For women managing hormones, it can seem like a tricky balancing act, especially when it comes to that certain time of the month. The body’s hormonal axis is a careful equilibrium of nerves and glands that make up the endocrine system. This network controls the release of sex hormones, regulates mood, reproduction, metabolism, growth, and stress responses.
The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, in particular, is made up of glands found in the brain and gut that are responsible for stress regulation. When hormones are released, they’re sent into the bloodstream and attach themselves to receptors to stimulate the body and carry out various functions. When the careful balance of this axis is out of sync, it can cause the body to go into adrenal fatigue and create hormone imbalances.
The HPA-axis and PMS
Certain times of the month for some women can be a great cause of unwanted disruption. Often it can be hard to spot, leaving suffers out of sorts and not feeling themselves. 85 per cent of women experience at least some symptoms related to PMS every month – symptoms usually occur within 5 to 11 days during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. PMS can manifest itself in many ways, with some of the most common being irritability, mood swings, bouts of depression, sore breasts, acne, and craving junk food, especially the sweet stuff.
As part of this hormonal process, just before the menstrual cycle, the body naturally produces high levels of cortisol. Coupled with external stress aggravators like life, work and family, it can send cortisol levels to dizzying heights. This heightened state of stress mode can lead to those highly tense and irritable emotions that can leave you feeling real touchy.
The side effects of having increased levels of cortisol can have negative effects on other hormones as well. Progesterone is one of the sex hormones that works with the reproductive system in pregnancy and menstruation. It has the ability to transform itself into other hormones when the body sees necessary. When cortisol levels are high, progesterone levels can end up being depleted in order to make more cortisol. As progesterone levels are lowered, estrogen becomes the dominant hormone.
There is a myriad of side effects that come from too much cortisol when the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal gland is overstimulated, and PMS is one of them. After a constant use of cortisol, the body can find it hard to cope with managing all hormones and cause more serious disorders, like thyroid resistance, which can lead to lower overall hormone levels.
Hormone depletion caused by high levels of cortisol can also cause serotonin and dopamine levels to decrease. As dopamine and serotonin are the sleep and behavioural hormones, lower levels of these hormones can also cause anti-social behaviour, constant exhaustion, brain fog, mood swings, and irritability. This is what's thought to contribute to the addictive behaviours that can be experienced as part of PMS.
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How CBD Helps Regulate the HPA-axis to Help Deal with PMS
There is a direct link between cortisol levels and PMS-related disorders, like adrenal fatigue. When cortisol levels are too low, or during chronic stress when cortisol levels are too high, you are more perceptible to experiencing PMS symptoms. Women who suffer from depression, postpartum depression, chronic stress, substance abuse, or have experienced emotional trauma or physical trauma can find their symptoms are made worse during these times.
The symptoms of PMS can get worse of overtime, as disorders like adrenal fatigue don't just happen overnight. However, the medical solution to hormonal imbalances is usually to just treat the symptoms and not the cause. Most of the reasons for hormonal imbalances are due to lifestyle choices and external aggravators over a consistent, prolonged time period. That's why simple lifestyle changes like diet, and natural remedies like CBD, can be effective in helping you get your hormones back in check.
CBD is known to help regulate cortisol levels and therefore can be effective in the reduction the of PMS symptoms. The HPA-axis is part of the endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone regulation. Taking CBD can stimulate the body’s endocannabinoid system, which just happens to be connected to the endocrine network. By activating receptors throughout the body, like the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) gland, CBD influences the production of cannabinoids that help regulate hormones like cortisol, melatonin and dopamine and gets them back to healthy levels.
The cannabinoid CBD works to help keep the body in a careful, functional state, called homeostasis, and having a healthy balance of hormones is key to keeping the body functioning properly. Homeostasis helps with temperature, appetite, thirst, heart rate, blood pressure, and sleep cycles. This is why keeping this healthy balance can help with PMS symptoms.
As well as balancing hormones, CBD can also be used to lessen the pain of period cramps. A reduction in cortisol levels can assist in lessening the degree in which pain is experienced. Teamed with CBD’s strong anti-inflammatory properties, it can also work to reduce bloating.
Sometimes we underestimate just how much our lifestyle choices and stress can affect our health. We now understand that stress has a massive role to play in affecting the HPA-axis and keeping a healthy hormonal balance. By adding CBD to your health regime, you can help keep your cannabinoids up and maintain that healthy equilibrium.