First, What Are Hormones?
Hormones are a class of molecules that give parts of the body instructions.
They’re produced by glands, and they play a role in regulating a wide range of body functioning, including:
Too much or too little of a given hormone can cause issues, interrupting the body’s functioning. For example, melatonin regulates the circadian rhythm. Too much leads to increased drowsiness, while on the other hand, too little may result in insomnia.
Some other hormones in humans include:
Thyroxine and triiodothyronine, which regulate metabolism.
Insulin, which affects the intake of glucose and lipids and the synthesis of triglycerides.
Adrenaline, which regulates the fight-or-flight response.
Testosterone and estradiol, the major sex hormones.
Moreover, there are many other hormones, responsible for a wide range of effects.
Even a small hormonal imbalance can cause the system to stop working as it should.
In most cases, too much or too little of a hormone can cause problems. Too little will often look like the inverse of the too-much scenario. For example, If someone has too little insulin, consequently, their blood sugar will remain high. If someone has too much insulin, however, they’ll likely experience hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
In hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland produces too much of the metabolism-regulating hormones. As a result, this causes a person to lose weight and feel hungry. Conversely, in hypothyroidism, the person may gain weight, show poor appetite, and feel tired.
Symptoms of a hormone imbalance often seem similar at first glance. People may:
Gain or lose weight
Experience mood changes, such as anxiety or depression.
Have sleep irregularities, like insomnia
Experience digestive troubles
Notice changes in sex drive
Causes of Hormone Imbalances
There are many reasons someone might develop a hormone imbalance. Some of them include:
Stress and anxiety
Improper diet and nutrition
Medications, including birth control pills
Additionally, in women, hormonal changes can result from pregnancy, breastfeeding, menstruation, and menopause.
How Can you Help Stabilize your Hormones Naturally?
Diet plays a major role. be sure to get enough:
Vitamin D, which can act like a hormone on its own and affect mood and inflammation.
Healthy fats, which can reduce insulin resistance.
Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Getting enough sleep and exercising regularly are also important steps to balancing hormones.
Get your circadian rhythm cycles in check and try to wake and sleep around the same time each day.
Taking a short 10-minute walk after eating lunch helps aid digestion and gets the blood flowing.
How CBD affects hormones
When we ingest cannabinoids like CBD, they interact with our body’s natural endocannabinoid system, or ECS. This is a complex system involved in managing physiological processes including appetite, mood, and much more.
Studies have shown that the endocannabinoid system is also involved in managing endocrine processes. It does so by activating receptors in the brain and body that directly influence activity in the thyroid, pineal, and pituitary glands.
Hence, by stimulating the endocannabinoid system, CBD and other cannabinoids can directly affect hormone levels in the body. Below are examples of how CBD influences the levels of major hormones.
CBD and cortisol
One of the primary roles of the endocrine system is to manage our response to stress. It does so via hormones like epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and cortisol.
Cortisol is one of the main hormones involved in managing stress response. It is also involved in managing metabolism, memory, and even the healing of wounds. The human body naturally produces cortisol in the adrenal gland.
Cortisol is vital to human survival and is responsible for mediating our natural “fight or flight” response. However, increased levels of cortisol are problematic, producing symptoms that can range from weight gain and mood swings to increased anxiety.
Luckily, CBD is believed to interfere with the secretion of cortisol, decreasing its prevalence in plasma samples as a result. One double-blind study administered 11 “normal” patients with CBD or a placebo to determine its effects on plasma prolactin, growth hormone, and cortisol. Although prolactin and growth hormone levels remained the same in the presence of CBD, cortisol levels dropped significantly.
CBD and insulin
Another important role of the endocrine system is to manage metabolism. One of the many ways it does so is by producing vital hormones in the pancreas. These hormones include glucagon, somatostatin, and insulin, among others.
Insulin is an important hormone that helps the body absorb and store nutrients from food. Without insulin, sugar from food would not be able to pass from your bloodstream into individual cells.
Much like with cortisol (and most other hormones), insulin imbalances can have detrimental effects on one’s health. A lack of insulin leads to an increase in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), while too much insulin leads to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
One of the most common conditions arising from insulin problems is diabetes. People with diabetes suffer from constantly high blood sugar levels because their bodies struggle to produce or use insulin properly.
A wide variety of studies have explored the effects of cannabinoids on metabolism, as well as the relationship between cannabinoids, insulin, and diabetes. Although it’s yet unclear the exact relationship between insulin and CBD, one 2006 study noted a clear drop in incidences of diabetes in mice treated with CBD—from 86% to 30%. Other studies show that CBD can directly impact the functioning of the pancreas, ultimately affecting insulin production, blood sugar levels, and more.
CBD and melatonin
It goes without saying that sleep is extremely important for good health. Our endocrine system is heavily involved in this process by producing hormones like melatonin to induce sleep or manage energy levels. Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland of the brain.
Melatonin is one of the most important hormones involved in our sleep-wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Melatonin levels tend to spike at night, then even out by the morning. Environmental factors such as darkness and blue light exposure also impact melatonin levels.
The endocannabinoid system has been shown to be very involved in the management of sleep. In fact, a study published in the Public Library of Science’s journal PLoS One found that the ECS directly regulates sleep stability via activation of CB1 receptors.
Cannabinoid receptors have been found in many different glands of the endocrine system. By activating receptors in the pineal gland, CBD may help stimulate the secretion of sleep hormones like melatonin, ultimately affecting sleep and energy levels. Moreover, CBD could make a great complement to melatonin by impacting the sleep-wake cycle. Although CBD is not usually sedative in its own right, its anxiolytic and soothing qualities may support better rest.
CBD and homeostasis
Studies have shown that cannabinoids like CBD can have direct and indirect influences on the production and secretion of hormones like cortisol, insulin, melatonin, and others. Therefore, cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system must sustain some influence on homeostasis.
Homeostasis refers to the internal balance needed for organisms to function properly. In humans, homeostasis basically ensures we are in working order. Some examples of the variables that maintain this balance include:
• Body temperature • Appetite • Thirst • Heart rate • Blood pressure • Sleep cycle
One of the key areas responsible for regulating these variables is the hypothalamus, a region of the brain composed of nerve cell clusters located just above the brainstem. The hypothalamus is one of the main parts of the endocrine system.
Just like other regions of the brain, the hypothalamus contains cannabinoid receptors. Research suggests that targeting these receptors and stimulating them with cannabinoids like CBD, for example, can help manage the many processes required for homeostasis.
Supplementing with CBD
As we’ve seen, CBD and the endocannabinoid system are very intertwined with endocrine system functioning and hormone production in the body. For those looking to bring a feeling of homeostasis back to their body, it may be worth trying out CBD!
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