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Could CBD help with women’s pain problems?

There is nothing worse than period pain, especially during lockdown. But what if CBD could help with those toe-curling cramps?

The Science

Our body’s endocannabinoid system regulates a number of functions such as sleep, the immune system and pain. This includes the pain we feel during ‘that time of the month.’

Studies have shown that CBD may help to decrease pain by interacting with the endocannabinoid system to reduce inflammation. 

CBD may also help with anxiety and mood swings caused by pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) helping users to feel calmer.

In a study conducted last year, 72 participants struggling with anxiety and sleep disorders where treated with CBD.

A decrease in anxiety was recorded in 57 patients within the first month while sleep scores improved for 48 patients.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

The Gender Pain Gap

It’s hard to believe that until 1993, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) excluded ‘women of childbearing age’ from clinical trials of painkillers and new drugs because of hormonal changes.

This means that most painkillers on the market today were developed using male body pain responses.

Morphine for example works differently on different genders. Women require 30% more morphine than men do, according to research.

This lack of research, interest and attention to female pain issues is referred to as the gender pain gap. 

The gap has also affected how medicine is prescribed, with studies showing that women are less likely to be prescribed stronger painkillers than men.

A study in Sweden revealed that women wait twice as long to be seen by a doctor and another study showed women are less likely to be taken seriously in the emergency room.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) had to issue basic advice in 2017 to doctors advising that they ‘listen to women’ when they report pain.

Women suffering from endometriosis wait on average seven to eight years for a diagnosis while enduring with excruciating pain. 

Is it any wonder that women are examining alternatives to painkillers and endless GP visits?

PMS Meets CBD

Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS) is the name for symptoms that people who get periods can experience in the weeks before their cycle starts.

Symptoms include mood swings, tiredness, bloating, fatigue, weight gain, breast tenderness and acne.

Could CBD help with some of these symptoms?

The added stress and mood swings associated with PMS could be balanced with CBD as it is known to regulate mood and soothe stress.

The endocannabinoid system is thought to activate a type of serotonin receptor in the brain (the ‘happy’ chemical associated with well being) which soothes anxiety.

Studies suggest that CBD can mimic serotonin, helping you to feel happier by binding and activating the body’s 5-HT1A serotonin receptors.

CBD For the Skin

A common side effect of hormonal imbalance is bad skin and worsening of conditions such as psoriasis. Spots are often a result of PMS and get worse around the time of your period. 

CBD promotes balance within the skin and can help with reducing redness, inflammation and improve hydration.

Beauty products such as creams, serums, oils and lotions that contain CBD can help to keep your skin clean and clear. 

A study conducted in 2014 on skin cells called sebocytes showed that CBD can stop the skin overproducing sebum, the oil which leads to break outs.

Endo the Line

How do you know when your period pain is worse than it should be?

Endometriosis is described as a condition where tissues similar to the lining of the womb start to grow in other places such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes, causing extreme pain.

The condition can affect women of any age but it is a long term issue that can have debilitating effects on a person’s life. Surgery and painkillers can be prescribed but are not a cure.

Endometriosis UK estimates that one in ten women suffer from the condition.  There are currently trials taking place in the UK exploring the possibility of sufferers using DAYE CBD tampons to help manage pain levels, with results potentially due in August.

Read our feature on endometriosis is in issue 6 of The CANNAVIST

CBD and the Menopause

Hormonal changes that occur during menopause can include vaginal dryness, hot flushes, mood changes and migraines.

Doctors will often prescribe hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) as a way to treat what can often be debilitating symptoms.

The NHS estimates that women start the menopause around 4 years after their last period.

The menopause is split into different stages: perimenopausal, menopausal and postmenopausal, which effectively means pre, during and post menopause.

The NHS estimates that 1 in every 10 women experience symptoms for up to 12 years.

Could CBD treatments help to ease some to help joint pain, muscle discomfort, anxiety and sleep disturbances brought on by the change?

Menopause appears to disrupt the endocannabinoid system, and there are cannabinoid receptors throughout the female reproductive system.

It is possible that CBD oil could reduce some of the symptoms caused by menopause such as hot flushes or poor sleep.

A study conducted in 2016 on participants suffering with sleep disturbances caused by post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) showed that CBD helped to reduce poor sleep.

Hot flushes are one of the more uncomfortable side effects of the menopause. They are described as sudden feelings of heat that spread mainly through the face, neck, and chest also occurring at night, preventing good quality sleep.

Studies show that the effects of hot flushes can last up to five years.

Hot flushes are caused by altered neurochemistry in the hypothalamus which is where the body control temperature.

Blood vessels dilate, causing over heating and sweating.

While there are no direct studies of CBD on hot flushes, it is thought that because this symptom has a neurochemical basis, the influence of CBD on the body’s serotonin could help to reduce them.

The reduction in night sweats could also mean better sleep too.

Further research is needed into the effects of CBD on menopause symptoms.

Whats the best way to take CBD for period pain?

From topicals to tinctures, it seems as if there is a CBD product for every occasion (CBD toothpicks anyone? But how to know what is right for you?

The answer is that it is down to personal preference and any number of factors, from taste to consumption method preference.

We’ve rounded up a few of our favourites to get you started.

1. GRN CBD in Mango flavour. $40+

2. Cubid CBD Re:fresh Face Cream £50

3. Pure Earth CBD Massage Oil £19

4. Gindica Gin. 500ml £39.99

5. DAYE CBD tampons. Subscription service £5+

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