CBD AND THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM: A REMEDY FOR FEMALE HORMONAL IMBALANCE
Hormonal imbalance in women
Stress, weight gain, mood swings, loss of sleep, lack of energy, anxiety, and more; there is no shortage of unpleasant symptoms resulting from hormonal imbalance. Women experience frequent hormonal shifts throughout their lives. These changes, which occur naturally with puberty, menstrual cycles, and menopause, can result in mild to highly uncomfortable symptoms. Though diet and lifestyle choices such as exercising regularly, not consuming alcohol or cigarettes, reducing your consumption of simple carbs, processed meats, sugars, and caffeine can often offer significant relief from symptoms of hormonal imbalance, many women also use pharmaceuticals, which sometimes bring unwanted side effects. This article offers information regarding CBD’s potential as a natural remedy for hormonal imbalance in women, particularly regarding its effects on the production of insulin, melatonin, progesterone, estrogens, and cortisol.
CBD: a natural remedy for hormonal imbalance
Cannabidiol or CBD is an active ingredient legally derived from the hemp plant that has numerous therapeutic properties but does not produce a “high.” Many women turn to this substance as a natural remedy for hormone-related discomfort to supplement or replace traditional pharmaceutical drugs. Though the effectiveness of CBD varies from case to case, studies have shown that it may be effective in treating several symptoms. This article is meant to inform, not to offer medical advice regarding CBD use for hormonal issues. Speak with your medical professional before trying any new treatment, and to ensure that using a CBD product would not interfere with any existing treatment.
How CBD affects hormones
CBD does not directly influence hormone production. Rather, it affects the body’s endocannabinoid system which works to maintain balance, called homeostasis, in the body. When the body detects any changes within it or in its environment, the endocannabinoid system is activated to implement any changes necessary to maintain homeostasis. The endocannabinoid system is made up of cannabis-like substances that occur naturally in the body called endocannabinoids, as well as cannabinoid receptors and enzymes that break down cannabinoids.
The endocannabinoid system influences the endocrine system, which carries out hormone production in the various glands throughout the body that comprise it. When CBD activates the cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system, it stimulates the endocrine glands to alter hormone production in a way that regains homeostasis. The body then dispatches enzymes to break down the cannabinoids once their work is complete, so no under- or overproduction of hormones occurs.
Through these processes, CBD essentially helps the body to help itself by stimulating mechanisms that work to regain balance in the body.
CBD and insulin
The hormone insulin is responsible for breaking down glucose in the blood to allow for its metabolism. An imbalance of insulin production can lead to various common, and sometimes life-threatening conditions including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. The possibility of providing a remedy or reducing the incidence of diabetes is particularly significant for women. Women are twice as likely as men to develop cardiovascular complications resulting from diabetes, and they are also at a higher risk of suffering from other diabetes-related issues such as depression, blindness, and kidney disease.
Though the mechanism of CBD’s aid in insulin production is not yet entirely understood, some studies suggest that CBD may affect insulin production by improving the function of the pancreas, which secretes it. There is correlation between diabetes and pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas. Because CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory agent, it stands to reason that as it reduces inflammation in the pancreas, it could improve insulin production, providing a remedy for diabetes and its symptoms. A 2006 study even showed a significant drop in the incidence of diabetes in some mice treated with CBD oil.
CBD and melatonin
Produced in the pineal gland deep in the brain as a response to darkness, melatonin is the hormone that regulates the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. While melatonin is also an antioxidant, plays a role in regulating the release of reproductive hormones in women, and regulates blood pressure, it is most commonly associated with sleep problems. Balanced levels of melatonin are essential for a good night’s sleep, which reduces the risk of diabetes, obesity, depression, and other maladies.
There are several lifestyle choices that are essential to getting better sleep, such as maintaining good sleep hygiene (going to sleep and waking up at the same times every day), drinking plenty of water, not consuming alcohol, cigarettes, or caffeine, and reducing your intake of sugar and sodium. In addition to keeping these good habits, CBD can be used to help balance melatonin secretion as it triggers the endocannabinoid system to stabilize levels of melatonin in the body. Studies show that CBD works by reducing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and increasing sleep stability. These effects can help women who deal with trouble sleeping during periods of hormonal imbalance such as during menopause.
CBD and female reproductive hormones
Estrogens and Progesterone are female reproductive hormones produced primarily in the ovaries. Progesterone is similar to melatonin in that it helps to regulate sleep. Low levels make it difficult to fall and stay asleep, but high levels can lead to drowsiness. progesterone is released into the body after ovulation, in the latter half of the menstrual cycle, functioning in the endometrium to ensure that it is prepared for a potential pregnancy.
Estrogens are chemically similar hormones that regulate the reproductive system, secondary sexual characteristics such as breasts and pubic hair, and menstrual cycles. Imbalances in estrogens can result in symptoms such as: irregular menstruation, inexplicable weight gain or loss, fatigue, sleep disturbance, anxiety, and symptoms commonly associated with premenstrual syndrome(PMS) such as acne, breast tenderness, and bloating.
Again, healthy diet and lifestyle choices as well as sleep hygiene can have a significant role boosting your well-being while suffering from symptoms of progesterone and estrogen imbalance. But CBD may provide some form of universal relief by stimulating the cannabinoid receptors in the female reproductive system, stimulating the ovaries to balance secretion of estrogens and progesterone. Using CBD to help regulate estrogen secretion is particularly useful for women going through menopause. This is due to the fact that menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, chills, and night sweats are generally caused by decreasing levels of estrogens. Low levels of estrogen also cause an increase in inflammatory molecules, which is part of the reason why muscle and joint pain increases in women over 60, and arthritis pain increases significantly during menopause.
CBD is a natural alternative for women who are reluctant to turn to pharmaceuticals and synthetic hormones to alleviate menopausal and premenstrual symptoms. In addition, CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects on various tissues can help women with bloating, breast tenderness, period cramps and similar problems without the side effects of pharmaceuticals such as diuretics.
CBD and cortisol
Cortisol plays a role in regulating blood pressure, inflammation, blood sugar, energy levels, sleep, and more, but high levels can wreak havoc on your system. Commonly known as the stress hormone, cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands, which are located near the kidneys. Cortisol triggers the fight-or-flight response in stressful situations and governs the body’s reactions to them.
High levels of cortisol force the body to reallocate resources to deal with stress-inducing situations, neglecting other important functions such as maintaining a healthy metabolism and regulating the immune system. In life-threatening situations, these effects are necessary for a person to react quickly to avoid danger. Though it’s useful in short bursts, consistently elevated levels of cortisol can lead to mental health issues, headaches, heart disease, digestive problems, weight gain, memory problems, and more.
A 1993 study explains this effect by suggesting that CBD can make people feel less stressed by interfering with cortisol secretion. CBD oil was shown to be anti-catabolic, reducing the incidence of stress-related side effects in the body. This not only reduces the symptoms that directly stem from high levels of stress. It also lowers the risk for other maladies caused by stress, such as ulcers, cardiovascular disease, digestive problems, personality disorders, mental health issues, and more. CBD’s role in helping to balance cortisol levels is useful for women dealing with the symptoms of elevated cortisol levels during menopause, including weight gain, reduced sex drive, and trouble sleeping.
CBD: hope for hormone-related maladies
Though CBD has long been widely used for therapeutic purposes, there is still much to learn about its mechanisms and possible uses. Anecdotal accounts had long touted it as a potent cure for various ailments while science failed to understand the mechanisms of its effects. Deregulation of this non-psychoactive substance has opened the door to studies that have unveiled its valuable effects on the endocannabinoid system, which itself wasn’t discovered until the early 90s.
As the endocannabinoid’s system’s prominent role in maintaining homeostasis is better understood, the scientific community has become more curious about the plant-derived molecules that stimulate it. As our knowledge of CBD expands, this natural remedy can continue to give hope to those seeking to reduce the impact of hormonal imbalances on their health and quality of life.
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