Increasingly individuals are looking to CBD as a method to help manage endometriosis and the painful symptoms it causes. Endometriosis is a chronic condition that affects up to 1 in 9 women in Australia. Its symptoms can be debilitating, causing pain and discomfort that can severely impact a woman’s quality of life. While traditional treatments for endometriosis can be effective for some women, others may seek alternative natural options to manage their symptoms. CBD has several properties that make it useful in mitigating the aches, pains and discomfort of endometriosis while promoting improved life quality. Let’s take a look at how it works, the benefits it has for endometriosis symptoms, why you might consider it and how to use it.
- 1 Understanding Endometriosis
- 2 Traditional Treatments for Endometriosis
- 3 What is CBD?
- 4 CBD as an Alternative Therapy
- 5 Research on CBD and Endometriosis
- 6 How to Use CBD for Endometriosis
- 7 Conclusion
Endometriosis is a disorder where the tissue that lines the uterus, known as the endometrium, grows outside the uterus. This tissue can be found in various areas of the pelvic region, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and even the bladder or intestines. When the menstrual cycle occurs, these misplaced tissues bleed and cause inflammation, leading to pain and other symptoms. There isn’t currently a cure for endometriosis. The condition can only be slowed and managed, similarly to arthritis.
Symptoms of Endometriosis
The symptoms of endometriosis can vary from woman to woman, with some experiencing mild discomfort while others have severe pain. Common symptoms include:
- Menstrual cramps
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Painful intercourse
- Heavy or irregular periods
- Head aches or migraines
Usually, symptoms worsen during periods, which can become extremely painful and uncomfortable for days. It can become difficult to walk, maintain activity and is often accompanied by headaches or even migraines.
Traditional Treatments for Endometriosis
Traditional treatments for endometriosis range from over-the-counter pain relievers to hormonal therapies and surgery.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work by limiting factors of inflammation by blocking certain enzyme pathways. Most will work to block cyclooxygenase which produces prostaglandins that cause and worsen inflammation. In doing so they can help in offering temporary alleviation of inflammation symptoms like soreness, swelling and irritation. But many NSAIDs like ibuprofen can’t be used at high doses or for long periods. They carry a heightened risk of side effects, kidney damage or liver issues if used in this manner.
Hormonal therapies, such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, aim to regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce the growth of endometrial tissue. These treatments can help alleviate symptoms and prevent the progression of the condition. They do so by helping to rebalance levels of progesterone and oestrogen which can assist in reducing inflammation and excess tissue stimulation. But they also frequently cause side effects like shifts in mood, irritability, hormone problems and irregular periods.
In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. This can involve removing the endometrial tissue, repairing any damage caused by the condition, or even removing the uterus as a worst-case option. Doing so will mean permanent infertility however and most individuals prefer to avoid surgery because of the scarring it causes.
What is CBD?
CBD is a naturally created compound found in cannabis. It’s a phytocompound meaning from plants. In contrast to the other main cannabinoid THC which is psychoactive, CBD is non-intoxicating and safe to use daily with side effects being very rare. It works by binding with receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) which helps to regulate pain perception, inflammation, and the immune response.
All of these mechanisms are critical to the ability of cannabinoids like CBD to help with endometriosis. In Australia CBD comes from hemp varieties bred to contain effectively no THC. This is great as it means you can obtain purer products that won’t carry risks of mental harm or psychosis which can occur from THC. In addition CBD is non addictive, can’t cause overdose and won’t lead to any withdrawals like opiates and many painkiller types. It has many advantages as a natural substance to more powerful, side effect prone options, but will also be milder in effect.
CBD as an Alternative Therapy
CBD is viewed by many as a powerful natural alternative treatment option and supporting tool for endometriosis. It can supplement traditional treatments or be used standalone to help with symptoms. It also has a range of health benefits outside of this application such as aiding with sleep, lowering blood pressure and supporting better stress levels. But how does it work for endometriosis?
How Does CBD Work for Endometriosis?
When CBD is ingested, it binds with cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. These receptors are found throughout the body including in the uterus and surrounding region. By interacting with cannabinoid receptors, CBD causes endocannabinoids to be produced by the body such as anandamide. Endocannabinoids have multiple useful effects to help with endometriosis. They’re fundamentally the mechanism by which CBD helps reduce the pain, inflammation and irritation the condition causes.
Endocannabinoids help with immune system signalling, reducing the production of inflammatory prostaglandins and aiding in calming down excessive immune responses. There are several other ways they help with lowering excessive immune reactions. This includes lowering inflammatory cytokine production, improving T-cell regulation plus aiding in cell regeneration. In combination these effects mean the body can better react to infections and foreign irritants as it should without overactive immunity compromising your health.
Inflammation plays a significant role in endometriosis, as the misplaced endometrial tissue it produces causes inflammation in the pelvic region, leading to pain and other symptoms. The body’s immune system attacks its own tissue as a result. The development of excess cells outside the uterus can worsen the inflammation itself in a feedback loop. When the body attacks itself it leads to pain and discomfort. The entire groin area can become inflamed, sore and display the classic signs of inflammation like redness.
Prostaglandins, cytokines and other inflammatory molecules that are responsible for cell signalling in the inflammatory response become problems when they trigger inflammation in the uterus lining. They accelerate cell oxidation which damages tissues and can cause apoptosis or cell death which leads to scar tissue. It is a common side effect of endometriosis to experience uterus tissue scarring from the body’s inflammatory response.
The immune-modulating abilities of endocannabinoids are central to explaining the benefits of CBD for endometriosis. It can help downregulate the response, normalise inflammatory marker activity and help bring about a reduction in overall symptoms.
CBD is also noted for its analgesic applications in reducing pain by blocking its nerve signalling and lowering our perception of it. This is known as nociception, where the brain receives signals from its nociceptors in the nervous system being activated. But the experience of this pain is subjective. It can be influenced, reduced or heightened by our perception of it. CBD helps minimise this perception of pain, making it more manageable and less intrusive even if it persists. It can actively modulate the vanilloid pain receptors to help in lowering their activity and pain sensations. This makes symptoms more tolerable, helping bring back the quality of life in areas like sleep, physical activity and mood.
Reducing Menstrual Cramps
Endometriosis is often accompanied by menstrual aches and cramping because of the inflammation it causes. It can cause or worsen period pain and sharply increase the discomfort it leads to. Much of this is due to oestrogen or progesterone imbalances. Both of these hormones can affect the production of uterus tissue. Too much or too little of either of these hormones can impact oestradiol which regulates the production of uterine tissue. The endocannabinoid system plays a role in regulating many hormones including oestrogen and promoting homeostasis of hormone levels. It can help rebalance these menstrual regulating components to reduce cramping severity and frequency. In combination with CBD’s other effects such as pain reduction, the ability to mitigate period pains can offer huge relief for those with endometriosis.
Anxiety and Mood
CBD can help to manage endometriosis-related anxiety. Alongside the physical symptoms, endometriosis can cause significant stress and anxiety due to its unpredictable nature. It can strike quickly and unexpectedly which can quickly derail an individual’s day or week. Schedules can be disrupted and the condition can force you to put your life on hold to manage symptoms and recover. CBD helps calm the stress and anxious feelings this can cause. It has anxiolytic properties that help promote a sense of calmness, ease and reduced intrusive thoughts. For those with endometriosis, these outcomes can be very useful in regaining control of the mind and improving quality of life.
Research on CBD and Endometriosis
While research on CBD and endometriosis is still in its early stages, preliminary studies have shown promising results.
One study conducted on rodents found that CBD reduced the viability and invasiveness of endometrial cells, potentially slowing down the progression of the condition. It also had antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects which helped in reducing symptoms caused by the condition. This experiment was completed on 36 rats over 3 weeks, with inflammatory markers and epithelial cell measurements regularly taken. A control group was given a saline solution for comparison. The researchers noted the cannabinoid helped lower the oxidation of cells in the pelvic region and displayed anti-angiogenesis.
Another retrospective study investigated the therapeutic effects of cannabis on endometriosis-related pain. 252 subjects with endometriosis were examined over several years from 2017 to 2020. Each subject regularly used cannabis containing CBD and THC to help with their endometriosis symptoms. Most used inhalation or edibles as ingestion methods. Most subjects reported improvements in multiple symptoms of endometriosis such as stomach discomfort, pain, anxiety and irritability. The study noted that inhaled products absorbed faster and were better for short-term or acute symptoms. While ingested products offered longer releases that made it less applicable in offering relief in a short period. In conclusion, the study found a statistically significant effect of cannabis on lowering endometriosis-related pain and inflammation, although the efficacy was clinically limited.
It’s important to note this study wasn’t on CBD in isolation and combined CBD with THC. More studies are needed to demonstrate the clinical effectiveness of CBD on its own however these examples indicate there is a strong base of evidence.
How to Use CBD for Endometriosis
Now that we understand the potential benefits of CBD for endometriosis, let’s touch on how to use it for the condition. An important point is everyone’s subjective symptoms and experience of endometriosis differs. Some people will get a sharp pain that needs a fast-acting product type to help with pain or cramps, while others may have longer-lasting dull aches and inflammation. Matching the product you need to your symptoms and experience is key.
The type of ingestion methods you pick is also a big factor in how much success you can achieve. Options range from CBD oils and tinctures to creams and capsules. Each method of administration will have different absorption rates, so it is essential to find what works best for you. Inhaled and sublingual CBD absorbs faster and is more suited for fast-acting relief. Ingested forms of CBD like edibles, oils or topicals are slow to absorb but longer lasting. You can use CBD before sex for endometriosis if you find it assists with pain and help support arousal.
Dosage and Usage Guidelines
The dosage of CBD for endometriosis isn’t one-size-fits-all. Each individual has their own experience of the condition. Some people feel immense pain or even chronic symptoms. While others may only see minor issues or some flare-ups from time to time. Matching dosage to the severity of symptoms is important. It’s also important to align your dosage ranges to your physiology including body weight, sensitivity to CBD, tolerance and age. Consulting with a healthcare professional experienced in CBD use can prove valuable for guidance. In particular, it is advised to find a doctor who is well-versed in period pain and endometriosis and can guide you on the right solution. CBD isn’t for everyone and traditional treatment choices may be better suited to you.
Never mix CBD with other medications before checking with your doctor first. This includes pain medications used for endometriosis like opiates or NSAIDs. Doing so can put you at risk of serious health consequences including liver toxicity.
CBD can cause side effects in some individuals. Take note of this if you’re trying it out for endometriosis. Side effects are quite rare but can occur. You might be particularly sensitive during period time because of hormonal changes and increased susceptibility. Side effects can include issues like diarrhoea, dry lips or mouth, lethargy and changes in appetite. If you experience any adverse effects, it is best to stop dosing immediately. If these continue, consult with a healthcare professional.
CBD shows huge promise as a potential means for managing endometriosis symptoms. Traditional treatments, such as over-the-counter pain relievers, hormonal therapies, and surgery, are commonly used to mitigate the condition. However, natural approaches including CBD, are gaining attention for their benefits in reducing inflammation and alleviating pain. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties may help reduce the inflammatory response in the pelvic region to help lower discomfort. Plus it has capacities that make it great at helping with the anxiety, period pains and aches that are often associated with endometriosis. But don’t view it as a cure or a substitute for medical treatment. If you are considering using CBD for endometriosis, it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best approach and dosages for your unique circumstances.