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Endometriosis effects 1 in 10 women around the world (up to a staggering 176 million worldwide). It can cause huge amounts of pain for those who suffer. Due to the negative side effects of many conventional pain medications, the number of women self-treating with cannabis is increasing. CBD could possibly provide some relief to those with endometriosis, for reasons which will be explored in this article.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition which effects the female reproductive system. Simply, it’s wen the tissue of the uterus (that sheds each month at your period) grows outside of the uterus itself. This tissue, called endometrium, can develop on the ovaries and fallopian tubes. However, in severe cases it can grow all throughout the abdomen.
Endometriosis itself is not life threatening, but it can cause a severe amount of pain. Just as our uterine lining sheds at our period, the tissue outside of these areas reacts to our monthly hormones. It sheds and breakdown, but as there is no clear route for it to go, it can get trapped in your body. This becomes incredibly painful and causes flaring, scaring and inflammation.
Although some people only experience the symptoms and pain mildly, for others it can be incredibly life altering. The rates of those struggling with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, are greatly increased amongst those suffering.
How is Endometriosis Diagnosed?
One of the major issues in treating endometriosis is the initial difficulty in getting it diagnosed. It is initially useful to understand the signs and symptoms that might lead you to seek a diagnosis. Some common symptoms women experience are:
- Bladder pain
- Consistent premenstrual symptoms
- Heavy, painful periods
- Lethargy, fatigue and trouble sleeping
- Pain during sex
- Pain in the lower back, hips and thighs
- Pain with bowel movements
- Pelvic pain
Unfortunately, the current average time it takes to receive a diagnosis is between 7 and 10 years. Tracking your cycle and symptoms can help to spread up this process slightly, but the only way to confirm it with certainty is through an explorative keyhole surgery known as a laparoscopy.
A laparoscopy is a surgery in which a camera is inserted into the pelvis through a small cut, near the navel. The doctor can use this camera to look and see if there is tissue in areas outside of the uterus itself.
What Causes Endometriosis?
Due to a lack of research, there is not a single effective treatment for endometriosis. Scientists are looking to investigate how the tissue thrives outside of the uterus, and what can be done to prevent this. The most recent theory is that the menstrual blood flows to these areas too, carrying the tissue to areas where it doesn’t belong. There is also the possibility that our environmental factors, such as hormones and toxins in food, could be causing the tissue to grow outside of where is naturally belongs.
What is understood, however, is that once the tissue begins to grow somewhere it is then able to grow and spread. Some even compare this to cancer, where cells continue to replicate in an undesired way. In order to grow the cells, use our system of veins and arteries to supply them with what they need, and remove waste products. They also grow nerve endings which increase pain perception.
What are the Current Treatments for Endometriosis?
Despite the fact endometriosis is considered a benign disease, patients can continue to experience a spread and growth of this tissue rapidly. There is research going into the possibility of cancer treatments being effective to treat endometriosis, however currently the only options available to treat the tissue itself is surgical removal. Surgery is obviously a last resort option, and it is possible for the tissue to grow back if it is not entirely removed during the process.
For those who do not want to undergo surgery, or are not suitable for it, there are other ways in which the tissue can be treated. Some doctors look to natural remedies to help restore the body’s health. Lifestyle and dietary changes can be beneficial for some, but often need to be bespoke to the individual. Exercise and physical activity can also improve the symptoms – finding a balance between working out and resting, alongside ensuring you get enough sleep, can prove helpful for some with milder symptoms.
Painkillers are often prescribed by doctors. Over the counter drugs such as ibuprofen are tried initially, with mefenamic acid often being prescribed if the pain is more severe. Doctors often try hormone therapies, such as conventional birth control pills to help regulate the pain caused by monthly cycles, although these treatments sometimes only have limited success.
What are the Side Effects for Current Endometriosis Treatments?
Taking painkillers such as ibuprofen for prolonged periods of time can lead to stomach ulcers, or inflammation to the lining of the stomach. Therefore, they are not recommended for continuous use.
Hormonal treatments can cause headaches, migraines, blood pressure changed, spotting, mood effects and weight gain. They can also change the microbiome of our gut, increasing stomach issues.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD is one of over one hundred chemical compounds, known as cannabinoids, that are found in the cannabis plant. They are specifically found in Cannabis sativa.
Although many people know cannabis to create a feeling of being ‘high’, this is not the case with CBD. Tetrahydrocannabinol better known as THC, is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid active in cannabis. This is the compound that creates the psychoactive effect of being ‘high’. Unlike THC, CBD does not have any psychoactive effects and does not cause the user to get ‘high’.
Although CBD does not have any psychoactive effects, it is still able to ease pain and aid relaxation. It is growing in popularity as scientific studies are beginning to prove that it can help aid symptoms of anxiety, depression and chronic pain.
Can CBD and CBD Oil help treat endometriosis?
There is growing evidence to suggest that CBD can be beneficial to some people suffering with endometriosis. The inflammation, one of the most significant causes of endometriosis pain, is lessened by the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD. There are also mild analgesic properties in CBD, which may also help reduce pain.
There have been very few studies about the effect of CBD specifically on endometriosis. We do know, however, that there is evidence to support the treatment of chronic pain through CBD and CBD oil. Moreover, there is the possibility that supporting the function of there are cannabinoid receptors that can be controlled through taking CBD that might help reduce the over-functioning of endometriosis cells, although this thesis is yet to be explored further and is only in early stages.
There are possible ways in which the cell multiplication may be helped by CBD:
- The cannabinoid CBD works with our internal endocannabinoid system to help regulate bodily processes. It is also helpful at regulating cell growth, stopping over-zealous cell multiplication. For these reasons, there has been some positive evidence that cannabis could help treat cancer, as it stops the cells from multiplying. It is possible that the same may be possible for endometriosis.
- CBD may also be able to stop the endometriotic cells from migrating or moving around the body into new organs. This may be because it blocks GPR18 receptor from activating. It is worth noting, however, that unlike CBD, THC (the psychoactive element of cannabis) may active these receptors – therefore if you are self-medicating with THC, CBD may be essential to counter this activity.
- As previously noted, in order to thrive, endometriotic cells need blood vessels and capillaries. There is the possibility that CBD can inhibit this process in cells, (as they inhibit vascularisation) in cells.
- For some patients the nerve damage can be the most painful element of endometriosis. If it is a specific kind of endometriosis, known as deep-infiltrating endometriosis, the tissue embeds itself deeper into the organs it is growing on. This can cause deeper lesions that contain a high density of nerves. CBD may be able to regulate the nerve growth by interfering with innervation (the growth of new nerves), preventing new receptors.
- There may also be a possibility that activating endocannabinoid receptors inside the body may be able to produce anti-inflammatory properties, lessening the body’s immune response to new cells and reducing pain caused by endometriosis tissue.
What CBD Products can be Used for Treating Endometriosis?
As there are a variety of ways to take CBD, it may be overwhelming working out which is the best product to use to help endometriosis symptoms.
CBD patches are a great option for those looking for a long-lasting effect, as they have a duration of 24 hours. They can also be applied close to the area of inflammation, on veinous tissue. This will ensure the CBD focuses on this area first, and then is generally released into the blood stream.
CBD vape oils are a fantastic option for those looking for the instant relief of CBD. The relief vape cartridge is specifically formulated to help with issues regarding chronic pain and is made using a range of terpenes specific to pain. A vape product quickly allows CBD to enter the system, without the wait-time for activation.
CBD capsules are an easy way to ingest CBD and are often enjoyed as part of a supplementation routine. If you are supplementing in your diet, or taking daily medication, a capsule is a great way to ensure you are consuming your CBD.
Endometriosis is a condition which effects many women, and despite growing scientific research, there is no singular cure. For those suffering, CBD may be able to help mitigate symptoms and provide anti-inflammatory effects. Moreover, there is possible evidence to suggest that CBD itself might reduce the cell growth and the prevalence of new tissue.