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We let science do the talking by sharing peer-reviewed articles (meaning a lot of smart people checked it out!) regarding research and development in the CBD space. This week, we’re focusing on research done on the endocannabinoid system’s effect on the colon. The main source of this post focuses on how scientific animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may stabilize digestive movement, especially in people who suffer from digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBS).
Please note, CBD is not an FDA-approved treatment for any digestive disorders or ailments, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBS). Consult with your doctor to see if CBD is right for you.
Why Digestive Health Matters
Digestive and gut health isn’t always at the forefront of our minds. Mostly because the symptoms are easier to ignore than say a migraine that keeps you in bed. However, gut health doesn’t just stop at the digestive system, it also affects the way our immune system functions. The gut specifically, is part of the microbiome in our bodies. An area where the organisms in our bodies are transferred. The four types of microbes in the microbiome are bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungi. And though, many of those words are often affiliated with diseases, in a healthy body, symbiotic and pathogenic microbes work together and coexist with no issues until a disturbance in the microbiome hits. The gut is also connected to the brain by many neurons, which makes gut health and brain function important to each other.
All these systems in our bodies are also connected through the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which travels through many parts of our body like the immune and central nervous system. A 2016 review connected the gut’s endocannabinoid system and food intake. The research done showed that through the vagus nerve, the ECS could help initiate neurotransmissions between the gut and brain. The ECS modulates inflammation, regulates digestion and communication with the brain. They interact with cannabinoids that enter our system, though not just from cannabis or hemp. Cannabinoids are also found in a lot of places, including your body, cloves, hops, and dark chocolate.
Digestion and CBD
Those with inflammatory bowel diseases and functional bowel diseases (i.e. irritable bowel syndrome) will have compromised endocannabinoid systems. Invading microorganisms trigger inflammation by stimulating various components of the immune system. Some of these released microorganisms are inflammatory cytokines and phagocytic cells.
So how can you treat IBDs?
Many different ways have been attempted. Microbiota-based and immune-based therapies have been used along with antibiotics, probiotics, and fecal microbiota transplantation, though all those attempts yielded mixed results. More positive responses have been seesaw with special diets and dietary supplements, showing that maybe a more natural course of action could help alleviate some symptoms. Doctors and scientists are working together to try and find more ways to help, though some people are impacted differently than others so different treatments are needed.
So where do cannabinoids fit in?
Cannabinoids can inhibit motility and secretion in the intestines and therefore, reduce inflammation. So for those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) by binding with the endocannabinoid system. Since the endocannabinoid system is compromised in people with IBS, and cannabinoids can reduce inflammation, it backs up the claim that CBD may be a potential help for many suffering from chronic gut health issues. CBD also appears to affect cytokines. CBD has been shown in some studies to reduce their tendency to cause inflammation by inhibiting an eicosanoid enzyme called COX2 similar to the way aspirin does.
A study done in 2020 was done to determine how best to exploit CBDs effects on the ECS to benefit patients of inflammatory bowel disease. The authors admit that there is a lack of conclusive evidence, however, their main points of interest are CBD’s potential ability to desensitize the TRPV1 receptor which is responsible for regulating pain. CBD can also raise anandamide levels through FAAH inhibition.
We’ve gone over the importance of digestive health and how it can affect your overall health. What we’ve learned through studies is that the endocannabinoid system is of vital importance when it comes to digestive health. There haven’t been many direct conclusions to determine the exact effect CBD has on digestive health in humans, but many studies have shown positive responses from patients to potentially help alleviate some of their symptoms. More research needs to be done in human clinical trials. So if you’re suffering from digestive health issues, consult your doctor about starting any new supplement regimen including cannabinoids.