If you were to believe every claim about CBD, it will cure you of cancer, chronic pain, depression, insomnia, epilepsy, anxiety, drug addiction, glaucoma and much more. And while CBD is showing promising results for a number of health disorders, it’s hard to sort through all the information (and misinformation!) out there.
Research into CBD for autoimmunity in general is starting to emerge (and it’s looking good), but there is still not a ton of information about how CBD might benefit you if you have Hashimoto’s Disease.
Terms like CBD and THC, marijuana and hemp, and full-spectrum get thrown around, adding to the confusion. And now we can find CBD in anything from sodas, beer and protein bars to lotions, pills and sprays.
The good news is that, despite possibly being a huge fad, CBD can be beneficial for many people and it looks like it’s here to stay.
What Is CBD?
Whether or not you decide to try using CBD for yourself, it’s important to understand what it is, where it comes from, how it works and how it’s different from other similar substances.
CBD stands for cannabidiol, a cannabinoid found in marijuana. In addition to CBD, marijuana also contains the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which until recently was the most well known cannabinoid, due to its psychoactive properties (i.e. it gets you high).
But in fact, marijuana contains more than a hundred different kinds of cannabinoids of varying amounts.
Cannabinoids interact with cannabinoid receptors found in many mammals, including humans.
CBD has been found to have some health benefits and early on was discovered to help those with some extreme forms of childhood epilepsy. But finally, after years of limited research being done on CBD, the FDA now allows research into possible benefits of CBD for many kinds of health concerns.
To clarify, while marijuana contains both THC and CBD naturally, CBD-containing products contain only isolated CBD unless otherwise noted. There are some traces of THC in some products because of the nature of how it naturally occurs.
The trace amounts are minimal and would not result in feeling high. But for those who may have to drug test for professional purposes, some people have had problems with CBD products causing a positive drug test result.
Some CBD is sourced from hemp instead of marijuana. Although the same species of plant, hemp has been bred to contain less than 0.3% THC. This has allowed it to be used industrially.
But some companies use hemp as their source of CBD because more states allow it.
Health Benefits of CBD and CBD Products
The idea that you can reap the health benefits of marijuana without the high of THC is just one of the reasons CBD has taken off the past few years. Another, of course, is the legality.
Although state laws vary, most states (last I checked Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota were the exceptions) allow some form of CBD to be used. But these laws change often so it’s best to stay up to date with the laws in your own state.
Because CBD is legal in most cases, it can be a source of relief for some people without breaking the law or putting their job in jeopardy.
The benefits of CBD come from those receptors that are naturally found in our bodies. There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, found in the central nervous system.
These receptors are found throughout the body, such as in the eyes, spleen, blood vessels, testicles and the cells and tissue of the immune system. But they are most prevalent in the brain.
These make up what is called the endocannabinoid system (or ECS). The ECS helps regulate sleep, appetite, mood, pain and the body’s immune response.
Our own bodies create neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids that bind with the receptors. By introducing them from external cannabinoids, we are simply using more concentrated forms.
Some studies have found that CBD triggering these receptors may:
- Relieve pain
- Reduce inflammation
- Help with anxiety, depression, stress and PTSD
- Reduce acne
- Cut down on seizures in some forms of epilepsy
- Improve sleep
But what does all this mean for autoimmunity in general and Hashimoto’s Disease specifically?
CBD for Autoimmune Disease
We know that cannabinoids interact strongly with the immune system because the immune system contains cannabinoid receptors throughout. And although the ECS makes endocannabinoids, we can become deficient when the immune system is overstimulated, as in cases of autoimmunity.
This can even result in clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED), which may be a risk factor in fibromyalgia, migraines and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). (To learn more about the relationship between IBS and Hashimoto’s, check out this blog post.)
This is when adding exogenous cannabinoids, like CBD, can support our bodies and our wellbeing.
Many people are very cautious about anything that boosts the immune system while struggling with autoimmunity. But it’s important to note that there is a difference between amping up the immune system and modulating it.
Cannabinoids, in fact, help balance out the immune system. This is because CB2 receptors can suppress immune response when needed.
Additionally, CBD is anti-inflammatory and slows down T-cell production.
The anti-inflammatory action of CBD should not be underestimated. It has been compared to turmeric and ginger in its ability to impact inflammation and can reduce pain associated with inflammation, as in arthritis.
Hashimoto’s and CBD
Even knowing that CBD can be helpful for autoimmune disorders in general, you may still wonder if it’s right for someone with Hashimoto’s Disease. Afterall, every autoimmune disease is different.
Let’s look at how CBD may affect thyroid function specifically.
Unfortunately, there are few studies that look at the direct connection between CBD and thyroid function and hormones. But with time, we will see more and more information on the subject.
For now, there are some studies that indicate that endocannabinoids, and therefore exogenous cannabinoids as well, can stimulate the hypothalamus’ release of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
This is crucial since low TSH levels are a major cause of hypothyroidism, the leading cause of which is Hashimoto’s. TSH is what triggers the thyroid to produce hormones.
Although there is still more research to be done, at least one study has found that CBD may even directly stimulate thyroid hormone production.
Much like how cannabinoids act as an immune regulator and not an immune stimulator, possible cannabinoid receptors on the thyroid itself indicate that cannabinoids may help regulate the thyroid, as opposed to stimulating it. This means there is potential for both Hashimoto’s and Graves’ diseases.
And even more promising, these receptors seem to influence both T3 and T4 hormone production.
When experiencing a Hashimoto’s flare-up, one of the common symptoms is a headache or even a migraine. But CBD has shown promise in helping to relieve the pain of that experience.
The CBD and THC Debate
If you’ve gotten this far and wondered why you wouldn’t just relive your college years and go for the whole marijuana experience, there are some things to be aware of.
First, there are still many states that do not allow the legal use of THC, even where CBD is legal. Second, not everyone wants the experience of getting high and that can be understandable.
Part of the problem is that many of the health benefits of cannabinoids have looked at THC in conjunction with CBD.
I often preach about the benefits of whole foods over individual nutrients, like how the B vitamins work synergistically together better than they do individually. The truth is that cannabinoids may work the same way, with at least some small amount of THC helping CBD to work more effectively.
The bad news is that this may not be an option for everyone. The good news is that there are many great products out there that offer just CBD and others that contain both CBD and small amounts of THC to boost CBD action.
Don’t Skimp on Quality
Just like with food and supplements, it is important with CBD to make sure you are getting a high quality product since it is going directly into your body.
Look for organic products that do not contain any fillers (especially anything that may trigger an allergic reaction or intolerance). And read the fine print if you are avoiding THC.
If you are wanting something with CBD and a small amount of THC, you will want to look for the term “full-spectrum.” This means that it contains a range of cannabinoids, including up to 0.3% THC, which is still such a small amount that it will not make you feel high. (That 0.3% threshold is legal federally but laws still vary state by state.)
The Many Faces and Forms of CBD
As I said, CBD is found in so many different kinds of products these days: gummies, oils, tinctures, bath salts, sodas, lotions and even chocolate.
If you want to use it therapeutically, it is best to avoid foods. (These can often have tons of crappy additives.)
But if you’re debating between taking CBD orally or topically, it is mostly going to be a personal preference. I tend to recommend topical application because it is well-absorbed, easy to use and well-tolerated.
Creams, salves and lotions can have the added benefit of helping to relieve sore muscles.
Easing into Your CBD Dosage
While dosage will vary greatly person to person and depending on your goal, I also suggest easing into the process.
Start out low and work your way up over weeks. While this may mean you don’t immediately see benefits or experience relief from symptoms, keep the end goal in mind and know that CBD builds up in your body.
A Note on Medication Interactions with CBD
There are no known interactions between CBD (or other cannabinoids) and thyroid medications. However, they may compete for certain metabolism pathways that would be an issue in cases of hyperthyroidism.
Some people have reported feeling nauseous or experiencing anxiety when taking CBD and thyroid medication together. However, spacing them out just a couple hours can prevent this.
Only You Know If CBD Is a Good Option for You
The truth is that you have to weigh your options and the pros and cons of CBD. For the right person, it can be a game-changer. But it may not be for everyone.
The good news is that CBD is considered quite safe with little side effects. This means that you can try it out and see if it helps with your Hashimoto’s or other autoimmune disease. Just remember to use a quality product and ease into a therapeutic dosage.
CBD may not cure you of all diseases, pains and maladies, but it may bring some relief and be another piece of the puzzle.
I can help you find the right option that will fit your lifestyle, budget and goals and will leave you with personalized recommendations.