Can CBD Help with Menstrual Cramps and Pain?
From mood swings and fatigue to cramps and bloating, there’s nothing fun about getting your period. But just like clockwork, most women experience these symptoms every single month. For some, these symptoms are a minor inconvenience, but for others, they can interfere with the ability to carry out even the most mundane tasks.
So what can you do to combat them? There are many products on the market that can help ease the symptoms of PMS, some more effective than others. And while these products may work to relieve symptoms, they also bring on the risk of adverse side effects.
If you’re looking for a natural alternative, recent research has shown that CBD can be effective in relieving symptoms related to PMS. CBD is an increasingly popular cannabis constituent known for the many health benefits it can provide. Read on to find out how it could help make that time of the month easier for you.
PubMed Health defines PMS as a “set of physical and psychological symptoms that may start anywhere from a few days to two weeks before a woman gets her monthly period.” On a physical level, women can experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, breast tenderness, headaches, back pain, joint and muscle aches, insomnia, and digestive issues. Mentally, women may experience mood swings, feelings of depression, anxiety, insecurity, and have difficulty concentrating.
Why does this happen? Every month, a woman’s body gets ready to conceive. Estrogen increases and the uterus builds up endometrial tissue. Ovulation occurs and the boost of progesterone works to plump up tissue with arteries and blood to welcome a baby. When the body realizes there is no baby, progesterone levels decline. It takes what it can from the endometrium, as tissue begins to shrink and arteries die off, bringing on cramps and other pains. Vesicles carrying tissue-dissolving enzymes weaken, leading to the death of neighboring cells, and dead tissue sloughs off, causing inflammation. During this time, prostaglandins are on the rise. Prostaglandins are inflammatory chemicals that peak during menstruation and cause inflammation, pain sensitization, vasoconstriction, uterine contractions, heavy bleeding, and diarrhea.
Fortunately, CBD can help to ease some of these symptoms by inhibiting the prostaglandin-producing enzyme and simultaneously interacting with receptors in the body to make PMS more bearable. Here’s a breakdown of how CBD can help relieve certain PMS symptoms.
- CBD Anti-Inflammatory properties: Many studies have shown CBD to be an effective anti-inflammatory because of its ability to reduce the production of inflammatory prostaglandins and activate the immune system’s endocannabinoid receptors to prevent microphages from releasing cytokines (inflammatory proteins). CBD ability to reduce inflammation throughout the body can reduce pain and other symptoms of PMS. Not only is this a good sign for PMS sufferers, but it also means cannabinoids are a promising solution in the treatment of chronic pain and other inflammatory diseases.
- CBD and Cramps: Menstrual cramps are one of the most common symptoms women experience before, and during, their period. For some, the pain caused by cramps is relatively minor, but for others, it can be debilitating. Cramps occur when hormones stimulate muscle contractions within the uterus which inhibit blood flow to its lining. As such, relaxing the uterine muscles can help to relieve cramping. Studies have shown CBD to be an effective muscle relaxant because the body’s innate cannabinoid receptors can work in the signaling machinery of skeletal muscle. When CBD enters the body, it plays a significant role in the communication between muscle groups and the neurons that control them. It targets different receptors embedded in the muscle tissue to calm contractions and relieve cramping. CBD also works to relieve menstrual cramps on a vascular level. It can trigger the smooth muscle that lines blood vessels to relax, which increases blood flow. This increased blood flow helps to provide relief to oxygen-starved tissues and eases the pain associated with cramping.
- CBD Pain Relief Properties: In addition to menstrual cramps, some women experience other types of pain. Headaches, back, joint, and muscle pain are all common PMS symptoms. Many studies have shown CBD to be an effective pain reliever. CBD interacts with receptors in your brain and immune system, giving them chemical signals to release an anti-inflammatory and pain killing response. In the case of PMS, CBD works with receptors to desensitize nerves which may be extra sensitive during that time of the month.
- CBD and Nausea and Vomiting: PMS can also bring on nausea and vomiting. CBD is often used on chemotherapy patients to reduce these symptoms and can also be useful in treating women experiencing nausea and vomiting before their menstrual cycles.
- CBD and Mood Swings: PMS can often cause mood swings, anxiety, and depression. CBD has been known to increase serotonin production in the body to relieve these feelings. Therefore, it can be effective in preventing women from experiencing these extreme lows during their period, and make them feel more in control of their emotions.
- CBD and Insomnia: The hormonal changes a woman experiences when she is about to get her period can result in insomnia. This can be characterized by an inability to fall asleep or by a waking in the middle of the night (or early morning) and being unable to go back to sleep. CBD promotes a more restful night’s sleep by working to reduce feelings of anxiety and relieve pain. It has already been shown to increase overall time slept and reduce insomnia in those who suffer from chronic pain. Its soothing properties could be effective in PMS sufferers as well.
CBD vs. NSAIDs
Historically, NSAIDs have one of the most popular treatments for PMS symptoms. Like CBD, they work to inhibit the enzyme responsible for producing prostaglandins, making them effective in treating symptoms such as inflammation, contractions, and pain. However, NSAIDs have several gastrointestinal side effects, including gas, bloating, heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. They can also cause liver and kidney problems and high blood pressure. For these reasons, NSAIDs should be used sparingly and are not recommended for regular monthly usage. CBD, by comparison, causes little to no side effects. And those that do occur are generally not serious in nature, so long-term use is typically approved for most people.
How to Use CBD for Menstrual Symptoms
CBD is available in various forms. The way you decide to ingest CBD may change depending on what symptoms you are trying to alleviate. Taking CBD in an oil, capsule, or edible form, or through vaping, can help elevate mood and fight insomnia. However, if you are experiencing pain or cramps, you may find more relief by topically applying CBD directly to affected areas. Suppositories have also been shown to be effective for many women in the relief of PMS-related pain. They help relax the pelvic muscles and reduce inflammation, providing much needed relief.
Other Natural Treatments for PMS
While CBD can help relieve PMS symptoms for many women, it might not work for everyone. If you’re looking for other natural remedies to use, try one of the following recommendations:
- Heating Pads or Hot Water Bottles: This old-fashioned treatment has withstood the test of time for a reason. The added heat increases blood flow, soothing overworked muscles and delivering oxygen to oxygen-starved areas, which can provide relief for menstrual cramps.
- Fish Oil: Research has revealed that prostaglandins are synthesized from omega fatty acids. A diet rich in omega 3s can shift your body away from producing inflammatory prostaglandins, decreasing PMS-related pain and lessening any reliance on NSAIDs.
- Magnesium: Evidence shows that women who take magnesium have reduced pain and inflammatory prostaglandin levels during their time of the month. Chocolate, lentils, and avocado are all rich in magnesium. So, if you’re craving chocolate when your period is near, go ahead and indulge!
- Treat Early: It’s difficult to predict when cramps will start, but if you can, take NSAIDs, CBD, or whatever other treatment you prefer an hour before. If you hold off until your cramps are in full swing, prostaglandins will already be in full effect and symptoms will be harder to control.
- Discuss Treatment with Your Doctor: If you are experiencing extreme symptoms, it may be due to an underlying health condition. If CBD and other treatments are not effective, talk to your doctor to find out what could be causing your discomfort. He or she may be able to provide a diagnosis and recommend an effective solution.
Getting your period is never pleasant, but PMS symptoms can make it even harder to bear. Don’t settle for suffering. Try CBD as a natural treatment to make your time of the month easier.