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CBD has taken the health community by storm. Indeed, this chemical compound appears in nearly all types of products, addressing all kinds of health concerns. From supplements and oils to shampoos and cosmetics, CBD is seemingly in all sorts of health goods. Because CBD has been widely available for so little time, we are still trying to learn precisely how it affects different body systems. For people with a thyroid condition, this is what we know so far about how CBD affects your thyroid gland and related thyroid hormone levels.
CBD stands for cannabidiol. It is one of the most active ingredients of cannabis (or marijuana). It is in higher quantities in its sister plant, hemp. CBD does not create a "high" or have a psychoactive component like THC when used alone.
CBD is an oil extracted from hemp seeds. This oil is often full of healthy fats, often appearing in beauty products such as moisturizers and facial serums.
One of the most well-known and proven medical uses for CBD is managing certain types of epilepsy, especially in children. Indeed, even an FDA-approved medication (Epidiolex) contains CBD to treat a particular type of seizure condition. Beyond treating certain types of epilepsy, there is no concrete scientific evidence supporting using CBD to treat other health conditions.
With that said, numerous people and their health providers believe that CBD helps with a robust amount of health complaints and conditions, such as chronic pain, cancer pain, and joint pain.
Despite the absence of enough scientific evidence, people also use CBD oil is to anecdotally help with:
- Sleep issues
- Anxiety disorders (PTSD, panic disorders, etc.)
- Topical pain relief
- Reducing inflammation
- Hot flashes
- Neurodegenerative diseases
The endocrine system
The endocrine system is the collection of glands that release hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers that help one part of the body communicate with another part of the body.
Endocrine glands are throughout the body, and hormones constantly give and receive feedback to keep the body functioning optimally. The hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and pineal gland are all located in the brain. The thyroid and parathyroid glands are in the neck. The thymus is between your lungs. The adrenal glands are on top of your kidneys. The pancreas is behind your stomach. Ovaries or testes are located in the pelvic region.
Levels of hormones naturally fluctuate depending on the time of day and stage of life (for instance, pregnancy or menopause). However, hormones can also become imbalanced in a way that requires treatment from your healthcare provider. Such is the case with hypothyroidism, the condition in which an underactive thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones.
As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland helps regulate the body's metabolism in the form of blood pressure, blood temperature, and heart rate. When your thyroid hormone production drops, your body processes slow down and change.
The endocannabinoid system
Science is starting to understand how the body responds to cannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are molecules that the body produces naturally in small amounts that act on cannabinoid receptors. The endocannabinoid system is a highly complex cellular signaling system that plays an important modulatory role in the brain, endocrine, and immune functions.
The endocannabinoid system in the body plays a role in:
In particular, the endocannabinoid systems seem to play a critical role in regulating reproductive hormones and our stress response. This system also helps to control food intake and related energy expenditure.
Within this system, the mechanics include endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. The body naturally produces endocannabinoids, which are molecules that are similar to cannabinoids. The cannabinoid receptors within this system respond to endocannabinoids, but they also bind to THC, which is one reason why THC can have so many effects on your body,
Because CBD is different from THC, it has a different interaction with the endocannabinoid system. CBD does not appear to bind to receptors like THC but instead may prevent endocannabinoids from breaking down or attaching to a receptor for which researchers have not yet been able to identify.
Because the endocannabinoid system has the potential to affect every system in the body, there is potential that CBD may influence your endocrine system, too.
We know that endogenous cannabinoids (the ones produced by our bodies) help regulate our appetite, energy, homeostasis, and influence endocrine glands, including the pituitary gland and thyroid gland. Research does not yet know how external cannabinoids (like CBD) affect these glands and your serum thyroid hormones concentrations like TSH and T4.
Cannabinoids and thyroid hormones both play a role in regulating your metabolism. While we do not know exactly how CBD affects your metabolism, there is potential that synthetic thyroid hormone replacement medication and CBD may compete to regulate your metabolism.
Aside from uncertainties in how CBD and thyroid medication interact, there is some evidence that CBD helps reduce inflammation, which is at the root of Hashimoto's disease, one of the leading causes of hypothyroidism. Indeed, it has immunosuppressant-like qualities, making it a potentially valuable substance for certain autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto's.
Suppose you have a thyroid condition and are managing it with medication. In that case, you need to practice caution when introducing other substances which may alter your system.
Finding balance in your thyroid levels can take a significant amount of trial and error and time. People often need to try different doses of thyroid hormone medication to see what brings their thyroid hormones to a therapeutic level. Many people also find that factors outside their medication can also throw off their thyroid function, including taking new medications and making diet changes.
If you want to try CBD, you should first check with your doctor to see if it is safe for you. It is important to know that CBD is not a regulated substance if you do get the go-ahead. The FDA considers it a dietary supplement, which are not generally monitored for quality, safety, and efficacy. This means that there is likely a lack of standardization in some CBD formulations. Thus, concentrations and strengths may differ, even in the same brand.
It is also important to keep in mind that some CBD manufacturers may make false claims of how CBD is a cure-all, even for diseases like cancer. Because there is little regulation on CBD and no concrete evidence for treating health conditions other than some types of epilepsy, it is best to explore using CBD in partnership with your doctor.
If you choose to try CBD and have checked with your doctor to rule out medication interactions, try to separate when you take your thyroid medication from when you use CBD to minimize the impact on the absorption of thyroid medication.