By Cassidy Morrison, Senior Health Reporter for Dailymail.Com
22:17 November 15, 2023, updated 22:24 November 15, 2023
- Molecules called endocannabinoids have been shown to affect pain regulation.
- Endometriosis, caused by uterine tissue growing outside the body, is painful
- READ MORE: Doctors consider new drug that could end women’s monthly agony
Cannabis could help millions of women suffering from endometriosis combat the pain associated with this debilitating disease.
Endometriosis is a chronic disease that affects 6.5 million women in the United States. It causes extreme pain during periods and sex, as well as chronic pelvic pain, abdominal bloating, nausea and infertility.
There is currently no cure and treatment, aimed at controlling symptoms, includes invasive surgery.
Research has suggested that the microbiota – a collection of bacteria found in the gut – and neurons called endocannabinoids bind to receptors in the central nervous system that play a role in the development and progression of endometriosis.
Endocannabinoids, as well as cannabinoids, which come from outside sources like marijuana ingestion, have analgesic effects that suppress the processing of pain signals sent to the brain.
The gut is part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which influences pain levels, making it a promising target for treating chronic pain associated with endometriosis, researchers said.
An imbalance in these three elements can trigger inflammation and increase the presence of bad bacteria in the body, which contributes to worsening endometriosis.
In the female reproductive organs, endometrial tissue called the endometrium lines the uterus. The body generates a new endometrium each menstrual cycle to prepare for a fertilized egg. But in people with endometriosis, this tissue grows outside the uterus.
As tissue builds up, it increases the risk of painful cysts, scarring, inflammation, and tissue that connects organs and binds them together.
This buildup of tissue can block the fallopian tubes – the eggs travel down to reach the uterus – or form scar tissue, making it more difficult to get pregnant.
There is currently only one trial looking at using cannabis to treat endometriosis pain, specifically involving CBD – which does not get you high – and vaporized THC, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis.
The latest study by researchers from Australia and New Zealand draws on findings from more than 140 journal articles suggesting that blood levels of endocannabinoids are correlated with endometriosis pain, low levels of endocannabinoids being associated with increased pain.
Endometriosis has been described as an “endocannabinoid deficiency” by some researchers. In people with endometriosis, low levels of CB1 receptors have been associated with disruptions in the ECS and appear to affect the regulation of pain associated with endometriosis.
Activating specific receptors in the brain – CB1 and CB2 – with endocannabinoids present in the body or cannabinoids from elsewhere by smoking or vaping THC can reduce the brain’s perception of pain signals and trigger an analgesic effect.
Experimental models of endometriosis studied in mice showed that repeated exposure to cannabis interfered with the growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterus.
A similar study showed that exposing mice to CBD reduced the diameter, volume and surface area of uterine lesions, demonstrating its ability to counteract free radicals in the body that can damage cells.
Researchers therefore suggest that cannabis use could help women manage the pain levels associated with this serious disorder.
But the evidence on whether cannabis can actually reduce pain is mixed.
Proponents of marijuana say the drug has myriad health benefits, including its ability to soothe pain.
But a U.S. government-backed analysis of 25 trials concluded that there is “very little scientifically valid research” to support marijuana as an effective pain reliever.
The authors of the latest report from researchers in Australia and New Zealand said: “These promising results highlight the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD and THC for pain associated with endometriosis, justifying the need for studies into the man. »
Their report was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.
With more than 176 million women suffering from endometriosis worldwide, many struggle to get a diagnosis despite the pain disrupting their daily lives.
There are three types of endometriosis, depending on its location.
The most common is superficial peritoneal endometriosis, which affects the peritoneum or the thin membrane that lines the abdomen and pelvis. This is found in 80 percent of women diagnosed.
A second type of endometriosis also affects the ovaries and causes endometriomas. These are dark, fluid-filled cysts, or “chocolate cysts,” most commonly found on the ovaries and affect 17 to 44% of patients.
Deeply infiltrating endometriosis, which causes extreme pelvic pain in one to five percent of people with endometriosis, refers to endometrial tissue that has penetrated organs, including the bowel and bladder. It can develop into nerves, usually the sciatic nerves, which run down each leg.
It is possible to have more than one type of endometriosis and it is not clear whether they all behave the same way.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes endometriosis, but some believe genes play a role, as well as a condition called retrograde menstruation, in which menstrual blood containing endometrial cells passes through the fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity where they adhere to the organs.