Menopause marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include irregular periods, mood changes, hot flashes, vaginal dryness and issues with sleeping. Most women live over a third of their life with menopause. Due to the resulting discomfort and stress and the expanding uses of medical marijuana, many are asking: can you manage the symptoms of menopause with cannabis?
Traditional Treatments for Menopause
Women experience menopause due to decreased fertility after their bodies stop producing certain hormones. To counter this hormone imbalance, some doctors prescribe Hormone Replacement Therapy. This typically translates to taking an estrogen and progesterone supplement.
Recent research has found that Hormone Replacement Therapy poses a serious health risk. A study published in 2002 revealed that HRT increases the risk of breast cancer and heart disease.
Later, a second study found that one’s risk of dementia, stroke, and blood clots increases with estrogen supplements.
According to National Public Radio, these studies reduced the number of women taking hormone replacements by almost half. In an interview with NPR, Dr. JoAnn Manson, who plays an active role in menopausal research, explains that these findings are far from clear-cut.
“This is a big, complicated study,” Dr. Manson says. “For just one example, the two trials found that taking estrogen alone reduced the risk of breast cancer while taking it with progestin increased breast cancer risk.”
Women’s Health Concern argues that, for many women, the discomfort of menopause exceeds the dangers of HRT. However, they add that older women should be warier of hormone replacement because they are more at risk.
Overall the nonprofit is mindful that statistically, a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer or heart disease greatly increases with this medication. This means that you should only take the minimum effective dose.
Many women are dissatisfied with hormone replacement therapy as the only ‘effective’ treatment for menopause. Instead, they are turning to supplements and natural remedies.
Flaxseed and soy contain phytoestrogens—estrogen found in plants—so many women attempt to assuage their symptoms with diet. Experts cite Vitamin E and exercise as common coping mechanisms for menopause.
But these supplements cannot cure menopause. As a result, health-conscious women speculate, can you manage the symptoms of menopause with cannabis?
The Endocannabinoid System
Impact Cannabis, a nonprofit association dedicated to studying medical marijuana, attributes part of menopausal discomfort to a decrease in endocannabinoid signaling.
The endocannabinoid system is a biological system of proteins and protein receptors whose role is to maintain homeostasis in the body. It regulates everything from mood, to fertility and pain sensitivity.
Research on the cannabinoids in marijuana lead to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in the human body.
Ovaries are apart of the endocannabinoid system. Some speculate that deficiencies in certain types of neurotransmitters in the endocannabinoid system induce early menopause.
Additionally, the low levels of estrogen that follow menopause correspond to lower activity in the endocannabinoid system. This can negatively affect your mood.
The strong link between the endocannabinoid system and menopause means that there is potential for marijuana to treat menopause.
However, due to lack of research, scientists don’t yet understand the specifics of the relationship between these biological processes.
Marijuana for Pain Management
There is even less scientific inquiry on the effects of marijuana on menopause. What we do know is that marijuana’s cannabinoids work within the human endocannabinoid system.
And its painkilling potential isn’t limited a short list of conditions: Though women have fewer cannabinoid receptors after menopause, THC can still be a powerful pain management tool.
Some experts do warn that cannabis can produce negative effects for older women who have lower levels of estrogen, and therefore require a higher dose of THC.
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