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.
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.
THC can raise heart rate.
Individuals with POTS by definition have difficulty with tachycardia, or an elevated heart rate. THC can raise heart rate for the short-term, while lowering it over the long term. Some patients with POTS have difficulty bringing their heart rate back into a normal range – even requiring IV fluids and medications to do so. Some cannabis users are particularly sensitive to this increase in heart rate and finds it worsens these POTS symptoms. Other dysautonomia patients, like myself, actually benefit from this action – I medicate with THC prior to showering as my heart rate and BP tends to bottom out during and after showers. I can use it mindfully to help regulate my heart rate and BP when needed.
My Personal Experience
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.
Using Medical Cannabis for Dysautonomia – Things to Know
Benefits are varied and affect multiple systems.
Cannabis has neuroprotective and anti-oxidant properties. There is some suggestion that cannabis may be healing for dysautonomia patients by addressing the underlying nerve damage. However, this is a theoretical assumption and beyond our current understanding of the plant. Most dysautonomia cannabis patients use it to manage day to day symptoms including nausea, fatigue, and pain. Cannabis may also be effective in managing inflammation and other symptoms associated with commonly co-morbid conditions. For example, patients with related MCAS my find cannabis topicals helpful for localized reactions and those with gastroparesis may find it helpful for appetite.
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.
CBD Side Effects
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