It’s National Women’s Health and Fitness Day; a time when we think about all things wellness, from our fitness routine to our day-to-day health – including periods, the menopause and endometriosis. More and more people are wondering how CBD might impact each of these areas, so we spoke to our resident pain specialist, Dr Daniela Tonucci, to find out more.
Here’s what you need to know…
CBD and Period Pain
Almost all of us with monthly periods experience some level of pain, from a little discomfort to debilitating cramping that can also affect our mood or sleep pattern. Typically, when the pain begins, we might turn to analgesics like paracetamol or ibuprofen. But what effect, if any, could CBD have on period pain?
While there are no published studies on the impact of CBD during your period, anecdotally, it’s thought to provide some relief to those who struggle with monthly cramps. Dr Tonucci says this might be because of its relationship with cannabinoid receptors, which are located through various areas of the body as part of the endocannabinoid system.
“The endocannabinoid system is an endogenous system,” she explains. “We all have cannabis receptors within our body – some within the central nervous systems and some peripherally. The peripheral ones are involved in the inflammatory response, and cannabinoids are believed to be anti-inflammatory.”
Dr Tonucci adds: “A lot of the pain that we see is pelvic and chronic pelvic pain, which may be due to your period or [a condition like] endometriosis. It’s a mixed pain, which means it might be inflammatory and neuropathic. So, you have nerve pain mixed with the inflammatory pain. The use of the CBD [may help] with both.”
Meanwhile, there are a number of studies surrounding CBD and the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including restlessness and feelings of upset or stress. Preclinical evidence indicates cannabidiol may soothe anxiety, and Dr Tonucci agrees: “You've got the added benefits in that [cannabinoids may be] calming and improve sleep, as well as helping with pain.”
How might you take CBD during your period?
While we can’t tell you for sure that CBD is going to help ease PMS symptoms or pain, Dr Tonucci says: “We often tell patients ‘you need to try these products, and if they don’t work, at least you tried and it's not going to cause you any harm’.”
If you do want to try it, she advises that “when you know these symptoms are going to start, maybe start taking [CBD] a day or two before, [then continue] for that period while you have the pain.” She adds: “You don’t need to slowly withdraw from it. You don’t need to reduce or alter the dose, so it's really simple to use.”
CBD and the Menopause
“One of our biggest groups of patients who are interested in cannabinoids at the minute [are those who are postmenopausal],” says Dr Tonucci. It’s during ‘the change’ that the immune system protecting us from birth starts to “turn in on us”, resulting in inflammatory conditions like osteoporosis or osteoarthritis.
This is where CBD’s supposed anti-inflammatory actions may step in. “I think CBD is used postmenopausally as an anti-inflammatory, and then it [may] boost your immune system, too…
“[This means] it’s slightly different from the CBD use for period pain. Postmenopausally, it [might have] that added effect for supporting the autoimmune system and calming down the disorders that we will see.”
Again, there’s no definitive human evidence for these effects of CBD, but Dr Tonucci says you can try it alongside other therapies. Some prefer it to opioids because, unlike these powerful morphine-based drugs, CBD is gentle and doesn’t have those potent side effects.
How might you take CBD postmenopause?
“We always start slow and steady, so you start with a really low dose,” explains Dr Tonucci. “With the low dose, you may not get any analgesic benefit, so be realistic if you're using really tiny doses. What we're doing is just seeing that you tolerate it and you don't get side effects.
“Once we know after 2-3 days that you can tolerate it, then you can start to increase the dose. Never go in at a high dose because you'll get completely put off if you get any side effects, and all those side effects settle after a few weeks.
She adds: “It may take four to six weeks before you're established on a dose of something, but it's worth doing it slowly.”
CBD and Endometriosis
Endometriosis is an incredibly difficult condition, not just because of the associated pain, but due to the mental toll it can take on patients, too. Because of this, Dr Tonucci says, “you need a multi-disciplinary approach. This might mean alternative treatments – acupuncture, TENS machine, physiotherapy and exercise – as well as prescribed medications.
“So we want pain management programmes that are very much psychology based for that group of patients. The CBD might be helpful, but probably in line with other treatments, too.”
How might you take CBD if you have endometriosis?
You should always consult your doctor before trying new therapies, like CBD, to make sure they fit into your endometriosis treatment plan. Unlike period pain, which is cyclical, endometriosis pain can strike at any time, but may be more intense at certain points in your menstrual cycle.
If you want to see if CBD has an effect on the symptoms of endometriosis, you could use it consistently for a few weeks, beginning with a lower dose. You could also try increasing the dosage during times of the month when pain increases. We recommend starting with the CBD Capsules or, for faster absorption, the CBD Oral Drops.
Want to learn more about CBD’s relationship with pain? Read Can CBD used for Inflammation? Your Need-to-Know Guide.