You don’t have to be retired and hitting the early bird buffet to experience cognitive problems—many young people struggle with issues. Could lifestyle changes or CBD work for brain fog? Let’s look at what the research says!
Got your head in the clouds? You could have “brain fog” if you’re dealing with memory problems, trouble thinking, concentration problems, or an inability to focus. This annoying cognitive symptom can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to run your life.
Brain fog is a type of cognitive dysfunction, but it’s a symptom rather than a disorder of its own. When you start feeling mentally cloudy, the body’s often trying to tell you something. The good news: if you know why you’re feeling foggy, then you can fix what’s wrong!
The first two lines of defense against brain fog that are recommended by medical professionals are:
- Lifestyle changes, and
- Diagnosing and addressing the underlying problem
You shouldn’t try to handle routine brain fog without talking to your doctor. In fact, always see your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing cognitive problems so they can rule out potential medical issues. Better to be careful when it’s your health at stake!
What causes brain fog?
First, definitely take some time to find the reason for brain fog and, again, speak with a physician if this is a persistent problem! Brain fog can be caused by:
- Dehydration: Are you drinking enough water? Adult men should drink 104 ounces of water a day, and women should drink 9 cups. Get chuggin’!
- Stress: Chronic stress does all kinds of crazy things to your body, including causing mental fatigue. Relaxation can be critical to giving your poor brain a break.
- Poor sleep: Adults need 8 or 9 hours of sleep per night, and in 2014, 35.2% of adults slept less than 7 hours! Sleep rejuvenates your brain—without it, thought processes can get kinda mushy.
- Hormone changes: Estrogen and progesterone (among others) are hormones that can affect memory and cognitive ability, a couple of the hallmarks of brain fog. If you menstruate, use hormonal birth control, are pregnant, or have an endocrine disorder, that could be a factor.
- Nutritional deficiencies: Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause brain fog. That’s likely because B12 is super important for nervous system health. Without it, your brain can’t live its best life.
- Food allergies: Eating foods that you’re sensitive or allergic to can cause brain fog, including things like MSG, aspartame, peanuts, and dairy products.
- Medications: Brain fog is a side effect of many drugs. If you use prescription or over-the-counter meds, ask your pharmacist or doctor if what you’re taking could be the culprit.
- Medical conditions: Most conditions that involve inflammation and fatigue as symptoms can cause brain fog. That includes chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, and many, many more. Mental health conditions like depression, ADHD, and PTSD are also on the list.
What can you do to beat brain fog?
What to do about brain fog depends on what’s causing it! You can narrow down the cause with the help of your doc, who will recommend the best course of action. Depending on why you’re feeling airheaded, a physician may ask you to:
- Get more sleep
- Avoid stress triggers
- Exercise more
- Change your diet
- Use medication
Make sure to be consistent with whatever treatment plan is prescribed!
What about CBD for brain fog? Here’s what evidence says about CBD & mental clarity
Right now, there isn’t a ton of research available about using CBD for brain fog beyond the anecdotal evidence. However, some studies looked at its impact on certain cognitive deficits:
- In a 2017 mini-review, the authors point out that“CBD reverses and prevents the development of cognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s disease rodent models.”
- A 2014 study found that long-term CBD use “prevents the development of social recognition memory deficits,” again, using Alzheimer’s disease rodent models. How good are rats at recognizing faces and remembering names?
- The 2017 mini-review from earlier described CBD as“neuroprotective” and concluded that it has the ability to “reduce the neuro-inflammatory response as well as to promote neurogenesis,” aka the formation of new brain cells.
Most of the evidence right now is in animal models with small sample sizes, so it's essential to take the research with a grain of salt. Cannabidiol is still newly legal in the United States, so there simply hasn’t been much time for the academics to dig in yet!
Is it safe to use CBD?
- Decreased appetite
Rarely, CBD can cause liver problems, but this is associated with people who have liver disease, including hepatitis, fatty liver disease, or cirrhosis, or those taking certain medications. (See why it’s always a good idea to check with a doc?) CBD can interact with drugs that are metabolized by an enzyme family called CYP450. CBD can interfere with the CYP3A4 enzyme, which metabolizes around 60% of prescribed medicines. This can make your body process both CBD and medications too fast or too slowly.
One rule of thumb is that if your medication has a grapefruit warning on it, then you shouldn’t use it with CBD. That’s because grapefruit contains chemicals that also interfere with CYP3A4.
Sunday Scaries can help you beat the worries that make it hard to focus
There isn't enough scientific evidence that CBD for brain fog is a definitive answer, but many people do find that it helps them relax and achieve the clarity needed for focus. And often, the trouble concentrating that it alleviates stems from feeling overwhelmed and worrying excessively. CBD can certainly help with that!
One caveat, however, is quality. There’s a lot of low-grade CBD out there, and it can be hard to know what you're looking for—but Sunday Scaries can set you straight.
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