Menstrual problems arise every four weeks, and this can lead to days off work, canceled plans, and days curled up in bed with a hot water bottle and some Netflix to try and distract yourself.
If this pattern sounds familiar, don’t worry. Almost 90% of women of a reproductive-age suffer from painful periods. It medical terms, this condition is known as ‘dysmenorrhea, and it can put any woman’s life off-kilter.
Pain caused by menstrual cramps varies in severity from one woman to another. Whereas some people report little-to-no menstrual cramps, others may experience debilitating pain. Sometimes, this pain is so severe; it can cause anxiety, depression, absence from work, and have an overall negative impact on your health and wellbeing.
The majority of women will experience at least a small amount of discomfort during their menstrual cycle. Many factors can contribute to painful menstrual cramps. This includes poor diet, emotional stress, and lack of exercise. There is also evidence that suggests severe menstrual cramps are hereditary.
Menstrual cramps can be distracting and annoying all at once. Roughly 10% of menstruating women face pain so severe that they have to be absent from work or school. Period pain can also have a detrimental impact on your mental health and wellbeing. In this piece, we’re going to discuss how, and why you can use CBD for relief from menstrual cramp.
Many women report that CBD products are the best type of remedy to treat their period pain. But how do they compare to NSAIDs such as Ibruprofen?
Very well, it turns out, but let’s delve a little deeper into why they work - and discuss precisely how cannabinoids pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and muscle-relaxing effects interact with women’s periods.
This all revolves around the causes of discomfort and pain during your period, and how natural remedies such as High quality CBD can help to alleviate these symptoms.
Move overheating pads and NSAIDs! Read on to find out why cannabinoids may become your new best friend when your period next pays a visit.
CBD: An Alternative to NSAIDS for Menstrual Pain?
In a 2008 study, it was revealed that women with high amounts of prostaglandins produced by their endometrial cells experienced more significant levels of period pain, compared to women with lower prostaglandins levels.
For this reason, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are temporarily effective in alleviating menstrual cramps. NSAIDs help to reduce prostaglandin production, which is the leading cause of inflammation and pain.
However, NSAIDs are well-known for their unpleasant side effects, especially when they are taken for extended periods. For many decades, women have depended on over-the-counter pain relief, taking generous helpings of NSAIDs to help them combat menstrual pain. That said, due to the staggering amount of adverse side effects associated with NSAIDs, many health-conscious women now turn to natural remedies to relieve their menstrual pain.
This is where CBD can be essential.
Recent research has revealed that CBD, similar to NSAIDs, can inhibit the production of prostaglandin. CBD is known to inhibit COX-2 over COX-1, meaning that it provides pain relief and can work as an anti-inflammatory, without all the adverse side effects that accompany NSAIDs.
Therefore, when women who suffer from severe menstrual pain start to supplement with CBD, they can benefit from natural pain relief and decreased inflammation without having to pump their body full of pharmaceutical chemicals. There have been many clinical trials that hail CBD as a natural anti-inflammatory, and this research is still in its infancy.
Just like taking a few NSAIDs doesn’t always alleviate the most severe menstrual cramps, taking a CBD capsule and hoping for the best is enough either.
There are a few pointers that we recommend on top of taking CBD to give yourself the best chance of keeping menstrual pain at bay.
The Uterus: Prepping for a Period
For people that have periods, the uterus prepares itself in advance each month.
Firstly, the body increases estrogen, telling the uterus to strengthen its endometrial tissue naturally. Then, once ovulation is complete, the tissue is plumped up with blood and arteries by a boost of progesterone. This preps women to give a warm welcome to any incoming embryo, or in most cases, to prepare for menstruation.
Declining Progesterone Levels
As soon as the body discovers that it won’t be preparing for a baby, progesterone levels decline. This gives the uterus a signal to roll up its welcome mat.
The body pulls back whatever it can from the endometrium, cutting blood flow to the spiral-shaped arteries and shrinking down tissue. With no efficient blood supply, the endometrial tissues start to shred, which is when period pain begins.
With no progesterone, the protection is lost, creating a domino effect, and also the perfect conditions for inflammation.
Prostaglandins: Inflaming the Uterus
When your progesterone is declining, inflammatory chemicals are increased, these are called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins peak when women menstruate, leading to the following effects:
Inflammation: Some prostaglandins will trigger an inflammatory response, which causes more pain.
Pain Sensitization: Prostaglandins and other natural inflammatory compounds can make pain-percieving nerves more sensitive.
Vasoconstriction: The prostaglandins that are prevalent on-mass during menstruation cause blood vessels to constrict, which inhibits the flow of blood to the endometrial tissue.
Uterine Contractions: Women with higher levels of prostaglandin have more painful contractions, doctors have recently acknowledged that these pains can be as intense as those felt during a heart attack.
Heavy Bleeding: Excessive inflammation can cause unusually heavy periods, increasing tissue damage. People who bleed heavily have higher levels present on the enzyme that produces prostaglandins. Medications that combat this process can decrease the amount of menstruation.
Diarrhea: On top of uterus contractions, prostaglandins also trigger smooth muscle contractions in the digestive tract — which might push your last few meals out a bit too soon.
Prostaglandins are not all bad. They are an essential part of every woman’s healthy menstrual cycle.
That said, women that have higher levels of prostaglandins will suffer from more substantial or more painful periods. Therefore, treatments that lower prostaglandin levels are highly effective.
NSAIDs are Useful...To an Extent
When their periods arrive, women most commonly reach for Ibruprofen or a similar pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory drug. NSAIDs are the most frequently prescribed treatment for menstrual cramps and pains.
NSAIDs inhibit the enzyme that is responsible for producing prostaglandins (COX-2). For this reason, NSAIDs could decrease all symptoms that are aggravated by prostaglandins. This includes contractions, inflammation, and pain.
Unfortunately, long term NSAID treatment is not ideal for women’s health. They can harm the digestive system. So much so that people that have digestive issues should avoid taking NSAIDs at all costs.
CBD: A Better Alternative!
In recent years, scientists have discovered that CBD works similarly to NSAIDS as it inhibits the production of prostaglandin. The beauty of CBD supplementation is that it doesn’t come with side-effects that are common with NSAIDs.
Not only does CBD help to inhibit a woman’s COX-2 enzyme, but both THC and CBD stop your DNA from producing high levels of the enzyme in the first place.
More Benefits of CBD
Decreasing the levels of prostaglandin during periods-time is excellent, you can reduce pain, inflammation, and cramps. However, prostaglandins cannot yet be eliminated.
This means that a combination of prostaglandin-reducing treatments and other treatments that taget pains cramp and nausea are efficient.
CBD, THC and other cannabinoids can also treat painful menstrual cramps in the following ways:
Anti-inflammatory: Cannabinoids are known for their many anti-inflammatory activities, including reducing the production of inflammatory prostaglandins. For example, THC activates endocannabinoid receptors located on your immune system’s killer cells. When these receptors activate, they can prevent macrophages from releasing inflammatory proteins.
Pain-relieving: Prostaglandins and other inflammatory molecules can make pain-perceiving nerves hypersensitive, cannabinoids can combat this by desensitizing these nerves. Both THC and CBD target nerve receptors that decrease the sensation of pain (TRPV1 and CB1, respectively). Additionally, not only does CBD desensitize TRPV1, but the soothing effects that are produced by CBD can spread to neighboring pain receptors.
Muscle-relaxing: Menstrual cramps are made worse by contractions of the smooth muscle that lines the uterus — and cannabinoids are recognized globally as a relaxant to smooth these muscles. CBD and THC both target different receptors that are embedded in the muscle tissue, ultimately relaxing contractions.
Vascular-relaxing: Blood vessels are lined with smooth muscle. When cannabinoids make these smooth muscles relax, blood flow is increased. Increased blood flow helps by providing relief to oxygen-starved tissues, decreasing painful cramps.