Medical understanding and public perception of women’s health has come a long way. We now know that smearing menstrual blood is not an effective way to prevent sagging breasts. Having a mole on our chest does not mean we’re a witch, and “hysteria” is no longer considered a diagnosable medical condition, for instance. Nonetheless, we have a ways to go. There’s still some stigma surrounding discussions of women’s issues such as sex, menstruation, perimenopause, and menopause.
Even some doctors aren’t up to speed with women’s health. In a New York Times interview, Dr. Tia Powell, a bioethicist and professor of clinical epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said “a huge issue in medicine” is practitioners downplaying or dismissing women’s concerns about their health due to implicit biases.
In a world where innocent and informative tampon commercials are banned for being too sexual, and society makes many women feel uncomfortable or ashamed for having normal bodily functions, it’s not too surprising many women are taking health matters into their own hands.
One of the more popular and powerful tools in women’s medicinal arsenals is CBD. While CBD’s benefits transcend demographics, women over 40 are finding it particularly useful for issues including hormonal imbalances, perimenopause and menopause symptoms, osteoarthritis, and sex and bladder control difficulties.
CBD AND MENOPAUSE
Most women remember, with fondness or horror, the day they started their period. For some, it signaled the initiation into the powerful, beautiful tribe of Womanhood. For others among us, it was more of a serious inconvenience and the onset of semi-permanent anxiety surrounding white pants.
Love it or hate it, menstruation is a natural part of being a woman. It’s counterpart, menopause, is too. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a pain to live with.
Fortunately, CBD might help support a more healthy menstrual cycle, and possibly help regulate inflammatory response, mindset, the endocrine system, sleep cycles, and metabolism.
Most of us are familiar with menopause. The body’s response to dwindling estrogen levels and egg supplies, menopause is defined as the time when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 consecutive months. Typically, this occurs in a woman’s late 40s or early 50s, though it can start much earlier.
But menopause is just one chapter. For years prior, the body’s estrogen production will decrease in a stage called perimenopause. At this point, hormone fluctuations, which change regularly throughout the month already, will become drastic.
Although estrogen is center stage, it’s not the only player. Many other hormones are changing, too, along with our neurochemistry. If that weren’t enough, the body is more prone to inflammation, fat accumulation, and bone reabsorption in the perimenopausal years. It’s not awfully surprising, with the range of bodily changes going on, that the stress hormone cortisol can increase during this period too.
Many of the infamous symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep difficulties, are linked to these hormonal changes.
While CBD can’t treat menopause or alleviate all of the symptoms, it can help regulate hormones, reduce pain and inflammation, relieve stress, anxiety, depression, and improve sleep.
MOOD SWINGS & DEPRESSION
Menopausal mood swings, like PMS, are often the butt of jokes. But these issues are no laughing matter.
Anxiety disorders and depressive disorders, which often occur comorbidly, are two of the most prevalent kinds of mental illnesses in the United States. But even if you don’t already have depression or anxiety, you may experience one or both of these conditions during menopause as a result of hormonal and neurochemical changes.
Generally, a multi-pronged approach is best for battling anxiety and depression. This may include lifestyle changes, therapy, and supplements like CBD. CBD can activate serotonin receptors, working similarly to anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications. It also reduces neural inflammation and stimulates neurogenesis, which can remedy some of the long-term effects of depression and anxiety on the brain and reduce future episodes’ risk or severity.
ACHES & PAINS, ARTHRITIS & OSTEOPOROSIS
Another common side effect of aging is increased aches and pains. While many women are stronger and fitter at 40 or older than they were in their 20s, aging-related changes can affect the way our bodies perform and recover. We are also more prone to issues such as bone loss and osteoporosis with age.
One reason is the decrease in estrogen leads to an increase in inflammatory molecules called tumor necrosis factor (TNFa). Especially if you’re one of the millions of people living with arthritis, this means you may experience significantly more stiffness, inflammation, and pain during menopause. In case you missed it, inflammation is pretty much the worst. Scientists believe it may contribute to an array of ailments, from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis to depression to arthritis.
But the good news is CBD has proven it can effectively support a healthy inflammatory response. Using it as a health supplement, in conjunction with low-impact exercise and an anti-inflammatory diet, could be a game-changer.
CBD’s ability to help support the body’s regenerative properties may likewise help strengthen bones and slow the progression of age-related bone loss and osteoporosis. Researchers believe osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone tissue, have a cell receptor, GPR55, that accelerates bone degeneration. CBD blocks this receptor.
HOT FLASHES & NIGHT SWEATS
Hot flashes and night sweats are another uncomfortable reality for most menopausal women. These symptoms are caused by neurochemical changes in the hypothalamus, which controls the body’s blood vessel dilation and sweat response. Basically, the body’s thermostat is ultra-sensitive and can go into overdrive when the temperature increases by as little as 1.5 degrees.
Research shows certain SSRI and antidepressant medications that influence neurochemistry may treat hot flashes. Although no specific studies have been done (yet) on the effects of CBD on hot flashes, the fact that it has a similar impact on neurochemistry as these pharmaceuticals suggests it may help too (without the risk of adverse side effects).
Genitourinary Syndrome, which encompasses vaginal dryness, atrophy, and bladder control issues, is another effect of decreased estrogen. Estrogen helps promote blood flow to the pelvic area, including the urinary tract and reproductive system. Receiving (or giving yourself) some extra TLC during menopause can help alleviate some of these issues, but one problem for many women is decreased libido. The good news is CBD can help the body’s sexual response to be more regulated, so it can increase libido and blood flow.
Menopause is referred to as the change for good reason. It’s not just another one of our body’s routine hormonal fluctuations. It’s kind of a big deal. Estrogen and progesterone, along with their supporting cast of hormones, do a lot of heavy lifting.
When our hormone levels change dramatically, it can drastically affect various aspects of our health. But the above is just a sampling of the ways CBD might be able to help. Some other ways CBD oil could benefit you during this stage and beyond include reducing the risk of diabetes, weight gain, and memory loss, and improving sleep.
Using CBD in conjunction with other lifestyle changes, like eating a healthy diet, staying active, and checking in with your gynecologist regularly, can help you keep living life to the fullest and overcome any challenges the aging process throws your way.