThyForLife app.

There you can ask and answer questions anonymously with other community members, participate in daily polls and discussions, and gain access to more medically reviewed content like this article. 


At ThyForLife, we do our utmost to provide accurate information. For detailed medical information regarding diagnosis, treatment, and general practices please consult your healthcare professional. Always listen to the advice of your healthcare provider.
Share this article

You might also like

Showing most popular and related articles for you

Be the first to get

weekly thyroid related articles and useful tips directly to your inbox!