Updated: Aug 3, 2019
The endocannabinoid system has been shown to play an important role in gut physiology. Are cannabinoids such as CBD effective at treating the symptoms of these disorders?
Cannabinoids are rapidly becoming a new class of respected medicines. Their unique interaction with systems of the body and wide scope of applications make them rockstars within the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical worlds. CBD in particular has risen to popularity as a powerful compound with no psychoactive effects, making it more suitable to a wider range of people.
CBD has been shown to assist with a spectrum of health conditions, achieving many of its effects due to its potent anti-inflammatory properties. The cannabinoid is now showing promise as a treatment for certain conditions that arise in the gut and digestive system.
THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM WITHIN THE GUT
With gut health being so important, it's paramount to try and maintain it. Many foods and diets seem to help with this, especially probiotic and cultured foods that serve as vessels to friendly and beneficial bacteria. Cannabinoids such as CBD may also play a key part in supporting gut health.
A paper published within the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research states that cannabis has been used for centuries to treat a variety of disorders associated with the gastrointestinal tract.
The authors add that the endocannabinoid system participates significantly in the normal physiology of gastrointestinal function, displaying involvement in motility, gut-brain-mediated fat intake and hunger signalling, inflammation and gut permeability, and dynamic interactions with gut microbiota.
CBD AND LEAKY GUT
Some gut problems arise due to issues with gut permeability or “leaky gut”. This issue is associated with numerous autoimmune conditions and chronic health conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple sclerosis.
The gut is lined by a barrier of epithelial cells that are linked together by tight junction proteins. These tight junctions are a doorway between your gut and your bloodstream, controlling what passes between them. They allow nutrients to pass through, whilst preventing harmful substances from breaching the gut.
In cases of leaky gut, tight junctions become increasingly permeable and allow access to harmful substances such as bacteria and pathogens. This can result in an inflammatory cascade. There are numerous underlying causes of leaky gut, from chronic stress and genetic predispositions to poor diet and toxin overload. An imbalance in the gut microbiota is also reported to be a cause of the condition.
CBD may be the answer to decreasing the permeability at tight junctions. A paperpublished within the journal Advanced Research in Gastroenterology & Hepatology states that CBD has been shown to directly restore endothelial membrane permeability. Therefore, the cannabinoid may restore the epithelial integrity of tight junctions
CBD AND IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects the large intestine of the digestive system, resulting in symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, and stomach cramps.
The condition can be caused by muscle contractions in the intestine, nerve abnormalities in the digestive system, inflammation in the intestines, infection, and changes in the microflora of the gut. Symptoms of IBS can be triggered by several factors such as increased stress, certain foods, and hormonal changes.
Current treatments for IBS include dietary changes, probiotics, and certain medications. However, CBD may be a great addition to this regimen. A paper published within the journal Phytotherapy Research states that evidence indicates cannabis-based products to be effective against IBS.
In regards to CBD, the authors of the paper mention that the cannabinoid’s anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects make it a promising therapeutic agent for treating IBS symptoms like pain and inflammation. The authors conclude CBD to possess an extraordinary range of beneficial effects that may slow the course of IBS and ameliorate symptoms.
CBD may reduce intestinal inflammation severity through the control of what is known as the neuro-immune axis. Enteric glial cells (EGC) mediate both acute and chronic inflammation in the gut. A 2011 paper states that EGC proliferate and release neurotrophins, growth factors, and proinflammatory cytokines which might enhance the immune response, demonstrating a vital link between the nervous and immune systems in the gut.
ECG are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the gut mucosa and play an important role in gut immunity. However, these cells may also generate inflammation. CBD has been shown to control inflammatory response and ECG activation.
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