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How CBD May Restore Gut Health

Philip Ghezelbash
gut health

CBD may be able to restore gut health by reducing inflammation, improving leaky gut, and stopping cancer cells.

CBD and gut health was one of the hottest trends at Vitafoods 2019, according to some reports. The relationship between CBD and gut health is a growing area of interest for both researchers and patients. CBD is popular among patients as it has virtually no adverse effects. It is also non-psychoactive, and may help ameliorate symptoms of health conditions, primarily due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the backbone of poor gut health. So, CBD’s anti-inflammatory powers may be able to dramatically improve gut health.

Medical authorities have emphasized the importance of gut health for thousands of years. Hippocrates, also known as the father of medicine, once said that “all disease begins in the gut”. Although this isn’t exactly true, he was certainly onto something. Over the last decade, research on gut health and its effect on hormones, stress, mood, and disease has grown. Maintaining a healthy gut seems to be one of the keys to health, and even happiness. The gut produces neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which effects your mood.

Cannabinoids, Inflammation, and Gut Health

There are between 30-400 trillion gut bacteria. Some of this gut bacteria is good, and some is bad. A healthy gut microbiome is one that has a healthy proportion of good to bad bacteria. You can introduce more healthy bacteria into your gut by eating foods high in probiotics, such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir.

CBD may offer another way to help improve gut health. Cannabinoids, according to the latest research, may play a vital role in supporting gut health. One paper published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research concluded that cannabis has actually been used for centuries to help with gastrointestinal disorders.

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Too much bad bacteria negatively affects gut health.

The endocannabinoid system has two known primary receptors, CB1 and CB2. The gut and digestive tract contain these receptors. Endocannabinoids such as AEA and 2-AG are found in abundance through the gastrointestinal tract. Increased levels of endocannabinoids acting primarily through the CB1 receptor are protective against epithelial damage and increased intestinal inflammation. Therefore, the activation of endocannabinoid receptors through the consumption of exogenous cannabinoids may help ameliorate symptoms of gut-based conditions, particularly through decreasing inflammation.

Irritable Bowel Diseases

Cannabinoids help manage some symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). There’s still a lack of clinical trials to prove CBD’s efficacy for IBD patients, but there is some emerging evidence showing it could help. Conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic conditions of the gastrointestinal tract. The immune system’s attacks on gut microbiota may cause IBD conditions.

CBD has a low affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors. It’s shown protective effects in colitis in mice by decreasing colon injury, reactive oxygen species production, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (THF-a) levels. CBD has also been shown to act as an antagonist to GPR55, which is a receptor closely involved in intestinal inflammation. Furthermore, cannabichromene (CBC) is a plant cannabinoid that inhibits endocananbinoid inactivation and has shown anti-inflammatory properties in murine colitis.

The direct anti-inflammatory properties CBD seems to have in animal models for the gut is promising. Anecdotes around the world support the use of CBD for IBD. But, we need further clinical trials to solidify its efficacy.  

Leaky Gut

Leaky gut describes the compromised permeability of the gut lining. There are links between multiple autoimmune conditions and leaky gut. When the gut is leaky, harmful compounds, such as bacteria, are able to proliferate.

The cause of leaky gut can come from chronic stress and poor dietary habits. Genetics most likely play a part, as well. A study showed that CBD can restore endothelial membrane permeability. THC and CBD administration enhances the recovery speed of cells treated with ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). EDTA increases permeability.

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The gut-brain connection manages mental, emotional, and physical health.

Colorectal Cancer

Research looking into colorectal cancer found that cannabis prevents negative shifts in gut microbiota. Researchers acknowledged that CBD may have anticancer effects through endocannabinoid signaling. But they also confirmed that cannabis may also help improve cancer symptoms by preventing gut microbiota imbalances. The researchers also concluded that improved gut microbiome may help treat obesity. This could thereby decrease colorectal cancer risk, as a lower BMI is associated with lower cancer risk.

Researchers discussing the clinical application of manipulating the endocannabinoid system concluded that CB1 antagonists are likely to increase gut motility and reduce permeability. This would be useful for leaky gut and diabetes. They also concluded that agonists of the CB2 receptor may reduce inflammation in the GI tract.

It seems that CBD modulates gut health through its effect on endocannabinoids within the gastrointestinal tract. As this is a relatively new area of research, more clinical trials will likely progress in the near future in an effort to demonstrate just how effective CBD is for specific conditions. So far, the research is promising.

Philip Ghezelbash

Philip Ghezelbash is an ex-personal trainer with a science background who currently operates New Zealand's only health specialized writing studio. He is passionate about presenting complex science in an easy to digest manner and is a firm believer that cannabis has substantial potential to be used as a medicine for degenerative disease.

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