Women around the world have been looking for a more natural solution to managing the symptoms of menopause. One such prospect could be CBD, largely due to its influence on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Before we take a look at the relationship between the ECS and menopause, let’s first understand what causes menopause.
Menopause signifies a shift in a woman’s levels of oestrogen and progesterone. As a result, periods will stop, and getting pregnant naturally is no longer an option. Don’t worry though, this is a natural part of getting older, and something every woman goes through. The problem with menopause is that, while it may be a natural process, that doesn’t make the symptoms any more comfortable to live with. For some women, hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, low mood, and pain during sex can last for up to fourteen years.
Conventional treatments for symptoms of menopause include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), counselling, and adjustments to diet or exercise regime. The difficulty is that because symptoms persist for years, medication like HRT can take its toll on the body and inflict several side effects.
Living with menopause symptoms
Typically, menopause affects women aged 45–55, but it can occur earlier or later than this timeframe. As we mentioned above, menopause is brought about by a change in the body’s hormone levels. From the mid-thirties, a woman’s oestrogen levels start to decline, signifying the start of perimenopause. The steady decline in oestrogen is what leads to many of the symptoms associated with menopause. Symptoms can continue past menopause into the postmenopausal period, but they are usually less severe than during perimenopause.
Just by listing the symptoms of menopause, it is easy to see the enormous impact on a woman’s quality of life. Many of us are grouchy or feel down after one night of bad sleep, but imagine the same issues persisting for years. Hot flashes can come at the worst time, making it difficult to concentrate, and painful sex puts a strain on any relationship. Over the centuries, women have just had to grin and bear the symptoms of menopause, but thanks to ongoing research, CBD may be the natural solution to making symptoms easier to live with.
CBD’s influence on the endocannabinoid system could play a key role
CBD is believed to be beneficial because of the interactions it has with the ECS and its activation of certain enzymes and receptors. It does not tackle menopause directly, but instead may influence several menopausal symptoms.
The extremely common “hot flashes” experienced during menopause represent the body’s inability to regulate temperature correctly. Previously, studies have shown that the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) may play a part in our brain’s ability to regulate temperature. Unfortunately, AEA is quickly broken down in the body by an enzyme called FAAH. CBD, however, has been shown to block the production of FAAH, allowing enhanced signalling of anandamide.
A loss of bone density is another symptom of menopause, which, if left unchecked, can lead to osteoporosis. This time, a study published on ScienceDirect outlined a relationship between CB receptors and TRPV1 channels. They found that patients with osteoporosis had increased TRPV1 channel expression, which leads to “massive overexpression of CB2 receptors”. Their findings not only confirmed the role of the endocannabinoid system in osteoporosis, but they point to a potential treatment with CBD. A supporting study found that CBD “is reported to be most potent at influencing TRPV1 and TRPM8 channels. By regulating TRPV channels using CBD, it is possible that the overexpression found in osteoporosis patients could be reduced, and new therapies introduced as a result”.
The future of CBD and menopause
Invoking the studies listed above, and CBD’s proposed anxiolytic effects, it is understandable why the compound is being explored as a therapeutic treatment for the symptoms of menopause. CBD may be able to support the body on multiple fronts—thanks to its interaction with the ECS—with a fraction of the side effects associated with HRT medications. Considering menopause is a natural part of getting older, it makes sense that future treatments look to natural alternatives.