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.
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 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:
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.
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:
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.
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.