Where do the munchies come from? Why does smoking a bowl chill out those bad hangover vibes?
These are simple stoner questions that can be answered by science, but matters are a little more serious for those living everyday with real digestive tract issues.
Though an evidentiary scientific foundation is still being built, those who know medical marijuana have a basic understanding of the symptoms and ailments that it relieves. Cannabis has been shown to help significantly with disorders of the gastrointestinal system, such as poor appetite, nausea, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, Crohn's disease, and even many cancers - better than almost any other treatment, in fact. But why?
For starters, good health begins in the gut. In pharmacological terms, cannabis acts much less like a drug and more like a food or a dietary supplement in how it’s absorbed and used by the body.
Your intestines and stomach are home to an enormous ecosystem of microbes who help you digest food and carry out other biological tasks. Now, researchers are working to prove that the microbiome, along with the endocannabinoid system within the body, can actually facilitate important neurological connections as well.
Since there are plenty of CB1 and CB2 receptors in the gut,that means your digestive system is a natural attractor of endogenous cannabinoids. Stimulation with cannabinoids has been proven to relax digestive muscles and improve intestinal motility, decreasing inflammation, cramping, spasms, and irritating chemical secretions that can occur in digestive disorders.
The relationship between cannabinoids and nausea is still a bit of a mystery, though it’s been one of the most important applications discovered thus far for individuals undergoing chemotherapy and disorders that cause vomiting or diarrhea. From the studies that have been done, vaporization seems to be the ideal delivery method for someone feeling nauseous; smoke is naturally irritating and can cause vomiting in certain individuals.
As far as appetite goes, there's still research to be done, but so far it's clear that THC stimulates the senses of taste and smell while causing the brain to release particular neurotransmitters connected to the feeling of hunger, like dopamine and ghrelin.
In short, cannabinoids like THC and CBD enter the body through key receptors, in the gut and otherwise, sending signals to the brain to start regulating your systems a little better, and acting as an anti-inflammatory in the process.
Patients have seen success using potent cannabis oils and tinctures, vaporizers, medicated edibles and beverages (which absorb directly into the gastrointestinal tract!) and even smoked cannabis. While helping with pain and sleep are the predominant reasons people seek out medical marijuana, GI issues are a rapidly-growing interest area.
If you or a loved one suffer from a digestive issue, cannabis is one of the lowest-risk experimental treatments out there. Aside from the laundry list of side-effects that can dampen patients' quality of life, traditional prescription medications for gastrointestinal disorders can cause cancer and musculoskeletal or brain damage. By this time next year, we will know much more about such reactions and how new cannabis treatments can be best optimized for those suffering with gut pain and disease.
Go with your gut. When it comes to healthy insides, it’s starting to look like cannabis is an essential part of a good diet.