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The article examines the effect of CBD on intestinal well-being from a scientific point of view. In addition, we will familiarize ourselves with the importance of the intestines for the body’s balance and general well-being.
In Western countries, the view that our gut is our second brain has gradually gained ground. They are strangely somewhat similar in their folded appearance, and today it is also known that our intestines produce and contain a lot of neurotransmitters in our nervous system.
Western culture, especially in recent decades, has focused more and more on the development of the brain located in our head and less on the well-being of our intestines; intestinal problems are more and more common nowadays.
Inflammatory bowel disease prevalence rates in Finland are among the highest in the world, according to the patient organization IBD and Other Intestinal Diseases Association (1). Intestinal problems can be unpleasant and at worst disabling. CBD provides new perspectives to alleviate these challenges.
Research shows that taking care of your gut is one of the most important parts of achieving optimal health and well-being. Recent breakthroughs point to links between gut bacteria and diseases as diverse as fibromyalgia and depression. We can expect more scientific revelations about CBD and digestive health. Next, let’s look at what is known at this point:
Digestive tract, a wider than understood entity
As a child, I remember hearing to my surprise that our digestion begins in the mouth. In fact, our nervous system prepares for food already with the help of smells and visual sensations, but the digestive tract starts in our mouth and ends in our rectum.
The digestion of food in our mouth works with the help of the enzymes in our saliva and our chewing, these prepare the food for ever finer processing. The food’s journey continues in our stomach to be digested more literally, after which it moves to our intestines to be processed. Our digestive tract could also be called a kind of food separation channel, because we don’t take in everything that we put in our mouth. This is where the different tasks of our intestines come into play.
Gut-associated lymphoid tissue: a lesser-known factor
GALT ( gut-associated lymphoid tissue) is part of the mucosa-related lymphatic tissue that functions in our immune system to protect the body from attacks in the gut. There are a lot of immune cells in the intestine, especially in the GALT. The importance of this lymphatic tissue is still very little mentioned in the discussion about intestinal function, and it is a part of the lymphatic circulation important for our metabolism and immunity, which is otherwise little known.
Since the surface of the mucous membrane has a physiological function in the absorption of food, it is thin and acts as a permeable barrier to the internal parts of the body. Likewise, its fragility and permeability create vulnerability to infection, and in fact, the vast majority of pathogens that enter the human body use this route. The importance of GALT in the body’s defense is based on its large plasma cell population, which is the producer of antibodies and whose number exceeds the number of plasma cells in the spleen, lymph nodes and bone marrow combined. GALT accounts for approximately 70 percent of the mass of the immune system, and impaired function can significantly affect the strength of the entire immune system.
The lymphatic tissue associated with the intestine is located throughout the intestine, and its surface area is approximately 260-300 m². To increase the surface area for absorption, the intestinal mucosa consists of finger-shaped protrusions. The crypts at the base of the intestinal glands continuously produce several antibacterial substances, including lysozyme, and are believed to be involved in fighting infections. GALT also includes e.g. small intestinal Peyer’s patches, isolated lymph node follicles found throughout the intestine and in the human appendix. The immunological function of GALT is primarily predictive and avoids inflammation. GALT regulates our gut microbiota. (2)
The gut microbiome: a vital entity
Our digestive system gives us the nutrients and energy we need to live. After all, we eat every day unless we are fasting, but the connection between the digestive system and overall health goes beyond what is immediately obvious. Intriguingly, our gut bacteria may play a key role in our well-being.
There are over 10 trillion bacterial cells in the human digestive tract, consisting of hundreds of bacterial species, most of which are involved in your digestion. The totality of intestinal microbes is called the intestinal microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome consists of a healthy balance of microbes. The immune system regulates your microbiome.
Disturbances in the normal development of the microbiome can predispose to, for example, the development of allergies (3), and in a Finnish study published on January 31-22, its imbalance is also linked to the development of metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes (4). In addition, a healthy gut microbiome can reduce the risk of diseases such as celiac disease and inflammatory diseases such as IBS, Crohn’s disease and arthritis, and a connection has also been seen in the case of fibromyalgia (5) and depression (6) with gut microbes.
These connections suggest that there is a link between gut bacteria and various bodily functions outside the digestive tract. Although the extent and nature of these connections are still being studied, part of the explanation may lie in the immune system. A professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins discovered that colon cancer may be the result of an interaction between the immune system, gut microbiota, and cells lining the colon (7). Studies have also shown a connection between pulmonary tuberculosis, the immune response and a reduced number of certain intestinal bacteria.
Although these phenomena are still being studied, one thing is clear: taking care of your digestive health is an important way to support your immune system (and vice versa).
CBD and gut health
Our endocannabinoid system, or ECS maintains our body’s homeostasis, i.e. balance, but especially in relation to our topic, it regulates the immune response, motility of the digestive tract and appetite. Cannabinoid receptors are found on cells throughout the digestive system. This also includes the enteric nervous system, which has been called the second brain of the gut.
There is evidence that ECS dysregulation may play a role in poor gut health. Studies have found that endocannabinoid levels are altered in patients with intestinal disorders such as IBS, celiac disease, and colon cancer.
CBD is an exogenous cannabinoid or phytocannabinoid – endocannabinoids are produced internally, while CBD originates from outside the body. Both can affect the ECS and its many interconnected systems. By interacting with the ECS, CBD could help promote proper gut health by regulating lymphatic function and the microbiome. Here are some of its possible effects:
CBD and inflammatory conditions
Many diseases and disorders affecting the digestive tract are inflammatory in nature. The exact causes of conditions resembling ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and IBS, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and IBS, are unknown. However, according to experts, malfunctions of the immune system can play a role. The body turns against itself by attacking the intestinal cells as if they were foreign invaders, leading to inflammation. Intestinal inflammatory conditions can also cause heartburn and skin challenges.
Studies have highlighted the potential of CBD as a regulator of the immune system. It has been shown to reduce inflammation and intestinal damage during both chronic and acute inflammation. It acts through several mechanisms, especially affecting the immune system and interfering with the axis between the immune system and the enteric nervous system.
Obesity and feeling full
Although many people don’t think of obesity as a result of digestive disorders, your ability to maintain your weight and control your appetite may depend more on gut health than you think. Evidence suggests that the bacterial makeup of your gut has a direct impact on how your body burns calories, absorbs nutrients, and increases your appetite.
In order to control weight and appetite, intestinal bacteria break down previously undigested carbohydrates (polysaccharides) into short-chain fatty acids. When fat cells detect short-chain fatty acids, they release a hormone called leptin, which tells the brain that you are full. If an unhealthy gut biome prevents the release of short-chain fatty acids, you want to keep eating. Your sense of satisfaction from a meal depends on which bacteria win the battle.
Research shows that cannabinoid receptors are directly involved in the regulation of eating, caloric consumption, hormone secretion and fat storage. Stimulation of certain ECS receptors has been shown to reduce food intake and increase fat metabolism. Supporting the functions of the endocannabinoid system could help you feel satisfied with less food while supporting healthy digestive processes (8).
The exciting future of CBD and gut function
The endocannabinoid system and the gut microbiome have both been the focus of recent cutting-edge research. The lymphatic tissue related to the intestine must also be taken into account. Fascinating connections have been found between all of these, and have been found to relate to the connection between gut health and wider well-being. Researchers have observed altered levels of endocannabinoids and certain gut bacteria in patients with various ailments.
Through its interactions with the ECS, CBD may play a role in mediating this complex relationship. Although the research is still preliminary, it is a promising phytonutrient that relieves inflammation and promotes healthy digestion in countless ways. It may even promote a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut microbiome. This is good news for indigestion sufferers and others. With new breakthroughs on the horizon, the future looks even brighter.
Finally, a couple of additional mentions: the raw form of CBD, CBD-A, can be a better option especially for stomach challenges, especially for nausea challenges, e.g. due to its anti-inflammatory properties. There is also support for the intestines in food: as one example, fermented products, such as sauerkraut, are good for the intestines and thus also for the mind, as here Dr. Andrew Huberman’s interesting podcast tells .
- Haapa-aho, O., Suvanto, U. 2020. In Finland, the prevalence of intestinal diseases is among the highest in the world – going to work is possible with individual arrangements. IBD and other intestinal diseases association. https://ibd.fi/suolistosairauksien-esiintyvyys-on-suomessa-maailman-korkeimpia/
- Gut-associated lymphoid tissue. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gut-associated_lymphoid_tissue
- Jungles, K., et al. 2021. The Infant Microbiome and Its Impact on Development of Food Allergy. Pubmed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33863484/
- Ruuskanen, M., et al. 2022. Gut Microbiome Composition Is Predictive of Incident Type 2 Diabetes in a Population Cohort of 5,572 Finnish Adults. Diabetes Care. https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article-abstract/doi/10.2337/dc21-2358/141052/Gut-Microbiome-Composition-Is-Predictive-of?redirectedFrom=fulltext
- Catharine Paddock. 2019. People with fibromyalgia have different gut bacteria. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325535
- Elizabeth Pennisi. 2019. Evidence mounts that gut bacteria can influence mood, prevent depression. Science. https://www.science.org/content/article/evidence-mounts-gut-bacteria-can-influence-mood-prevent-depression
- Fields, H. 2015. The Gut: Where Bacteria and the Immune System Meet. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/research/advancements-in-research/fundamentals/in-depth/the-gut-where-bacteria-and-immune-system-meet
- Rossi, F. et al. 2018. Role of Cannabinoids in Obesity. Int J Mol Sci. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6163475/
- How Might CBD Help With Gut Health And Digestion? 2019. Cibdol. https://www.cibdol.com/blog/777-how-might-cbd-help-with-gut-health-and-digestion?search_query=gut&results=13