Crying spells, trouble sleeping, emotions all over the place, and to top it all off, you can’t fasten your favourite jeans? You could be experiencing the highs and lows of a hormone imbalance.
Hormonal imbalances can happen when levels fluctuate from what’s normal for you. These essential compounds affect every cell in your body, meaning that even a minor hormonal imbalance can cause a ripple of undesirable effects.
CBD is an active ingredient found in hemp and cannabis plants that could help with hormone imbalances. CBD products could restore harmony and balance to your hormones and ease the symptoms that are making you miserable.
Can CBD oil help with hormone imbalances, and if so, how does it work? We speak to cannabinoid specialist and scientific advisor to Thedrug.store Dr Julie Moltke about the efficacy of CBD for hormone balancing.
But first, let’s have a little background on hormones:
Hormones are chemical messengers. The endocrine glands produce these molecules in microscopic amounts.
The major glands of the endocrine system are:
- The hypothalamus, pituitary gland and pineal body in the brain
- The adrenal glands above the kidneys
- The ovaries or testicles in the groin
- The thyroid and parathyroids at the front of the neck
- The pancreas in the abdomen
Hormones enter the bloodstream and travel to specific receptor sites in the organs and tissues where they cause changes to take place.
Hormones are essential for every bodily process, including:
- Reproduction and sexual function
- Body temperature
- Blood pressure
They may be small, but they’re mighty. A slight excess or deficiency of a particular hormone can lead to health issues.
What is a hormone imbalance?
Hormones fluctuate and shift naturally throughout the day, during menstrual cycles, pregnancy, puberty, and menopause. These changes are predictable and mean your body is functioning normally.
Other hormone imbalances can happen if one of the endocrine glands produces too little, too much, or even stops producing hormones entirely.
Certain health conditions can trigger hormone imbalances, including:
- Tumours of the endocrine glands
- Under or overactive thyroid disorders
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Addison’s disease
Other lifestyle or environmental factors can also influence your hormone balance, such as being overweight, stressed, taking steroids, and even consuming high-levels of soy products.
Hormone imbalance signs and symptoms
Both men and women can experience hormone imbalances. The symptoms you experience can vary greatly and depend on the glands and hormones affected. Symptoms associated with hormonal imbalances include:
✔️ Changes in blood pressure or heart rate
✔️ Weight loss or gain
✔️ Excessive sweating
✔️ Difficulty sleeping and fatigue
✔️ Blurred vision and headaches
There are medical studies and anecdotal evidence that indicate CBD could help alleviate the symptoms of a hormone imbalance. CBD has a range of proven health benefits, and research into its full spectrum of effects is ongoing.
CBD and the endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is complex. Doctors still don’t fully understand how this cell-signalling system works but know it has three components: enzymes, endocannabinoids, and two types of receptors, CB1 and CB2.
Its primary function is to control how your body releases the neurotransmitters that affect nerve impulses. The ECS could also be involved in regulating:
- Fertility and pregnancy
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the main organic compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. The medicinal use of CBD oil is growing in popularity because it confers health benefits without a ‘high’. Taking CBD oil boosts your endocannabinoids so that the ECS can work more effectively.
How does CBD oil influence your hormones?
Research confirms a link between the endocannabinoid system and endocrine processes.
‘We know that the endocannabinoid system has a role in maintaining balance in the body. It makes sure our body is acting within a narrow range of operating conditions; so-called homeostasis.’ explains Dr Moltke.
‘The ECS is known to regulate stress, mood, memory, fertility, bone growth, pain, immune function, among other things. CBD interacts with the ECS and with many other receptors in the body.’
Dr Moltke goes on to explain, ‘We are still highly lacking human studies that show exactly how this manifests in our different hormonal systems.’
CBD can influence major hormones, including insulin, cortisol, and melatonin.
CBD oil and insulin levels
Your pancreas produces the essential hormone, insulin. An imbalance can cause not only diabetes, but heart disease, and obesity.
‘We have long known that marijuana consumption seems to be related to reduced blood sugar levels.’ says Dr Moltke. She goes on to outline that ‘clinical experience and studies are showing that when diabetic people use medicinal cannabis, they can reduce their diabetic medicine or insulin as cannabis lowers blood glucose.
Further research is required to fully understand the effect of CBD on insulin levels. ‘We do not, however, know how CBD alone affects blood sugar or insulin. It probably does not have a direct effect on these measures, but the anti-inflammatory properties can be extremely valuable for type 2 diabetics, as it is a condition associated with chronic inflammation in the whole body due to high blood sugar levels.’
CBD oil and cortisol
Stress is bad for our blood pressure, mental state, and overall health. Cortisol, along with adrenaline, is involved in managing your stress response.
Cortisol is essential for survival. It’s responsible for controlling our natural ‘flight or fight’ response. If you produce too much cortisol, you may suffer symptoms, including weight gain, mood swings, and increased anxiety.
‘One study clearly shows that CBD is able to lower cortisol levels, a hormone associated with chronic stress’ explains Dr Moltke.
CBD oil and melatonin
If you don’t get enough sleep, your health will suffer. Melatonin from your pineal gland is responsible for your circadian rhythm, in other words, when you sleep and wake, and for managing your energy levels. For most people, it’s highest at night and lowest in the morning.
The ECS is involved in your sleep pattern. One study reported that the ECS activated CB1 receptors which affect sleep stability, how quickly you fall asleep and increases the level of melatonin produced.
CBD and hormone imbalances in women
CBD might be able to help with the symptoms of normal monthly hormone fluctuations and those that happen during puberty and menopause.
• Mood swings
Many women experience anxiety and depression as part of their menstrual cycle and during menopause. Oestrogen and progesterone affect levels of serotonin, the so-called happy chemical that influences mood.
Research shows that CBD activates serotonin receptors and that in animal models, it shows anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.
During menstruation, the uterine contractions that occur throughout your cycle are more intense. This causes food transit through the digestive system to slow down, leading to constipation and bloating.
The drop in oestrogen and progesterone before your period can also cause water retention.
There are cannabinoid receptors in the digestive system, and research confirms that the ECS is involved in the physiological control of colonic motility. CBD could, therefore, help with bloating issues by increasing gut motility.
• Pain and cramps
Some women find the pain associated with menstruation debilitating, others merely uncomfortable. Studies have shown that CBD works to relieve pain and relax cramping muscles.
As progesterone declines, prostaglandins increase, peaking during menstruation. These chemicals cause inflammation, heightened sensitivity to pain, blood vessel constriction, and uterine contractions. Although necessary for a regular menstrual cycle, high levels of prostaglandins can lead to more painful or heavier periods.
CBD is widely recognised as having muscle and vascular relaxing effects, which also lead to a decrease in painful period cramps.
The way that CBD and the ECS work are complicated and further research is needed, but there is some evidence to suggest that CBD could help with the symptoms of a hormone imbalance.
⚠️ It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting supplementation with CBD. The FSA advises that people who are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking any medication not to consume CBD products. Unless under medical guidance, CBD intake should be limited to less than 70mg a day.
Last updated: 14-02-2020