Cannabis & Gut Health

WRITTEN BY DR. SUSAN EGBERT

Cannabis is one of the oldest and most commonly used plants in the world. People have been using it for medicinal and recreational purposes for centuries. It has been shown to have a range of benefits for the human body, including improved gut health. In this blog post, we are going to discuss what cannabis and gut health have to do with each other. 

What is cannabis?

Cannabis is a plant that has been used for centuries for a variety of purposes. It is most commonly known for its psychoactive properties, which make it useful for medical purposes. However, cannabis is also thought to have a host of benefits for gut health as it is believed to act on the endocannabinoid system (at the bottom of this post, there are links that expand on this).(1) 

Why is gut health important?

The gut microbiota is responsible for helping to digest food and regulate the immune system. A healthy gut microbiota is essential for maintaining overall gut health. Dysfunction of the gut flora can lead to a number of gut health problems, including constipation, diarrhea, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). There are a lot of different remedies that mention gut health but we’re going to be focusing on cannabis as there are a lot of active compounds that need to be talked about.

Some of the benefits of cannabis for gut health include:

  • Reducing inflammation

There have been some studies that show that some of the compounds in cannabis help with inflammation.  The cannabinoids found in cannabis (cannabidiol, cannabichromene, and cannabinol) have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.(1) (3) (4) (5) (6) They work by binding to receptors in the body and blocking the action of pro-inflammatory molecules. Previous post expands more on the different types of inflammation and how cannabinoids impact them.

  • Improving gut motility

Gastrointestinal (GI) motility refers to the movement of food from the mouth through the pharynx (throat), esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, and out of the body.(2) One way it is thought that cannabis affects gut motility is through binding with the CB1 receptor (cannabinoid type receptor 1).(1) (3) (4)  There are some trials that have been conducted that assess the use of cannabis for gut motility disorders like IBS that is worth mentioning and show that there could be some use of cannabis in the future.(1) (3) (4) (5) (6)

  • Boosting gut health

In cannabis, there are a few compounds that are in the extracts that help promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.  If we have more of our gut flora that we need, there will be less of a chance for things like gut infection to happen. Much of our current knowledge on this has been based on mice models which means there could be a potential to see humans being studied in the future. (7) (8)

  • Reducing occasional pain

Some of the pain that is in our body can be due to the inflammation.  Since we have mentioned that there are possible anti-inflammatory effects, then there is a chance that pain due to inflammation can decrease too.(1) (3) (4) (5) (6)

So, what's the takeaway?

As mentioned earlier, cannabis is a plant and like any other plant, it has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. The main benefit of cannabis for gut health is that it can help to regulate the gut flora. The gut flora is responsible for helping to digest food and regulate the gut's environment. 

Cannabis also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help to reduce pain and inflammation in the gut. It can also help to improve the gut's barrier function and help to reduce the risk of infections. Overall, cannabis has some promising gut health benefits and should be considered alongside other gut health-promoting strategies, such as a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Gut health is something that is increasingly being talked about by health experts and the general public. Many people are starting to realize that their gut health impacts their overall health and well-being. It is important to understand the relationship between cannabis and gut health, as cannabis can be a powerful tool for improving gut health. We hope that this article will help you to make informed decisions about your gut health and cannabis use.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about gut health, check out some of our other posts below:

  1. 5 minute gut meditation

  2. 5 tips for optimal gut health

  3. 3 Simple Things You Can Do Everyday To Heal Your Gut

  4. Prebiotics And Probiotics | What Are They, And Should I Be Taking Them?

  5. 5 Tips On How To Detox Using Your Gut Microbiome

  6. What's The Difference? | Prebiotics, Probiotics, & Postbiotics

  7. 4 Tips To Balance Your Stomach Acid

 

If you're interested in learning more about the endocannabinoid system (ECS), check these out:

  1. The Endocannabinoid System 101

  2. The Endocannabinoid System: How Does It Work?

  3. Contemporary Cannabis: The Human Endocannabinoid System (Episode 3)

  4. Frequently Asked Questions With Dr. Swathi - Faq #6: What Is The Endocannabinoid System?

  5. Enhance Your Life Podcast: The Secret Benefits Of Your Endocannabinoid System With Dr. Swathi Varanasi

 

References

  1. Cohen L, Neuman MG. Cannabis and the Gastrointestinal Tract. J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2020;23:301-313. doi:10.18433/jpps31242

  2. https://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/gastro/areas-expertise/motility-physiology/pages/default.aspx#:~:text=Gastrointestinal%20(GI)%20motility%20refers%20to,system%20is%20responsible%20for%20digestion.

  3. Hasenoehrl  Cet  al.  Cannabinoids  for  treating inflammatory bowel diseases: where are we and where do  we  go?,  Expert  Rev  Gastroenter  &  Hepatology, 2017 [11:4, 329-337, DOI: 10.1080/17474124.2017.1292851]

  4. Aviello  G,  et  al.  Cannabinoids  and  gastrointestinal motility:  animal  and  human  studies.    Eur  Rev  Med Pharmacol Sci 2008;12 (suppl 1):81-93.

  5. Lahat A, et al. Impact of Cannabis treatment  on the quality of life, weight and clinical disease activity in inflammatory   bowel   disease   patients:   a   pilot prospective study. Digestion. 2012;85(1):1–8.

  6. Izzo  AA  and  Camilleri  M.  Emerging  role  of cannabinoids  in  gastrointestinal  and  liver  diseases: basic and clinical aspects.  GUT 2008;57:1140-1155.

  7. Zandani G, Anavi-Cohen S, Assa-Glazer T, et al. Cannabis Extract Effects on Metabolic Parameters and Gut Microbiota Composition in a Mice Model of NAFLD and Obesity. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2022;2022:7964018. Published 2022 Jun 26. doi:10.1155/2022/7964018

  8. Gorelick J, Assa-Glazer T, Zandani G, et al. THC and CBD affect metabolic syndrome parameters including microbiome in mice fed high fat-cholesterol diet. J Cannabis Res. 2022;4(1):27. Published 2022 May 30. doi:10.1186/s42238-022-00137-w


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This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Dr. Susan Egbert. She is a pharmacist and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) candidate studying Natural Products Chemistry at University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

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