About one-third of the UK’s female population is believed to experience menopause, but many report that they feel isolated and unsupported by their doctors. Can Medical Cannabis Help Manage Symptoms?
“Hot sweat? It was like a nuclear reaction,” says Lauren, a 48-year-old former mental health nurse.
“When you are thrown into it, it’s terrible, you feel low and weak, it seems that your vitality is declining.”
Lauren suddenly entered menopause at the age of 38 after a hysterectomy.
“I literally got out of surgery. They took me to the ward and after 10 minutes I felt I had an infection in my body. I was on fire,” she says. ..
“The doctor came and said,’I haven’t had any symptoms yet, I just had surgery.’ He just ignored how I felt.”
Lauren worked in a mental health ward for 30 years and saw first-hand that a woman was fired for having mental health problems, despite her apparent menopausal symptoms.
“We had a suicide attempt in a ward over the age of 50 and had a suicide attempt. [can be] It is associated with a chronic deficiency of estrogen in the body, “she explains.
“But it was considered a mental disorder rather than thinking that it could be because they were in the menopause or perimenopausal period.”
During her own journey of health, she continued to feel stigmatized by others who could not be supported by a clinician and could not understand the severity of her symptoms.
“I lacked an understanding of the psychological and emotional aspects as well as the physical aspects. Your hormones are being depleted, which affects your way of thinking and feeling about yourself and the world. I will give it, “says Lauren.
“At work, at the NHS, the procedure for menopause from the HR was to give me a fan to put it on the desk. How patronizing it is?”
Impact of menopause
according to British Menopause Association (BMS), Menopausal symptoms affect more than 75% of women, and more than 25% have severe symptoms. These last for an average of seven years, with one in three women experiencing more symptoms.
Although hot sweat is generally linked menopause, Many are unaware of other symptoms, including depression, Anxiety, depression, insomnia, decreased libido, Poor memory and fog in the brain. These are, among other things It is debilitating and has a great impact on women’s daily lives. And the lack of awareness and understanding means that women themselves may not understand why they are experiencing them.
Menopause or “menopausal transition” begins a few years before the final menstrual period and can last 4 to 8 years.
According to Dr. Dani Gordon, a medical cannabis prescriber who specializes in women’s health, emotional symptoms can begin before physical changes occur, especially in women undergoing menopause. Therefore, it is less likely that a woman will know what is happening.
“A woman came to me and said,’I feel like an alien is hijacking my brain. I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m always weeping or awkward and feeling emotional. I don’t seem to be in control, “she says.
“These symptoms of emotional dysfunction can occur before night sweats or before menstruation begins to become irregular, so there is a fairly regular cycle that can enter the beginning of that transition. . “
Symptoms can be so debilitating that a nonprofit organization released a survey of about 4,000 women in October. Newson Health Research and EducationEmphasized that 99% felt that peri-menopausal or menopausal symptoms were adversely affecting their careers.
In a 2016 BMS national survey, 47% of people who need to take a holiday say they don’t tell their employers the real reason behind their absenteeism.
Nevertheless, menopause and the symptoms of menopause are not well understood in modern health care systems. The documentary, hosted by Davina McCall earlier this year, began a viral conversation. Women feel unsupported by the GP, which is often the first port of call for those experiencing symptoms.
Lack of understanding
According to Dr. Gordon, who heard directly from patients and classmates, women are often told to “manage stress well,” “lose weight,” and “gain exercise” when seeking treatment for menopausal symptoms. ..
“”There are many reasons [symptoms] It can be awkward, “she explains.
“One of them is the fact that it is cultural and does not talk about menopause. Our culture is based on this obsession with young people and women. They are completely natural and normal and everyone I don’t want to talk about the transition they are experiencing, even though they are experiencing it. ”
Another factor is the medical system itself. Earlier this year 41 percent Many UK universities do not require the curriculum of medical schools to educate menopause. BMS offers additional training courses for GPs on menopause, but these are time consuming and costly and many do not take into account the increased pressure they are already facing.
Rachel Mason underwent a hysterectomy at the age of 30 after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She describes trying to access perimenopausal support as “terrifying,” despite receiving excellent treatment during cancer treatment.
“In all other things I can’t fail care, it was amazing, but there’s no support there when it comes to menopause,” she says.
“I was in a really bad place, so I tried to move forward with my menopausal clinic appointments, but I was told I would only do it once a month. I can imagine how many women need to go there. mosquito?”
Because GPs have not received formal training in this area, women can wait up to a year for diagnosis and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is offered, according to Dr. Louise Newson, a well-known GP specialist in menopause. Only about 37% are done.
Dr. Gordon believes this may be due to a GP who is not confident in prescribing this treatment.
She explains: “Many GPs seem unsure of the difference between HRTs that have the same body and HRTs that contain traditional progestin.
“The latest about wanting to test body identity with patients who have tried these conversations with the GP, specific non-drug approaches that can be taken for a variety of symptoms, or whether supplements can help. After discussing the study. ”
Role of cannabinoids
Dr. Gordon has successfully treated many women experiencing menopausal symptoms with cannabinoids and is in the process of opening her own private integrated medical clinic. Resilience medicine In England.
“When a woman enters menopause, her ability to regulate stress usually deteriorates because it becomes more difficult to balance the hormones, and adding extra stress hormones to the mix causes a female hormone imbalance. Also gets worse. “She says.
“Women are said to’just learn how to manage stress well’, but when the hormones are raging everywhere and the stress hormone cortisol is high, it is very difficult to manage stress physiologically. It Is difficult. Edged, frustrated, anxious, tired but wired. What cannabinoids can do is provide people with tools that help control these symptoms. “
Menopause is not currently the primary indication for prescribing cannabis-based medications in the UK, but symptoms such as anxiety and sleep factors can respond well to treatment.
“If someone can’t take HRT, they can usually take cannabinoids to improve their symptoms,” continues Dr. Gordon.
“We also have cannabinoid receptors in the uterus, the uterus, the entire female reproductive tract, and the brain region, the hypothalamus, which handles stress responses. This is called the HPA axis, the way the brain speaks to the ovaries. It also controls what is called an HPO axis.
“If you introduce high CBD during the day and a little THC to help people sleep at night, in most cases the peri-menopausal symptom clusters respond well to this. CBD reduces the stress response. Because it’s useful. “
Several overseas studies suggest that more and more women are turning to cannabis to help manage their symptoms.Study from University of Alberta In canada 1 in 3 women Near the transition of menopause, cannabis is used to manage symptoms. Similarly North American Menopause Association Of the more than 200 women in California who participated in the Midlife Women Veterans Health Survey earlier this year About 27 percent It was reported that he used or is currently using cannabis.
Lauren had been taking high doses of HRT for about 10 years when she was sick and her doctor stopped taking her for fear of a stroke. After being prescribed medical cannabis for primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), which was diagnosed last year, she realized that it actually helped with menopausal symptoms.
“MS is bad, but some of the symptoms of menopause are actually 20 times worse,” she says.
“Medical cannabis has given me a new life lease. Drinking in the morning gives me the energy to leave home and go to the gym.
“If you have problems sleeping or night sweats in the evening, you don’t feel stressed or anxious because you just relax Indica and relax your body.”
Experiencing the benefits of cannabis also gave her the confidence to speak more openly with her GP about what she had experienced.She is volunteering now PLEA (Patient-led involvement for access) Helps raise awareness so that others have access to cannabis-based medications.
“I know how good it feels, so I can turn my foot down and say,” This is helping me, I know what I need. ” increase. Life is not too short to make you feel sick. You have to regain your strength, “she says.
“I want the GP to point in the direction that women can discuss medical cannabis. It may not have been tried or opposed by them, but it simply has its advocacy. It is to inform medical professionals and have this in the toolbox when providing women with choices. “
Efforts to the stigma
Despite the fact that there are about 13 million menopausal women in the UK, it can be an isolated experience for someone like Rachel who is experiencing menopause in her thirties.
“I was really scared to experience menopause. I didn’t tell anyone because of such stigma, regardless of age. I was worried about how people would react,” she admits. ..
“If I had a group of friends who were experiencing it at the same time, we would talk about it and I think you wouldn’t feel so lonely, but none of them have the same experience.
“My biggest concern was whether I wanted to go out and socialize. I was very confused about who I was, but to be honest, I don’t really feel like it’s changed at all. . “
Rachel has launched her own CBD brand with a focus on women’s health. Talking about her situation encouraged other women in her life to open up.
“My dad’s partner suffered from terrible hot flashes. She suffered for two years and didn’t know who to talk to. She was embarrassed. When I started to be open about my situation, she So did, and when I got her to start CBD, she said they had virtually stopped, “Rachel says.“Breaking through that stigma is beneficial to everyone.”
Lauren agrees. “The biggest thing for me is the emotional and emotional feelings associated with menopause. I can feel isolated, but we are 50% of the country and feel embarrassed and embarrassed. You shouldn’t. You need to hear our voice. “
A panel of Lauren, Rachel, and clinical experts will join in to discuss the experiences of women who found medical cannabis to help manage the symptoms of menopause at 7 pm on Tuesday, November 30th.
Register for free here
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