Choose a quality cannabis physician (who knows a thing or two about dysautonomia).
Despite all of my knowledge and experience with cannabis, I would have NEVER stopped taking my CBD and identified it as a trigger if it wasn’t for the outside perspective and guidance from my cannabis physician, Dr. Scott Gebhardt. Choose a physician who understands the plant and body, looks at the bigger picture, and is not just there to issue a certification. This will pay you back in ways you never imagined.
Before I was dealing with the symptoms myself I had no understanding of or awareness of the disorder or it’s umbrella category – dysautonomia. This was a bit of surprise to me considering I’d devoted my entire career to helping people with chronic illness. So how did I learn about it? By passing out cold in the bathroom and slicing my head open on a cabinet and toilet roll holder – more than once. What can I say, I like to learn things the hard way.
Dysautonomia refers to any disorder of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS controls important parts of our body that we don’t have to think about like blood vessels, stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys, heart, etc. Common forms of dysautonomia include POTS, neurocardiogenic syncope, multiple system atrophy, and diabetic autonomic neuropathy. While dysautonomia can develop for a range of reasons, conditions such as diabetes, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and celiac disease can contribute to its onset.
My Personal Experience
Take your BP and HR.
As patients with dysautonomia can have difficulty regulating blood pressure and heart rate, be mindful to take regular readings when starting a new cannabis routine.
Cannabis has been life changing for me in so many ways, but when I started experiencing symptoms of dysautonomia, primarily fainting episodes, my world was thrown upside down. My cannabis physician and friend Dr. Scott Gebhardt suggested to me that my CBD intake could be contributing to my episodes and recommended I take it out of my routine to test if it could be contributing. I was less than willing to take on this experiment, so I initially stopped my oral doses for only a week. My dysautonomia symptoms weren’t improving and my pain was increasing so I called the ‘experiment’ a loss and started taking my oral CBD again.
Let’s break those two down.
People with POTS have difficulty regulating blood flow and volume, meaning blood pressure and heart rate become unstable. For me this leads to episodes of Neurocardiogenic Syncope (NCS) in which I faint and loose consciousness. When I come to I experience extreme nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, and a general feeling of unwellness. Many individuals with dysautonomia have other related conditions like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, gastroparesis, and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) that include symptoms of severe pain, stomach discomfort, difficulty with appetite, and allergic reactions. Many of these symptoms can be managed with cannabis, but there are also some things to be aware of.
Two examples of chronic conditions that may cause autonomic dysfunction are Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.
You don’t need to think about these systems for them to function consciously. The ANS is the connection between certain body parts like your internal organs and your brain. For example, the ANS connects your:
You might also struggle with the functionality of the following organs and body parts:
The most common side effect of bladder medication usage is dry mouth. Other side effects may include:
Other autonomic dysfunction symptoms may consist of low blood glucose with no warning signals (e.g. shakiness) and weight loss.
POTS does not let your body stabilize the blood flow within your blood vessels into a stable rate. This condition’s symptoms develop from standing up from a reclining position and may be lessened by sitting, resting, or simply lying down. The main symptoms associated with POTS include fainting, lightheadedness, discomfort, and sometimes a rapid increase in heart rate (tachycardia).
POTS, or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, is a condition that impacts the body’s blood flow (circulation). It primarily implicates your nervous system, both the autonomic and sympathetic systems. The former controls and regulates bodily functions, while the latter helps with the fight or flight response.
Who is at risk for POTS?
However, it’s important to keep in mind that each case of POTS is different and unique to each individual’s body. Patients may see symptoms vary and change throughout the years. Sometimes a change in diet, physical activity, and other health related factors can help to manage and subside symptoms.
No research has shown that CBD can cure POTS, however, CBD is known to treat symptoms associated with POTS such as dizziness, general pain, and anxiety. Patients with POTS have reported positive effects from using CBD, and unlike other drugs used to treat POTS symptoms, CBD has minimal side effects.
Currently, there are around half of million people in the United States suffering from POTS. A vast majority of these patients are women between the ages of 13 to 50. POTS can develop in people with a recent history of mononucleosis and is known to be found in people suffering from autoimmune conditions. People with conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome and Celiac disease can be at higher risk for POTS, since it affects the immune system. POTS can be detected with lab tests.