Did you know that 1 in 4 women are trying cannabis to treat menopause symptoms? Welcome to part three of our series dedicated to helping women navigate menopause. Today we’ll be focusing on the connection between poor sleep, hot flashes, and weight gain during menopause and share how cannabis can play a role in helping women feel their best. Be sure to stay tuned for part 4, filled with expert insights on everyone’s favorite topic… sex!
Ellen Scanlon (00:00):
This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over. If you’re listening today because you are having trouble sleeping and want a product rec, I’ve got you covered. Camino Midnight Blueberry gummies are available at licensed dispensaries across the country. These THC infused gummies will help you fall asleep faster and feel rested in the morning. They’re also very yummy, a great treat before bed. Try Camino Midnight Blueberry gummies for a great night’s sleep tonight.
Dr. Lauren Streicher (00:46):
Why is it that cannabis is so helpful when it comes to sleep in women in this age group? Well, number one is that we have reason to believe that it is going to help alleviate hot flashes, and that’s certainly a huge, huge part of it. The second is just as an anti-inflammatory. Pain keeps people up. It’s very difficult to fall asleep if you have aches and pains.
Ellen Scanlon (01:15):
Welcome to How to Do the Pot, a podcast helping you feel confident about cannabis. I’m your host, Ellen Scanlon.
You just heard from Illinois based Dr. Lauren Streicher, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She is an MD, a menopause expert, and the host of an excellent podcast, Dr. Streicher’s Inside Information. Today we’re talking all about menopause, and this is the third episode in our series, Menopause 101. I’ll give you a quick recap of the earlier episodes and I really recommend listening to them if you haven’t yet. In episode 210, Dr. Streicher explained what menopause and perimenopause are. I shared how symptoms can start much younger than many people realize, and we learned why women are turning to cannabis for relief of symptoms related to stress, sleep, sex, and hot flashes. In episode 211, I shared how a lack of research about women’s health has created basically a knowledge gap for women who are entering menopause.
We talked about hormone therapy and a Harvard study on menopause and cannabis. There are more than 30 symptoms related to perimenopause and menopause. In today’s episode, I’m going to talk about some of the most common; sleep issues, hot flashes, and their connection to weight gain. I’ve heard from so many of you that this series has really helped you understand what is happening in your own body. I hope you feel more knowledgeable and realize that you are not alone. Please consider this series as inspiration to keep asking questions if you’re not feeling your best. What I have learned is that menopause does not have to be a terrible time in a woman’s life.
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Earlier in the Menopause 101 series, I talked with Massachusetts based journalist Megan Margulies. Megan wrote an article for InStyle Magazine about a Harvard study that showed women are turning to cannabis for relief from issues related to menopause. If you have been brushing off challenging symptoms, Megan says it’s time to change that.
Megan Margulies (04:47):
The study had 258 women participate, and they found that almost 80% of these women found relief with cannabis for the menopause related symptoms. The majority of those people, it was for sleep disturbance and then the rest was for mood and anxiety. Even in the study itself, at the end it says what this study accomplishes is not that this is the way to go for relieving symptoms with menopause. This isn’t the gold standard, but what it means is that it’s absolutely worth looking deeper into and researching more. Even if it’s the smallest disturbance in your life or a very minor symptom or what feels minor, if it’s insomnia here and there, but you’ve never had insomnia in your life, we’re still allowed to want to feel healthy and not deal with these symptoms.
Even just for PMS, how many men, if they had to deal with having their period, dealing with PMS … I mean, the world would shut down. To brush aside women who are in perimenopause is just so infuriating because even the smallest symptoms can ruin your day and your week and how you behave as a mother and a partner and a friend.
Ellen Scanlon (06:21):
Kelly Kaiser, the California-based founder of cannabis accessories line Kelly Green, went to her doctor to talk about perimenopause symptoms. It wasn’t the most helpful visit.
Kelly Kaiser (06:33):
I am currently in perimenopause and I started having symptoms about a year ago. I have to say that I wish I had known I was going to kind of be on my own for this part of the female journey. My current OBGYN is great, but wasn’t very helpful and it was a little bit alarming to tell her everything I felt and then get kind of not the greatest response. Because I wasn’t late on any of my periods there was kind of no action required, but I did have symptoms. The symptoms that I had, and I’m still having, are that I’ve had a change in my cholesterol. I’ve had joint and muscle aches. Not even after I work out, just kind of all the time lately.
Then I basically have PMS symptoms during times that are not my period and I would say that along with that, I sometimes unfortunately have mood swings. For the last 48 years, I’ve always slept well and I have a lot of girlfriends who don’t and I really feel for them, but I will say in the last couple of months, I haven’t slept all the way through the night as often and so I think this is really part of the bigger picture, which is just this hormonal change. As far as sleep goes, that’s kind of where I’m at. It’s gotten a little more disrupted than my usual perfect sleep that I was so proud of.
Ellen Scanlon (07:55):
The main message I hope you take away from this series is that if you are noticing new symptoms, there is help out there. You can go to menopause.org and on the website look for a tab called Find A Doctor, put in your zip code and you’ll find physicians with training in menopause who can meet in person or through telemedicine. Please don’t give up if your current doctor isn’t very knowledgeable about menopause.
When people ask me about cannabis and sleep, my first question for them is, “Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?” If staying asleep is a struggle for you, taking CBD regularly will bring balance to your sleep cycle and allow you to rest all night. If falling asleep is a challenge for you, you’ll need THC. We have a very popular four-part series all about cannabis and sleep, which I recommend listening to if you haven’t yet. It’s episodes 192, 193, 194, and 195. I’ll link to it in the show notes. Those sleep episodes go into lots of detail, so today I’m going to focus on the specifics of sleep in perimenopause and menopause. I asked Dr. Streicher how she advises patients who come to her with menopause related sleep challenges.
Dr. Lauren Streicher (09:27):
Sleep is so interesting because like many things, it’s not one solution fits all. If you look at why is it that midlife women and post menopause women have so much trouble sleeping, it’s not one thing. It can be hot flashes, it can be sleep apnea, it can be restless leg syndrome. It could be the snorer in the bed with you bed. It could be stress, it can be anxiety, it can be you’re getting up to pee every 20 minutes, or it could be all of the above.
Ellen Scanlon (09:58):
Patty Pappas, the California-based co-founder of cannabis brand Hello Again, didn’t know what to do about hot flashes, night sweats and the effect it was having on her sleep.
Patty Pappas (10:09):
I started probably in my early 40s. I was fortunate enough to go through my major heaviest symptoms while I also had three teenage daughters living at home, which was rough because they were going through their own hormonal imbalances. But I would have hot flashes just come on 10, 15 times a day, come and go. I would sleep with a towel underneath me, so I would sweat through the towel, then I would take the towel off and I would sweat through the night. Sleep became a real issue for me and then that leads to just a host of other … irritability and it affects the relationships in your life, your intimate relationships when you’re exhausted and tired, for sure. I just kind of gutted it out and I didn’t really understand what the options were.
Not knowing what it was, not knowing how to treat it, not talking to any about it, I probably had too much wine at night to calm down and to relax, which was the opposite of what actually happens. I think women do that often and they turn to prescription medication to help sleep through the night, which causes a whole series of other issues for you, so I wish I had discovered cannabis or it was available much earlier.
Ellen Scanlon (11:22):
I’m hopeful that we will have more data like the Harvard study about cannabis and menopause in the future. Dr. Streicher shares where cannabis is showing the most promise in relieving symptoms.
Dr. Lauren Streicher (11:35):
But when you look at cannabis and you say, “Why is it that cannabis is so helpful when it comes to sleep in women in this age group?”, well, number one is that we have reason to believe that it is going to help alleviate hot flashes, and that’s certainly a huge, huge part of it. The second is just as an anti-inflammatory. Pain keeps people up. It’s very difficult to fall asleep if you have aches and pains, whether it’s from arthritis or general muscle aches or whatever else is going on. So just using something that is going to help with the aches and pains is going to make a difference. I mean, we know that even people that do things like take Advil PM and products such as that tend to sleep better, not just because it has the sleepy part in it, but because it has the Advil part in it because it’s an anti-inflammatory, and certainly we can say the same for cannabis.
Ellen Scanlon (12:38):
You’d be surprised how often I tell people I’m a cannabis advocate and they say, “Oh, I don’t like weed. I just take an edible to sleep every night. It’s changed my life.” What I think they mean is that they don’t like to get high and you don’t have to get high to feel the benefits of cannabis, especially for sleep. The THC in cannabis is what will help you fall asleep faster and THC is available to buy in licensed dispensaries. One of the most popular sleep products out there is from a woman-owned company that is one of my longtime favorite brands, Camino by Kiva. If you have trouble falling asleep, you will love Camino Midnight Blueberry gummies. They connect with your body’s endocannabinoid system to promote restful sleep and lower your body’s response to anxiety and stress, and as Dr. Streicher just explained, they also support pain relief.
The Midnight Blueberry gummy is Camino’s best-selling product. You can get your hands on them in 10 states and I’ll link to them in the show notes. If this is your first time trying weed for sleep, I suggest giving yourself maybe a week to experiment. Midnight Blueberry gummies have five milligrams of THC and one milligram of CBN. CBN is what’s called a minor cannabinoid, and it’s showing a lot of promise as a powerful sedative. That one milligram of CBN is kind of a magic ingredient that really supports sleep when combined with THC. I always recommend to start out by cutting your edible in half and gummies can take one to two hours to feel the effects. Jot down some notes in your phone. Are you dozing off pretty quickly? Are you sleeping through the night?
The stress of watching the clock tick by and imagining that you’ll never be able to sleep is the worst. One of the most valuable things that cannabis for sleep can bring is peace of mind. I hear from so many people that cannabis for sleep has really improved their lives. Camino is a brand that has always been incredibly focused on consistent dosage, which means that you can really trust your experience will be consistent every time. Their gummies are also super delicious, a great treat before bed. Try Camino’s Midnight Blueberry gummy for better sleep tonight.
Hot flashes are by far the most common symptom of menopause with about 75% of all women experiencing them. Dr. Streicher explains what we know about cannabis and hot flashes.
Dr. Lauren Streicher (15:45):
Well, we know CBDs and anti-inflammatory, CBD is going to help with pain. Well, it appears the THC, though, is the magic ingredient to help with hot flashes because anandamide is in the pathway that is in temperature regulation and you need THC basically to get that anandamide. When I went to medical school, and I’m aging myself here, we never even knew the phrase endocannabinoid system. It really hadn’t been identified. It was certainly not understood. As time has gone on, of course there’s been a tremendous amount of research and understanding what our internal endocannabinoid system is and the sorts of things it controls, and there’s not very much that it doesn’t control, quite frankly.
But one of the things on that list is temperature regulation. When we look at what keeps us at a nice even temperature so that we don’t have hot flashes, so we don’t get cold when we’re not supposed to be, this all takes place in the brain. The candy neurons are really what controls our internal thermostat and estrogen controls those candy neurons. When we run out of estrogen, those candy neurons go into overdrive. They get crazy, they enlarge, they don’t work quite right, and then we start having hot flashes. But the point is this is all part of the endocannabinoid system, and we know that when we look at the endocannabinoid system, that estrogen is in many of these pathways and the loss of estrogen impacts on how the endocannabinoid system works.
Ellen Scanlon (17:22):
I hear from a lot of women that menopause symptoms can create kind of a downward spiral of symptoms that all feel bad, but might seem unrelated. Dr. Streicher explains how for women, a lack of sleep, hot flashes and weight gain are actually all connected.
Dr. Lauren Streicher (17:43):
Weight gain in menopause is complicated. It is real. We used to say that it’s because metabolism slows down at the time of menopause. We now know that not to be true. Menopause doesn’t slow down until the 60s and let’s face it, men and women are aging at the same time, but it’s women that are gaining weight around the time of menopause. When we look at the specifics of why do women gain weight, well, number one is we look at sleep. We know that there are hormones, the leptins and ghrelins that are controlled by sleep and the leptins and ghrelins not only impact on metabolism but also appetite. If women get less than seven hours of sleep a night, this is going to cause an imbalance in their leptins and ghrelins and their metabolism is going to slow down and they’re going to eat more.
Why don’t women sleep in menopause? Well, hot flashes is the number one reason, but we know that even the women that don’t have hot flashes have sleep disturbance and in addition, sometimes women don’t know that they’re having hot flashes. We know from very good studies that they’re not even aware of all the hot flashes that they’re having. When women would come to me and say, “I’m having a really hard time losing weight”, the first question I have is, “How are you sleeping and are you having hot flashes?” and then find that if we address that, it’s going to help with the weight loss. The other issue with hot flashes aside from the lack of sleep is that every time someone has a hot flash, they have a surge in cortisol. We know that those surges in cortisol over the long term have an impact on the ability to lose weight. The other thing that we also know is that women that don’t sleep well make bad food choices and they don’t move around as much.
Ellen Scanlon (19:27):
Carrie Mapes, the co-founder of Hello Again, found that as her sleep got worse, it was harder to maintain other healthy habits.
Carrie Mapes (19:36):
I didn’t have any trouble going to sleep. I didn’t sleep well, so I was probably tossing and turning and sleeping too lightly, and I would wake up at 2:00 AM every night and not be able to go back to sleep until 3:30, 3:45 or so. I too drank too much coffee, ate too much sugar, and drank too much wine to just kind of get the pick me up in the middle of the day and then have a treat at the end of the day and just feel better. Comfort food, definitely just to have a full body relaxation with the Chardonnay and all of those things came with their own issues as well. My level of exercise went down. It was a long tenure. I wouldn’t say it was a struggle every day, but it was certainly a time period when I didn’t feel my best.
Ellen Scanlon (20:31):
For Michelle Courtright, the Minnesota based founder of cannabis brand Jane, keeping a journal helped her pay attention to how cannabis was helping her.
Michelle Courtright (20:41):
I would recommend also keeping a journal. Sometimes the benefits of cannabis are subtle, and when you start writing down how you’re feeling before with the menopause symptoms, whether it’s being irritable or racing thoughts or trying to sleep or whatever, the cannabis is going to level out all of those in a very smooth way, in a very subtle way. It’s nice to be able to look back at your journal and realize, “Wow, that’s right. I did have the worst insomnia and now my sleep is much more restorative.”
Ellen Scanlon (21:12):
Women often feel like they’re on their own with menopause symptoms. Dr. Streicher’s mantra is when women have good information, they make good choices. Since sleep changes as you get older, she says don’t make assumptions about what’s going on. Find an expert.
Dr. Lauren Streicher (21:33):
It is so important for women who are really struggling with sleep that they don’t just assume that it’s hot flashes or aches and pains. If it’s a real issue, I really encourage women to get it evaluated to get a sleep study because we know that post menopause sleep apnea increases even in thin women. We think about sleep apnea being something that overweight, obese people have, the snorers have, and one thing that’s very interesting is there’s actually changes in the tissue in the back of the throat, the tongue, the epiglottis that make those tissues a little floppier, if you will, and women tend to develop sleep apnea just because of those structural changes. You can’t always assume that it’s because of hot flashes or aches and pains.
Ellen Scanlon (22:19):
I hope this episode has been helpful. Whether you are in the throes of perimenopause or learning about how your body might change in the future, please take your symptoms seriously and know that there is help out there. Sleep is an incredibly important part of maintaining your health and your vitality, so a quick recap. Hot flashes cause sleep disturbances and THC helps to reduce hot flashes by regulating your body’s temperature. Pain may also be keeping you awake. Cannabis is anti-inflammatory, which helps with pain relief, so you’ll sleep better.
Our next Menopause 101 episode is all about sex. You’ll hear from experts about how cannabis can help increase your sex drive, soothe painful sex, and improve orgasms. If you liked this episode, please share it with a friend. We love new listeners and are here to help everyone feel confident about cannabis.
Thank you for listening to How to Do the Pot. For lots more information and past episodes, visit dothepot.com. Are you one of the thousands of people who love How to Do the Pot’s newsletter? If you’re not getting it, please sign up at dothepot.com. If you like How to Do the Pot, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. It really helps people find the show. Thank you to producers Maddie Fair and Nick Patri. I’m Ellen Scanlon, and stay tuned for more of How to Do the Pot.
If you’re listening today because you are having trouble sleeping and want a product rec, I’ve got you covered. Camino Midnight Blueberry gummies are available at licensed dispensaries across the country. These THC infused gummies will help you fall asleep faster and feel rested in the morning. They’re also very yummy. A great treat before bed. Try Camino Midnight Blueberry gummies for a great night’s sleep tonight
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