Every woman will go through menopause at some point in her life, yet it is still something that many are unfortunately underinformed about. Going through such a massive change in your body can be stressful, but the more you know about it, the better you can prepare. Many of the symptoms of menopause can be incredibly unpleasant. Therefore, knowing how to deal with them can help to alleviate at least some of them, and in turn, reduce the stress and discomfort that comes with them.
What Exactly is Menopause?
Menopause is the period of time when the menstrual cycle, and thus fertility, comes to an end. This occurs when your ovaries stop producing the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Menopause is thought to come in three stages, lasting about a year; perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause.
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This is around the 8-10 year period before menopause actually occurs when levels of estrogen start decreasing. This normally happens around the time a woman reaches her 40’s. Normally, as estrogen levels start to drop more rapidly in the final couple of years before menopause, symptoms may become most noticeable. These will be the typical symptoms of menopause, however, the woman will still be menstruating (although potentially more sporadically) and it’s worth noting you can still get pregnant during this period of time.
This happens directly after perimenopause and is thought to be when a woman stops menstruating completely for 12 months. The average age for menopause is 51 in the USA, but for many, it can occur later. The ovaries stop producing eggs and levels of estrogen completely drop, meaning this is when a woman will feel the majority of the typical menopause symptoms.
This leads to postmenopause after which symptoms of menopause start to subside. The body should enter a new homeostasis however it’s worth noting that, due to lowered levels of estrogen in the body, women can become at higher risk of health complications like osteoporosis.
How the Endocannabinoid System Effects Menopause
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a vital network that runs throughout most of our body, including the ovaries, and helps to keep it in perfect balance – otherwise known as homeostasis. This network controls the way in which cannabinoids like CBD interact with our body, and work to produce your bodies natural endocannabinoids.
One of the vital hormones that works with the ECS is estrogen - in fact, both estrogen and endocannabinoid levels peak during ovulation. Key in many different processes of the body, estrogen helps to activate the ECS, specifically by regulating the levels of the enzyme FAAH in the blood. In turn, FAAH helps break down and control the levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide controlled by its receptors CB1 and CB2. Anandamide has a variety of different roles in the body, but it links back to ovarian function by aiding with egg maturity and release during ovulation. Not only this, but estrogen also activates the ECS in order to regulate emotional response and relieve anxiety through how it interacts with the brain.
This could very much mean that the negative symptoms we associate with the menopause could be down to the lack of endocannabinoid activity, due to the reduction of estrogen. This leads to problems like poor ability to react to stress and anxiety.
How CBD Can Help with Menopause Symptoms
As the negative symptoms of menopause can be due to an underactive ECS because of dropping levels of estrogen, it makes sense to find a natural solution that can help stimulate it. This is where CBD comes in. Studies have shown that CBD actually enhances anandamide signalling and as such helps the ECS keep performing properly.
The symptoms of menopause can manifest themselves in many different ways, but below we’ll discuss some of the most common ones, and what exactly CBD does within the ECS to help.
One of the most common symptoms related to menopause is hot flashes - whilst not medically problematic it can be very uncomfortable. Anandamide, one of the natural cannabinoids found in the body, is vital in regulating body temperature. CBD is thought to block the production of FAAH, which breaks down anandamide. CBD leaves more anandamide in the body, which helps to regulate temperature.
Insomnia goes hand in hand with the other symptoms of menopause, symptoms such as pain and hot flashes can stop most from getting a good night's sleep. Lack of sleep can be a vicious cycle that can end up exacerbating other symptoms.
CBD can be a great help in this department, as it helps with the release of relaxing hormones such as serotonin and anandamide. These mood stabilisers help with anti-anxiety and have a naturally relaxing effect on both the mind and body in order to help with getting a good night’s sleep.
During the menopause, hormonal fluctuations can cause a number of different painful side effects. These can include migraines, muscle pains and joint stiffness. These effects can be particularly uncomfortable for many women as it can impede them from going about their daily lives. It’s incredibly important to find an easy to use, a reliable and long-term form of pain relief. This is where CBD can come in. Studies show that CBD has been effectively used as a pain-killer particularly helping with joint and muscle pains. If you take CBD in capsule form the effects can be long-lasting and of course are completely natural, for those who don’t like taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Another factor that can change massively during menopause is mood. As the hormones in your body are fluctuating massively, it’s only natural for mood to fluctuate as well. This can manifest itself in some people as mood swings, as well as low mood or anxiety. These symptoms can be especially troublesome when you don’t realise why they’re happening as sometimes it can be hard to remember to relate them back to the changes happening in your body. CBD can also be a massive help here as studies have shown it to be a natural mood enhancer. Working by partially activating mood-enhancing endorphins like serotonin, CBD works to help balance out mood and reduce anxiety.
Loss of libido and vaginal dryness are two major side effects of menopause. However, CBD has been found to be a natural libido enhancer in women. In fact, there is even research to suggest that women feel the aphrodisiac effects of CBD more than men when consumed in low doses.
Some women may find that they gain weight during menopause which can be down to increased sensitivity to blood sugars. However, this is another one that CBD can help with as it’s thought to help with stabilising metabolism as well as regulating insulin. Studies have even gone as far as suggesting that CBD’s insulin regulating properties are so powerful it could help with type 2 diabetes.
Many women face the possibility of weakening bones during menopause. As estrogen regulates the process of replacing old and damaged bone cells with new healthy ones, the bodies natural decrease in estrogen during menopause can cause bones to become weaker. This can even result in the bone disease osteoporosis. Studies have been conducted to show that cannabinoid treatments have helped improve bone loss associated with surgically imposed menopause. This suggests that CBD could help improve bone density.
Menopause can be an extremely difficult time of life for many women due to all the side effects listed above. Often, as women, we are taught to resist the change that comes with menopause, however, it is a completely natural part of life. As research expands, we can see the beneficial effects of using natural supplements like CBD to help with some of the worse symptoms.