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The #1 Supplement to Help With Your Pandemic Anxiety, According to a Nutritionist

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According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 18.5% of adults in the United States experience mental illness every year. That's a significant portion of our population—one in five people—yet the stigma and misunderstanding that surround mental health remain. Add a lengthy quarantine and global pandemic to the mix and the topic of mental health, as well as figuring out new ways to understand and take care of your own, is more important that ever.

As editors, we’re not here to dole out diagnoses, we’ll leave that to the doctors. What we are hoping to do is offer some reprieve—through helpful advice, understanding, or simple connectedness in a time when physically we’re all alone. That's why in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re highlighting raw, unfiltered stories of anxiety, isolation, depression, and the catharsis therapy or medication can bring. The hope? To feel as comfortable discussing our own mental health as we do our skincare routines.

As a dietitian and cannabis practitioner, I’ve been working with supplements my entire career. While my priority is always to have everyone eating a diet that’s as healthy as possible, there are often times when we all need a little more help—this current pandemic is certainly one of them. 

I’ve seen firsthand how incredible the benefits of CBD can be. My husband has a debilitating autoimmune disease that causes him chronic pain and prevents him from being able to walk or stand for any significant periods of time. After he introduced CBD into his treatment protocol, I was blown away by the changes that I saw in him and the benefits it brought to his quality of life.  

I brought it into my practice for my clients who were emotional eaters to help them with anxiety. The more I learned and studied about CBD, the more I realized that CBD is truly the ultimate wellness vitamin.

What Is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is a compound that is a type of cannabinoid found in hemp or cannabis plants. There are currently over 100 different cannabinoids that have been discovered and I think we’re still going to find more. CBD has been extensively studied and has shown to relieve everything from chronic pain, anxiety, sleep and more.

Can CBD Make You High?

This might be the most common question I get about CBD and the answer is no. CBD is not psychoactive so you will not get high, stoned or even give you the munchies. THC, which is the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, can only be found in very limited and trace amounts in the plants that CBD comes from. Any of the stereotypes associated with smoking “pot” do not apply when it comes to CBD. 

How Does CBD Affect Your Body?

Humans are equipped with a system called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ultimate goal of the ECS is to help your body maintain homeostasis, basically how to internally stay balanced when so many external imbalances are regularly being thrown at you—think stress, pain, this pandemic! A crucial role the ECS also supports is regulating fear, anxiety and how we react to stress. When you consume CBD, it signals the receptors of the ECS to help support its important functions and how the body responds to stress, fear and anxiety. 

The science on CBD is extensive, especially for many of the symptoms that we’re all feeling during this quarantine time. If you’re feeling anxious, stressed, clenched or even having a hard time sleeping, using a high quality CBD product can help your body regulate itself better to relieve you of these symptoms. When you take CBD, it supports the ECS to bring your system back into balance, so that might mean better sleep, less muscle stiffness, less anxiety and more. 

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Why Should You Take CBD During Quarantine?

Recent research published in the Lancet examines the negative psychological impact of quarantine. The most common symptoms found during quarantine include stress, low mood, irritability, insomnia and more. Anxiety is also at an all time high. Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions that have a physiological response that can include agitation, irritability, sleep disturbances, muscle tension/aches and even difficulty concentrating. 

These disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), when anxiety is stemming from fear of a wide range of issues or situations—which the pandemic, social distancing, and not knowing what's next can certainly fit into. 

A good quality CBD can help your body respond to the current state of the world differently by regulating your body’s reaction to fear and stress. Even more, CBD’s ability to fight anxiety is also beyond the ECS, with some animal studies demonstrating how CBD interacts with a type of serotonin receptors in the brain which is the specific spot that anti-anxiety medications target.

There is also some new research showing how CBD can stimulate neurogenesis, or the generation of new neurons in the area of the brain associated with anxiety. More neurons mean a bigger hippocampus, which is associated with better moods. Now more than ever, we’re all under a large amount of stress. From being concerned about loved ones to being isolated from the people we care about to worrying if our jobs will remain stable, stress is clearly at an all-time high. While nothing can actually fix or stop the pandemic, using a quality CBD product can definitely help you cope in these stressful times.

What Will You Feel When You Take CBD?

Everyone’s response to taking or using CBD will be different. It can depend on how receptive your ECS is, the amount of CBD you’re taking, the form of CBD you’re using and of course, the quality of the product. I always ask people to give it at least five days of taking any new supplement before deciding if it’s working for them, and CBD is no exception. A smart idea is prior to taking CBD for the first time is to write out your symptoms and use a scale of 1 to 10. For example: How is the quality of your sleep, are you waking up tired, are you getting stress headaches, where would you put your patience levels, how are the muscles in your neck/shoulders/wherever you hold your tension feeling? Then after five days, re-evaluate and compare those numbers. CBD can have a subtle impact, so having some type of scale system helps you see what kind of effect it’s having on you. Many times, my clients have told me that using CBD daily causes the absence of symptoms like sleepless nights, neck or shoulder pain, grinding their teeth, or being impatient with work or their kids. 

What I think is special about CBD is that because it helps to support your ECS instead of simply masking an issue, if you start taking it for a while and then stop, the symptoms don’t just immediately come back. Many people feel their best taking a CBD supplement regularly, but it can also be used for these acute moments of stress, anxiety or pain without any type of withdrawal or return of issues when you stop taking it. 

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Different Forms of CBD

CBD can come in all different forms. Powders, tinctures, gummies, creams and even in beauty products. Quality is always a priority when it comes to any supplement, but especially CBD as the regulations on this supplement are still in limbo. I most often recommend ingestibles, like a powder or capsule, and also topical treatments, like salves and bath salts.

I looked for a product that met my strict criteria but also felt like a wellness supplement and I couldn’t find one that fit both of those requirements, so I went ahead and created my own: Daily Habit. For people who are looking to feel a bit better, handle stress or sleep better, and optimize their wellness, I recommend using Daily Habit. For anyone with more severe conditions or who are really struggling, capsules would be my suggestion so they can take enough CBD to get the results they need. For muscle pain, salves or a bath soak would be the best bet. Using CBD topically is very effective for anything muscularly related. 

Some of my favorite CBD products include: 

Ingestible: Daily Habit (obviously)

Capsules: PlusCBD

How to Choose a Quality CBD Product:

There are three important factors to look for when choosing a CBD supplement.

  1. Choose a full-spectrum CBD: You can mainly find CBD as a full-spectrum product or an isolate. Full-spectrum is always considered superior to isolate because you get not only the CBD, but also all the other cannabinoids that are also found in the plant which actually make CBD more effective in a process called the "entourage effect."
  2. Look for products grown in the U.S.: This way, you know the plants are grown in regulated ways.
  3. Transparency is key: If you go to a company's website, there should be some way to see the COA or certificate of analysis, which are the test results to show what's actually in the product. Even if it makes no sense to you, what's most important is that the company is willing to share it in some capacity. 
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What’s My Dose?

Everyone has different needs when it comes to consuming CBD, but the rule of thumb when trying any new supplement—especially with CBD—is to start low and go slow. Dosing for any CBD ingestible (powders or capsules) can vary from 2.5mg to 100mg or even higher, so it’s important to find out what works best for you. In my practice and training, I’ve found that a 10mg dose for most people with non-severe issues is the perfect sweet spot and around 25 to 30mg per dose is good for those who need more support. What’s great is that you can always add more throughout the day or before bed if you need it. Topicals, salves or bath salts also vary but because you’re not consuming it, you can be more flexible with what dosage you take and the dose tends to be a lot higher than with ingestibles. 

When Should I Take CBD?

I ask my clients to try to be proactive about taking their CBD supplement. So if they have sleep issues, then taking CBD after dinner is the way to go. If certain work meetings tend to trigger your anxiety, taking your CBD in the morning or an hour before your meeting can set you up for success. If you’re always sore after a workout or your knee hurts during your bike ride, using a salve beforehand can help you get through your workout with less pain. 

In stressful times—like right now, during a pandemic, CBD can help so many people live just a little bit easier. It’s important to remember that while CBD is incredibly effective and beneficial for so many people, there is nothing wrong with needing more help from a professional or a medication. What’s the real priority is that we get through this time with all the help we possibly can. 

 

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