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Women's health

Four ways women could benefit from CBD

Many women living with debilitating symptoms and often complex conditions, are finding relief in CBD.

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Many women are finding CBD help with a range of symptoms.

Women living with debilitating symptoms and often complex conditions, are finding relief in CBD.

It is now widely acknowledged that the current medical model can be guilty of taking women less seriously, with female-specific conditions often being misunderstood and therefore, going undiagnosed. 

Feeling frustrated, abandoned and living with debilitating pain and other symptoms, women are more likely to look for another option in medical cannabis.

But it’s not just cannabis medicines which patients find helpful for many of these conditions, CBD also has an important role to play in women’s health, as Cannabis Health explains.

PMS

As many as three in four women suffer from mild premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms in the weeks leading up to their period, with the most common cycle-related issues being two-fold – both mental, including anxiety and mood swings, and physical, such as cramps.

According to psychopharmacology expert Dr Julie Holland, CBD can help with both elements. As well as reducing anxiety, irritability and improving sleep, the remedy can help relax the uterine muscle where cramps occur.

Endometriosis

One in 10 women of reproductive age in the UK suffer from endometriosis, a condition where cells similar to the ones in the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body, causing symptoms such as painful or heavy periods, infertility, fatigue and bladder problems. 

But despite around 1.5 million women in the UK living with the condition, it can take years for them to be diagnosed, and even longer to find an effective treatment. 

While research is still limited, CBD is emerging as a popular choice for women searching for a remedy to ease their endometriosis symptoms, with one Australian survey finding that cannabis and CBD oil were the most effective of all the self-care techniques used for endometriosis pain. 

As well as offering much-needed pain relief, it has also been suggested that CBD could limit the spread of endometrial cells around the body, though more research is needed to explain exactly how this happens. 

Menopause 

Between the ages of 45 and 55, a woman’s oestrogen levels begin to decline and the menopause kicks in – bringing a whole load of symptoms, from hot flushes and difficulty sleeping to anxiety and mood swings. 

While CBD can’t stop the process of menopause, it may provide relief to the debilitating symptoms many women experience.

For example, according to a study in Brazil, the remedy can have a positive effect on the amount and quality of sleep by regulating cortisol – the stress hormone – in the body and alleviating menopausal stress.  

Hormone imbalance 

The balance of hormones plays a key role in the health and wellbeing of women – the problem is, hormone imbalance is all too common.

From mood swings and insomnia to problem skin and irregular periods, hormone imbalance can present itself in many different ways. So, could CBD restore the balance? 

Research has shown that the endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in maintaining balance in the body, is closely linked to the endocrine system – the collection of glands that produce hormones. As CBD stimulates the endocannabinoid system, it’s likely it could be used to influence major hormones. 

 

Cannabis Health will be hosting a webinar on the role of CBD and cannabis medicines in women’s health on Wednesday 12 May at 7pm.

Expert speakers Dr Sally Ghazaleh, Sarah Higgins CNS, women’s health lead for Cannabis Patients Advocacy and Support Services (CPASS) and endometriosis patient’s Abby Hughes and Laura of The Endomonologues will candidly discuss this new field of medicine.

Find out more and sign up here.

The event is hosted in association with Integro Medical Clinics and CPASS.

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Experts to explore the role of medical cannabis in women’s health

A line-up of leading experts will discuss how cannabis medicines can play a vital role in women’s health.

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Many women are still unaware of female-specific health conditions such as pelvic inflammatory syndrome (PIS) or vulvodynia

Leading pain specialist, Dr Sally Ghazaleh will join a line-up of experts to discuss how cannabis medicines can play a vital role in women’s health.

The first of a four-part webinar series, taking place on Wednesday 12 May, will focus on the experience’s of women who have not felt supported by the current healthcare system – and how cannabis has helped them find relief from their conditions.

Dr Sally Ghazaleh, a pain specialist at Integro Medical Clinics, will join Sarah Higgins, clinical nurse specialist and women’s health lead at Cannabis Patient Advocacy Support Services (CPASS), alongside endometriosis patients Abby Hughes, outreach chair of PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) and Laura, author of The Endomonologues blog.

Dr Sally Ghazaleh

Dr Sally Ghazaleh is a pain management specialist

Aimed at patients, clinicians and the general public the webinar series, hosted by Cannabis Health, Integro Clinics and CPASS, aims to discuss the application of cannabis medicines in the management of complex female health conditions.

It will also highlight some of the wider issues and gender inequalities played out in the modern medical model.

Studies have shown that women’s pain is not acted on as quickly and is more likely to be dismissed than men’s, while many conditions can present differently in women than in men and therefore take longer to diagnose.

Many women are still unaware of female-specific health conditions such as pelvic inflammatory syndrome (PIS) or vulvodynia and can live with the symptoms for many years before they are correctly diagnosed and treated.

Some patients are now reporting that they have found cannabis medicines to be helpful in the management of their health conditions.

Dr Ghazaleh, a consultant at Whittington Hospital and the National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, joined Integro Clinics as a prescriber of medical cannabis in January. 

She specialises in managing patients with a wide range of pain conditions and has a particular interest in bladder and abdominal pain in women, and women’s health in general.

The free webinar will take place on Wednesday 12 May at 7pm.

The event is hosted by Cannabis Health, Integro Medical Clinics and CPASS, sign up for free here

If you would like further information, or to make an appointment for a medical consultation with Dr Sally Ghazaleh please contact Integro Clinics:  

Email: Contact@integroclinics.com

Twitter: @clinicsintegro

www.integroclinics.com

 

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Women's health

“It’s still very taboo”: How medical cannabis helps relieve the pain of vulvodynia

There is an increasing body of evidence which suggests that medical cannabis can be helpful for women in the treatment of vulvodynia

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grapefruit vulva
Some women have found cannabis-based medicines helpful in the treatment of vulvodynia

Freya was diagnosed with the debilitating gynecological condition, vulvodynia, aged 20, she explains how cannabis has helped relieve some of the symptoms and why she felt let down by conventional medicine.

Vulvodynia is persistent, unexplained pain in the vulva – the female genital area including the skin surrounding the opening of the vagina.

This condition can affect women of all ages and is often a long-term problem that’s very distressing to live with.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom is persistent pain in and around the vulva and vagina. The vulva usually looks normal and the pain can arise in a variety of forms:

  • burning, stinging, throbbing or sore genital area
  • it can be triggered by touch, such as during sex or when inserting a tampon
  • it can be constantly in the background
  • it can get worse when sitting down
  • it can be limited to part of the vulva, such as the opening of the vagina
  • it can be more widespread – sometimes it can spread over the whole genital area and the anus.

Having persistent vulval pain can affect relationships, reduce sex drive, and cause low mood and depression. It can be emotionally extremely distressing and have profound effects upon the patient’s sex life. There is also a huge stigma around this type of condition with women being frequently embarrassed to talk about it or seek help. 

What treatment options are available?

Vulvodynia is unlikely to get better on its own and some of the treatments are only available on prescription and may not have the desired effect long term.

Lifestyle changes may help reduce symptoms such as only wearing cotton underwear, using lubricants before attempting sex, cool packs to sooth the pain of the vulva and sitting on a donut shaped cushion. 

A combination of treatments can often help relieve the symptoms and reduce its impact on your life.

Conventional painkillers, such as paracetamol, will not usually relieve the pain. Doctors may prescribe antidepressants such as amitriptyline and nortriptyline, which can have unpleasant side effects including drowsiness, weight gain and dry mouth.

Sometimes anti-epilepsy medicines such as gabapentin and pregabalin are prescribed but again these can cause horrible side effects including dizziness, drowsiness and weight gain. If you have pain in a specific area of your vulva, injections of local anaesthetic and steroids into a nearby nerve may provide temporary pain relief. Physiotherapy and counselling can also both be useful in a patient’s overall treatment plan.

But even with all of the above intervention, sometimes the condition continues to devastate the patient’s life.

Can medical cannabis help?

There is an increasing body of evidence which suggests that cannabis-based medicines can be helpful for certain women in the treatment of vulvodynia and other gynaecological pain-related conditions such as endometriosis, if patients feel that standard pain medicines are no longer working or providing relief. 

Sophie Hayes, specialist practise nurse at Integro Clinics, says: “Cannabis medicines can be helpful in the management of vulvodynia, particularly in relaxing the muscles of the vagina during intercourse and if used before and after. They can also be helpful in relieving vulva pain as the THC is an effective neuropathic pain killer.”

The patient’s story

Freya is a dynamic and politically active woman, who has a complex range of interacting conditions including fibromyalgia and vulvodynia.

Here, she describes the physical and mental aspects of this condition, the stigma that still exists around seeking help, and the difficulties and prejudices with diagnosis.

Headshot of Freya Papwrorth

Freya was diagnosed with vulvodynia aged 20.

At what age did vulvodynia first become an issue for you? How does it impact on your life and relationships?

I was diagnosed at 20 and at the time I was in a very violent relationship. In fact, it’s only within the last year that I was told by a specialist that this is often the trigger for a condition like mine.

Back then they didn’t know why I had it, just that I did. I was told to try a lidocaine lubricant which just numbs everything so removes the pleasure from sex – for me at least – and that was that.

Did you find medical professionals sympathetic and helpful?

No one has ever taken the time to try and help me from a medical standpoint. I did see a specialist last year who recommended dilators, but they just hurt, and I hated them. I know I should go back to trying them again, but I think the mental trauma has become so much now that I just don’t want to. Which of course is not great for my relationship. I’m stuck feeling awful and guilty and wanting it to change, but with no idea how to change it.

When you tried medical cannabis, can you describe how it was helpful for the pain you were experiencing? What conventional drugs have you tried and were there any unpleasant side effects? 

“I tried cannabis for my back pain. I had been on a cocktail of Tramadol, diazepam and codeine which had left me with terrible IBS, an addiction, and just feeling dazed and confused a lot of the time. Nothing got rid of the pain either , they just helped you not care and to relax. 

Cannabis medicines manage to help me relax when I am in pain, which in turn helps the pain reduce as you are less tense and worried. It means I can sit and chat to people without being too ‘stoned’ on something like tramadol and doesn’t cause any of the negative side effects like IBS.

When I have tried tinctures and topicals they have given me pain relief without any of the ‘stoned’ effects, so I can focus and work without issue. That’s probably the most important thing – to be able to focus and get my work done without making mistakes.  It also helps with sleep. I get terrible nightmares and sleep paralysis when I am on Tramadol which I just never get with cannabis medicines.

Why do you think talking openly and publicly about women’s pain is so important? 

Just knowing that you are not alone is so important. Women’s pain is still tied up with the old stereotype of ‘hysteria’ and women are often left to languish in pain without a diagnosis for years, which has a huge effect on your mental health, so you’re stuck in a catch-22 of being depressed because you are in pain and don’t know why, and then your depression is blamed as the cause of your pain. 

There is also a fundamental lack of joined up thinking when it comes to gynaecological symptoms with all your other symptoms, so co-morbidities are missed. I don’t know if this is just because of the spectacular lack of sex specific training that doctors go through, with the male medical body being the default body, or down to some belief that the two cannot ever be related? Or more simply – the patriarchy. 

I think we are also still shamed for talking openly about sex and our bodies as women. We don’t talk openly about periods, contraception, menopause, vulva’s. It’s still very taboo. Who sits around the table and says, ‘actually I rarely have sex as it feels like I’m being stabbed every time I do’? I remember seeing Vulvodynia represented on Sex Education on Netflix and just cheering – I had never seen that before. 

I also remember each time I had to tell a new partner about this before having sex , each time I would be so scared they would think it was a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or something. I thought they would think badly of me for having this ‘thing’ that ‘normal’ women didn’t have. And I think that goes directly back to the slut-shaming we all faced in our teenage years for daring to have sex and enjoy our bodies.”

 

Integro Medical Clinics Ltd always recommend remaining under the care and treatment of your GP and specialist for your condition, while using cannabis-based medicines, and the Integro clinical team would always prefer to work in collaboration with them.

 

If this article has been of interest, you are invited to join a free webinar on Wednesday 12 May at 7pm, exploring the role of cannabis medicines in women’s health.

Expert speakers Dr Sally Ghazaleh, Sarah Higgins CNS, women’s health lead for Cannabis Patients Advocacy and Support Services (CPASS) and endometriosis patient’s Abby Hughes and Laura of The Endomonologues will candidly discuss this new field of medicine.

The event is hosted by Cannabis Health, Integro Medical Clinics and CPASS, sign up for free here

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Endometriosis & cannabis medicines: What does the research say?

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Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places

Experts at Integro Medical Clinics explain how new research indicates that cannabis medicines can be helpful in the treatment of endometriosis and other female health conditions. 

 

What is Endometriosis ?

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

It can affect women of any age and is a long-term condition that can have a significant impact on your life. Some women are badly affected, by the symptoms while others might not have any noticeable symptoms. The main symptoms of endometriosis are:

  • pain in your lower stomach or back or pelvic pain usually worse during your period
  • period pain that stops you doing your normal activities
  • pain during or after sex
  • pain when peeing or passing a bowel movement during your period
  • feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea, or blood in your pee during your period
  • Infertility and difficulty getting pregnant

You may also have heavy periods and in some women, it can have a terrible impact upon their lives and lead to feelings of depression. 

It can be difficult to diagnose endometriosis because the symptoms can vary considerably, and many other conditions can cause similar symptoms. 

A GP should refer a patient to gynaecologist for some further tests, such as an ultrasound scan or laparoscopy to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatments for endometriosis

There’s currently no cure for endometriosis, but there are treatments that can help ease the symptoms.

Treatments include:

  • hormone medicines and contraceptives – including the combined pill, the contraceptive patch, an intrauterine system (IUS), and medicines called gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogues
  • surgery to cut away patches of endometriosis tissue
  • an operation to remove part or all of the organs affected by endometriosis – such as a hysterectomy 
  • Opioid analgesics are often prescribed for pain, however there is a risk of dependency and overdose.

Using cannabis medicines to treat endometriosis symptoms

If traditional clinical approaches have failed there is a growing body of research that shows that cannabis-cased medicines (CBM’s) can be very helpful in treating endometriosis symptoms.

Female pain management consultant, Dr Sally Ghazaleh of Integro Medical Clinics commented: “The endocannabinoid system has a major role in many bodily functions, including sleep, stress, emotions, pain and immune responses.  There are a multitude of cannabis and endocannabinoid receptors  in the uterus and female reproductive system. That is why cannabis affects men and women differently. Women appear to be much more sensitive than men to many aspects of phytocannabiniod action. 

In view of the significance of the endocannabinoid system in female reproductive systems CBM’s can be particularly helpful in the management of certain female health conditions such as endometriosis.”

 A new study published in the Journal of Obstetrics Gynaecology, Canada has found one in eight Australian women with endometriosis use cannabis to alleviate pain and other symptoms, rating the plant-based medicine as the most effective way to self-manage the disorder.

Researchers from NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University and UNSW Sydney surveyed 484 Australian women with endometriosis between the ages of 18 and 45 to determine the types of strategies they used to self-manage symptoms.

They found more than three quarters of Australian women with endometriosis are turning to self-management strategies including breathing techniques, yoga, dietary changes, heat and cannabis. Cannabis was ranked as the most effective treatment by women.

The women said that along with reducing pain, they felt that cannabis significantly reduced symptoms of nausea and vomiting, gastrointestinal symptoms, problems with their sleep, feelings of depression and anxiety.

Women using cannabis also reported a decrease in the medication that they normally took for their endometriosis symptoms, with just over half saying they decreased their medication by 50 per cent or more. Reported side effects were mild and relatively rare.

Lead author on the study, NICM Health Research Institute research fellow and coordinator of the Australian Medicinal Cannabis Research and Education Collaboration, Justin Sinclair said that due to the limitations of existing medical treatments for endometriosis, women are turning to self-care or lifestyle interventions for symptom relief. Although more research is needed into the effectiveness of these self-management strategies.

“Cannabis has a long history of use in ancient and scientific literature for various conditions such as period pain, however until now nothing has been investigated for cannabis being used for endometriosis,” he said.

Past research has demonstrated that certain compounds within cannabis known as cannabinoids exert analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity. Our research sought to determine the prevalence, tolerability, and self-reported effectiveness of cannabis in women with endometriosis.” 

Although the study showed promising results for the use of cannabis for endometriosis symptoms, Sinclair cautioned that cannabis use was not without risk, however the reported rates of adverse effects were low in their study.

Dr Anthony Ordman, senior clinical adviser and hon. clinical director of Integro Medical Clinics, added: “Integro Medical Clinics always recommend remaining under the care and treatment of your GP and specialist for your condition, while using cannabis-based medicines, and the Integro clinical team would always prefer to work in collaboration with them.”

 

If this article has been on interest, you are invited to join a free webinar on Wednesday 12 May at 7pm, exploring the role of cannabis medicines in women’s health.

Expert speakers Dr Sally Ghazaleh, Sarah Higgins CNS, women’s health lead for Cannabis Patients Advocacy and Support Services (CPASS) and endometriosis patient’s Abby Hughes and Laura of The Endomonologues will candidly discuss this new field of medicine.

The event is hosted by Cannabis Health, Integro Medical Clinics and CPASS, sign up for free here

 

 

If you would like further information, or to make an appointment for a medical consultation with Dr Sally Ghazaleh, please contact Integro Clinics:  

www.integroclinics.com

Contact@integroclinics.com

Twitter: @clinicsintegro

Further help and support can be found at the following patient charities: 

Endometriosis UK (@EndometriosisUK) / Twitter 

 Endometriosis.org (@Endometriosis) / Twitter 

 

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