With every day that passes, it seems we’re uncovering more vital information about cannabis and our health. Not only is cannabis an effective pain reliever, but new research shows that there’s also a vital link between the endocannabinoid system and gut health.
For some people, the research points to much-needed relief for life-altering symptoms. And for others, it can spell disaster.
So before you start taking cannabis for gut health, there are a few things you should know.
Endocannabinoid Receptors and Gut Health
Most of your body’s endocannabinoid receptors are found in the brain, gut and pelvis. And as most bodily systems, these receptors all work together to maintain balance throughout the body.
As research tells us that there are connections between the gut and the brain, and as we learn that the two actually communicate often, we’re finding that there are also connections with endocannabinoid receptors.
The endocannabinoid system helps regulate food intake and plays a role in digestive motility, intestinal inflammation, gut permeability, and it interacts with the probiotic bacteria found in the gut.
This may be why people suffering from conditions like IBS, IBD, cancer and autoimmune conditions have found cannabis to be helpful.
Endocannabinoid System in Digestion
In an animal study, researchers have found that fasting increases the small intestine’s production of a specific endocannabinoid called anandamide.
This specific endocannabinoid has a powerful and positive effect on mood. That’s why it’s so often called the bliss molecule.
We know that at least 70 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, and we know that there are very strong connections between endocannabinoid receptors and the brain.
There’s still a lot we have to figure out about how cannabis can interact with your digestive system. But here are a few things we can gather from current research.
Cannabinoids stimulate the CB1 receptor, which gets to work at calming nausea, delaying stomach emptying, improving nutrient absorption, reducing stomach acid and helping to halt tumor growth.
Animal studies show that synthetic THC activates the ghrelin receptors (responsible for hunger) and sends signals to the brain regions responsible for sending hunger signals. This can cause hunger pangs even if the stomach isn’t empty.
The endocannabinoid system acts as a two-way communication system between the gut and brain.
Both CB1 and CB2 receptors modulate inflammatory responses when they’re activated by certain cannabinoids.
Nourishing the gut with cannabis seems to show promise for improving digestion and overall health for some. But we’re also seeing that cannabis can have quite the opposite effect on some people.
Negative effects of cannabis on the GI tract
There are times when cannabis can cause undesirable digestive problems. These problems are rare and typically only affect people who have consistently used cannabis over a span of many years.
The potential negative effects include cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which causes cyclic nausea and vomiting, and cannabis-induced acute pancreatitis.
More research must be done on if or how cannabis contributed to pancreatitis in those who have experienced it, but it is a risk to evaluate nonetheless.
Further studies must be done on cannabis and digestion, but it seems to be an interesting connection. If you’re considering cannabis for gut health, you’re always going to want to weigh the side effects along with alternatives.
For example, opioids are an alternative that comes with a very serious side effect of addiction. Red vein kratom also shows promise for pain relief, but there’s some research that indicates it may slow digestion.
Ultimately, it’s a personal choice. But from the current research, cannabis seems to be the most effective natural treatment for things like pain and nausea without serious side effects.