MENOPAUSE AND CBD
Over the last two centuries, the average life expectancy of women has almost tripled, from 25 to 70 years. Women’s aging is associated with a gradual loss of female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone. These diminish until it reaches the menopause; men don’t experience the same hormone decline that would require hormone replacement therapy.
Menopause occurs when a woman no longer has a menstrual cycle. This experience is due to the genetically programmed loss of follicles (structures containing eggs) in the ovaries. The condition can also occur when the ovaries are surgically removed. In both cases, the cessation of menstruation indicates a deficiency of the above-mentioned hormone estrogen. Menopause does not come suddenly, there is a phase called perimenopause, which often begins several years before the final menstrual cycle. The average age of menopausal women is now around 51, but it can be from the age of 40 to the early 60’s.
Early menopause usually occurs in women who have never had children or who smoke. Menopause is not a disease but has a number of symptoms. These include hot flashes, night sweats, palpitations, difficulty falling asleep, mood changes, vaginal dryness, forgetfulness, decreased sex drive, urine leakage, and joint problems. There are also additional health challenges associated with this hormone change, including an increased risk of certain types of cancer. On the other hand, treating cancer in women has been shown to accelerate the entry into menopause.
Thus, it appears that there is a significant interplay between hormones and disease risk, and the loss of menopausal hormones potentially affects all aspects of women’s health and quality of life. To date, the main treatment options have been hormone replacement therapy (with both estrogen and progesterone) or estrogen replacement therapy.
Estrogen is a steroid hormone and as such participates in the regulation of many cellular processes. It is essential for bone health as well as for women’s sexual health. Therefore, loss of estrogen is expected to be detrimental to these important aspects of physiology, and it is believed that replacing estrogen lost during the menopause will alleviate these deleterious effects. While the exchange of estrogen and progesterone has been shown to be very effective in relieving menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, sexual dysfunction and insomnia, and in preventing bone loss (osteoporosis), it doesn’t come without a price. Preclinical data have shown that estrogens and progesterone are likely involved in the induction and progression of breast, endometrial, and ovarian epithelial cancer. This, combined with the already increased risk of developing cancer from aging, does not bode well for women looking to alleviate menopause with hormone replacement therapies. What are the alternatives?
The above data shows that menopause disrupts the endocannabinoid system in women because it is associated with a dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system. So it makes sense for some scientists to think that cannabis could replace high-risk therapies. There is extensive research into the complex role of the endocannabinoid system in female fertility, including the onset of menopause. Current research indicates that some fundamental changes occur in this system and related biological systems during the menopausal transition. The endocannabinoid system is the biological network of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptor proteins found in the central and peripheral nervous systems of mammals. This means that the network permeates the entire body and regulates many physiological and cognitive processes, including fertility.
The endocannabinoid system controls the interaction of cannabinoids like CBD with the body. Estrogen is one of the hormones that facilitate the proper functioning of the system. It achieves this by regulating the levels of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) in the blood. FAAH levels drop as estrogen production drops. During ovulation, estrogen and endocannabinoid levels are at their maximum. FAAH also facilitates the breakdown of endocannabinoid anandamide. Why is it important? Anandamide works as an ovary in the body and therefore helps the egg mature and release during ovulation. Another role of estrogen is to activate the endocannabinoid system to regulate the emotional response. These diminishing interactions between the endocannabinoid system and estrogen indicate that menopausal symptoms may be due to decreased endocannabinoid activity.
So the question is, can reversing endocannabinoid depletion with exogenous cannabinoids bring the system into balance? Indeed, such an explanation provides several promising studies showing the beneficial effects of cannabinoids on comorbidities in the menopause. For example, they have shown that cannabinoids provide protection against osteoporosis during the menopause. How does it happend? CB2 receptor is expressed in bone cells, and its activation stimulates bone formation and inhibits bone resorption. In studies, mice lacking the CB2 gene show low bone mass, suggesting that the physiological involvement of CB2 is related to the maintenance of bone balance during remodeling. Similarly, in humans, slight changes in the gene (called polymorphisms) that encode CB2, CNR2, are strongly associated with postmenopausal osteoporosis. Most importantly, preclinical studies have shown that a synthetic CB2-specific agonist reverses bone loss. This is tempting to speculate that cannabis such as THC and CBD may have the same effect through their interactions with the CB2 receptor, acting as cannabinoid drugs in the fight against osteoporosis.
Additionally, experimental evidence has shown that cannabinoids may protect against breast cancer. In the context of the menopause, this is extremely important as not only would cannabinoids reduce the risk of aging-related breast cancer, but also reduce the risks associated with hormone and estrogen replacement therapy. Cannabinoids have been shown to kill cancer cells, preventing them from growing and migrating throughout the body. In particular, THC has been shown to stop breast cancer cell proliferation by preventing the activation of the estrogen receptor through its E2 ligand.
But that’s not all of the benefits of taking cannabis during the menopause. As has been proven by numerous studies (we have already written about many of them on other occasions on this blog), CBD may also be beneficial in treating other symptoms of this unpleasant female ailment. We will discuss them briefly.
The first of these symptoms is one of the most common during menopause. Women experience hot flashes in the form of an intense build-up of heat in the body, starting with the chest and face and ending with sweating and irritability. The aforementioned endocannabinoid called anandamide helps regulate body temperature. CBD is believed to increase the levels of anandamide in the body by inhibiting the action of FAAH. The overall effect is an improved ability to control body temperature.
Next up is insomnia, which occurs in menopausal women as a result of other symptoms such as migraines, hot flashes and joint stiffness. An untreated lack of proper sleep often affects other areas of a woman’s life. This can worsen menopausal symptoms and lead to mood swings. CBD has been documented as a very effective natural alternative for treating sleep problems. This is because it has an anxiolytic and relaxing effect that can support deeper, more restful sleep.
Hormonal changes that occur during the menopause can cause several painful conditions. These include the aforementioned joint stiffness, migraines, and muscle aches. CBD can be a very effective pain reliever, and many people are already using CBD to treat pain in a clinical setting. Scientists have documented the beneficial aspects of CBD in muscle and joint pain, and CBD has been shown to inhibit certain cellular processes that can cause swelling and pain. The anti-inflammatory effects of CBD can therefore help menopausal women be more productive in their daily activities.
Finally, mood swings during the menopause as a result of fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone. Mood swings often accompany anxiety, so in fact, menopause and anxiety go hand in hand. The stressful life changes that occur during this time can be the source of this anxiety. CBD has the ability to inhibit anxiety and improve mood. Extensive human and animal studies have shown the anxiolytic (i.e. reducing anxiety and insecurity) effects of CBD. This cannabinoid is used to treat a variety of mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.
There are currently no studies looking directly at cannabis use for relieving menopausal symptoms. Nevertheless, we have the aforementioned studies highlighting the benefits of cannabinoids in comorbidities that occur during menopause, such as bone loss and cancer risk (especially breast cancer). Remember, however, that the approach to therapy should be individualized, as each woman experiences different symptoms during the menopause. Women seem to be reluctant to use hormone replacement therapies, especially cancer survivors. So why not use a mild and pleasant alternative? Menopause now affects nearly a billion women worldwide. Its ramifications are exhausting and can affect your entire life. The fair sex should not suffer in silence without treatment. Cannabis can help and it is worth taking advantage of this offer.