Women are incredible. Fact. They constantly juggle the stresses of life alongside living with a body that isn’t always on their side. As a female-led CBD business, this International Women’s Day we celebrate the rise in female empowerment that has not only seen women securing more representation in the world, but that also encourages a deeper understanding of the female body and all of its incredible intricacies.
Women’s health needs have historically been underrepresented in scientific medicine (we were pretty shocked to discover that until 1993 women weren’t typically included in clinical trials) but understanding why women alone suffer from certain conditions and what can be done to cure or alleviate these is finally getting more attention.
With knowledge comes power, and as we understand more about how the body works, many women are exploring natural ways to improve and maintain their wellbeing. Some commentators share that with today’s rising wellness movement, women have essentially “created their own alternative healthcare system as a direct response to a mainstream medical establishment that frequently dismisses and dehumanizes them”.
While research into the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and women’s wellness is still in the early stages, we explore some of the links that have been found between conditions that affect the female body and the Endocannabinoid System, and whether cannabinoids like CBD can help to restore internal imbalances and provide relief from these conditions.
So, what is the Endocannabinoid System and why is it important?
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a regulatory system found in every human being. It’s another system like your nervous system or musculoskeletal system, a system that our body needs to stay balanced and healthy. The ECS is made up of three things: receptors, endocannabinoids and enzymes. They’re found throughout the body, in your skin, your bones and many vital organs and they work together to regulate various bodily functions like sleep, memory, appetite, mood and even reproduction.
Endocannabinoids are basically cannabinoids made naturally by our bodies - the ones we make are called anandamide and 2-AG. The receptors are called CB receptors and we know about CB1 and CB2 receptors that work with cannabinoids and endocannabinoids. Finally, enzymes help create and breakdown endocannabinoids.
CBD and the Female Body
Recent studies have shown that there are a high number of cannabinoid receptors in the female pelvic area. These cannabinoid receptors work with endocannabinoids to regulate things like sleep, reproduction and pain and inflammation.
CBD is a cannabinoid, so it has the same structure as endocannabinoids. This means that CBD can take the place of endocannabinoids when your body isn’t producing enough naturally, helping your ECS maintain internal balance. This is why many people report improved sleep, relief from pain and well-regulated moods after they’ve started using CBD and why more women are incorporating CBD into their routines for menopause symptoms and for discomfort associated with other conditions like endometriosis and PMS.
With such a complex network modulating so many different bodily functions, it’s no wonder that certain female-only conditions have been linked to imbalances in the ECS.
CBD and Endometriosis
Any woman can develop endometriosis, but it is thought to affect around 10% of the female population. It’s a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places, such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes. Endometriosis is a long-term chronic condition that can significantly impact a woman’s physical health and emotional wellbeing and the severity of symptoms ranges widely, as does the age of onset and the type of symptoms people experience.
Studies have shown that women with endometriosis have been found to have lower levels of CB1 receptors in their endometrial tissue. Some researchers have even described endometriosis as an “endocannabinoid deficiency” condition. Given that the endocannabinoid system is involved in pain and inflammation, having fewer receptors might lead to worse pain. With regular use, CBD could have the potential to help to activate these receptors more, thus promoting the pain regulation aspect of the Endocannabinoid System.
Another natural approach that’s shown potential in alleviating endometriosis symptoms is making dietary changes.There are certain foods which cause inflammation and can increase symptoms - these include refined sugars and carbohydrates, processed meat, and alcohol. Healthier alternatives include berries, fatty fish, avocados and dark chocolate which have beneficial anti-inflammatory properties.
CBD, PMS and the lesser-known PMDD
Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) are two conditions that can affect anyone who has a period. PMS and PMDD involve experiencing some level of emotional and physical distress in the few days before or at the start of a period, but they differ in their levels of complexity and severity of symptoms.
PMS is most common, so you’ve probably heard of or experienced it. It’s the typical symptoms you might experience during this time of your menstrual cycle. Whilst PMS symptoms can be disruptive, they don’t tend to have life-limiting effects. PMDD is different. About 5% of people who have periods experience incredibly severe pre-menstrual symptoms, so severe that it affects their ability to function in day-to-day life. It’s basically the worst PMS has to offer.
The exact way in which CBD benefits the symptoms of PMS or PMDD is still to be fully explored, however, with CBD’s potential to regulate pain and inflammation, it could be a viable pain relief alternative. A lot of what we do ‘know’ so far in this space is from anecdotal evidence – personal stories of relief. For instance, one of our team members gets respite from using RECHARGE CBD cream on her abdomen when she’s experiencing period cramps. All of this feedback is so valuable but there’s still more scientific research to be done
Simple lifestyles changes can do plenty of good too. It’s all about finding out what works for you. Exercise is a great option that works well to improve energy levels and positively affect your mind as endorphins (chemicals released by the body during exercise that interact with your brain) reduce your perception of pain and create a positive feeling within.
CBD and Menopause – a natural progression of life
As women get older, a change in the balance of their sex hormones occurs. They stop producing as much oestrogen and ovulation becomes less regular, triggering the start of menopause. It can start months, even years before your periods actually stop. Most women will experience symptoms when they start going through menopause, and they can have a disruptive impact on day-to-day life.
Whilst time is the only cure for menopause, there are some ways you can alleviate the symptoms. Similarly to natural treatments for PMS and PMDD, exercise and a healthy, balanced diet can really help to alleviate symptoms of menopause. Lots of women have also reported that using CBD helped them through menopause, using this natural supplement to help reduce the sleep problems, irritability, and joint pain they experienced during menopause.
CBD for Women’s Wellness
There is evidence that suggests CBD can have a powerful impact on the lives of women living with the conditions we’ve spoken about. However at this stage, a lot of this is anecdotal evidence – people telling researchers about the impact CBD has had on their lives.
The most commonly reported CBD benefits are that it can promote a sense of calm and improve sleep quality. When we ran a consumer trial of our CBD oil DAY drops to research the impact this formulation could have on people’s lives, 82% of users reported that they felt less stressed after using DAY and many people shared personal stories like “Since this trial I’ve been sleeping so much better…”. One thing all the conditions described above have in common is the potential to cause anxiety and sleep difficulties (women are much more likely to experience insomnia than men) and so, on many different levels, CBD offers the potential to experience some form of relief across all of these female conditions. As with most natural treatments, how much it can help is personal.
With the growing popularity of CBD, our hope is that research continues into how CBD can benefit women around the world, how CBD can improve sleep, how CBD can affect hormone production and regulation, and so much more.
In the meantime, we will continue to celebrate all that our beautiful bodies do for us each day and to be inspired by our mission to empower more people to experience the restorative power of plants so they have the freedom to live better.
If you’ve been using CBD to help you through any of the female conditions we’ve spoken about, we’d love to hear about your experience! Reach out to us on Instagram or send us an email to email@example.com.