Those with chronic gut problems like IBS, IBD, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are often put on a pharmaceutical regimen which can produce negative side effects. But, lately, many people with chronic gut issues have turned to marijuana to help combat their symptoms.
A recent study uncovered why cannabinoids from marijuana not only help with symptoms, but are effective in treating these gut disorders, Popular Science reports.
Some gut disorders trigger an autoimmune response where the gut attacks itself instead of working to repair itself. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts and University of Bath took a closer look at what physical processes occur in the body when marijuana is ingested that help reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel disease, or IBD.
A researcher at the University of Massachusetts, Beth McCormick, has spent a considerable amount of time studying the “microbial zoo” known as epithelial cell layers, and how these cells regulate the gut. It is thought that part of what occurs is that white blood cells cross over into the gut region and consume some of the bad microbes. The rest of the answer was still a mystery.
To return the gut to homeostasis (balance), another process or outside entity had to play a role too – but what was it? The substances that were made by the chemical pathway that aided in reducing gut issues were endocannabinoids. The body does produce endocannabinoids itself, but it may not always be enough.
Cannabinoid receptors are found in the gut. So, those lacking endocannabinoids capable of interacting with cannabinoid receptors were found to be “more likely to develop ulcerative colitis,” according to the research.
Gastroenterologist Richard Peek of Vanderbilt University says that these findings “may not just be specific to the intestine” because epithelial cells are also found on multiple organ surfaces in the body.
The study noted: “These results define a key role for epithelial cells in balancing the constitutive secretion of anti-inflammatory lipids with the stimulated secretion of pro-inflammatory lipids via surface efflux pumps in order to control neutrophil infiltration into the intestinal lumen and maintain homeostasis in the healthy intestine.”
Given that these findings occurred without marijuana being the target or principal part of the study, this research shows great promise for the future of marijuana’s further place as a medicinal substance. It could also open doors for more marijuana-based medications to be produced for specific conditions or symptoms. This result wasn’t sought, it was an “accidental finding” that happens to be great news for the marijuana industry and the approximately 1.6 million Americans that have a current IBD diagnosis, plus the millions of others globally with inflammatory issues associated with the gut.