Menopause and the Endocannabinoid System
As we have explained in other articles, the human body has a natural system for maintaining stability called the “endocannabinoid system.” When your body becomes unbalanced, endocannabinoids bind with receptors to bring back homeostasis and restore the body to health. Cannabis contains chemicals called “phytocannabinoids” that also bind with these receptors, and that’s how it can treat such a wide number of ailments—cannabis steps in when the body’s endocannabinoid system isn’t working optimally.
Studies have found that changes in endocannabinoid levels during and post-menopause are associated with osteoporosis, general obesity, insulin-resistant obesity, and sex steroids. Other studies have shown that adjusting cannabinoid levels can help with increasing bone density and reducing weight to reduce the risk of diabetes.
The effects of cannabis on menopause haven’t been studied directly, but one interesting rat study found that supplementing diet with hempseed modified the increased levels of plasma calcium, cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, and anxiety associated with induced menopause. Further study is needed, obviously, but why not go ahead and add some hempseed to your diet?
While we don’t have good studies on menopause-specific ailments, we do know that a number of the symptoms of menopause are generally treatable with cannabis. Let’s take a look at how cannabis helps some of the most bothersome menopause symptoms:
Cannabis and Insomnia
If you’re experiencing hot flashes and night sweats, it’s going to affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Studies have shown that cannabis helps insomniacs fall asleep sooner, stay asleep longer, and get more deep sleep. Many people find that a high-THC indica works best for insomnia, but consult your medical cannabis doctor to identify the right medicine for you.
Cannabis and Mood
The debate over whether cannabis helps depression or makes it worse is still ongoing. It’s true that people with symptoms of depression use cannabis at a higher rate, but that doesn’t establish causality; it may well be that individuals suffering from depression are using cannabis to feel better.
Treating anxiety with cannabis is also a delicate balance—too much THC has been shown to increase anxiety, but according to a study published just last month, CBD modulates the anxiety produced by THC.
Bonni Goldstein, MD a leading medical cannabis physician, says that successful use of cannabis for depression and anxiety depends on three main factors and how they interact:
The first variable that may affect what type of response an individual patient may have to marijuana depends on the levels of THC and cannabidiol (CBD) in the cannabis plant that is used – this is called the potency and cannabinoid profile of the plant. The second variable is the dose that the patient takes – how much marijuana was inhaled or ingested; and the third, the patient’s genetic makeup – something that is difficult to assess, but may affect a patient’s anxiety response. THC, the most prominent medicinal compound in marijuana, is known to cause an anxiety reaction in high doses in some patients. CBD, the second most common compound in marijuana, appears to ease anxiety even if taken in high doses.
If you’re interested in using cannabis to treat depression or anxiety brought on by menopause, work with a reliable cannabis physician to find the potency and dosage that works with your genetic makeup.
Cannabis and Weight Gain
Contrary to the popular notion of marijuana increasing appetite, studies have found that cannabis users weigh less than the general population—regular cannabis users’ rates of obesity are over a third lower than nonusers. Cannabis users also have lower fasting insulin and insulin resistance. Combine that with the lower body weight, and cannabis users are less likely to develop diabetes.
Cannabis and Osteoporosis
Numerous studies have shown that cannabis helps prevent bone loss and increases bone density. Using cannabis to prevent or reverse osteoporosis in menopausal women could help prevent fractures and broken bones.
Menopause and You
Every woman experiences menopause differently. Your reactions may be severe or mild, brief or enduring. You may experience some or all or none of the ailments listed above. You may have symptoms we didn’t mention. The key to treating your menopause with cannabis is developing an individualized treatment plan with an experienced physician.