We hear so much about what cannabis can do for cancer, epilepsy, nausea, depression, anxiety, and a wide range of other diseases and medical conditions. But not so much about cannabis and menopause. In fact, we bet some of you have never even heard of it before.
Menopause is something all ladies will eventually experience. And it’s something that people (especially the men!) should never take lightly, disregard, or dismiss.
For most, menopause is just that time in a woman’s life when they stop having their monthly periods and when their reproductive capabilities come to an end. For them, it marks a time when women can finally be free from menstrual cramps and PMS, and finally get to say bye-bye to tampons and sanitary pads, and to birth control pills.
But not really. It’s way more than these.
This period of transition brings with it so many changes to a woman’s body and so many unpleasant physical symptoms including hot flashes, pain, sleeping issues, mood swings, vaginal dryness, loss of sex drive, weight gain, fatigue, and bone loss or osteoporosis. And because of the stress and the discomfort that comes with menopause, many have resorted to using cannabis.
When does menopause take place?
Menopause comes when a woman’s body starts to stop producing certain hormones and fertility decreases. This period of transition creates hormone imbalance.
Menopause commonly occurs in women between 45 to 55. The average age for women to experience menopause is 51.
There are three stages of menopause:
Perimenopause, which is the first phase of menopause, takes place when the production of estrogen – one of the two main sex hormones that cause ovulation and menstruation – slows down. This happens a few years before main menopause symptoms hit.
Menopause proper takes place when ovulation stops entirely and when the body stops producing high estrogen levels. Menopause proper is the one-year period after a woman’s last menstrual cycle.
Postmenopause is when the 12-month menopause period is over. Once a woman enters the postmenopause phase, the symptoms start to ease.
Menopause and the endocannabinoid system
Our body has its own endocannabinoid system, which is a biological network of cell receptors and corresponding molecules that bind to these receptors. The endocannabinoid system plays an important part in menopause.
One of the many functions of the endocannabinoid system is that it helps maintain homeostasis – or the optimum biochemical balance – in our body. The endocannabinoid system helps regulate immune function, body temperature, mood, sleep, appetite, reproductive cycles and fertility, energy metabolism, and pain sensitivity.
When it comes to a woman’s reproductive health, estrogen and endocannabinoids go hand in hand.
In fact, estrogen regulates the enzyme that breaks down certain endocannabinoids. As estrogen levels start to drop, the endocannabinoids levels also change. The low estrogen levels that come with menopause correspond to lower activity levels in the endocannabinoid system. This negatively affects one’s mood and emotional response.
The ovaries are also considered to be a part of the endocannabinoid system. Some even speculate that certain deficiencies in certain types of neurotransmitters in the endocannabinoid system can induce early menopause.
It can be said that the strong link between menopause and the endocannabinoid system means that there is a potential for cannabis to treat or help ease the symptoms. Compounds found in cannabis directly interact and engage with the endocannabinoids system.
One can also theorize that using cannabis during menopause can help bolster the necessary functions of the endocannabinoid system that struggle to work without the high levels of estrogen.
Using cannabis in order to manage and ease menopausal symptoms is not new. Unfortunately, however, the political climate has made clinical experimentation on the use of medical marijuana for menopause quite impossible, or difficult at the very least.