Your period arriving can be good news or bad news – depending on your situation. For many women this means calling in sick, cancelling plans, curling up on the couch with a hot water bottle and trying to distract themselves with Netflix binges and feel-good movies.
Sound familiar? You are one of up to 90% of reproductive-age women who suffer from symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Painful periods, clinically known as dysmenorrhea, is one of those symptoms and probably the most common but also most debilitating. And it can completely disrupt your life.
YOUR PERIOD: WHAT IS HAPPENING?
Each and every month your uterus is faithfully preparing itself for different stages of your menstrual cycle, culminating in the arrival of your period.
It starts with your body increasing estrogen levels, telling your uterus to build put its endometrial layer – the tissue that lines the inside of your uterus. Then, once you’ve ovulated, your body releases a boost of progesterone which helps to plump up the endometrial tissue with arteries and blood in anticipation of implantation and an incoming embryo. Once your body figures out that you’re not pregnant, your progesterone levels plummet, telling your uterus to prepare itself for Aunt Flo.
At this time your body basically takes back everything that it can from the endometrium, shrinking your uterine lining and constricting the all the blood vessels and arteries which supply it with blood, oxygen and other chemical compounds.
Without a proper blood supply your endometrial tissue basically starts to suffocate and die, likely causing you to begin experiencing the all too familiar pangs of pain. And for those of us who have been diagnosed with endometriosis, we’re hit with a double-whammy of this as the endometrial tissue outside the uterus is also doing it thing.
What’s more is that without progesterone, the endometrial lining loses its protection from the vesicles which release the enzymes responsible for helping the embryo attach to the uterine wall. As these vesicles begin to weaken, they start killing off their neighboring cells, spilling more vesicles in a type of domino effect, rupturing the pools of blood that have formed within the endometrial lining. The dead endometrial tissue sloughs off, your period starts, and your uterus has just become a potential playground for inflammation.
Prostaglandins & Inflammation of the Uterus
Progesterone is one of your body’s natural anti-inflammatories. And while your progesterone levels were going down, prostaglandins – chemicals which are responsible for causing inflammation – were increasing.
Now, it’s important to note that prostaglandins aren’t a bad thing. They play an essential and vital role in creating a healthy, functional menstrual cycle. But the problem is with the amount. Studies indicate that it is when women have too high levels of prostaglandins that they experience heavier periods and elevated levels of pain.
Excessive amounts of prostaglandins, in particular one called PGF2⍺, peak during your period, causing things like:
- Inflammation: where certain prostaglandins trigger an inflammatory response, leading to more pain and cell death.
- Trigger pain-perceiving nerves: making your more sensitive to pain.
- Constrict blood vessels: causing an increase blood pressure and suffocate endometrial tissue further.
- Cause uterine contractions: which chokes off blood supply to the endometrium, causing stronger, more painful contractions that can be as intense as heart attack pain.
- Heavy bleeding: as a result of excessive inflammation, which increases tissue damage. Women with heavy bleeding have been shown to have higher levels of the enzyme called COX-2 which produces prostaglandins.
Treatments such as Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen which lower the levels of prostaglandins in the body can be effective in helping treat dysmenorrhea and excessive uttering bleeding by reducing inflammation.
The main reason why NSAIDs work for women who struggle with painful periods and heavy bleeding is because it inhibits COX-2, the enzyme responsible for producing prostaglandins in the first place. In short, NSAIDs can potentially reduce all of the symptoms which are caused by prostaglandins including inflammation, contractions and pain.
But NSAIDs don’t come without some side-effects. They are notorious for causing unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects, as they also inhibit another enzyme called COX-1 which is believed to protect your digestive system. That means that for many women who are have gastro-intestinal sensitivities, ulcers or other types of digestive issues, NSAIDs are out of the question. And according to the latest research, NSAIDs are also not that great for you heart health
YOUR PERIOD AND CBD: HOW IT HELPS WITH PAINFUL PERIODS
There is an increasing number of women who are convinced that CBD products like CBD oils, CBD capsules and CBD teas are one of the best tools in their arsenal in fighting against painful periods. CBD has repeatedly been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, muscle-relaxing effects which address the actual causes of the pain and discomfort you are experiencing during your period.
Can CBD be an Alternative to NAIDs?
Recent research have shown that CBD works in a similar way to NSAIDs to help reduce and stop inflammation. Just like ibuprofen and naproxen, CBD inhibits the prostaglandin-producing enzyme Cox-2. But, unlike NSAIDs, CBD selectively “prefers” to inhibit COX-2 over COX-1, meaning that its anti-inflammatory benefits come without any gastrointestinal side effects.
But something that CBD does which NSAIDs don’t is that in addition to inhibiting the COX-2 enzyme, it also has the ability physically stops DNA from producing to much COX-2 enzyme in the first place.
Other Ways In Which CBD Helps
Decreasing prostaglandin levels and reduce inflammation is only one way in which you can relieve painful periods. But because you cannot really eliminate prostaglandin in their entirety, the best approach is to take advantage of treatments which also target the symptoms caused by them.
And this is what makes CBD a great natural and effective option for treating painful period pains. Let’s take a look at some of the other benefits CBD has in store.
1. Your Period and CBD: Pain-relieving Properties:
Inflammation and its associated chemicals is only one part of the pain equation. As mentioned, inflammation actually make the pain receptors more sensitive and CBD has the ability to desensitize them. CBD targets the TRPV1 and CB1 nerve receptors that help decrease the sensation of pain. What’s more is that CBD also spreads to neighbouring receptors, in effect fighting back by desensitizing both the nerves which cause pain as well as the nerves around them.
2. Your Period and CBD: Muscle Relaxant:
Period pains are made worse by contractions of the smooth muscles which line the uterus. CBD is recognized to help relax smooth muscles by signalling the muscle tissues to relax during contraction.
3. Your Period and CBD: Relaxes Blood Vessels
Just like your heart, your blood vessels are also lined with smooth muscle. When you take CBD, it also triggers the smooth muscles in your blood vessels to relax, helping to increase blood flow to your oxygen-starved uterus. And when oxygen can reach your endometrial lining, it can help provide relief by lessening painful cramping.
DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult with a physician if you have a serious medical condition or use prescription medications. A doctor’s advice should always be sought before before embarking on any new treatment.