Menopause is one of the top three reasons women use CBD Oil – anxiety and sleep challenges are the other two. CBD oil has a good reputation that is gaining momentum for treating peri- and post-menopausal symptoms which isn’t based solely on testimonials — scientific research also indicates how cannabidiol (CBD) helps support a wide range of symptoms.
In this article, we’ll explore how menopause triggers inflammation and brain chemistry changes — which are at the root of most of these symptoms — and how CBD Oil and other interventions could help.
CBD oil has a number of great benefits attached to it. Research has shown that it can help with anxiety, reduce seizure activity, treat certain skin disorders, and even help fight cancer in some cases. This is only a few the different disorders that CBD is currently being used for.
It has become especially popular with women, who are using it to treat a number of specific issues, such as PMS, cramps, menopause symptoms, and hormonal imbalance.
But how does it work, and what effect is CBD having on our hormones?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the many cannabinoids present in the marijuana and industrial hemp plants, and is one of the two most studied cannabinoids, alongside Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
These cannabinoids work within the body’s Endocannabinoid System, by binding to a vast network of receptors that are located all over the body. These compounds work to help reduce inflammation and maintain homeostasis, among other things.
The majority of the CBD oil that is on the market comes from the industrial hemp plant, as it is naturally very low in THC, which is the compound present that produces a “high”. The hemp plant is also much higher in CBD content than the marijuana plant, which makes it ideal to use when it comes to making CBD oil.
When talking about CBD oil and hormones, you need to have an understanding of the Endocrine System, the different glands that are contained within, and the effects that hormones have on our bodies. The Endocannabinoid system plays a central role in regulating numerous systems in the body, including the Endocrine System.
The Endocrine System
Made up of all the glands in your body that produce hormones, the Endocrine System serves as a messenger system. It is responsible for hormone production and regulation, telling them where to go, and what to do when they get there.
When the Endocrine System is functioning at a high level, everything runs smoothly. When it’s not, it can lead to serious health complications. It maintains many important bodily functions such as respiration, metabolism, reproduction, motor function, sexual development, and growth, and even a slight change can have a big impact on your health.
Located near the base of the brain, the hypothalamus is a small gland with a big job. It works very closely with the pituitary gland and is responsible for telling it to start or stop producing hormones.
It has a part in controlling appetite, sexual behaviour, emotional response, regulation of body temperature, sleep cycles, and more.
When an issue arises in the body, signals are sent to the hypothalamus, which in turn responds by releasing hormones to the pituitary glands, whose role is to direct most of the other glands.
Another very important part of the system, the pituitary gland is located directly below the hypothalamus. This gland secretes growth hormone, prolactin (helps make milk in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers), follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone (known as the gonadotropins). In males this stimulates sperm production, in females egg production, and in their respective sexes stimulates the production of sex hormones, oestrogen and testosterone.
The pituitary gland receives hormones from the hypothalamus, which responds by releasing its own hormones and activating or inhibiting the other glands and/or organs in the system. It is often referred to as the master gland because of the control it has on the rest of the glands in the system.
The only hormone that the pineal gland secretes is melatonin. This hormone is responsible for regulating your circadian rhythm, known as your body’s internal clock. This hormone is what signals you to feel tired or alert at certain times in the day.
Light exposure stops the production of melatonin, while darkness triggers it. It’s part of the reason that night shift workers who are naturally exposed to more light during a 24-hour cycle can have more issues with sleep patterns, and other health issues.
An interesting fact about melatonin is that it blocks the secretion of the gonadotropins, which are the hormones that regulate the function of the ovaries and testes. Simply put, too much or too little melatonin can have negative effects on the reproductive system, which in turn can effect the rest of the system.
This gland is directly in charge of your body’s metabolism, and the hormones that it makes determines the speed at which your metabolism runs. Your metabolism is how your body uses the energy it receives. Depending on the hormones that your thyroid is or isn’t producing, you can have a slower or faster metabolism. A slower metabolism can cause some to gain weight faster and have lower energy levels.
The thyroid produces two main hormones: Triiodothyronine (T3), and Thyroxine (T4). Too much or too little of these hormones can cause two opposite conditions, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism – This is when your thyroid produces too much of the T3 and T4 hormones. It can cause people to have anxiety, nervousness, excess sweating or higher temperature, hair loss, hyperactivity, and missed or light periods in women.
Hypothyroidism – This is when your thyroid produces too little of the T3 and T4 hormones. People with this condition can experience fatigue, depression, trouble sleeping, dry skin, joint pain, and prolonged heavy bleeding in women.
This is a set of four glands located behind the thyroid gland. While the names are similar, the functions are different. The parathyroid releases parathyroid hormone (PTH), which is in charge of how much calcium in the blood.
Calcium is widely known for its importance in strong bones, and overall bone health. It also has effects on the nervous system and is used for energy in muscles.
Too much PTH in the system can cause kidney stones, and also cause people to feel depressed, lacking energy, and can even impact memory function.
Too little of this hormone can cause bone and teeth issues, muscle spasms, cataracts, headaches, heart problems, as well as mental health issues.
This is an important gland that is located right behind your sternum. It is unique in the fact that it is only active until you finish going through puberty, after which it starts to shrink and slowly be replaced by fatty tissue.
It is responsible for producing T-lymphocytes, or T cells, by way of Thymosin, the hormone it releases. These are white blood cells that help to fight infection and protects against auto-immunity. Auto-immune disorders occur when the body attacks healthy parts of itself for no reason, and the thymus produces all the body’s T cells by the time you reach puberty.
This gland releases a few different hormones: aldosterone, adrenalin, and cortisol. It also affects a number of things within your body, such as metabolism, sex hormones, the body’s reaction to stress, and blood pressure.
The hormone adrenalin causes the fight or flight response. When scared or stressed out, it releases a flood of hormones, which can lead to increased heart rate, energy surges, increased blood pressure, and better concentration.
An overactive adrenal gland can cause various unwanted effects on the body. In a case like this, one can experience anxiety, depression, sleep issues, increased risk of heart disease, and more.
Aldosterone helps to regulate salt and water levels and is important in relation to blood pressure. Too little of this hormone can cause excess salt and water loss, which leads to dehydration and low blood pressure.
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. Cortisol has many functions within the body, is an anti-inflammatory, stimulates glucose production, fuels your fight or flight instinct, boosts energy, and plays a key role in how your metabolism functions.
Too much however, can have negative effects on the system.
The pancreas is located in the abdomen and is part of both the digestive system and the endocrine system. It produces enzymes that aid in the breakdown of food, as well as producing insulin and glucagon, which regulate blood sugar. Proper function of this gland is crucial to the functioning of the brain, heart, and kidneys.
Insulin lowers blood sugar, while glucagon raises it. The two work together to maintain proper blood sugar levels in the body. One common disease that is directly impacted by this is diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition in where one cannot produce enough insulin because the body is attacking the pancreas. People with this type of diabetes are generally insulin dependent and will require injections of it their entire lives.
Type 2 diabetes is where the body either can’t produce enough insulin or cannot properly use what it does. This type is most commonly developed later in life and can sometimes be managed with diet and exercise alone.
Ovaries (women only)
The ovaries release two hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. These work together to ensure the proper development of the female body, as well as trigger menstruation and regulate fertility.
The ovaries release one egg per month in preparation for fertilization, sometimes more. Women are born with a finite number of eggs. Once these eggs are gone, menstruation ceases in women, and the levels of these hormones dramatically decrease. This in turn can cause a wide variety of issues in women and is when women enter what is known as menopause.
Menopause is something that occurs in women either naturally, as they stop releasing eggs, or forced, such as having a hysterectomy. A full hysterectomy is when a woman has had all the female organs removed, including the ovaries. This can be due to many reasons; cancer, PCOS, or other factors can play a role in the decision to have this surgery.
Despite being a natural process that all women go through, this decline in hormones can cause a variety of severe symptoms in many that are going through menopause. Some of the common ones are hot flashes, increased heart rate and anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, depression, mood swings, urinary problems, decline in cognitive function (brain fog), hair loss, and more.
Hormone supplements can be prescribed to help alleviate these symptoms, but also come with some side effects and risks to them and cannot be taken by everyone.
Testes (men only)
The testes in men secrete testosterone, which aid in the physical development in males. This hormone is also responsible for maintaining libido, sperm production, bone health and density, and muscle mass.
A decline or lack of this hormone can cause different issues, such as low sex drive, hair loss, and a lowered sperm count.
As you can see, the hormones that are produced by the endocrine system help our bodies to function the way they are supposed to. When any one of them are out of whack, either by producing too much or too little, it can throw everything off balance and create a wide variety of issues in the body.
Age, stress levels, genetics, and even outside environmental elements can all play a role in how your endocrine system is functioning
What Hormones Do CBD Have An Effect On?
The body’s Endocannabinoid System is located virtually everywhere and is closely intertwined with the other systems in our bodies. The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are known as the hypothyroid-pituitary-gonadotropin axis (HPG axis), and a large concentration CB-1 and CB-2 receptors are located in this region, as well as in the ovaries and testes.
With these glands being responsible for the release of the gonadotropins, CBD is thought to have a big impact on the HPG axis, and greatly affect the hormones that are produced within.
While these hormones play a central part in a healthy reproductive system, they also impact the body in other ways. An endocannabinoid deficiency is thought to be one reason for the early onset of menopause.
CBD and Cortisol
As mentioned above, cortisol is the stress releasing hormone. The more stressed out you are, the more cortisol is your body. Chronic, elevated levels of cortisol in the body are linked to hypertension, high blood sugar, suppressed immune function, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and bone loss.
Cortisol regulates the fight or flight instinct, and by reducing the levels of this hormone, it shifts its priorities away from that, and instead aids the metabolism and immune system.
Studies have shown that CBD directly affects the secretion of cortisol. By reducing the level of cortisol in your body, symptoms such as weight gain, anxiety, and mood swings may be reduced.
CBD and Insulin
Insulin aids in blood sugar regulation, as well as glucagon. When there is not enough insulin to control blood sugar, it can lead to severe damage to nerves, blood vessels, and certain organs. Having the correct blood sugar levels is crucial to healthy brain and organ function.
It is still somewhat unclear on exactly how CBD affects insulin (or if it does), but it does have a profound anti-inflammatory effect on the body. A link exists between pancreatitis, which is a chronically inflamed pancreas, and insulin production.
A study on mice with acute pancreatitis has shown CBD to greatly reduce inflammation in that area, which leads us to believe that insulin production would be improved as well. More research definitely needs to be done in this area.
CBD and Melatonin
Produced in the pineal gland, melatonin is the hormone in charge of or sleep-wake cycles. Too little of this can lead to sleep issues, or insomnia.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to a lot of serious issues. Lowered immune system function, increased risk of heart disease, increased insulin production which can lead to type 2 diabetes, decreased cognitive function, increased risk of respiratory disease, and impact on sex hormones are just some of the effects that a chronic lack of sleep can have.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that turns into niacin, a B vitamin, when used by the body. Tryptophan is the “sleepy ingredient” in turkey and is found in other common foods such as milk, cheese, eggs, fish, and more. Inflammation can directly impact tryptophan cells, and CBD helps in that area. By decreasing inflammation in these cells and having more tryptophan available, the pineal gland is able to more effectively produce and use melatonin.
The availability of tryptophan has an impact on serotonin synthesis in the brain, and CBD can aid in this area as well. 5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT (serotonin) is a chemical that also helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, as well as playing a role in appetite, mood and social behaviour, motor and cognitive function, and sexual desire. Commonly called the “happy” chemical, a deficiency in serotonin has been linked to depression and a number of other mental disorders.
Some sleep issues can be directly linked to stress levels in the body. By lowering cortisol, and increasing levels of melatonin and serotonin, CBD can help you to get a better sleep, and diminish the effects of inflammation and stress-induced conditions within the body.
While it is mainly known to aid in sleep, melatonin is being shown through research to possibly help protect against heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and migraines.
Melatonin and Oestrogen
Here’s where things get pretty interesting. Melatonin has shown to have a direct inhibiting effect on several reproductive hormones. It has been shown through multiple studies to directly affect oestrogen’s tendency to stimulate cell growth and can play a role in fighting some sex-hormone causing cancers. High levels of oestrogen in particular have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
When looking at breast cancer in particular, some of these studies have shown that women night shift workers, who are naturally exposed to more light, and consequently produce less melatonin, have breast cancer rates that are 60% higher than normal. 60%!!!
This number is huge. You can see when looking at this just how important of a role and impact sleep has on the body. 1 in 3 adults in the US alone are not getting the recommended amount of sleep every night.
Melatonin directly inhibits the production and synthesis of oestrogen, as well as having an impact on the activation of oestrogen receptors. It plays a direct role in the timing and release of female sexual hormones, which dictate menstruation and egg release from the ovaries.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), is commonly prescribed for women who are in menopause, to boost levels of declining female sex hormones. Because CBD may cause an increase in melatonin production, you should speak to a doctor if you plan on taking the two together. As melatonin is an oestrogen inhibitor, it can reduce the effectiveness of HRT.
There is also an increased risk of developing breast cancer with some HRT’s, and genetics can play a factor in this. It is usually not recommended for women who have a history of breast cancer in their family.
Different Ways CBD Can Help With Hormonal Imbalance
Because the Endocannabinoid System has receptors located all throughout the brain and body, and has a direct influence on the endocrine system, it can provide relief in many different areas for women who are suffering with a hormonal imbalance. Many who are going through menopause deal with a great number of symptoms due to fluctuating hormones, such as:
Hot Flashes – Highly concentrated areas of CB-1 and CB-2 receptors are located in the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. These glands have functions in regulating temperature in the body, and supplementing with cannabinoids may help to ease the frequency and intensity of these temperature changes.
Anxiety – CBD and THC work in the body to boost levels of its own cannabinoid, Anandamide, to ease anxiety symptoms. They also work to reduce the level of stress hormone, cortisol. Less stress, less anxiety.
Depression – Lower levels of melatonin and serotonin in the brain can lead to depression, and CBD plays a major role in helping the body to naturally produce more of these key hormones.
Insomnia – Sleep deprivation and insomnia are common menopausal symptoms and can influence and exaggerate other symptoms. By increasing the levels of melatonin that your body produces, as well as lowering cortisol, CBD can help you get a better night’s sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation has far-reaching, long term negative effects on the body, and should be taken very seriously.
High Blood Pressure – Fluctuating levels of hormones can cause higher blood pressure, and studies have shown that CBD has the possible potential to lower it
PMS – A result of widely fluctuating hormones before and during menstruation, CBD can help to fight inflammation, relieve cramping, and regulate mood swings.
Digestive Issues – CBD has been shown to help reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, as well as providing nausea relief.
Dry skin – Lower levels of certain hormones can wreak havoc on our skin as we get older. Your skin is the largest organ in your body and contains numerous cannabinoid receptors. Hemp is full of a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients and is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which have huge benefits for the skin. It also has anti-aging properties and can reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as preventing signs of aging.
Weight Gain – Hormones have a direct impact on our metabolisms, and this runs even truer for those in menopause. With oestrogen levels decreasing, your body naturally burns less fat, and your metabolism slows down. Studies have shown that cannabis users have a smaller waist size, and generally lower insulin levels. With the potential to reduce inflammation in the pancreas, and possibly lower and stabilize insulin production, CBD oil may be able to aid in weight loss.
Vaginal Atrophy – Topical use of CBD and THC has shown to be beneficial in this area as they are both vasodilators. This means that they dilate, or open up blood vessels in the region, which increases blood flow and sensation. Used topically it can also provide localized relief from pain and inflammation, as well as relaxing muscles.
Memory Loss and Brain Fog – Many women experience what is commonly known as “brain fog” when they enter peri-menopause or menopause. Oestrogen and progesterone encourage neurons in the brain to form new connections, and a sudden lack of these hormones can have an impact on how your brain functions. This can cause memory loss, confusion, and emotional instability. Studies have shown that CBD is a powerful neuroprotector and can be used as a supplement for healthy brain function.
Is CBD Right For Choice For You?
The Endocannabinoid System is not fully understood yet. We do know that it has a profound effect on other systems in the body, and the Endocrine System is just one of them. When you’re deciding on whether or not to take CBD it is important that you look at all factors before starting it.
As shown, CBD oil can definitely have an impact on our hormones, and how our bodies function as a whole. This is especially important to know when it comes to your health, especially for women, and the choices you make when it comes to using HRT and CBD together to replace and regulate the hormones you lose over time.
Your personal medical history, medications, lifestyle choices, genetics, and other factors will all come into play when it comes to using CBD to treat any disease or disorder, and it is always recommended that you speak with your doctor before adding CBD to your daily regime.
While the stigma behind cannabis is slowly disappearing as more information emerges, there are still many in the medical field that won’t even bother looking in to it until more information becomes available, so don’t be surprised if you hit a wall when you bring up the subject. The best thing you can do for yourself is extensive research on the subject so you can make an informed decision on whether CBD is the right choice for you.
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