Could CBD benefit gut health and what is the relationship between the two? Let’s take a look at the complex role of the gut and its relationship with the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoids such as CBD.
Intestinal health is something we tend to overlook; probably because problems that may arise in that area are not as bothersome as, for example, a migraine.
What we are not aware of is that intestinal function goes beyond digestion and nutrient absorption. It also affects the functioning of the immune system, the breakdown of potentially harmful food compounds, and the synthesis of vitamins and other nutrients.
Experts say a healthy gut is the path to a healthier life. They’ve also made some fascinating discoveries that add the endocannabinoid system and CBD to this equation.
That’s right. In recent years, scientists have looked at the potential of cannabidiol to improve gastrointestinal health and digestion. But how exactly would it work?
Why is intestinal health important?
As we have already mentioned, the intestine is responsible for several vital functions. Maintaining its health also means maintaining the balance of the entire body.
The gut is part of a larger environment called the microbiome. Think of it as a metropolis occupied by the trillions of organisms that exist inside our bodies. We are referring to bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi.
When you hear about these four types of microbes (also known as microbiota), you may automatically associate them with harmful diseases. But this is not always the case.
In a healthy body, there is a harmonious relationship between symbiotic (beneficial) and pathogenic (disease-causing) microbes, which coexist smoothly. But, when interference occurs, either in the form of a medical condition, poor diet or certain medications, the body becomes more prone to disease.
We have also mentioned a correlation between gut health and brain function. This is because the two are connected by a host of neurons and nerves. The microbiome also controls the production of neurotransmitters.
How does the digestive system work?
The microbiota serves several purposes in the microbiome. In addition to activating the immune response, it also digests potentially toxic food compounds. To better understand how the microbiota benefits the body, let’s take a closer look at the gastrointestinal tract.
Sugars, for example, are easily absorbed through the initial portion of the small intestine, but this is not the case with complex carbohydrates, which end up in the large intestine. From there, the microbiota is responsible for completing the digestion process with the help of digestive enzymes.
The microbiota of a healthy person also acts as protection against pathogens, organisms that are introduced into the body through the consumption of contaminated food or water.
A clear example of this is the bacteria found inside the intestine and colon. These microbiota help prevent pathogen overgrowth by competing for the absorption of nutrients.
Relationship between the Gut and the Endocannabinoid System
Before discussing the possible effects of CBD on gastrointestinal health, we need to look at the endocannabinoid system.
The SEC is composed of cellular receptors that are spread throughout the body. This system is present in several vital areas, such as the central and peripheral nervous system, as well as the immune system. And, given its broad scope, it is involved in important functions such as sleep, mood, memory, immune response, reproduction, appetite and fertility.
SEC has two main receptors: CB1 and CB2. The former are largely located in the nerve cells of the spinal cord and brain, while the latter are mainly integrated in the tissues of the immune system.
Recent research has uncovered a link between SEC and the digestive system. For example, a 2016 review establishes a link between endocannabinoid signaling systems in the gut, food intake and energy balance. With the help of the vagus nerve, the SEC might be able to initiate neurotransmission between the gut and the brain.
There is also a possible link between the SEC and the microbiome with regard to mood disorders. In this 2020 study with mice, it was found that alterations in the gut microbiota caused depressive symptoms.
But, with the help of endocannabinoid signaling (i.e., by activation of its receptors), they decreased depressive symptoms. This study is quite preliminary, but it sheds some light on a subject that has not yet been sufficiently studied.
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