Cannabis and Your Gut Microbiome

Stephen Andrews
07 Dec 2021

The gut microbiome is a complex and intricate system, and it's said to be "the second brain" in the human organism. Trillions of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms live in the gut and influence various bodily functions and processes that scientists are just beginning to understand. One of the questions that are looked at in research is how cannabis affects the gut microbiome? In what way do cannabis and the endocannabinoid system engage with the countless number of microbes inhabiting our digestive system?

In the long journey of human evolution, our species learned to live along with microbes. Microbes have become an essential part of our organism, performing critical functions and affecting our body's health the minute we're born. 

The gut microbiome helps control digestion and benefits the body's immune system. Both healthy and unhealthy microbes inhabit the digestive tract. The human body needs both types of microorganisms to maintain a balance and be vigilant. 

The Gut Microbiome is Important for Staying Healthy

When the microbiome balance in the tummy is undermined, a number of health issues may arise, including weight gain, as well as blood sugar or cholesterol levels going out of the normal. The microbiome plays a crucial role in maintaining gut health, and disruptions in its work may also contribute to diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). 

The imbalance of gut microbiota is known as gut dysbiosis. It manifests with bloating, cramps, and abdominal pain, symptoms that people struggling with IBS are all too well familiar with. Microbes produce excess gas and chemicals, reinforcing the sensation of abdominal discomfort. 

In addition, an imbalanced gut microbiome has been linked to various neurological disorders like anxiety, depression, and autism. A healthy gut microbiome on the other hand, contributes to a healthy and happy brain.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fermented foods are known to promote a healthy balance in the microbiome. Probiotics and yogurt can also help nourish beneficial bacteria and improve gut health. The same is true also for Cannabis!

The Gut Microbiome and the Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has been associated with a number of vital functions in the body. It helps regulate mood, emotions, appetite, and our responses to pain and stress, among other things. The ECS encompasses all cannabinoids that naturally form in the body (endocannabinoids), cannabinoid receptors and enzymes. This system operates all over the body, including the gut. 

Research has found that the endocannabinoid system plays a significant function in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. ECS has roles in controlling a variety of gastrointestinal functions, such as abdomen motility, gut-brain-mediated fat intake, hunger signaling, inflammation, and more. 

The endocannabinoid receptors in the gut also help pass information to the brain about any change that takes place in the intestines, which in turn often results in a neurological reaction. For example, when the gut microbiome orbits out of balance, this information travels via a brain-gut channel mediated by the ECS system and the outcome of that interaction is a sudden change in the person's mood. The communication first and foremost started with cannabinoid receptors in the gut.

cannabis microbiome gut health

How Cannabis Affects the Gut Microbiome?

When cannabinoids enter the body, they interact with various cannabinoid receptors, including those in the gut area. There's growing body of evidence that suggests cannabis can contribute to healthy gut microbiome, gut-brain communication, and overall gut health.

Even from before, we know that Cannabis can be used in the treatment of pain, cramps, nausea and vomiting. Both THC and CBD can facilitate processes that mend the gut, that reduce inflammation in the intestines or alleviate discomfort. But it's also important how cannabinoids are used. Some medical conditions may require a doctor's consultation to determine the best course of treatment with cannabis medicines. 

It's also important to note that there are situations where cannabis can also contribute to disruptions in the gut. An example would be when mixing cannabis and alcohol together. 

However, below are three ways how cannabis can help contribute to a healthier gut when used medicinally. 

Weight Management

When researchers tested THC on mice with diet-induced obesity, they found out that the psychedelic cannabinoid helped the rodents reduce weight, fat mass gain and energy intake. 

One other study that looked at humans, found that cannabis users had fewer bacteria in the stomach that is linked with obesity. People who use cannabis day in day out may be less likely to develop obesity, according to some more research. However, THC is also known as a great appetite stimulant, so it would really depend how cannabis is used, what strain is used, and whether you maintain healthy eating habits. 

While more research is needed to get a clearer picture of how THC-rich cannabis affects gut health and appetite, it's important to also note that there is another minor cannabinoid that may have even more potentials than THC when it comes to weight management. THCV has already been marketed as a cannabinoid that can help people lose some pounds. 

Reducing Inflammation 

The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis are well known. There are many different strains that are beneficial when it comes to tackling inflammatory processes in the body. CBD oil, tinctures, balms and topicals can all be used to counteract sensations of pain and inflammation in various parts of the body. These solutions can be taken orally or applied as topicals. Some of the current research is also directed at how other cannabinoids, such as CBN, and even terpenoids, may affect both brain and gut health. 

Promoting Healthy Gut Microbiota 

Lab studies have also shown that THC in combination with CBD can induce higher levels of specific short-chain fatty acids found in the large intestine of mice. These acids are associated with immune responses and metabolic processes. The same acids play a role in maintaining a healthier central nervous system and a more stable brain-gut communication. 

In conclusion, we are just beginning to understand the relationship between cannabis and gut microbiome health, but scientists seem to be on the right track. We do need more research to find out how can we use cannabis to keep the tummy in a good condition.  

Also read on Soft Secrets:

- Cannabis and Losing Weight

Weight Loss and Smoking Weed: Is THCV the new CBD?

High Potency Weed Linked to Bizarre 'Scromiting' Illness

Stephen Andrews