Brain Fog and Hormones: Are they Related?

Jenna Hilton
August 17, 2023

Feeling sluggish, disoriented, and unable to focus on simple daily tasks can be frustrating. This temporary condition characterized by fuzzy thinking and reduced mental sharpness is known as “brain fog”.

Brain fog can result from illness, stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, or hormonal imbalance. While this is not a scientific or medical term, it loosely denotes diminished cognitive abilities, confusion, and poor concentration.

This article gives a rundown of the 5 main brain fog hormones and explores the most effective treatments.

Do hormones cause brain fog?

Can Hormonal Imbalance Cause Brain Fog?

Hormonal disruption can impact or reduce cognitive abilities. The intricate network of bodily functions that hormones regulate can cause forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, or mental fatigue.

The following hormonal changes can trigger brain fog:

  • Pregnancy
  • Postpartum period
  • Perimenopause
  • Menopause
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Testosterone deficiency
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Adrenal imbalances

What Does Hormonal Brain Fog Feel Like?

Brain fog symptoms can vary from mild to severe. They can manifest from brief memory lapses to slower information processing or mental cloudiness. If accompanied by other mental health issues, this condition can interfere with everyday functioning and require medical assistance.

The following feelings and sensations most accurately describe hormonal brain fog:

  • Cloudy thinking
  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Feeling disoriented
  • Lack of mental clarity
  • Lack of focus
  • Difficulty memorizing
  • Forgetfulness
  • Word retrieval issues
  • Poor concentration
  • Fractured attention
  • Irritability

Note: Find out how hormonal shifts can lead to hormonal anxiety and learn ways to prevent it.

What Hormones Cause Brain Fog?

Hormones continuously interact with each other to manage different physiological processes. Even the slightest disruption may compromise mental health. Hormonal fluctuations contribute to frequent mood swings, a shortened attention span, and a lowered cognitive baseline.

1. Estrogen

Estrogen’s influence goes beyond just regulating women’s reproductive health. This hormone contributes to cognitive health by fostering neuroprotection, increasing serotonin and endorphin production, and stimulating nerve growth.

Estrogen plays a crucial role in the following brain functions:

  • Memory
  • Cognition
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Neuroplasticity

The hormone’s neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory properties are essential for sustained mental efforts. It supports the structural integrity of neurons, aiding memory and fending off cloudy thinking and distractedness.

Decreased estrogen levels may occur during hormonal changes (e.g., menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breastfeeding, perimenopause, menopause) or result from other health issues (e.g., obesity, diabetes, primary ovarian insufficiency, polycystic ovary syndrome).

2. Progesterone

Progesterone, vital for preparing and maintaining pregnancy, has numerous non-reproductive properties that impact cognition. This mood-affecting hormone modulates GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) – a chemical messenger in the brain that calms the nervous system.

Progesterone contributes to mental health by affecting the following:

  • Emotion processing
  • Mood regulation
  • Stress response
  • Memory consolidation

Progesterone promotes relaxation, improves sleep quality, and stabilizes mood. Furthermore, it enhances cognitive function by inducing neurogenesis (the formation of new neurons) in the hippocampus. It has the neuroprotective role of stimulating the growth of myelin sheaths, the insulating layer surrounding the nerve cells.

Fluctuating progesterone levels during pregnancy may cause attention deficit, memory loss, or forgetfulness. Studies indicate that pregnancy may also cause gray matter reduction, a condition commonly described as “pregnancy brain”. Low progesterone levels during menopause contribute to mood swings, irritability, and decreased mental focus.

3. Cortisol

Cortisol, the so-called “fight-or-flight” hormone, regulates the stress response and primes the body for survival. It penetrates the blood-brain barrier to enhance the mental alertness necessary for dealing with perceived danger.

This “stress hormone” influences the following cognitive abilities:

  • Mood
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Decision-making

Studies confirm cortisol’s impact on brain volume and the hippocampus, the brain’s information processing and retention center. A short-term stressful situation amplifies cortisol activity to increase readiness, focus, and energy. However, chronically high cortisol levels can lead to sleep deprivation, cognitive decline, and dementia.

Note: Wondering how to lower Cortisol levels? Read our article and find out the 7 methods that will help you improve your life quality.

4. Testosterone

Testosterone is primarily associated with the development of male sexual characteristics, reproductive health, and bone mass. However, it also influences the brain’s emotional, cognitive, and neurological processes.

This androgen contributes to mental health by strengthening nerves and artery muscles in the brain, promoting synaptic plasticity and memory formation. Testosterone enhances emotional stability and stress resilience, while its potent neuroprotective properties promote faster nerve cell recovery.

5. Thyroid

Thyroid hormones – thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), regulate metabolic processes, growth, and development. They affect mental health by influencing GABA inhibitory pathways. A dysfunctional thyroid can worsen a mood disorder, contributing to mental shifts and emotional upheaval.

Thyroid hormones actively participate in brain function in the following ways:

  • Neurogenesis
  • Cognitive function
  • Energy consumption
  • Emotional stability

Feeling foggy and unfocused can be a symptom of an overactive or underactive thyroid. If you feel sluggish, tired, and forgetful, you might suffer from hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid). On the other hand, if you are irritable, tense, or anxious, you might suffer from hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid).

Iodine deficiency, autoimmune conditions (e.g., Hashimoto’s), and a genetic predisposition are some of the most common causes of thyroid disruption.

What Happens If You Don’t Treat Hormonal Brain Fog?

The patient risks long-term health consequences without timely, suitable, or complete treatment. Hormone-triggered brain fog is typically a mild condition. However, it may worsen into:

  • A mood disorder – Irritability can turn into crippling anxiety, excessive self-doubt, or hormonal depression.
  • Memory impairment – Difficulty retaining new information, taking longer to complete simple tasks, forgetting everyday words, and misplacing items.
  • Cognitive decline – Impaired problem-solving, reduced creativity, poor concentration, learning difficulties.
  • Chronic inflammation – Long-term hormonal imbalance can activate tissue-damaging inflammation that may alter brain activity.
  • Disrupted sleep – Hormonal disruption can cause insomnia (e.g., difficulty falling asleep, interrupted sleep, inability to resume sleep).

How To Treat Hormonal Imbalance Brain Fog?

Addressing the underlying hormonal problem is the first step to restoring optimal cognitive function. The treatment type and duration will vary based on individual needs, symptoms, and the patient’s overall health.

1. Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT)

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) uses bioidentical hormones to alleviate physical and mental symptoms triggered by a hormonal imbalance. Plant-derived BHRT formulations simulate the activity of naturally produced hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

BHRT can positively impact brain impulses in the following manner:

  • Increased mental focus
  • Heightened energy
  • Improved emotional wellbeing
  • Better sleep quality
  • Enhanced mood stability
  • Stronger emotional resilience

This FDA-approved hormone treatment has a high safety profile and efficacy. However, custom-compounded BHRT formulations lack FDA approval due to inconclusive scientific evidence.

Note: Vibrant Vitality Clinic offers female bioidentical HRT that includes a consultation, physical examination, and a follow-up appointment.

2. Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)

Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) aims to optimize testosterone levels to enhance cognitive function and increase mental acuity. Testosterone plays a pivotal role in brain health by:

  • Activating androgen receptors in the brain
  • Crossing the blood-brain barrier to influence brain functioning
  • Extending the lifespan of nerve cells
  • Promoting nerve cell recovery after damage
  • Fostering nerve cell regrowth

There are numerous mental benefits of testosterone therapy, including better mood, more energy, and improved problem-solving, focus, and spatial ability. Patients report feeling more mentally sharp and alert, with advanced cognitive performance. However, the still-ongoing research predominantly centers around cognitive decline in aging men, with sparse evidence about the psychological advantages of testosterone therapy for women.

Note: Vibrant Vitality Clinic offers male HRT hormone therapy with a 45-minute evaluation, a physical examination, and a follow-up session.

3. Supplements

Supplements provide essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that can restore hormonal balance and improve mental health. Their nutritional value has potent revitalizing, mood-boosting properties and the potential to resolve hormone-triggered burnout.

Dietary supplements are available as capsules, injections, IV therapies, topicals, powders, liquids, or herbal blends. Your primary care physician can help you choose the most suited option based on your needs and preferences.

The following supplements* are highly beneficial in reducing brain fog symptoms:

  • Vitamin B IV Therapy – Provides eight B-complex vitamins vital for brain health. Reported benefits include increased energy, better mood, and enhanced cognitive function.
  • Vitamin B12 Injections – Increase energy levels, prevent brain atrophy, improve mood by metabolizing serotonin, and contribute to overall nerve health.
  • Vibrant B – A vitamin B blend complemented with highly bioavailable folate in a powerful combination that balances hormones to support mental health.
  • Vitamin D – A fat-soluble essential nutrient vital for central nervous system functioning, memory, concentration, and mood.
  • Vibrant OMEGAS – A product containing EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids that facilitate neurotransmitter function, enhance synaptic plasticity, and improve blood flow in the brain.
  • Vibrant BRAIN HEALTH – A herbal formula designed to support healthy nerve impulse transmission and promote cognitive health, memory, and focus.*
  • Relora – A versatile stress-relief herbal blend that can help with sleep, anxiety, and enhance overall mental performance.
  • Osmosis MD Emotional Wellbeing Elixir – A brain-replenishing anti-anxiety supplement that increases serotonin levels and harmonizes negative thinking patterns.

Note: Discover how Relora works and read about its benefits.

*Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

4. Lifestyle Modifications

Adopting a healthier lifestyle can have a profound effect on brain health. Small incremental adjustments add up over time, yielding more mental clarity and a sharper focus. Here are some suggestions that can help balance hormones for increased cognitive function:

  • Go on a hormone detox – This is an effective approach with many health benefits, including increased energy, better mood, and improved brain function. It consists of a nutrient-dense diet, physical activity, prioritizing sleep, and supplementation.
  • Improve your diet - Stick to a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet to increase mental sharpness and reduce brain inflammation. Green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, and healthy fats can promote your mood and increase emotional stability.
  • Move your body Regular exercise helps to eliminate excess toxins, enhances insulin sensitivity, and rebalances hormone production.
  • Meditate - Engaging in meditative practices (e.g., body scan, breathing exercises) can quiet down a busy mind. Studies show that regular meditation strengthens the pre-frontal cortex, which regulates complex cognitive processes, such as decision-making.

5. Reduce Sensory Overload

Our ever-evolving digital landscape provides constant sensory stimulation, overwhelming us with information and creating mental confusion. Hyperarousal elevates cortisol levels and triggers the stress response. Spending too much time on electronic devices overstimulates your brain and leaves you in a state of daze, unable to function properly.

You can reverse the damage and regain your cognitive best in the following ways:

  • Limit screen time, especially before bedtime
  • Spend time in nature
  • Reduce background noise
  • Engage in calming activities
  • Take regular breaks

6. Seek Social Support

Socializing can counteract mental sluggishness by providing stimulation, a perspective shift, and opportunities to meet new people. Bonding with friends or family members reduces feelings of loneliness or isolation, strengthening ties and promoting emotional wellbeing.

Studies show that people who regularly attend social events or family gatherings are less likely to feel depressed and readily reach out for support when feeling down.

Surround yourself with people who give you a sense of purpose, engage in thought-provoking conversations, and make new connections to get rid of brain fog.


Brain fog can be a temporary, mild inconvenience or develop into a more serious psychological problem. Luckily, there are ways to minimize it or prevent it. Following a consistent sleep schedule will restore energy, sharpen your mind, and bring back mental clarity. A well-balanced diet can increase your processing speed, and engaging in regular exercise aids in preserving cognitive flexibility.

Feel free to contact Vibrant Vitality Clinic if you have any questions about hormone replacement therapies and nutritional supplementation for brain fog.

Jenna Hilton
Jenna Hilton has been a practicing PA since 2009, specializing in Family, Internal Medicine and Medical Aesthetics. She attended Arizona State University where she received her Bachelor's Degree and graduated magna cum laude. She received her Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies from A.T. Still University.

Jenna has been injecting neurotoxin and dermal filler since 2013. She received certification as a Master Injector in 2017 through Empire Medical in Los Angeles, California. She is currently working on a Fellowship Program in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine through the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Her special interests include use of PLLA, Ablative/Non ablative skin resurfacing, PDO threads, hormone therapy and nutritional therapies to improve cellular regeneration and medically supervised weight loss.

Jenna Hilton believes in a multi-factorial approach, considering internal factors that accelerate aging and disease development. She always enjoys teaching. She co-founded Vibrant EDU courses at Vibrant Skin Bar and regularly performs one-on-one training with fellow injectors. She teaches Aesthetic and Advanced Injectable Courses at National Laser Institute. She has been named Preceptor of the Year and is an Adjunct Faculty Member at Midwestern University. She was born in Iowa, and lives with her husband and three children in Phoenix, AZ.

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