Hope you had a nice 4th of July celebration. Did you have too many hotdogs? Upset stomach? We’ve all had a little bit of heartburn, gas or bloating when we “overdo it” now and again. These days, however, more people of all ages and backgrounds are having to deal with moderate to severe gastric discomfort. In fact, nearly 2 in 5 individuals currently suffer from some form of GI system imbalance.
And when you consider those who do not have a diagnosed GI condition, it is probably safe to say that almost everyone nowadays suffers in some way from some form of periodic gut imbalance.
Many individuals who have gut discomfort on a regular basis have gone to the doctor and have been told that it is “all in your head.” Many are given a prescription for anti-inflammatories or immune suppressors which often do nothing for symptoms and lead to more suffering in the long run.
In fact, you may be one of these individuals. If so, you know how frustrating this can be!
But if you think that there are no answers to getting your GI health back online, think again.
Along with dietary and lifestyle changes, evidence is surfacing which clearly supports medical cannabis as a super-effective and side-effect free modality for healing gut imbalances of all kinds, everything from heartburn to Crohn’s Disease.
Cannabis for GI Health: The Connection is Real and Validated by Science
There is also a growing consensus amongst experts that medical cannabis can be used for re-balancing the GI tract in general. This is important because it means that the list of diagnosable GI-related conditions cannabis may help with can grow to include IBS, reflux conditions, gastric ulcers, colon cancer and dozens of more subtle GI imbalances that go un-diagnosed.
Why does cannabis appear to be so effective for gut health? Across the board, it is because of its relationship to our own internal endocannabinoid system.
Among the studies to come out recently that points to cannabis as a general balancer for gut health is a 2005 report published in the Handbook of Experiemental Pharmacology. The study examined how the endocannabinoid system operates within the digestive system specifically. The researchers found that the digestive tract contains high levels of the endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol as well as key enzymes which directly help synthesize and metabolize endocannabinoids.
In addition, there are also CB(1) receptors located within nerve clusters all along the alimentary tract. The alimentary canal of the GI system includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus—pretty much the entire GI tract!
Past studies have found that activation of CB(1) receptors through the use of medical cannabis results in the relaxation of key areas in the lower part of the esophagus close to where it meets the stomach (this area of the digestive system is called the LES or “lower esophageal sphincter”).
The relaxation that is induced by cannabis in this area of the GI tract is the catalyst for a domino-effect of healing.
Endogenous Cannabinoids are IMPORTANT for the GI Tract
Perhaps one of the most important effects of this relaxation is a corresponding retooling and re-balancing in the functioning of certain muscles along the LES. This re-balancing helps to 1.) better regulate stomach acid release and 2.) improve gastric motility.
Many individuals have GI distress because of improper functioning in these two areas. Too much or too little stomach acid as well as a lack of the right kind of muscle movement in the LES can cause food to be improperly broken down, key nutrients to remain un-absorbed, metabolic issues to occur and too many toxins to build up because of food particles that sit in parts of the GI tract for too long (leading to food putrefaction and fermentation).
In fact, toxic build up caused by motility and other issues is one of the main reasons why the number of individuals diagnosed with colon and renal cancer has been on the rise over the last decade.
This is especially evident in young people. A study led by the American Cancer Society in February 2017 found that people born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer than people who were born in the 1950’s. GI imbalance such as lack of stomach acid and slow motility (mostly caused by improper diet and stress) are major factors in why this is.
- The function of the LES
- Gastric motility, including the ability of the bowel muscles to expand and contract normally and be able to move waste out of the body in a timely fashion
- Gastric secretions that control the breakdown of proteins
- Inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses in the GI tracts (i.e. when the endocannabinoid system is functioning properly in the GI tract, inflammatory responses calm. When it is not, then inflammation can occur)
- Anti-emetic effects in the GI, i.e. the ability to calm nausea and vomiting.
Recent research into the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis on the gut have also discovered that CB(2) receptors in the digestive tract and in the immune system may have more of an influence on gut health than was previously suspected. A 2008 University of Bath study found that CB(2) receptors may represent a “braking system” for the high inflammation that often comes with GI disturbances, especially Crohn’s Disease.
Make Medical Cannabis Part of an Overall Healthy Living Routine
Why is it so important to address gut health in the first place?
If you have a major GI condition, then you know the answer: the distress you feel is probably negatively affecting your entire life. Even if your symptoms are subtle, occasional or more random, GI problems may be an indication of other disease processes at work.
The research mentioned above points to the fact that endocannabinoids and endocannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2 in particular) exist in the gut in larger numbers and in more ways than was previously thought. The evidence is strong that medical cannabis protocols WORK in rebalancing the gut as a whole.
Does this mean that you can eat a whole pint of ice cream as long as you use medical cannabis? Not at all (sorry, time to put that pint of Rocky Road back in the freezer). As outspoken advocates of cannabis for GI conditions and other disease have said again and again, cannabis is not the “end all-be-all” to turning your gut issues around overnight.
But it is highly possible that over time, and in conjunction with the right dose as well as healthy eating, plenty of fluids, detoxification protocols and stress reduction practices, it can be a MAJOR PLAYER in helping to turn your GI issues around, and quickly.
In fact, for thousands of individuals, this has already been the case.