Here’s the thing, when we’re talking about your immune system, we’re spanning a complex network of organs and cells tasked with protecting you from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and cancer cells. If we then said that some immune system disorders can cause your body’s immune system to either overact or cause abnormally low activity, doesn’t this sound counterintuitive to the whole purpose of your immune system in the first place?

We know it does, but in a nutshell, that’s what autoimmune disease refers to. It’s basically where the immune system goes into overdrive, leading your body down the garden path and making it mistakenly attack and damage its own tissues. As all this is going on, immune deficiency diseases simultaneously decrease the body’s ability to fight off invaders. To put it another way, it makes you more vulnerable to infections. 

With more than 80 known autoimmune disorders impacting up to 20% of people in the US, it’s prevalent. Annoyingly for us women, autoimmune diseases also have a clear gender bias towards us, (no, that does not make us feel special) occurring at a rate of 2 to 1 on average. 

But hold up, there is some good news! There’s no cure for autoimmunity, but there are various ways to help manage these conditions. Before we dive into the potential benefits of CBD for autoimmune conditions, let’s get clued up on these conditions and the natural supports available.

Why Are Autoimmune Disorders More Common In Women?

If you’re burning for the answer to why these diseases are more common in women, you’ll have to wait it out. In the science world, the cause of autoimmunity is still being researched, although there are theories explaining the higher presence of these disorders among women and these seem to point to either sex hormones or sex chromosomes. 

Susan Kovats, an immunologist at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, has shed some light on the sex hormone theory. She tells us, “It is unclear whether female predominance in many autoimmune disorders is a result of higher levels of female hormones like estrogen, low levels of male hormones like testosterone, or the combination of the two. Many autoimmune diseases also tend to impact women during periods of significant stress, like pregnancy, or during a considerable hormonal change, which may also support this theory.”

Meanwhile, other researchers believe that the sex chromosomes may play an important role in the development of autoimmunity. If we get a little nerdy for a moment, some animal studies suggest that mice with two X chromosomes develop autoimmune conditions more frequently than their XY counterparts. And that’s even when all the mice have been engineered to have the same sex organs and hormones. 

Skip over to the men with Klinefelter syndrome, an autoimmune condition, and scientists have discovered that they have an extra X chromosome, and hey presto, these men develop certain autoimmune disorders at similar rates to women. One potential explanation here is that there are several genes on the X chromosomes that have been found to play a role in immune function. 

At this point, it sounds a little like our sex hormones are working against us, but let’s not play the blame game too fast. The most recent science combines both theories, taking a nuanced look at how the complex set of interactions between hormones, X chromosomes, and other physiological factors disproportionately impact women in the case of autoimmunity. That is to say, this is one complicated picture.


The Most Common Autoimmune Conditions in Women

The news flash at this stage is that while some autoimmune diseases are more common in men, women are typically more susceptible, sometimes by a whopping factor of 16 or more. And if you’re into naming names, here’s a list of the most common autoimmune diseases that impact women:

  • Sjogren’s syndrome: Characterized by a noticeable dry mouth and dry eyes, this is all due to the immune system attacking its own healthy cells that produce saliva and tears. Sjogren’s syndrome commonly develops alongside other autoimmune conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. This is a systemic disease that gets busy across the entire body, leading to other symptoms like joint and muscle pain, dental conditions, fatigue, and dreaded vaginal dryness among others.
  • Thyroid disease: To sum up, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease are thyroid autoimmune conditions. Talking Hashimoto’s, it’s a disorder where the immune system attacks the thyroid which in turn causes an underactive thyroid gland, also referred to as hypothyroidism. You’ll spot Hashimoto’s by symptoms like fatigue, dry skin, unexplained weight gain, muscle weakness, stiff joints, and more. Hop across to Grave’s disease, and here the thyroid overproduces hormones which cause symptoms ranging from anxiety, weight loss, heat sensitivity, hand tremors, irregular menstrual cycles, insomnia, and other physical ailments. 
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (Lupus): This inflammatory condition has far-reaching impacts across various physiological systems. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs, impacting everything from the joints, heart, brain and kidneys to blood cells, lungs, and skin. The chronic disorder can also make you feel like you’re on a seesaw, with periodic flare-ups and then improvements. Common symptoms include muscle pain, sharp chest pain, pain when breathing, anemia, fatigue, rashes, anxiety, joint stiffness, and swelling.  
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder characterized by pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function within the joints. When it’s severe, rheumatoid arthritis can also attack internal organs. The long-term inflammation of this condition can cause bone erosion and joint deformity. So, it’s no wonder that people with this autoimmune disorder can experience painful joints and muscles, swollen or stiff joints, fatigue, anemia, and other related symptoms. 
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): Often thought of as a potentially physically disabling disease, MS attacks the central nervous system, eating away protective nerve coverings in the brain and spinal cord. It’s worth noting that this is a rare autoimmune disorder, and it can cause several different symptoms ranging from vision loss to pain, fatigue, involuntary movement, muscle cramps, vertigo, anxiety along with a whole range of other physical and mental indicators. 
  • Celiac disease: With celiac disease, the immune system reacts to eating gluten which is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. In short, this chronic inflammation from consuming gluten damages the small intestine’s lining which can cause malnutrition from improper absorption as well as other medical complications. Symptoms of celiac disease include but are not limited to abdominal pain, joint pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, cramping, itching, and rashes.

Autoimmunity is indeed a highly complex thing and there is a mishmash of factors that contribute to its development. It’s not completely impossible to define though, and there are a few root issues that scientists and healthcare professionals suspect play a role:

Digestive Problems

Lightening fact: most of the immune system lives in the gut? It figures then, that when the gut becomes injured or impaired, it can sucker punch your immune function. Recent research has found that certain types of gut bacteria can travel to other organs, leading to an autoimmune response. Emerging studies are also discovering that gut permeability, or leaky gut, can also be a risk for autoimmunity. It’s believed that when the gut wall is damaged, chemicals, microbes, and heavy metals can enter other areas of the body causing autoimmune processes. The gut is currently being studied as a potential therapeutic target in cases of rheumatoid arthritis as researchers are finding data supporting intestinal barrier dysfunction among this disease pathology.

Chronic Stress

It’s common knowledge that chronic stress can wreak havoc on our health and cause devastation to the body. Left unchecked, ongoing stress can not only strain the nervous system and the gut but can also deplete the body of vitamins and suppress the immune system over time. This has been further backed up by research, including a recent study which found that people diagnosed with stress-related disorders were more likely to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and were at a higher risk of developing multiple autoimmune conditions.

Infection Exposure

When it comes to safeguarding our health, certain infections may also trigger autoimmunity in predisposed or vulnerable people. There are many autoimmune conditions that have been linked to an infection such as Lyme disease. Research supports that Lyme disease may initiate autoantibodies in individuals, leading to the development of arthritis. While there are many people exposed to these infections that don’t develop autoimmunity, it could be a significant risk factor.

Environmental Toxin Exposure

The primary job of the immune system is to defend it against foreign invaders. In some cases, it can become overwhelmed (we know the feeling) due to environmental toxin exposure. Since there are thousands of toxins with very minimal safety data available, researchers have not been able to pinpoint one as a cause of autoimmune disorders. However, there is research that identifies specific toxins as triggers for autoimmunity. These include BPAs found in plastic, asbestos, and mercury. Read more about the impacts of bisphenols like BPA on fertility here.      

Dietary Triggers

Gluten doesn’t only impact individuals with Celiac disease. The wheat protein has also been linked to other autoimmune disorders like thyroid disease, arthritis, and type 1 diabetes. More and more emerging research also suggests that Western diets, including the Standard American Diet, play a role in inflammatory autoimmune disease. If you eat a lot of highly processed, high sugar “fast foods” you’re at risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and to add to the list, it’s now believed to also trigger autoimmunity.

Genetic Predisposition

We all know about things running in the family, but with autoimmune disorders, there does seem to be a common genetic tendency to run in the bloodlines. So, if autoimmunity runs in your family, you may have genes that predispose you to an increased risk of developing one of these conditions. Autoimmunity can develop differently among family members, with one individual having rheumatoid arthritis and the other having type 1 diabetes.

As it stands, there are no known cures for autoimmune diseases or preventative medications. Before we get totally despondent, we need to put a big footnote on this, because certain lifestyle choices can help minimize your risk of developing autoimmunity. These management techniques can also help maintain remission, reduce flare-ups, and improve your quality of life. And that is what we need to hear, right? Especially if you already have an autoimmune condition. 

The Power of Diet and Mindful Consumption

Eating foods that you are intolerant to can cause digestive issues, gut bacteria imbalances, leaky gut, and increase the risk of a flare-up in those that have autoimmunity. Common intolerances can include wheat, gluten, dairy, and fructose. If you need help, working with a nutritionist, doing allergy food testing, or trying an elimination diet are all powerful ways to help you find what foods are suitable for you.

For prevention, whole food diets are the best recipe (pun intended) for supporting a healthy gut and boosting your nutrient intake. Whole foods like meat, vegetables, and fruits contain nutrients like antioxidants, zinc, and omega-3s for supporting autoimmunity. There are also diets like the Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP) or carnivore diet that have preliminary and anecdotal accounts for helping individuals with these conditions maintain remission through inflammation modulation.

Play With Stress Management Tools

We know it can feel that way, but please know that stress management is not out of your control. Clever clogs have stacked up the data showing the role of stress in both autoimmune onset and flare-ups, which makes managing stress extra crucial for both prevention and management. Step one is having a comprehensive stress management tool kit because it helps with long-term success for autoimmunity and as a bonus, it’s a super-powerful health tool for just about everything in your life. There are endless options for alleviating stress that is all bio-individual, so this is about finding your space. Luxuriate over your exploration and enjoy it. Whether it’s yoga, exercise, meditation, breathwork, journaling, therapy, new hobbies, and spending time with loved ones, there’s no right or wrong, it’s about getting the tools that fit you.

Pharmaceutical Options for Autoimmune Disorders

Another option is immunosuppressant drugs. These are a class of pharmaceuticals that suppress the body’s overactive immune system, and the sum up here is that these drugs are often incorporated into a comprehensive treatment plan for individuals with autoimmune conditions. The side effects of immunosuppressants vary widely but all do carry the risk of serious infection which is worth noting. In short, as these drugs weaken the immune system, they can make you more susceptible to infection and make those infections harder to treat. They also pose health problems for people with cardiovascular, kidney, or liver disease. So, don’t go solo here. It’s always best to work with your healthcare professional to nail the best options.



How Can CBD Help Women With Autoimmune Conditions?

While there still needs to be significant strides in clinical research on CBD and autoimmunity, the existing preliminary and anecdotal data is quite compelling. Cannabis is believed to be an immuno-modulator meaning that it has a biphasic effect based on that individual’s immune function. Essentially, if someone’s immune response is overactive, an immuno-modulator would down-regulate the immune response. For those with a deficit immune response, it would have the opposite effect, increasing immune activity. The patient’s therapeutic response is dependent on how their individual molecular environment is behaving. Researchers believe that this may offer a beneficial strategy for autoimmune condition treatment. Preliminary studies on specific conditions like multiple sclerosis and autoimmune myocarditis showcase CBD’s promising therapeutic potential.

As clinical trials on CBD are ongoing, we hope to see more evidence and data regarding this potential treatment option in the future. For now, CBD may offer symptom support for a variety of autoimmune conditions impacting women:

Managing stress is important for prevention as well as reducing flare-ups. While you should never solely rely on CBD for stress management, it does offer an encouraging tool for alleviating stress. Preliminary studies support CBD’s stress relief potential.

CBD’s renowned pain relief properties have been widely celebrated and also tested in clinical trials. Specific pain studies have been completed on autoimmune disorders like arthritis, showing promising pain and inflammation support.

Tip: Soak in the tub with our Invigorating Bath Salts and take our Balance CBD Tincture for a double whammy of internal and external pain support.

Anxiety can be a common symptom of many autoimmune conditions. CBD’s anti-anxiety properties may help provide further support for individuals experiencing autoimmunity.

Preclinical and anecdotal accounts show that CBD may provide therapeutic promise for fatigue and sleep problems like insomnia. While the relationship between CBD and sleep needs further investigation, the data available shows its promising value for improving sleep quality.

Tip: Try adding our Dream Tincture to our Harmonizing Bloom CBD Tea for an extra yummy night’s sleep.

From dry skin caused by Sjogren’s syndrome to rashes caused by Celiac disease, topical CBD may soothe these skin conditions. CBD interacts with cannabinoid receptors throughout the skin and may offer anti-inflammatory properties for calming rashes, dermatitis, and other skin irritants.

Tip: Massage our Comforting Balm to problem spots and say “ahhhh”.

How to Use CBD for Autoimmune Conditions

If we had to do the elevator pitch, we’d say autoimmune conditions are very serious and complex, and always need the expert help of a healthcare professional. So, before you do anything, speak to your doctor, and that includes trying CBD, especially if you’re taking any medication. Any expert would agree that CBD should never be your only solution for autoimmune disorders. It demands a comprehensive and tailored plan to successfully address your wellbeing, from nutrition to stress management.

The interesting thing is that cannabinoid therapy varies from person to person, and this makes self-experimentation important (and fun!) For stress and pain management, it’s best to start low and slow until the desired effects are achieved. Because we highly rate the balanced approach, in terms of preventative benefits, you’ll need to use CBD alongside a healthy diet and stress management plan for optimum results too. And as with any new supplementation, get geeky and keep a journal to track your experience, dosage, and frequency so you can see what’s working.



Press Pause CBD for Autoimmune Conditions

As women, we understand the complicated nuances of our body chemistry and the challenges we uniquely face. All these elements can impact our complex immune health and increase the risk of autoimmunity. For all these reasons and then some, we’ve handcrafted our premium organic CBD products, for you and women like you. We’re always happy to help you find the right products for supporting overall wellness and supporting symptoms of autoimmune disorders. If you want to know more, we’re here! Shop our wellness products or simply contact us for more information.