Don’t freak out, but you should know that you’re covered in bacteria, yeast, in viruses — inside and out.
These little beasties aren’t out to get you, though. In fact, it’s just the opposite. This living, thriving network is your microbiota, a community of microorganisms that influence just about every aspect of your being, from your mood to your immune response, and many things in between.
Your gut is home to the majority of your microbiota, and the gut and microbiota combo is called your gut microbiome.
Even if you were surprised to hear that your microbiota is literally everywhere in and on your body, you’ve probably heard about or seen wellness supplements and products for the gut microbiome. Probiotics and prebiotics are popular and time-honored pathways to a healthier gut.
But we’re always learning new things about this microscopic ecosystem, and the gut microbiome and the cannabis compounds cannabidiol (CBD) have recently intertwined. Their intersection is the endocannabinoid system or ECS.
Could CBD be a key to better gut health — and in turn, a healthier body and mind?
There’s quite a bit to unpack when it comes to the CBD, microbiota and endocannabinoid system connection.
Let’s start at the beginning. The beginning of you, that is — when you were born.
We all emerge into this world with a unique microbiota, nurtured by our mother’s microbiota. As we grow, our gut microbiome evolves, safeguarding our mental and physical health along the way.
(Just to be clear, when we say “gut,” we aren’t just talking about your stomach. The term gutrefers to the gastrointestinal tract, which includes the stomach, intestines, and esophagus.)
The health of our gut microbiome affects us in subtle and major ways.
Things that make up the very essence of you are linked to your gut microbiome, like how your body and mind react to food and the world around you. It’s no wonder the gut is often referred to as our second brain.
Some people develop health conditions related to their gut. This includes the kind of tummy troubles you might expect, like irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, and Crohn’s disease. It also includes a massive list of unexpected suspects, such as autoimmune conditions, diabetes, certain types of cancer, depression, and autism.(1)
But that’s not all. Signs point to the ECS as another common denominator in gut health and conditions linked to the microbiome.
The ECS has only been on our radar for a handful of decades. During that time, scientists have discovered that this once unknown system is about as vital as a system could be. It’s a major control center for the body, helping all the mammals who have it maintain homeostasis — basically, it keeps your whole being in check.
The ECS has a profound influence on the gut.
Experts theorize that deficiencies in the ECS (formally known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome, or CED) are involved in a wide scope of health conditions. For instance, research has found that people with IBS, migraines, and fibromyalgia have variations in their ECS.(6)
It seems the more we learn about the ECS, the more of life’s (and our gut’s) mysteries are answered, like why our food affects our mood, and why we might be inclined to skip lunch when we’re feeling stressed.
So, if the ECS is critical for a healthy gut, and a healthy gut is crucial for optimal ECS function.
Clearly, there’s good reason to tend to both your gut microbiome and your ECS. But how can we do that?
To understand how cannabinoids from plants such as cannabis, chocolate, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and herbs and spices can foster a healthy ECS and gut, we only need to look at our own biology.
The endocannabinoid system gets its name from the endocannabinoids that work within it. Endocannabinoids are chemicals that send signals to cells, serving as messengers between body systems and within them.
Cannabinoids in plants can fill the same roll. This opens the door to possibilities for using cannabinoids to restore balance to the ECS, which we know can benefit the gut. And when the gut is happy, the ECS can do its job in the gut, encouraging whole-body wellness.
One example of cannabinoids solving gut woes can be found in a study that looked at the inflammatory condition colitis in mice. When CBD and fish oil were administered, inflammation and symptoms were reduced.(7)
As far as our understanding of using cannabinoids for therapeutic purposes, we aren’t on the level of being to recommend, say, a CBD dosage for leaky gut just yet. But we do know that consuming cannabinoids in the form of CBD oil and in the food we eat is an easy way to give the ECS and your gut microbiome a boost.
When it comes to choosing cannabinoids for your ECS and microbiome, quality is key. Eating something that can help your gut along with something that can harm your gut microbiome (like sugar, processed food, or toxic chemicals) isn’t going to offer the same wellness support as a pure, unprocessed option.
Follow these guidelines when shopping for your gut health goodies.
And remember that colitis study that paired up CBD and fish oil? That’s evidence supporting a diet rich in omega-3s alongside cannabinoids might do the most good, so fill up on those good fats, too.
Most of all, remember to trust your gut! Things that feel right in another gut may not be the best for yours, so follow these best practices and your body to find your own recipe for a flourishing microbiome.
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