For women, menopause is a reality that you just can’t escape. Somewhere between the age of 45 and 55, you can expect to have a wide range of unwelcome symptoms, which last for around seven years as your body ceases menstruation.
Unfortunately, mainstream medications aimed at resolving the symptoms of menopause are not always effective, and many come with their own long list of side effects. It’s for this reason that there’s a growing international trend towards natural interventions for navigating this difficult transitional period.
One of these options is CBD, where ongoing research shows promising initial results. Cannabidiol may offer relief and even resolution for menopause symptoms ranging from hot flashes and irritability to sleeplessness and pain.
So, if you, like many others, are struggling with the changes going on in your body, here’s everything you need to know about menopause and CBD.
What happens during menopause?
During menopause, there is a significant drop off in oestrogen levels, and periods become less and less frequent over the course of a few months or years, eventually stopping altogether. It’s triggered by a change in the balance of your sex hormones as your ovaries slow oestrogen production and no longer release an egg every month.
What does the research suggest?
Oestrogen is essential to maintaining balance in the body. In the endocannabinoid system, it regulates the fatty acid amide hydrolase, which breaks down endocannabinoids. Therefore, low or fluctuating oestrogen levels can affect the hormone balance in your body, leading to depression, anxiety, low libido, and insomnia.
If you have extreme menopausal symptoms, you may elect to use hormone replacement therapy. There are risks associated with hormone replacement therapy and oestrogen-only therapy, which have been shown to increase the risk of break cancer and ovarian cancer.
Most women choose to make changes to their lifestyle, adding in regular exercise, a balanced diet, and alternative health supplements to manage their symptoms. This may done in place of, or in addition to, hormone replacement therapy.
Initial research suggests that CBD, interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system, can address some of the symptoms of menopause, with few to no side effects. CBD is therefore of great interest, as it is a low-risk treatment option that has already been linked to assisting with other hormone-related conditions such as premenstrual syndrome.
The endocannabinoid system (or ECS) helps to regulate sleep, pain, mood, immune function, memory, temperate regulation as well as a number of female reproductive processes. As CBD interacts with and supports the ECS to promote balance, it offers benefits for joint pain, sleep problems and mood changes which are commonly associated with menopause. CBD also has antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties.
More research is still needed into the efficacy of CBD in targeting those symptoms, specifically in menopausal women.
How can CBD help with menopause?
While research into how CBD interacts with the ECS is still in its infancy, there is a role for cannabinoids, especially where the use of oestrogen is contraindicated. Many women also choose to use CBD in conjunction with hormone therapy for the best results.
Specific menopause symptoms can CBD help with include:
Fluctuating oestrogen levels can cause an imbalance in the body, causing mood swings and irritability. Also, especially in the later stages of menopause, cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) levels tend to rise, which is linked to heightened anxiety and stress.
CBD can help to regulate cortisol secretion as well as providing gamma-linolenic acid and essential omega fatty acids that also help to regulate your hormones.
The ECS is responsible for temperature control, and CBD use may be helpful in maintaining a consistent temperature. In addition, anxiety is one of the biggest triggers of a hot flush, and CBD has been shown to help reduce anxiety.
Depression and Anxiety
Menopausal women are more at risk of developing depression and anxiety. With it’s antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties, CBD has been shown to successfully relieve anxiety (with a success rate of 78%) and depression (with a success rate of 66%) in menopausal women.
Menopause can lead to digestive issues such as cramping, inflammation and bloating and an estimated 33% of menopausal women struggle with IBS. CBD has been shown to target IBS-induced inflammation, reduce bloating and promote good digestion.
Pain is one of the most common conditions in women between the ages of 40 and 60, with over 60% reporting muscle and joint pain. CBD has been shown to treat pain and inflammation, specifically arthritis pain and swelling. CBD also reduces pain and inflammation and may help promote a better quality of life.
Rashes and acne often accompany the onset of menopause as testosterone levels are no longer balanced by naturally-produced oestrogen. This causes the skin’s sebaceous glands to go into overdrive. CBD regulates oil production to suppress breakouts and can also lower skin inflammation which improves conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and rashes.
Higher levels of anxiety and stress and hot flashes often lead to trouble falling and staying asleep, with over 60% of menopausal women experiencing insomnia symptoms. Disrupted sleep has a knock-on effect on your overall health and wellness. CBD relaxes the body and mind in preparation for sleep and has been shown to increase sleep scores by 67% (as well as significantly decreasing anxiety scores).
Vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse is a common symptom of menopause. And, coupled with hormonal changes, can lower libido. There are a number of products that can help address low libido and dryness, from CBD-infused lubricants to CBD oils for relaxation. These help to reduce performance anxiety, increase pleasure and restore libido.
Are there risks for menopausal women?
While more research is needed, CBD has been found to be incredibly low risk, although the cannabinoid may interact with other prescription medication. In addition, because quality and traceability in the CBD industry are not routinely enforced, some products may contain contaminants such as heavy metals and pesticides or even illegal levels of cannabinoids like THC. It’s therefore always advisable to consult with your doctor before making a decision and for advice on which products to choose and what dose to use.
How do I get started?
Keep in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, everyone is different, and you may need to experiment with doses and CBD product types.
CBD products that are ideal for menopause include:
- CBD oil, taken sublingually (under your tongue) offers excellent bioavailability.
- Topical CBD, such as lubes, oils and creams to reduce inflammation and offer pain relief.
This will depend on the induvial and the symptoms that you want to address. Consult the label on your CBD and start with a lower dose until you experience the desired effects.
Remember to check your product before you buy:
- Flower, not seed, CBD should be extracted from the leaves, stalk, stem and flowers of industrial hemp, not the seeds (which is just hemp seed oil and contains no CBD).
- Broad- or full-spectrum, to get all the benefits and synergies of the hemp, choose full- or broad-spectrum CBD that retains the full range of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
- Third-party lab testing, this shows that the CBD you are using has been independently tested, so you know that it’s safe and reliable, and the results should be easily available.
- Country of origin, only EU-approved hemp strains are legal in the UK, so check your product’s origin country.
- Extraction method, choose a solvent-free extraction method such as CO2-based extraction.
The most common symptoms of menopause can be addressed by CBD, which can also be used to supplement other hormone therapies. A natural product that has been proven to be safe and effective, CBD is truly changing the way women approach menopause.