Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that also impacts the brain. “Fibro fog,” a frequent complaint of fibromyalgia patients, is cognitive dysfunction that can manifest as confusion, inability to focus, forgetfulness, and inability to stay alert. It’s unclear whether fibro fog is due to a brain chemistry imbalance or is a result of fatigue and sleep deprivation that is central to fibromyalgia. Some fibromyalgia patients have mild brain fog, while others have severe fibro fog that impairs their ability to function outside the home.
Fibro fog can be worsened by stress, lack of sleep, overstimulation, and medications or drugs that impair focus. For example, alcohol, Xanax, and THC found in cannabis can all cause sedation and decreased concentration, worsening fibro fog. 5-HTP, a supplement that increases serotonin in the brain, is often used for fibromyalgia pain but can cause sleepiness and worsen fibro fog during the day.
Traditional treatments for brain fog include stimulants such as coffee or Adderall. Unfortunately, caffeine can cause flare ups of fibromyalgia pain, spasms, and anxiety, making it a poor choice to treat fibro fog. Exercise is also a way to get the blood flowing and beat brain fog, but for many fibromyalgia patients, anything more than a short walk is enough to cause a serious fibro flare.
CBD For Fibro Fog
One overlooked treatment for fibro fog is CBD. CBD can come from hemp or cannabis, and the difference is whether or not the product contains significant amounts of THC. Because THC can worsen fibro fog, if you are not an experienced cannabis user, you should use a CBD product that is derived from hemp, not cannabis or marijuana.
What is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, one of hundreds of cannabinoids found in the hemp and cannabis plant. These other cannabinoids include THC, the famous cannabinoid that gets you high, as well as lesser known cannabinoids such as CBN, CBG, THCV, and THCA. Cannabinoids that come from plants like cannabis are called phytocannabinoids, whereas cannabinoids made by our own body are called endocannabinoids. CBD is a phytocannabinoid and our body does not produce it naturally.
CBD does not bind directly to cannabinoid receptors in our brain and body like THC does, but rather increases levels of our own natural endocannabinoid, anandamide. Anandamide, the bliss molecule, binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors weaker than THC does, and this is why CBD doesn’t cause euphoria, or that “high” the way THC does. CBD interacts with many more receptors than THC does outside the endocannabinoid system, which is why it’s an amazing supplement to treat a complex disease like fibromyalgia.
How Does CBD Work For Fibro Fog?
Fibro fog is often worst on our really bad pain flare days. CBD can reduce pain and inflammation by increasing anandamide levels at CB1 receptors, which can help increase focus because your brain is no longer busy trying to feel pain or block out pain.
CBD can bind to serotonin receptors, which improve mood and focus. Antidepressants like Prozac, which are used to treat depression, anxiety, and other conditions, target the serotonin system as well. Thankfully CBD doesn’t have all those nasty side effects that antidepressants do, like upset stomach, nausea, and even reduced sex drive.
Fibromyalgia may be exacerbated by glutamate excitoxicity
which can kill or damage brain cells. This occurs when there is too much glutamate, the neurotransmitter that excites brain cells. While CBD doesn’t directly bind to GABA receptors, CBD can increase the ability for GABA receptors to bind to GABA.
Because GABA is the neurotransmitter that turns off cells, CBD can help quiet overactive brain cells damaged by glutamate excitotoxicity. When the brain stop short-circuiting, things like memory, attention, and focus can work again for fibromyalgia patients.
CBD is also a powerful antioxidant and neuroprotectant (the U.S. government even owns a patent on it!), which means it works to prevent, treat, and potentially even reverse some forms of cognitive dysfunction and brain injury. It’s been used for multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease successfully.
Recommended CBD Products For Fibro Fog
Not all CBD products will help with fibro fog. CBD topicals or creams, for example, are used externally and are not absorbed into the bloodstream. While CBD topicals are useful for pain, they will not help with fibro fog. CBD products that will get absorbed to your bloodstream and travel to your brain include CBD oil, CBD gummies, CBD pills, CBD vape pens, and CBD joints.
Dr. Michele Ross is a PhD neuroscientist and health coach working with cannabis, kratom, and mushrooms. She helps people with chronic illness live their best life ever! Her specialties are fibromyalgia, mental health, and women’s health. She is the author of Vitamin Weed and CBD Oil For Health. Book a cannabis consultation today.