How Does Cannabis Affect the Gut?

What is the effect of cannabis on the gut microbiome?

Health and wellbeing are undoubtedly becoming the highest priority for families and communities around the world as we continue to pick up the pieces for a two-year global lockdown. Fostering a healthy gut microbiome, and the correlation between the activities of the gut and the brain, are hot topics circulating medical journals and “mommy” blogs alike. This is especially apparent in the age of COVID-19, where arguably nothing is more important than maintaining a healthy immune system. Every time you eat, the food you consume is carried through a digestive tract which is host to many beneficial bacteria and archaea (a domain of single-celled organisms). This community of creatures, which lives inside all of us, is referred to as the gut microbiome, or gut flora.

Not only will it help you further digest your food, but it will also help you regulate emotions, function higher cognitively, and boost or maintain an adaptative immune system. The gut microbiome is an essential part of us which consists of trillions of microbes, bacteria, and viruses, and makes up on average about six pounds of our overall body weight. Researchers have spent the last decade studying gut health to learn how microbes affect various bodily functions.

This increased interest has researchers wondering: what is the connection between the gut and cannabis, if any? It’s important to know how cannabis and the body’s endocannabinoid system work with all the small microbes in our digestive tract to achieve the effects that they have, as well as some ancillary effects that the cannabis plant may introduce to our microbiome.

About the Gut Microbiome

One name for the intestinal system is the “gut,” which starts at the throat and ends at the anus. The gut is yet another term for the gastrointestinal tract. It is home to billions of viruses, fungi, and bacteria, however, most of these are beneficial organisms and work towards diversifying the gut microbiome in order to make it stronger and give it a better defensive line.

Some folks even take probiotics as an additional supplement to aid these beneficial bacteria in growing at higher densities and more complex populations. If you’re not careful, a routine administration of antibiotics during a time period when you are sick can kill off a large majority of these beneficial bacteria, and your immune system may temporarily suffer because of it. This is because antibiotics do not discriminate between beneficial and harmful bacteria; instead, antibiotics kill everything in their path. This can lead to feelings of drowsiness and fatigue, nausea, cognitive impairment, and general malaise. Or, simply put, It will take you a little bit longer to feel better after you have been ill, because these populations of beneficial organisms are busy repairing their numbers.

Generally, when these microbes are in balance, they live in close contact with us and help us fight off infections, break down potentially harmful food, synthesize amino acids and vital vitamins, and strengthen the walls of our intestinal lining. Inside of the human intestine, there is a semi-permeable layer called the “gut barrier.” This layer allows nutrients to be absorbed and stops harmful bacteria and microbial molecules from getting into the body.

Gut dysbiosis is when there are too many good AND bad bacteria in your body. It can happen for a variety of reasons: if you eat a lot of fat or sugar or don’t get enough fiber, drink alcohol every day, or eat products with pesticide residue. It can lead to long-term gastrointestinal problems like Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel disease (IBD) if the problem goes unchecked, and these problems can get worse over time. It should be noted that, in most states with medical cannabis programs, irritable bowel disease and Crohn’s are qualifying medical conditions for with which a patient can be approved and provided a recommendation. Once a patient has obtained a recommendation through a certified physician, they can proceed to a dispensary within their state of residence and purchase medication. For more information on how the process works, you can select the state where you live from our home page and get a customized timeline of what to expect!

This isn’t the only way that the gut microbiota plays a role in our lives, however. Obese people – as indicated by the Body Mass Index – have less bacterial diversity than those who are not. Prevalent in patients who have autism, anxiety, or depression, a bad gut microbiome has also been linked to a wide range of other mood and neurological disorders. Additionally, a healthy gut microbiome has been shown to improve brain development, cognition, and behavior, as well as keep your emotional wellbeing in check.

As Jason Mitchell, co-founder of HempFusion Wellness & Probulin Probiotics, explains, “When you delve more deeply into the gut ecosystem, you begin to notice that there’s more than just this wide array of bacteria and other creatures present.” There are a lot of neurons in the gut that have various functions throughout the rest of the body. There is also a nerve that travels the length of the body from the brain to the gut, connecting it to other organs as well, such as the lungs and heart.

There is a lot more to the gut microbiota than just the digestive tract. This group of microbes also has a big impact on the way the brain works, and vice versa. The term “gut-brain axis” refers to the way information moves back and forth.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to your gastrointestinal health, especially now that you know it directly affects how you think and make decisions, and how your emotions are interconnected. The gut and brain collaborate in the following situations: You may get butterflies in your stomach before giving a speech or lose your appetite when you’re anxious.

Gut Microbiota and Endocannabinoids

People have a system – like the musculoskeletal or nervous system- called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) inside their bodies. This ECS helps them control their moods and emotions as well as their pain, responses to stress, and appetite. Its functionality is important because it helps sustain a reliable, consistent measure of all other systems. There are cannabinoids throughout the body which are called endocannabinoids. There are also cannabinoid receptors and enzymes located in the ECS which help facilitate the uptake, metabolism and bioavailability of these compounds.

An important part of keeping a healthy gut microbiome is acknowledging the importance of the endocannabinoid system, which is also in charge of critical gut functions. Endocannabinoid receptors in the gastrointestine help to keep and assist homeostasis with functions like the circulation of food through the digestive system, digestion, inflammation, and even immune responses.

There are also ways that the microbiome in your gut can affect your body’s endocannabinoid system. Strong evidence suggests that poor intestinal microbiota health can harm the endocannabinoid system, putting everything it supports in danger. In a study conducted to test this hypothesis, the bacterial and probiotic populations in the gastrointestinal tracts of mice were intentionally suppressed. It turns out that a bad gut microbiome caused the endocannabinoid system to be out of balance, which caused the mice to be clinically depressed.

Ultimately, the research conducted by that team of experts sought to answer one question – and ended up informing a lot of other questions we didn’t even know we had. We still know very little about how the human brain works, but have yet again come to the conclusion that helping your brain and body function better boils down to what you eat. When your gut isn’t healthy, your endocannabinoid system doesn’t work properly. This can lead to anxiety, trouble concentrating, and depression.

An important part of the body’s own endocannabinoid system is also controlling the brain-gut axis. It sends messages about changes in the body to the brain. Gut microbes can change the way the endocannabinoid system works and make people feel worse than the initial brain signal’s intention.

The Effects of Cannabis on Gut Health

Cannabis may help people achieve a healthier gut microbiome, clear up communication errors between the brain and the rest of the body, and have good gut health in general, according to new research.

If you eat cannabis, the compound that is metabolized and taken up by your ECS is different, but related, to THC. It is called THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. These cannabinoids, naturally found in the cannabis plant, can interact with receptors in your gut by design and have a dramatic effect on their processes. Cannabis has been used for centuries to treat gastrointestinal disorders and inflammation like stomach aches and cramps as well as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.

There is also a chance that THC can change the gut microbiome in a way that helps keep weight off. The findings of a study conducted – with furry critters instead of human participants – may surprise even the most well-versed cannabis enthusiast. It didn’t make mice fat, or exacerbate the weight issue of these tiny subjects when obese mice were given THC. This does not mean that they lost weight or that weight loss was easier to accomplish through the implementation of THC. However, the mice kept their lean microbiome and didn’t become obese.

In terms of human research, one study indicated that cannabis users’ microbiomes included fewer microorganisms related to obesity. This could help explain why people who use cannabis often are less likely to be overweight than people who don’t, even though THC can make people want to eat a lot. Low-grade inflammation and a condition called “gut permeability,” which happens when toxins or bacteria from the gut leak into the bloodstream, were also helped by THC.

Other interesting research shows that marijuana may also be able to help treat alcohol abuse disorders that harm the gut microbiome. Regular alcohol use can cause inflammation in the gut, a decrease in immune cells in the stomach lining, and a mold growth of dangerous bacteria in the microbiome, which can make you feel sick all of the time.

A “leaky gut,” or permeability of the gut, can also be caused by this damage. Food particles, bacteria, and waste products can get into the bloodstream right away from the gut. The study’s authors said that CBD, as well as cannabis in general, can reduce the permeability of the gut, regulate the bacteria in the gut, and reduce the inflammation in the gut.

Some preclinical mouse studies show that when THC and CBD are combined, they can improve gut microbiota and help people’s immune systems work better. This can help people lose weight, if applicable, and keep their bodies healthy. Since these cannabinoids have antioxidant properties, they can also help to keep the central nervous system healthy and improve signals between the brain and the gut, which can help keep the body healthy.

Cannabis users who use the herb in a variety of ways might also benefit from better gut and brain health. Cannabinoids have been discovered to protect the blood-brain barrier and reduce both gastric irritation and cerebral inflammation. Gut and brain inflammation can damage cognitive function, sometimes permanently.

People still have a lot to learn about how the endocannabinoid system and intestine flora work together.There are a lot of misconceptions about the relationship between cannabis and the body. However, terpenes and cannabinoids are increasingly becoming points of interest to scientists and industry experts because they have a big impact on the stomach and the ECS in terms of stress, inflammation, and immune support. If you are looking to treat any of these conditions head-on, keep close tabs on any products moving through your local dispensary which contain beta-caryophyllene, CBN and CBD. These three parts need more study, but great potential is being observed in their extraordinary ability to combat inflammation and stress while stabilizing the immune system and gut microbiome.

To learn more about how to use cannabinoids to treat certain medical conditions or symptoms, check out our comprehensive cannabinoid guide by clicking here. You can also reach out to any of our Green Team Doctors via social media, chatting us through our website, or giving one of our offices a call; we are here to help you get the information – and the recommendation – you need to start living your life on your terms.

Get in touch with us!

Ohio Green Team – Medical Marijuana Doctors & Recommendations
1733 W Lane Ave Suite 6, Columbus, OH 43221

Call us today! 614-639-0257

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