For women struggling with hormones, the battle can be associated with balancing on a tightrope, especially when it comes to this particular time of the month. The body's hormonal balance is dependent on a set of nerves and glands that make up the endocrine system. This network controls the release of sex hormones, regulates mood, reproduction, metabolism, growth and responses to stress.
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis consists of glands located in the brain and gut specifically responsible for stress regulation. When hormones are released, they enter the bloodstream and attach to receptors to stimulate the body and trigger specific responses. When the action of the various components of this axis is out of balance, hormonal imbalance occurs.
HPA axis and PMS
A specific time of the month for some women can be fraught with unwanted and unnecessary jitters. 85 percent of women experience at least some of the symptoms associated with PMS every month - symptoms typically occur during the 5 to 11 days in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. PMS can manifest itself in many ways, and some of the most common are irritability, mood swings, bouts of depression, breast pain, acne and dietary cravings, particularly cravings for sweets
As part of this hormonal process, just before the menstrual cycle, the body naturally produces high levels of cortisol. When combined with external stress promoters such as life, work and family, cortisol can reach very high levels. These increased stress levels can lead to those very tense and irritable states that can make you feel really irritable.
The side effects associated with increased cortisol levels include negative effects on other hormones. Progesterone is one of the sex hormones that works with the reproductive system during pregnancy and menstruation. In certain situations, it has the ability to transform into other hormones. When cortisol levels are high, progesterone levels are lowered. When progesterone levels are lowered, estrogen becomes the dominant hormone.
There are many side effects that result from excessive cortisol when the HPA axis is over-stimulated, and PMS is one of them. After prolonged exposure to high levels of cortisol, the body may have difficulty dealing with all the hormones which can lead to more serious disorders like thyroid homone resistance syndrome.
Decreased hormone levels caused by high cortisol levels can also lead to decreased serotonin and dopamine levels. Because dopamine and serotonin are sleep and behavioral hormones, lower levels of these hormones can also cause antisocial behavior, continued exhaustion, decreased cognitive performance, mood swings, and irritability.
How CBD helps regulate the HPA axis and attenuates unwanted PMS symptoms
There is a direct link between cortisol levels and PMS-related disorders. When cortisol levels are too low, or during chronic stress when cortisol levels are too high, you are more sensitive to PMS symptoms. Women who suffer from depression, postpartum depression, chronic stress, substance abuse, who have suffered emotional trauma or physical injury may often admit that their discomfort worsens during PMS.
Premenstrual syndrome symptoms may worsen over an extended period of time because such hormonal imbalances do not simply happen overnight. However, the medical solution to hormonal imbalances usually involves treating the symptoms rather than the causes. Most hormonal imbalances result from lifestyle and external stressors over a long period of time. Therefore, simple lifestyle changes such as diet and natural remedies such as CBD can effectively help restore hormonal balance.
CBD is known to help regulate cortisol levels and therefore may be effective in reducing PMS symptoms. The HPA axis is part of the endocrine system responsible for regulating hormones. Taking CBD can stimulate the body's endocannabinoid system, which happens to be connected to the endocrine system. By activating receptors in the body, located in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, CBD influences the production of cannabinoids that help regulate hormones such as cortisol, melatonin, and dopamine and return them to their natural levels.
CBD helps keep the body in a functional state of balance, called homeostasis, and having a healthy balance of hormones that is key to proper body function. Homeostasis helps keep temperature, appetite, thirst, heart rate, blood pressure and sleep cycles in balance.
Similar to balancing hormones, CBD can also be used to reduce menstrual cramps. Lowering cortisol levels can help reduce pain levels. Combined with CBD's powerful anti-inflammatory properties, it can also eliminate bloating.
Sometimes we underestimate how much our lifestyle choices and stress can affect our health. We now understand that stress has a huge role to play in affecting the HPA axis and maintaining a healthy hormonal balance. By adding CBD to your daily diet, you can help to keep your body in relative hormonal balance which will undoubtedly translate into less annoying PMS symptoms.
1993 Feb;26(2):213-7. Zuardi AW1, Guimarães FS, Moreira AC. Effect on cannabidiol on plasma prolactin, growth hormone and cortisol in human volunteers..